Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Adonis criticised for preferring rail to road

Transport groups this week hit out at what they called a government “bias” towards investment in rail over roads.

They were responding to transport secretary Lord Adonis’ assertion that it was no longer viable to build new intercity motorways.

Adonis said that high speed rail was the “most attractive option” for investing in capacity for intercity travellers.

He was speaking while launching his £30bn proposal to build a new high speed line serving London , Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, based on a feasibility study by the government’s High Speed 2 (HS2) company.

Transport experts slammed Adonis for favouring expansion of rail and neglecting the benefits of investing in roads.

“It is vital that we continue to invest in and develop all our transport networks.”

Department of Transport

“The HS2 study is a good piece of work in its own terms,” said RAC Foundation director Stephen Glaister. “But if you believe high speed rail is needed then you must also expect demand for road [travel] to grow.”

He said that many road users would fail to reap the benefits of high speed rail. “Most road travel is not intercity. It’s made up of much shorter journeys,” he said.

AA president Edmund King agreed. “Rail cannot cater for all journeys,” he said. “There are those who have multiple meetings in different places. No matter how good rail is, it can’t cater for that.”

Budget cuts expected

Fears are increasing that spending on roads is in jeopardy. The Campaign for Better Transport said it expected transport to be “targeted strongly” in the Budget for spending cuts.

It said road projects had become “very expensive” and that the government’s £6bn roads spend was an obvious target.

The Department for Transport said it was committed to tackling road congestion, but that rail was also a priority,

“It is also vital we continue to invest in and develop all our transport networks to ensure that we deliver a transport system that increases choice, economic growth and makes a full contribution to our environmental objectives.

“So we make no apology for investing in rail. Passenger levels have increased by 53% over the last 12 years and numbers are predicted to rise further,” said a spokesman.

Readers' comments (6)

  • I see these transport 'experts' are from the AA and RAC - no bias there then! It's about time that rail was favoured over road, given that transport policies have blatantly favoured road over rail for the last 50 years.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • As a highways engineer it is particularly difficult for me to have an unbiased opinion on this issue. However, I do use rail for my daily commute and it is generally pretty reliable. Whilst I can see some merit in providing a high speed rail network I wonder how many people will actually benefit. If you look at the national rail statistics the percentage of rail journeys made from London to the East Midlands, North East and Scotland is only 0.4%, 0.1% and 0.1% respectively. I'm sure the vast majority of rail journeys are made during the rush hour periods. The money would be better spent on improving existing infrastructure to allow more trains to run at reduced headways and give the commuters some relief from the overcrowded trains. When you look at the cost of HS2 how many new motorways or motorway improvement schemes could be built for that money? Spending money on roads would benefit millions of people per day rather than the few thousand who will stand to gain from HS2.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Any chance of having some comments from rail experts in the article, rather than the clearly biased views of two private car breakdown companies who have a vested interest in more roads?
    I for one would welcome a faster link to London from Birmingham, being one of the 'few thousand' who would stand to gain - although given how packed the train is, I suspect the figure just might be slightly higher!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Luke O'Rafferty

    If we are serious about our carbon commitments (and given they are legally binding I tihnk we should be) how about halting all new road schemes? Invest in maintenance but not expansion. It doesn't matter how big we build our roads, we will fill them just like packing a bag for a holiday. Instead we could put the billions of pounds that would go on road expansion into rail and other forms of public transport.

    I don't agree with Mr Glaister's theory that if more people use rail, more people will also use roads. Surely if you remove thousands of cars from the roads every year, you increase capacity on the roads. Further, if you can get more passengers onto high speed lines, we free up the "standard" lines to carry more freight, again creating more capacity on our roads.

    I'd like to see greater ambition with the HS2 plan, running a line up to Glasgow/Edinburgh faster than we are talking about now. Where we talk about maybe starting construction in 2017, China are talking about having completed a network across 17 countries (linking to Eastern Europe) by 2025.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • These so called transport experts are just road experts, no more, with a vested interest in road transport, building roads and destroying the environment.

    HS2 has much higher capacity than a new motorway and all the required linking roads & inherent spreading conjestion that causes. HS rail has much less carbon emisions than road, about 10% of the total.

    HS2 will take cars off the existing roads & free up space for those who are fans of roads & do not just want to get somewhere quickly, reliably & safely as traisn usually do.

    All that needs to be invested in roads today is money on good maintenance, safety and minor town bypasses, otherwise conjestion & pollution rules . . until the fuel is gone.

    We should spend more in re-opening old disused railway lines, so the residents of places like Portishead can get to work by train & free up the roads, or Uckfield to Lewes to relieve the Brighton Line. This is the way forwards, not more cars & pollution!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • AA and the RAC - what do you expect?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs