The problem is these numbers are wrong

To have a hope of achieving net zero, we need to make the 21st century the new golden age of the railways. Let’s call it the Great Train Recovery.

Our daily journeys account for a huge chunk of the nation’s CO2 emissions: 27 per cent in 2019. Among the non-bike options of trains, planes and cars, trains are by far the greenest. The European Environment Agency suggests that rail travel creates 14 grams of CO2 emissions per passenger mile, compared with 158 grams by car and 285 grams by plane.

The train numbers are assuming an entirely full train. The car ones are not assuming a full car. Further, the train numbers don’t include – in the normal calcs at least – the emissions of getting the empty trains back to starting points.

We have an easier method of calculation. Prices. As long as those prices are including all externalities then price is the only thing we need to look at to see resource use. And four folks getting in a car is cheaper than four getting the train. Thus cars use fewer resources. QED.

BTW, yes, petrol externalities are included in UK prices.

45 thoughts on “The problem is these numbers are wrong”

  1. Ok, but as the philosopher Dontravius famously asked: whomst bitch this be?

    Clare Foges has been a columnist for The Times since 2015. Previously she was chief speechwriter in 10 Downing Street for David Cameron, and for Boris Johnson when he was mayor of London. She has written three popular books for young children, the first of which, Kitchen Disco, was chosen by the Booktrust reading charity as its Book of the Year.

    Translation: we should all live like millionaire yummy Mummies from north London.

  2. “As long as those prices are including all externalities then price is the only thing we need to look at to see resource use. And four folks getting in a car is cheaper than four getting the train. Thus cars use fewer resources. QED.”
    But the prices don’t include the cost of staff so that is not true.
    I am not saying cars or trains are better for the environment but price is not only including the cost of the fuel

  3. Whilst these people continue to believe 2 + 2 = 5, vast sums of our money are going to be completely and utterly wasted trying to prevent 5.

    One estimate showed that for the money spent squandered on the Kyoto protocol, we could have provided shelter and access to clean water for every person on the planet.

  4. @Addolff
    “One estimate showed that for the money spent squandered on the Kyoto protocol, we could have provided shelter and access to clean water for every person on the planet.”
    Sadly, that is obviously not true because people living in Zimbabwe, Russia, North Korea, Venezuela would not benefit from any sums spent on their behalf their evil governments would take it.

  5. I’ve just looked at the BBC News webpage… It’s plastered with warnings about “Climate Catastrophe”, “One minute to midnight”, etc…

    Is it me, or does anyone else think that it’s a load of unmitigated bollocks?

    … and is there a political party that hasn’t bought into it?

  6. They don’t consider that a lot of trains are fairly quiet, especially post-Covid. Commuting is at 45% of where it was, and based on which companies have been hit most, longer routes are even quieter than that (which makes sense, as people with long commutes have a greater incentive to remote work).

    I travelled to London at 8am recently and had a table to myself. As did the two other people on laptops. Most of the travellers were pairs of girls going shopping in London.

    The truth is that people hate trains. And if they don’t, it’s only because they haven’t used them enough. They’ll use them if they’re young and don’t really need a car, or if the place they’re going is congested, or if they’re getting pissed, but everyone else likes their cars. No-one is going to use an Oxford to Cambridge line because there really isn’t that big a problem with driving into any of the places en route.

    Beeching was right at the time, and we’re going to need Beeching 2 at the end of this.

  7. Baron Jackfield,

    “… and is there a political party that hasn’t bought into it?”

    Libertarian Party, Reform UK (I think), SDP.

    And you might as well vote for a fringe party now. It’s not like Boris vs Corbyn, where you really didn’t want that mad commie in No 10. You’re wasting your vote with the Tories as they’re now a big state party. Might as well help out one of the little guys.

  8. Middle class Marxist Yummy Mummy needs a shitbashing. Not to knock sense into her cos that is a bridge to far by light-years.

    But just so she gets the message that many millions like me aren’t going to be flopped lower than whaleshit because it might suit the greemnfreak marxistic poison her head is full of.

  9. David,

    “But the prices don’t include the cost of staff so that is not true.”

    That is already in the benefits. The consumer can consider whether they would like to do the driving themselves or pay for someone else to do it for them and ascribe a value to it.

