A UK think tank is urging the government to favor buses over trains as a way to ease congestion and reduce costs. The Times of London reports:
A report by the Institute of Economic Affairs claims that coaches running on specially-built lanes segregated from other traffic could carry 75,000 passengers an hour into central London. This compared with 10,000 on each of the capital’s busiest commuter rail lines. […]The report’s conclusions come amid growing concerns over the amount of money being pumped into Britain’s railways, with an estimated £6 billion of annual subsidises in addition to £38 billion being spent on improving the network in the next five years.A survey of passengers published last week showed that levels of dissatisfaction are rising, with growing numbers of travellers complaining about poor value for money, cramped conditions and late journeys.
It turns out that even in the UK, commuter rail lines are an inefficient way to get people to and from their jobs. In fact, overcrowded trains may be a factor in putting more people in cars and, by slowing down commute times on crowded roads, may also increase rather than decrease pollution and energy use. A better solution? Convert rail lines to dedicated bus lanes that can bring in lots more commuters faster and more efficiently.The great train fantasy is one of the urbanist myths of our time, part of the sentimental fluff that prevents greens from coming up with pragmatic ideas for handling issues like pollution and climate change. Beyond that of course is the Big Fallacy that the 21st century is going to need the same kind of transportation architecture as the 20th. Self driving cars, telework, and satellite worksites in suburban and exurban locations are what people really need and want.Faster, cheaper, easier, greener: that is what the commute of the future needs to be. This may well mean a future with fewer trains rather than more.