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January 23, 2006

Funny Numbers.

While I’m sympathetic to the basic idea here, that trains in the UK are too expensive, I’m not convinced by these funny numbers:

Britons pay more to travel by rail than anyone else in Europe, a survey has shown.

British railways are officially the most expensive after research revealed that £10 will buy commuters an average of 38 miles. That is almost three times the cost of travelling the same distance in France.

The same money would buy rail travellers around 350 miles in Slovakia, 200 miles in Italy and 100 miles in Spain.

Tom Brake, the transport spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, who compiled the report, said it was disgraceful that in this country each mile travelled by train cost nearly £4.

"Ten pounds in Britain will barely take you from one county to the next - in Europe it takes you to the next country. The Government's transport policy is failing."

As we know very well the price of the ticket is not the only cost of train travel. There is also whatever subsidy the system is receiving from the taxpayers. No, I don’t know how much the UK system gets (does anyone actually understand Notwork Rail’s accounts?) nor those of SNCF, etc, but to make a comparison without taking account of such taxpayer funding simply isn’t on.

Or is tax money somehow "free" money, something that doesn’thave to be taken into account?

January 23, 2006 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink

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Comments

Another point - not all the costs of a train journey scale with distance. The train itself and the staffing costs, for example. France is a much bigger place than Britain.

Posted by: Alex | Jan 23, 2006 9:53:27 AM

British railways are officially the most expensive after research revealed that £10 will buy commuters an average of 38 miles.

...

Tom Brake, the transport spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, who compiled the report, said it was disgraceful that in this country each mile travelled by train cost nearly £4.

You're not the only one struggling with numbers. I think what he means is that each pound gets you nearly 4 miles of travel.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Jan 23, 2006 10:07:27 AM

Tim, I wa reading the fingure in Private Eye (and I know that I don't have that issue any more).

I do know that the subsidy is almost exactly double what it was under British Rail.

It's of the order of £9billion, I think...

DK

Posted by: Devil's Kitchen | Jan 23, 2006 11:37:48 AM

..so clearly we should renationalise the train operators too, eh DK? Back to BR! You and Bob Crow!

More seriously and less snarkily, I seem to remember that some 160 miles of track need replacing a year to keep the system from degrading. Killertrack managed a figure of (I think) 40, so there's a shitload to catch up with...

Posted by: Alex | Jan 23, 2006 12:10:59 PM

I should point out to DK that although the rail subsidy has increasd since BR days, the biggest leap in subsidy came when Railtrack was effectively renationalised and became Network Rail.

We hear similar stories about childcare in the UK being the most expensive in Europe as if it were some sort of rip-off. The vast majority of the cost of childcare is staff salaries, and childcare salaries are some of the lowest. The difference is entirely accounted for by the level of subsidy.

Posted by: HJHJ | Jan 23, 2006 2:16:02 PM

Something that should be more concerning to all train operators is that it appears the fuel cost of a train, even with a full load of passengers, is costing more per mile or hour than running a car.

If this is indeed true, it kind of blows a big hole in the environmentalists claim that trains are more green than cars.

RM

Tim adds: Emissions per mile travelled are indeed higher than a car.

Posted by: The Remittance Man | Jan 23, 2006 3:19:30 PM

"Tim adds: Emissions per mile travelled are indeed higher than a car."

But surely not Emissions per person per mile travelled ?

Tim adds: Think so, that’s what the Lancaster University study appeared to show. But then e per p per mt is higher for walking than a car as well.

Posted by: fFreddy | Jan 23, 2006 6:00:35 PM

How about emissions by cyclist per mile travelled?

Posted by: Rob Read | Jan 24, 2006 11:49:52 AM

"Tim adds: Emissions per mile travelled are indeed higher than a car.
"

Tim - we went through this last time. It's by no means as certain as you pretend, and obviously depends enormously on the type of fuel used to generate the power.

Posted by: Matthew | Jan 24, 2006 7:40:13 PM

Also walking does not produced more C02 per mile than travelling by car. In the example which I suspect you're referring to (which is rather suspect, for instance though it doesn't affect the calculation they claim a litre of CO2 weighs 1.966kg, which if it did life would be interesting) a back-of-the-envelope calculation finds a small car with four passengers would produce less C02 per mile travelled than walking. But of course not all cars are small, almost all cars are never fully laden, and they didn't take into account the extra Co2 if it is fully laden. So it's totally unrealistic, even if you accept the assumptions.

Posted by: Matthew | Jan 24, 2006 8:15:56 PM