  10. Middle class Marxist Yummy Mummy needs a shitbashing. Not to knock sense into her cos that is a bridge to far by light-years.

    But just so she gets the message that many millions like me aren’t going to be flopped lower than whaleshit because it might suit the greemnfreak marxistic poison her head is full of.

    That was my favourite part of the recent Insult Britain protests. When the woman drove her Range Rover (Evoque I think?) into the two silly women sat on the road. One of them definitely got the message that not everyone is going to take their sh*t. Looked like she got a rude awakening.

    This one
    https://www.independent.co.uk/tv/news/insulate-britain-protesters-drive-over-ve6be1d55

  11. And then there’s the price of transport at both ends, unless you live in a station and travel to another. And then there’s the price of being forced to travel in busy times or at short notice or on the wrong train (stoppers cost less than expresses) which means your train price is unpredictable and unrepeatable. And then there’s having no choice about who sits next to you or even whether you get a seat at all.

    Did I happen to mention I hate trains? And all those problems apply also to the airborne alternative, although that one is better when crossing the ocean.

  12. @BlokeonME
    We are talking about the environmental cost not the benefits.
    @rhoda klapp
    “Did I happen to mention I hate trains? ”
    Apart from walking or cycling less than 20 minutes in the dry I hate all forms of transport to be honest.

  13. Assume this nonsense is true. A solution would involve making cars lighter, so extending range and mpg. You’d have to use thinner bendier materials and do away with some safety features but it could be done more easily than building more railway tracks, which use a lot of steel whose manufacture involves a lot of carbon…
    I wonder if there’s a market for cheap cars.

  14. @Rhoda Klapp

    I think trains are easier to live with than airplanes. To get on an airplane you have to travel to the airport (costs money in either taxi or parking costs), check in, go through the indignity of the security checks (if a terrorist ever tries to smuggle a bomb up their bum I hate to think how bad security checks will get….), followed by the hustle and bustle of the shopping centre (lets be honest, that is what departure lounges are these days) and then be crammed into a small seat for hours on end (unless you can afford business or first class).

    And this is the same for domestic and international flights.

    Intercity trains do not make much sense for families. The cost of taking a car from Birmingham to London is that same regardless of one person making the journey or a family of four. The train costs four times more for the family as the single person. Hence the reason why when I travel to London on my own I take the train. My neighbour drives down to a local park and ride station when he takes his family to the latest West End experience.

  15. To me the obvious solution is to cheat. Just use the H2 and CO2 extracted from the atmosphere and/or ocean surface to manufacture all the petrol/jet fuel/diesel we need.

    We’ve had nukes for about 70 years, synthetic fuels for 90, electrolysis for over a century. The only tech where we don’t have industrial scale production is CO2 extraction from the air, because there’s plenty already produced by coal burning, natural gas extraction etc. And we’ve known how to use quicklime to extract CO2 from the atmosphere to produce slaked lime for over 2000 years, so it shouldn’t really be too hard to scale it up.

    Of course it’d cost more, but if we want the cheapest solution, we just need to give all the green garbage the flick, and carry on business as usual.

  16. @BroganBoy

    Or you could just use the oceans to absorb the CO2 for you. The US navy looked into a process of taking water and CO2 and heating it until to combines to create kerosene and ethanol. It was the kerosene that they were interested in. The idea was that the aircraft carriers could make fuel for the aircraft. The nuclear reactors on board would have provided the heat. Sea water has a higher concentration of CO2 in it than fresh water so that was another bonus for the process, especially when using it on board a carrier.

    The main issue was trying to get the process to only produce kerosene and not the ethanol (which they would not have a use for on the carriers). Not that this would be an issue on land. Plenty of commercial uses for the ethanol.

  17. rhoda klapp,

    “Did I happen to mention I hate trains? And all those problems apply also to the airborne alternative, although that one is better when crossing the ocean.”

    The worst thing about trains though is that no-one gives a fuck, because they’re monopolies who have just been able to collect money. Train doors don’t close, not enough carriages provided, flooding in tunnels, broken ticket machines, snow? It’s not the odd failure that bothers me. It’s that these things happen all the time and there is no sense that anyone tries to improve them.

