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UK Rail Accidents - Debate

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    FROM: Noel Hodson 14 Brookside OXFORD OX3 7PJ Tel 01865-760994 Fax 764520 Email : noelhodson@msn.com TO: Guardian Letters 020-7837-4530 letters@guardian.co.uk
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 26, 2000
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      FROM: Noel Hodson
      14 Brookside OXFORD OX3 7PJ
      Tel 01865-760994 Fax 764520
      Email : noelhodson@...

      TO: Guardian Letters

      23 October 2000.

      Why struggle on with an outdated piece of industrial cast-iron heritage.
      £14.9 billion, £14,900,000,000 or £677 per household is enough to tarmac
      12,000 miles of tracks and give cars and buses, the choice of transport for
      85% of voters, unprecedented access to town and city centres. Or perhaps
      the new road-tracks-network could be devoted to commercial traffic and clear
      our roads of monster trucks. Railways, steel wheels slipping on steel
      tracks, have always been very inefficient in energy engineering terms and
      per passenger carried are more polluting than any other (lighter) surface
      transport. Even busy railways are grossly under-used compared to trunk
      roads. Add back the sabotaged Beeching lines and the UK's transport
      congestion problems will be solved for a generation at least.

      Noel Hodson
      Email noelhodson@...
      24th October 20000

      Dear Editor

      I was interested to read Noel Hodson's assertion that rail is more polluting
      than any other surface transport in the Guardian today. I wonder whether he
      can quote some references for this assertion, or did he just make it up?

      Mr Hodson completely failed to mention the effects of road congestion which
      costs this country billions of pounds per year. It has repeatedly been shown
      that building new roads increases congestion by
      encouraging more traffic. The M25, and the centre
      of Newbury which is just as congested now as it was before the bypass was
      built, are cases in point. By building new roads, and at the same time
      taking away the alternative that rail offers, you would just compound the

      Simon Geller
      12 Carfield Ave
      Sheffield S8 9HY


      Dear Simon Geller

      In the course of two long studies, The Economics of Teleworking (1992
      Martlesham Labs) and Traffic Congestion and Advanced telecommunicaions (1998
      RAC)and from experience of building prototype cars (Mallalieu Engineering
      1978-80) including a lightweight diesel/electric hybrid, Microdot, designed
      by William Towns, I realised that the common factor for comparing pollution
      is the "parcel" weight or wieght of passenger and vehicle combined - per
      passenger mile. It costs roughly the same (in fuel and pollution) per 100
      kilos being transported regardless of the type of vehicle used. A Ford
      Mondeo and 12 stone (84kilo) driver is a good standard to use. While Trains
      appear to have a low ratio this only applies to full trains. A partly full
      train weighs such a colossal amount and has such poor traction that it goes
      to the bottom of the league table. An empty train (driver and guard) being
      moved back along the network is off the scale. Boats on canals for example
      are extremely efficient as they are rendered effectively weightless.

      If you "do the maths" as the Americans say, you will find that trains are
      bad polluters - but we are very fond of them and have the quaint belief that
      packing trains as they do in India will in some miraculous way, save the

      My work has led me to promote MWV's, minimum weight vehicles. The best
      example is water being transported through pipes - no vehicle weight. Next
      is the use of conveyor belts - such as they have for people at Gatwick
      Airport - weighing a few kilos per passenger carried. I urge the use of
      vacuum pipes for dry goods carried in lightweight capsules - a very low
      weight vehicle.

      After weight - the next largest factor is journey time - congestion can
      double or triple the fuel needed/used for a journey - and this happens to
      slow trains as well as cars and lorries.

      If you care to the sums and share them, I would be more than happy to (a) be
      corrected by you in my assumptions or (b) show that my calcs are right.

      We are both trying to save the planet.

      Best wishes

      Noel Hodson



      Thanks for the reply. I don't have time to "do the math" as you say, nor am
      I a statistician or a transport scientist, but I do still have serious
      misgivings about the assertion. I don't agree with the notion that trains
      have "poor traction", since
      trains have very low friction compared with rubber-wheeled vehicles on
      tarmac. Modern diesels are extremely efficient, whilst electric trains do
      not produce any pollution at the point of delivery of the service, apart
      from a small amount of ozone, and can use a variety of low-pollution pwer

      At the same time train bodies have become much lighter through the use of
      modern materials. Of course the same can be said of modern car design ,
      but road traffic entails so many other environmental costs, 3,200 dead on
      the roads per year, etc, that looking solely at emissions doesn't give you
      the full picture. (You seem to confuse "emissions" with "costs" in your

      Naturally an empty train is a poor polluter, but as most of the trains I go
      on are at least 110% full, this doesn't seem to be an issue - the issue is,
      we need more trains, not less. (I don't know what the overall load factor of
      UK trains is, and it's probably difficult to get those figures with the
      fragmentation of the industry, but I would expect it to be pretty high)

      Looking at what we might be able to do in the future is all very well, but
      for now we have to work with viable, available and appropriate technologies
      so I think the notion of closing down the rail network and replacing it with
      roads is pretty stupid.

      Sorry if I don't reply on this any further - got work to do y'know!

      >From: "Noel Hodson" <noelhodson@...>
      >To: <wildnorthlands@...>, <letters@...>
      >Subject: Re: RE: Rail Statistics
      >Date: Tue, 24 Oct 2000 14:36:06 +0100
      Dear Simon
      Thanks for your further notes.

      It is unlikely we will resolve the good polluter/bad polluter debate in
      these Emails but you may agree that the reason that no railway on Earth
      makes a profit is that the technology is fundamentally flawed - it is an
      inherently inefficient transport system. We persist with it because the
      infrastructure and rolling stock is in place and takes a long time to wear
      I take your point about accident statistics and the human and social costs
      of these.

      Using the routes for roadways would be relatively simple and cheap to do -
      and is not therefore a "stupid" idea. It is as easy and as cost effective to
      turn the routes into roads as it is to make them safe for trains. It is an
      odd and Luddite thought that (I paraphrase) "we must work with the
      technology and infrastructure that exists". How then can we progress beyond
      the Iron Horse that crosses the Wide Prairies?

      I can only repeat my advice to "do the maths" and, if you believe in
      democracy, ask the public which they would prefer.

      Noel Hodson
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