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No room for transport gimmicks

ANALYSIS

There are three key issues still to be addressed in the London Underground debate (NCE last week).

The first is that in transport the key to traffic maximisation is good management, not the construction of new and expensive capacity. The Tube, if run commercially, could not service the debt of even a short new Tube line, such as the ill-fated Cross Rail Scheme, never mind the Jubilee Line Extension (£3.3bn).

The second is that there is no guarantee that new train services will result from Railtrack taking over the subsurface large profile Underground tunnels. Railtrack does not run trains. Train services are provided by the 25 train operating companies, controlled by the Franchise Directorate, and shortly the Strategic Railway Authority.

Most train services are subsidised from taxes. New services can only be provided if more subsidy is paid, operating savings made or new traffic generated.

The third issue is that the railway network cannot be considered in isolation from the highway network. There must be an integration of policy. Solutions to railway problems may be found in better use of roads, for example, tramways for short distance traffic.

Similarly, railways may provide solutions to highway problems, for example, diversion of long distance car commuting. By such 'joined-up' thinking, the serious level of air pollution and congestion in London can be tackled, rather than gimmicks such as the M4 bus lane which recently held up Tony Blair.

Professor Lewis Lesley (M)

Liverpool John Moores University

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