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THIS OF COURSE SETS UP THE AGE OLD ARGUMENT OF FOR WHOM ARE THE RAILWAYS THERE TO SERVE – PASSENGERS OR FREIGHT?


Metals, construction materials (aggregate!) and oil/ petroleum combined were just about matching coal3


.


However, by last year the shift had seen a dramatic drop in coal whilst construction took the lead with metals also increasing and oil/petroleum now about the same as coal. This looks linked to the change in UK electricity generation and new ‘intermodal’ freight transportation methods. At roughly the same time (2002 – 2016) UK passenger rail trips had increased by 56%. Interestingly, 64% of passenger rail journeys started or ended in London. I quote ‘The UK rail network is one of the most heavily used in terms of train kilometres in the European Union4


.’


This of course sets up the age old argument of for whom are the railways there to serve – passengers or freight? In some countries one can see this has already been settled. In the US one understands that freight dominates (though the double decker freight cars there seem to travel at a much lower speed) whilst many European countries prioritise passenger traffic with some highly subsidised passenger rail networks. I’ve always thought of the UK as a mixture…or perhaps one that can’t make up its mind. Data from 20172


Recently, there has been a greater interest in climate friendly mass passenger transportation whether it is the HS2 line in the UK, HyperLoop in the US or maglev trains in China. This is all good! Though until those days become reality, in my corner of Essex I just wish to say (…and I am biased) how are we going to get my passenger train to arrive/depart on time, not be held up by ‘…points failures…’ and deliver me to my London destination in a safe and timely manner? There is a finite limit to capacity determined by those two simple steel rails and their associated, seemingly delicate, crossover points. Which is more beneficial to the economy of the UK (and in your own part of the world…)? Is it passengers generating growth through a service economy…or freight building new infrastructure and/or transporting finished goods? What is the balance?


shows that only 9% of UK


domestic freight travelled by rail. Most was by road… even waterborne freight accounted for more (13%). In 2000, the largest sector of UK rail freight had been coal.


2 DOT Freight (TSGB04)


I still look at the freight train full of heavy aggregate early every morning…and I sometimes hum the old skiffle tune sung by Nancy Whiskey…‘Freight Train… Freight Train…going so fast…’. When I see one at speed, I shudder…and think…so fast over all those points! I wonder if Sheldon Cooper would like that image…It may prompt this fictional character to use his vast intellect on deciding choices. I hope it may also prompt you!


Eddie Tofpik E: eddie.tofpik@admisi.com T: +44(0) 20 7716 8201


3 DOT Rail Stats Dec 2019 4 DOT Rail Factsheet/Eurostat


13 | ADMISI - The Ghost In The Machine | November/December 2019


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