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Overrated rail

Antony Oliver (NCE 26 June) cheers the prospect of five new high speed lines and regrets that the government has 'gone lukewarm' on the idea. Thank goodness it has.

After all the cost would exceed £100bn, none of which would ever be recovered from the fare box. That is equivalent to £4,000 in taxes per household.

The resultant toy would do nothing to reduce road congestion since half of all car journeys are less than 4.3 miles and 90% are less than 20 miles. Furthermore, the facility would be used by the rich at least five times as much as by the poor, or at least that is the case with normal rail.

Meanwhile in London, Battersea power station awaits an extension of the Northern Line so as to unlock the site's development potential notwithstanding that there is a multi track railway right past its front door. What greater illustration do we require that rail is quite incapable of meeting today's needs?

Even in the peak hour London's immense rail system would be used to no more than one fifth of its capacity if it were paved and the passengers allocated to seats in express coaches.

PAUL F WITHRINGTON, director, Transport-Watch, 12 Redland Drive, Northampton, NN2 8QE

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