    I mean, I use the bus, and Stagecoach or National Express are just so much better. Buses break down about once every 2 years. They’re almost never late. And they’re cheap. They deploy technology like contactless payments or app tickets years before the railways.

  18. “a load of unmitigated bollocks”: indeed it is. The fact that they need to fake and suppress so much data to make their case means they know they’re lying. And, of course, their models are worthless – the task is just far too hard.

  19. Every year for the last decade I check on doing the journey from where I live in the UK to Malaga. It is always 3x more expensive *and* takes 3x longer doing the journey on a train. I live in the south, so the Channel tunnel isn’t that far away…

    I can’t even go to a WEB site and book a through ticket. Which would be a start…

  20. We use the train, but have not in the past 18 months for obvious reasons. It’s a no-brainer for a daytrip to London, similarly to Cambridge or Norwich. A couple of years ago we had to go to a funeral in Salisbury and the train was a much better option than driving – walk to the crematorium & then ferried to a meal with the relatives & back to the station. There’s a park ‘n ride locally which we used to use for Ipswich but for all other purposes we use a car if it’s too far to walk. I’m not changing my behaviour for any green reasons, it’ll be for economic or legal reasons if I have to.

  21. The problem is a lot of the hippy idiots making these decisions about none of us having cars – because polar bears, or something – all live in London where public transport is a viable alternative.

    Here, public transport is laughable, unreliable and doesn’t run 24/7. A quick check on Google maps shows me that if I wanted to use public transport to go to my shift, which starts at 06:00, then I’d have to set off at 21:30 the day before, and I’d get there for 22:51… The day before.

    Not exactly convenient, considering it’s a 12 minute drive…

    As for cycling. Like f*ck am I getting up an hour earlier to cycle down that hill or cycling up it after a 12hr shift in the pissing rain and cold.

  22. My usual journey to look after my mother costs me about £25 all-in by car travelling whenever I want, or about £25 all-in by bus travelling whenever I want during the day at 2-hour intervals. The car journey takes two hours, the bus journey takes six hours and makes me too exhausted to do anything for another six hours.

    The last time I tried the train journey, well they sliced the end off our railway in the 1960s, so it starts with a one hour bus journey to the railway station, and then another three hours, travelling whenever I want costs £53. Knowing a week in advance that my Mum needs help could get it down to £25.

    Plus, the last time I did the journey by train, I missed the last connecting bus home, so had a £30 taxi journey added on.

  23. Chernyy: when my car was in for repairs recently I had a couple of days going to work by bus. It turned a 45 minute journey into a 3-hour one, one that guarranteed I was 50 minutes late regardless of when I set off because the absolute very first bus of the day was an hour too late to get me to work on time.

  24. @Bloke in North Korea (Germany province)

    The US Navy has always taken a puritanical view of alcohol. It used to be a thing in the US Navy to keep a look out for a British warship and rejoice when they spotted one as it meant a visit could be made to the British warship. For a drink. For ten.

  25. “(if a terrorist ever tries to smuggle a bomb up their bum I hate to think how bad security checks will get….)”

    It wouldn’t work, the bomb up the bum I mean. A while ago a suicide bomber tried to assassinate an Arab sheikh, or member of a Royal family, and stuffed plastic explosive up his jacksey prior to a meeting he had with the target. Upon being introduced the would be killer detonated the explosives. The effect was described as his body being lifted into the air and then slumping to the floor, presumably pretty dead. The intended victim just looked on slight bemused as to what had occurred. The human body is a very effective dampener for explosive forces, presumably all the water.

    https://www.theregister.com/2009/09/21/bum_bombing/

  26. Boganboy,

    “if we want the cheapest solution, we just need to give all the green garbage the flick, and carry on business as usual.”

    You have alighted on exactly the correct solution.

    All we have to do then is eliminate the Marxist greenfreaks. I think a giant stone age farm where they can wear themselves out and die around age 24 should do it.

  27. There was that episode in UFO where humans became super Psychobombs by plugging themselves into the mains. Perhaps prolonged Jihadi indoctrination would put them in the right state.

