• Dear Guest, and welcome to RailUK Forums. Our non-railway discussion forums are currently restricted until members have five or more posts, and you will not be able to make a new thread or reply to an existing one in this section until you have made five or more posts elsewhere on the forum.

Road and rail building plans under review after Covid

Status
Not open for further replies.

fflint

Member
Joined
16 Apr 2012
Messages
117
From BBC business page today https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-57010913

Multi-billion pound plans for roads and railways in the UK are being reviewed, as travel patterns shift in response to the Covid pandemic.
It comes as BBC research suggests 43 of the UK's biggest employers won't bring workers back to the office full-time.
Traffic is expected to be below the long term average.
The BBC has learned that civil servants are studying transport expansion plans to see which are still viable.
Stephen Joseph, a visiting professor at the University of Hertfordshire, told BBC News: "Of course they're going to have to review their investment - the Treasury will be asking them to justify it - and some schemes just can't be justified."
The government has been approached for comment. It hasn't revealed details of any schemes that might potentially be cut.
The Prime Minister has previously re-committed himself to £100bn spending on HS2 rail, which was designed in part to relieve congestion on the Euston to Birmingham route.
But some schemes in the £27bn roads programme may now be facing the axe in the post-Covid world.
It's impossible to forecast traffic demand with certainty, but many previously-congested roads are flowing much more freely out of rush-hour than they were before.

see link above for more info.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

Joined
2 Apr 2013
Messages
95
With regards to work travel on the railway, much of the current press (Your article included) suggests that while there will be no full-time return to the office for many, a blended approach will be taken, therefore there will still be increasing numbers of people who will commute. Alternatively, my wife works in the public sector and her senior management are starting to push hard on the "make plans to return to the office" stance, possibly to "set an example" to get others to return?

I would suggest that the current peak-heavy time tables in many areas should be spread more evenly through the day if the traditional rush hour is to reduce, though not disappear.

Regarding leisure travel, I have travelled on trains at the weekend 3 times since lockdown started to ease and they were almost as busy as they were before COVID- stations crowded and trains, that whilst not full and standing, didn't appear to have many, if any, seats not occupied.
 

squizzler

Established Member
Joined
4 Jan 2017
Messages
1,751
Location
Jersey, Channel Islands
The pandemic and its fallout seem destined to accelerate the trend away from car ownership, since folk seem to be travelling less. We also got to consider that the car fleet is almost certainly shrinking due to supply problems: shutdown of motor trade last year, shortage of components this year, and the phase out of traditional dinosaur-burners in favour of electric. As with cars themselves, so the supply of motorists to drive them. Car licences have not been issued all through the pandemic causing a major backlog in training and testing.

Highways building is yesterday’s news - everywhere in the country is accessible by road. Rail connections on the other hand are still needed to fill in the bigger gaps of the network.
 

LSWR Cavalier

Established Member
Joined
23 Aug 2020
Messages
1,286
Location
Leafy Suburbia
@squizzler
Trend away from car ownership? Certainly hope so, but people may hire/share vehicles instead. Less traffic, less travel altogether, would be very good. I am glad to have given up my car just before retiring.
 

PTR 444

Member
Joined
22 Aug 2019
Messages
1,094
Location
Southampton
The pandemic and its fallout seem destined to accelerate the trend away from car ownership, since folk seem to be travelling less. We also got to consider that the car fleet is almost certainly shrinking due to supply problems: shutdown of motor trade last year, shortage of components this year, and the phase out of traditional dinosaur-burners in favour of electric. As with cars themselves, so the supply of motorists to drive them. Car licences have not been issued all through the pandemic causing a major backlog in training and testing.

