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Dodgy stats give railway schemes a raw deal

NEWS

REGIONAL RAIL projects are less likely to go ahead than road schemes because cost/benefit assessment criteria are skewed against them, a leading transport lobby group said this week.

Research by consultant Scott Wilson for sustainable transport lobbyist Transport 2000 has found that the cost/benefit analysis of small rail projects shows motoring to be far cheaper than it really is.

This is because the regional rail scheme has to be compared with a notional equivalent road scheme.

Calculations used to assess the notional road schemes exclude costs to motorists such as insurance and car tax, while including fuel costs. It is claimed that if these costs were factored in, then rail projects would look more viable.

Transport 2000 will use the research to launch a 'Growing the Railways' campaign in the autumn to call for investment in small scale regional rail schemes to tackle car congestion and regenerate small towns.

'The way in which rail services have been looked at is flawed, ' said Transport 2000 director Stephen Joseph.

'When road schemes are assessed, a full range of car costs are taken into account.

With rail schemes only fuel costs are used [in the notional road model], ' he said.

'Therefore, motoring as an alternative is shown to be artificially cheap. The wider benefits of rail also need to be factored into the appraisal.' Independent transport consultant Denvil Coombe said:

'The cost estimates [for rail] are less certain than road schemes, because there are fewer schemes to base experience on'.

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