  28. @ Chernyy Drakon
    It appears that you haven’t lived in London: while the tube system is pretty good most of the time, London buses have appalling for longer than I can remember. When I lived in central London, it was normally quicker to walk than to catch a bus. Last time I tried to catch a London bus was three Christmases ago when I had gone to Oxford Street to buy some presents and the tube was temporarily closed for some reason so I thought “well, I can take the bus to the station it’ll be easier than walking through the crowds” and it was still slower than my ageing legs would have been (I checked by walking to the station next time I went to Oxford Street).

  29. @Salamander
    I think trains are easier to live with than airplanes.
    Provided that you don’t need to cross an ocean of course.
    It is possible to get from London to Hong Kong, for example, by train. The disadvantage – it takes weeks as compared to 12 hours by air.

  30. @John77

    No I haven’t lived in London.
    I was just going off what my colleague, who is from London says. He raves about the London transport system all the time – says its 24/7, quick and relatively cheap compared to a car.
    No reason to doubt his claims, especially with the recent increases in bus lanes etc.
    Personally, I haven’t even been to London in well over a decade, with zero plans to go in the next one either.

  31. @ Jim – It’s a good job I finished my hot chocolate before reading your link – it would have resulted in more than just a new keyboard! I haven’t larfed as much for ages.

  32. That there are Councils preparing to declare “Ecological Emergencies” disturbs me.
    If only there was a software tool which could provide the names and addresses of Councillors who voted for this insanity, then we could pop round and dig holes in their lawns ‘cos topography is good for biodiversity.

  33. “Dig holes in their lawns ‘cos topography is good for biodiversity”

    A road round these parts is being closed while repairs are made because of damage caused by badgers! I assume these unfortunate creatures were desperately trying to escape from a Climate Emergency or some other “Man Made” evil…

  34. “A solution would involve making cars lighter, so extending range and mpg. You’d have to use thinner bendier materials and do away with some safety features ”
    The C5 returns!
    Come back Clive Sinclair, all is forgiven

    @Steven Crook
    We’ve enough crooks in Malaga, as it is. Have you considered Alicante?

  35. Trains? Where do these people think people live?

    In the US, outside the NE corridor, not in places where trains are useful. I can just imagine the hoop-jumping these people would go through to justify building a rail line for the 15 miles of my commute, mostly through agricultural fields and empty desert. Rather, they’d want me to bike 5 miles in the wrong direction to catch a train going in the wrong direction to wait for it to loop around the city to get within 2 miles of my destination and then I can bike the rest of the way turning a 10 minute commute into a 75 minute one.

    Even living in San Diego, which has had a light rail line for 40 years, the city has to be mostly served by buses and hardly any of those connect to the LR lines anyway.

  36. RichardT
    November 1, 2021 at 9:18 am

    As David said, in a car one has to drive oneself, which is not in the price.

    I’ve never been on a commuter train (US, Europe, or Asia) where one could do anything except listen to music so, IMO, having to drive yourself isn’t much of a cost.

    Not when compared to having your car available at a moment’s notice 24/7 and able to go straight to any destination. That also greatly reduces the travel time, to the point that if you were on a train for so short a time you’d barely have time to check a couple emails before it was time to get back off.

    But yes, its a cost and should be calculated.

  37. Re: London public transport – when I lived there I used the tube every day, out of necessity, with the odd cab ride. Now when I visit, as it is only for a few days and I have a bit more cash behind me, I Uber everywhere unless time/distance/weather mean I can walk.

  38. Will be ignoring any Council greenfreak crap declarations. If they try to block roads–move their crap.

    Can anybody recommend any way (or any machine that can help) that heavy concrete blocks can be dragged to the roadside by one man? Council cunts have blocked a public highway now for 3 years for supposed road-works that aren’t going to appear and the blocks are too heavy to be dragged by one man. It is a small counter attack but if millions expressed their displeasure at the states -local and nationals -eco-antics directly the message would get home.

  39. It’s a good job I finished my hot chocolate before reading your link – it would have resulted in more than just a new keyboard! I haven’t larfed as much for ages.

    The inimitable, and sadly missed (along with most of the good reporters) from ElReg, Lewis Page.

  40. @ Chernyy Drakon
    Oh, well “compared to a car” then maybe because it is a pretty low bar. When I lived in London I decided a car wasn’t worth having because various local governments hated cars so much.

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