Highways building is yesterday’s news - everywhere in the country is accessible by road. Rail connections on the other hand are still needed to fill in the bigger gaps of the network.
I agree. Owning a car is expensive and i’d say a fair proportion of the population would be willing to sell up if they are only going to be commuting 2 or 3 days a week, saving a considerable amount of money in the process.
 

philosopher

Member
Joined
23 Sep 2015
Messages
814
From BBC business page today https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-57010913

Multi-billion pound plans for roads and railways in the UK are being reviewed, as travel patterns shift in response to the Covid pandemic.
It comes as BBC research suggests 43 of the UK's biggest employers won't bring workers back to the office full-time.
Traffic is expected to be below the long term average.
The BBC has learned that civil servants are studying transport expansion plans to see which are still viable.
Stephen Joseph, a visiting professor at the University of Hertfordshire, told BBC News: "Of course they're going to have to review their investment - the Treasury will be asking them to justify it - and some schemes just can't be justified."
The government has been approached for comment. It hasn't revealed details of any schemes that might potentially be cut.
The Prime Minister has previously re-committed himself to £100bn spending on HS2 rail, which was designed in part to relieve congestion on the Euston to Birmingham route.
But some schemes in the £27bn roads programme may now be facing the axe in the post-Covid world.
It's impossible to forecast traffic demand with certainty, but many previously-congested roads are flowing much more freely out of rush-hour than they were before.

see link above for more info.
The thing with infrastructure is you never quite know when you will need it. The Beeching cuts may have made sense in the 60s when rail use was falling, however before the pandemic we could have done with some of the closed railway lines.

As far as we know there may be another event in ten years time that results in significantly increased travel.
 

coppercapped

Established Member
Joined
13 Sep 2015
Messages
2,752
Location
Reading
The pandemic and its fallout seem destined to accelerate the trend away from car ownership, since folk seem to be travelling less. We also got to consider that the car fleet is almost certainly shrinking due to supply problems: shutdown of motor trade last year, shortage of components this year, and the phase out of traditional dinosaur-burners in favour of electric. As with cars themselves, so the supply of motorists to drive them. Car licences have not been issued all through the pandemic causing a major backlog in training and testing.

Highways building is yesterday’s news - everywhere in the country is accessible by road. Rail connections on the other hand are still needed to fill in the bigger gaps of the network.
Really?

The facts suggest otherwise. In the year to April 2020 228,861 private cars were registered. In the year to April 2021 248,117 private cars were registered, an 8.4% increase.

Admittedly April 2020 — as the first lockdown took hold — only 871 private cars were registered, but this rebounded by April 2021 to a total of 61,935.

These data are for private cars as you mentioned car ownership — fleet and business registrations are in addition to these numbers.

(Sources: DfT/ONS and Society for Motor Manufacturing and Trading)
 

LNW-GW Joint

Veteran Member
Joined
22 Feb 2011
Messages
16,349
Location
Mold, Clwyd
It's difficult to see new capacity schemes being authorised on the railway, unless there is a wider economic interest (eg on East West Rail, or NPR).
HS2 (phases 1/2a) probably just got through in time. For phase 2b I guess it will depend on its interrelationship with NPR.
Money is more likely to be spent on renewals and modernisation generally, where operational savings can be achieved.
Train fleets will be under review, and we may be in a "new train famine" for some time.
But the railway has more on its hands than just a usage problem - it urgently has to sort out its organisation and methods as well (Williams, franchises, costs etc).
We have annual Treasury spending reviews at the moment, so it all depends on Sunak's view of railway investment.
I'd expect cost reductions to go with any new investment.
 

fishwomp

Member
Joined
5 Jan 2020
Messages
180
Location
milton keynes
The pandemic and its fallout seem destined to accelerate the trend away from car ownership, since folk seem to be travelling less. We also got to consider that the car fleet is almost certainly shrinking due to supply problems: shutdown of motor trade last year, shortage of components this year, and the phase out of traditional dinosaur-burners in favour of electric. As with cars themselves, so the supply of motorists to drive them. Car licences have not been issued all through the pandemic causing a major backlog in training and testing.

Highways building is yesterday’s news - everywhere in the country is accessible by road. Rail connections on the other hand are still needed to fill in the bigger gaps of the network.

Sorry that's just wishful thinking. It would be wonderful if true, but car usage has recovered far more strongly than public transport - so at this point there is no evidence to support your conjecture.

That 18 months of learner drivers have missed out gives an impact of at most 3% to number of licensed drivers.. a tiny irrelevant dint. I expect there are people who previously would have used rail/bus who actually bought a car in order to get to work during the peak of the crisis.. they won't stop just because the trains are back.

