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Candles in the wind


Brian Masters (NCE 18 January) in advocating the conversion of railways to busways would have been supported by the Railway Conversion League, had it still been in existence.

That body persuaded the government in the 1960's to examine the conversion of the main rail lines into London, Marylebone into a busway with buses replacing trains. Similarly before the Tyne & Wear Metro and Manchester Metrolink were built, studies were undertaken into converting suburban railway lines into busways.

Britain is unique in Europe in having a town built entirely around busways, namely Runcorn, which since it opened in 1967 has lost bus trips to car commuting at the same rate as other UK non busway towns.

In the last 50 years bus use has declined by 75%, while railway use has increased slightly. London now accounts for over 60% of all UK bus trips.

There is no evidence that people with cars will freely choose to use buses but there are plenty of transfers to rail.

No wonder cities in the US like Los Angeles are spending more on urban rail transit than the whole of the UK.

His argument about cost and flexibility can be applied elsewhere. Candles are cheaper and more flexible than electric lights at home but I guess like me, Brian Masters prefers the higher cost of electric lights because of the convenience and quality of service.

Professor Lewis Lesley (M) Liverpool JM University

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