# So what should it be?

It\’s a fair question I feel….

Passengers currently pay 50 per cent of the cost of improving and operating the rail network but the Government wants to extend the "user pays" principal, which would see them pay 75 per cent, and the taxpayer 25 per cent, in five years time.

Yes, there are indeed some externalities which rail travel copes with better than, say, car transport. London and the SE especially. Imagine the congestion if Network SE didn\’t exist (or whatever it\’s called these days).

But it\’s also true that some of the value of the network accrues to the passengers, not just the society at large. So, how much of that value and who should pay for it? Those who capture the value one would assume.

So, how much of the value accrues to the passenger and how much to the wider polity?

50/50? 75/25?

I would assume that it\’s different for different journeys. But does anyone know what the correct numbers are and thus what the split of payment should be?

## 11 thoughts on “So what should it be?”

1. “Imagine the congestion if Network SE didn’t exist”

Imagine the reduction in congestion if the Network SE was became a network of toll roads.

2. Kit wins awards for WRONG. The capacity of 14ft of double-track railway line is an order of magnitude higher than the capacity of 14ft of road (unless you ban cars from the road in question and replace the trains with a non-stop stream of coaches on an entirely grade separated road, in which case it’s possible that you could match or beat rail’s capacity).

On the original question, I suspect 75-25 is a fair reflection of the relative benefits.

3. @john b

Thank you for the award. I am just confused by your reply. The capacity of road v rail: is it “an order of magnitude higher” or “could match or beat rail’s capacity”.
I would suggest that converting rail to toll roads would dramatically increase capacity and reduce costs.

4. Yes, but your suggestion would be entirely incorrect (on the capacity side at least).

A 2-lane road used by cars has an order of magnitude less capacity than a 2-track railway. A 2-lane road used solely by express coaches has the same order of magnitude of capacity as a 2-track railway.

Clear?

5. “A 2-lane road used by cars has an order of magnitude less capacity than a 2-track railway. A 2-lane road used solely by express coaches has the same order of magnitude of capacity as a 2-track railway.”

Surely the gaps between the vehicles must be taken into account. Road vehicles can be separated by intervals of a few seconds. Trains have much longer intervals between them.

“The capacity of 14ft of double-track railway line is an order of magnitude higher than the capacity of 14ft of road”

Only for those stretches of track that have a train on them, the people carrying capacity of track with no train on it is zero. With a road, a much greater portion of it can be used for carrying people on account of not having half mile (say) stretches between vehicles.

6. John B’s comment sounds a little iffy.

Let’s say each car carries only one person and they pass every two seconds (as per the road safety adverts). That would allow 30 people a minute or 1,800 people an hour.

The average train on my commute has six carriages and each one holds around 100 people. You would need three full trains an hour to equal the cars and 30 trains to reach “an order of magnitude higher”. Is there a train line in the world able to process 600 people every two minutes not just on the trains, but travelling through the stations, buying tickets, getting through the train doors…

7. @john b

“Clear?” Yes. I am glad we agree. An efficiently run toll road would out perform rail. We only disagree on how much road would out perform rail. I would agree with ChrisM that even at peak times the tracks are under utilized.

8. why not just privatise the lot, let the companies decide if a toll road, new/extra track coaches are most efficient. Maybe its a mile after mile of road in storeys, but if it pays it will be funded, if its just tosh it won’t (or at least not at my expense through tax

9. john redwood in bhis blog has an interesting take on this – if only john b would try to look at the world as it is rather than view it through a theoretical prism. The rail network is hugely inefficient – if only it had the same passenger density as the roads at rush hour

10. A dual track rail line is the width of an eight-lane motorway.

Rail is a nineteenth century transport medium that should wither on the vine.

11. The average train on my commute has six carriages and each one holds around 100 people. You would need three full trains an hour to equal the cars and 30 trains to reach “an order of magnitude higher”

Six-car is far shorter than most London commuter trains (IIRC the only line that uses six-car peak trains is FCC into Moorgate via Highbury, because the tunnelled platforms on that route are short and hard to extend). 12-car is more common.

12×100 = 1200 passengers per train; this requires 15tph. A four-minute headway is easily achievable; stand at any platform at London Bridge during the rush hour and count the trains going past if you don’t believe me.

If you’re not from London (or Tokyo), then you’ll struggle to comprehend the sheer volumes of people that the railway network shifts from Surrey, Sussex and Kent to the City every weekday morning and evening. ..

An efficiently run toll road would out perform rail.

A toll road that banned cars and solely allowed buses might, on some models, outperform rail, although there’s doubt among transport experts on that score. It is absolutely clear that a toll road that permitted cars would underperform rail. I’m happy to concede that if you are.

The rail network is hugely inefficient – if only it had the same passenger density as the roads at rush hour

…then, for the key London commuter routes, its passenger density would be lower than now.

A dual track rail line is the width of an eight-lane motorway.

A two-track rail alignment is about 10m wide (newer ones are a bit wider for Health ‘n’ Safety reasons, but the ones already in London are 10m or less).

30m is the standard width for a four-lane (2×2) motorway, right from the start of the motorway programme – again, new ones are expected to be wider, although we’re not building many 2×2 motorways right now. An eight-lane motorway is closer to 45m.

Rail is a nineteenth century transport medium that should wither on the vine.

Modern roads are 18th century technology and cars are 19th century. I’m sceptical that the age of the solution has any bearing on its appropriateness or otherwise…