If on the whole people travel less, then the existing road network will be less congested - meaning road more viable for some journeys. It's also easy to reduce rail capacity (lower frequency), but road capacity is constant ..
 

squizzler

Established Member
Joined
4 Jan 2017
Messages
1,751
Location
Jersey, Channel Islands
Sorry that's just wishful thinking. It would be wonderful if true, but car usage has recovered far more strongly than public transport - so at this point there is no evidence to support your conjecture.
It is like a mirror image of the end of WW2 where rail was moving more goods and passengers than ever and all the private cars were tucked in their garages due to petrol rationing. There was no reason then to think that rail would entrench its dominance with nationalisation removing the perversities of competing companies in the same markets, but of course things did not pan out that way.

Of course rail was also hammered by the need to modernise from the steam age, and adopt diesel and electric. It has largely electrified the main flows, whereas it is motoring that is only at the start of this journey. Of course in the 1950s the US railways had already successfully dieselised and BR still messed it up, whereas the present time has no corresponding large scale example how to switch to alternative motoring, so the motor trade will probably do even worse.
That 18 months of learner drivers have missed out gives an impact of at most 3% to number of licensed drivers.. a tiny irrelevant dint. I expect there are people who previously would have used rail/bus who actually bought a car in order to get to work during the peak of the crisis.. they won't stop just because the trains are back.
3% is a considerable drop. Remember this is additive to an existing trend of getting driving licences later. And those who became motorists will likely go back to using transport for the reasons they were before: the flexibility and freedom of not having to care for the vehicle they alight from.
If on the whole people travel less, then the existing road network will be less congested - meaning road more viable for some journeys. It's also easy to reduce rail capacity (lower frequency), but road capacity is constant ..
Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is no case to reduce service frequency outside of metropolitan catchments, and even then only at peak times. In fact this is capacity that might be reallocated to balance service quality over the network throughout the day, making rail even more desirable.

For all the reasons given above, if I was in charge of infrastructure spending, I would bet on rail. Road certainly needs major investment to reallocate space from parking to foot and bike traffic. Beyond that we need successful examples of decarbonisation and driverless cars to show what features the road network needs to incorporate to remain relevant for motor traffic.
 

Mikey C

Established Member
Joined
11 Feb 2013
Messages
4,920
The big change is that is the numbers of commuters declines, that will lessen the need for some of the massive capital spends to enable more and longer trains to run into London at peak times. The shambles and cost overruns for Crossrail 1 when combined with this will surely push Crossrail 2 back several years, the mass replacement of existing stock with longer, fixed formation fleets will surely not happen so much either (e.g. for Southeastern urban operations)

Roads cater for far more than commuters. Indeed working from home and the internet has created NEW traffic, as everyone gets stuff delivered to their houses
 

hooverboy

On Moderation
Joined
12 Oct 2017
Messages
1,303
It is like a mirror image of the end of WW2 where rail was moving more goods and passengers than ever and all the private cars were tucked in their garages due to petrol rationing. There was no reason then to think that rail would entrench its dominance with nationalisation removing the perversities of competing companies in the same markets, but of course things did not pan out that way.

Of course rail was also hammered by the need to modernise from the steam age, and adopt diesel and electric. It has largely electrified the main flows, whereas it is motoring that is only at the start of this journey. Of course in the 1950s the US railways had already successfully dieselised and BR still messed it up, whereas the present time has no corresponding large scale example how to switch to alternative motoring, so the motor trade will probably do even worse.

3% is a considerable drop. Remember this is additive to an existing trend of getting driving licences later. And those who became motorists will likely go back to using transport for the reasons they were before: the flexibility and freedom of not having to care for the vehicle they alight from.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is no case to reduce service frequency outside of metropolitan catchments, and even then only at peak times. In fact this is capacity that might be reallocated to balance service quality over the network throughout the day, making rail even more desirable.

