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Crazy costs criticised

ANALYSIS: Letters to the Editor

Mark Whitby's article (NCE 9 September) refers to a piece in the Times by economist Anatole Kaletsy criticising the cost of public transport projects. Unlike Mark I am in sympathy with Kaletsy.

In the 1970s I studied transport economics at London University where many of the projects mentioned in Mark's article were discussed as future proposals. In retrospect one could question their economic viability.

The cost of the Channel Tunnel, for example, was inflated by the decision to carry cars. It is doubtful whether the project's financing costs will ever be recouped.

Likewise, the decision to construct a double track underground railway to Heathrow for four trains an hour when a rail loop like the Tube's would have sufficed, was not good economics.

Expenditure on the extension of the Jubilee Line, an out of date tube line, has been insane. With the advent of tunnel

boring machines, whose capacity far exceeds tube trains, every other country in the world is now constructing standard loading gauge underground railways.

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link project is another example of overkill. An existing railway on a high speed alignment was available to Redhill. A tunnel under the Downs would have allowed trains to reach Waterloo on existing tracks. Continental freight requiring an increase in load gauge could have gone north via Reading.

Continuous upgrading by British Rail and London Underground came to a halt in the mid 1970s. Now the railway industry is attempting to make up ground with uneconomic mega projects. The upgrading of the whole of the West Coast Main Line in the near future will be the next.

G R Heath (M), 7 Chenies Avenue, Little Chalfont, Amersham HP6 6PR

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