For all the reasons given above, if I was in charge of infrastructure spending, I would bet on rail. Road certainly needs major investment to reallocate space from parking to foot and bike traffic. Beyond that we need successful examples of decarbonisation and driverless cars to show what features the road network needs to incorporate to remain relevant for motor traffic.
That maybe the case, but can you recall pre-covid times?

it was a very regular occurrence to have "this train is cancelled because of a shortage of train crew.

You could be quite pleased that such a deficit has now been remedied.Less frequent trains,admittedly, but the personnel to run them are (mostly) in the right place at the right time.
for what it's worth, the pressure on companies to adopt "hybrid" work schemes and staggered hours is actually beneficial in terms of lightening the load on trains,planes and automobiles.
 

urbophile

Member
Joined
8 Nov 2019
Messages
442
Location
Liverpool
With regards to work travel on the railway, much of the current press (Your article included) suggests that while there will be no full-time return to the office for many, a blended approach will be taken, therefore there will still be increasing numbers of people who will commute. Alternatively, my wife works in the public sector and her senior management are starting to push hard on the "make plans to return to the office" stance, possibly to "set an example" to get others to return?

I would suggest that the current peak-heavy time tables in many areas should be spread more evenly through the day if the traditional rush hour is to reduce, though not disappear.

Regarding leisure travel, I have travelled on trains at the weekend 3 times since lockdown started to ease and they were almost as busy as they were before COVID- stations crowded and trains, that whilst not full and standing, didn't appear to have many, if any, seats not occupied.
There was a trend even before Covid for travel at weekends to be almost as busy as weekdays. Maybe busier even. A combination of leisure travel and flexi-time working seems to suggest that the trend will continue.
 

30907

Veteran Member
Joined
30 Sep 2012
Messages
12,478
Location
Airedale
The big change is that is the numbers of commuters declines, that will lessen the need for some of the massive capital spends to enable more and longer trains to run into London at peak times. The shambles and cost overruns for Crossrail 1 when combined with this will surely push Crossrail 2 back several years,
Agree - but apart from Crossrail 2, what? The only other mega infrastructure project I can think of in London is East Croydon, and that relates to all-day demand not just peak (same applies to Castlefield in Manchester).
the mass replacement of existing stock with longer, fixed formation fleets will surely not happen so much either (e.g. for Southeastern urban operations).
The Networkers will have to be replaced somehow - even if the argument swings back towards multiples of 4 rather than fixed formations.
 

jfowkes

Member
Joined
20 Jul 2017
Messages
586
Climate change and air pollution were big problems before Covid and will remain so after Covid regardless of the exact % drop in car usage. That alone is reason enough (in my opinion) to keep increasing rail and other public transport capacity and accessibility.
 

Taunton

Established Member
Joined
1 Aug 2013
Messages
6,872
The pandemic and its fallout seem destined to accelerate the trend away from car ownership, since folk seem to be travelling less.
I think this is railway-bubble wishful thinking. Here in inner London the roads are now as busy as previously, whereas rail and bus have lost the bulk of their patronage. There's a general feeling among the population that at this time it's healthier inside your own car than all together in a rail carriage, and I think that will continue to be a perception for a considerable time.
 

Grimsby town

Member
Joined
4 Apr 2011
Messages
249
Most cities have plans that involve huge amounts of investment in public transport to reduce the impact of transport on the environment. Take Manchester as an example, in 2018 two thirds of journeys were undertaken by car. They want this reduced to 50% by 2040 through expanding Metrolink, rail services and increasing walking and cycling. If you build more light rail lines as in happening in Birmingham and has happened in Manchester, this will make travelling to a major rail station easier and therefore make long distance rail travel more attractive. It also stimulates denser, car free housing developments which again increases demand for rail.

Cancelling rail upgrades would be a mistake. Reliability wise rail was really struggling pre-pandemic which means services will have to be cut back from pre-pandemic levels. This causes obvious political issues of who loses services. You also have a number of lines, stations on the network were demand is suppressed due to poor services. The likes of Dore, Poynton and Congleton come to mind when thinking of places that would have far higher demand if capacity allowed a better service. Rail will struggle for a few years but I don't think getting back to 2019 demand will be too difficult but will require upgrades and changes to the way the system is run.
 

Taunton

Established Member
Joined
1 Aug 2013
Messages
6,872
Most cities have plans that involve huge amounts of investment in public transport to reduce the impact of transport on the environment. Take Manchester as an example, in 2018 two thirds of journeys were undertaken by car. They want this reduced to 50% by 2040
That's fine for the political elite of Manchester to idealise about. It's a comparable approach to that being discussed about the Hartlepool election, how political idealists become detached from what the population want. It is partly driven by the unionised workforce of public transport operators, aligned with one political party in particular, seeing an opportunity for themselves to maintain their numbers. To many people, travel by train is a distress purchase.
 

urbophile

Member
Joined
8 Nov 2019
Messages
442
Location
Liverpool
That's fine for the political elite of Manchester to idealise about. It's a comparable approach to that being discussed about the Hartlepool election, how political idealists become detached from what the population want. It is partly driven by the unionised workforce of public transport operators, aligned with one political party in particular, seeing an opportunity for themselves to maintain their numbers. To many people, travel by train is a distress purchase.
All the more reason why transport planners and managers should do their utmost to ensure that travel by train is *not* a distress purpose. Change the reality and you will change the perception. To do otherwise is to invite disaster. (Like politicians who pander to 'what the people want' rather than change their views on what is desirable.) Short-termism, especially in the light of the approaching climate change doomsday, is far from desirable, from all points of view.
 

squizzler

Established Member
Joined
4 Jan 2017
Messages
1,751
Location
Jersey, Channel Islands
I think this is railway-bubble wishful thinking. Here in inner London the roads are now as busy as previously, whereas rail and bus have lost the bulk of their patronage.
Not everyone lives in London... That many of the City office workers are still work from home is expected and will reduce need for rail building in the capital. Better to divert that to where the rail networks are still suppressing demand, if you can allow money to be spent anywhere else that is.
That's fine for the political elite of Manchester to idealise about. It's a comparable approach to that being discussed about the Hartlepool election, how political idealists become detached from what the population want. It is partly driven by the unionised workforce of public transport operators, aligned with one political party in particular, seeing an opportunity for themselves to maintain their numbers. To many people, travel by train is a distress purchase.
On the other hand, probably better stick to commentating on London's passenger dynamics.:D Outside of the enthusiast community, almost all mobility - collective or individual - is derived demand - a fancy term for something you buy to achieve something else rather than an end in itself.

The current situation with the Hitachi AT800s out of service suggest there is little chance rail projects can be quietly brushed under the carpet now. All those new councillors will find the rail service at the top of their in-tray and be on the government about it right away. In fact the whole situation may represent a bit of a blinder by the railways as it manages to press two hot-topic buttons: resilience of the west country route, and England's economic connectivity with Scotland. I assume the government will want a quick announcement so to be seen to be doing something to improve the railway network.
 
Last edited:

WatcherZero

Established Member
Joined
25 Feb 2010
Messages
9,670
One thing that advocates of a no-return to the office are missing is that with people moving out of walking or a short 1-2 mile commute from their work to the suburbs 10/20/30 miles even if they only come into the office one or two days a week will still be racking up much higher rail miles spending longer on the train. That means capacity on outer suburban and regional rail will be squeezed more than they are today and it will still impact the inner suburban services as they will already be full by the time they reach the inner suburbs rather than filling up in them.

I can certainly say in Wigan peak trains now are just as busy as they were pre-covid though the demographic of the users has seen some shift skewing younger and more leisure travellers.
 

HSTEd

Veteran Member
Joined
14 Jul 2011
Messages
13,972
The only way the railway can compete with car transport is fast (60mph+ average ideally, but as fast as possible), very high intensity service on a relatively small number of simple to understand routes.
 

squizzler

Established Member
Joined
4 Jan 2017
Messages
1,751
Location
Jersey, Channel Islands
I feel that is a woefully out of date view that belongs in the 1960s. Recent experience has shown rail travel quite desirable for the relaxation time or thinking time on board, as well as the freedom and flexibility of not needing to consider parking, time allowed etc.
 

Bletchleyite

Veteran Member
Joined
20 Oct 2014
Messages
71,771
Location
"Marston Vale mafia"
The only way the railway can compete with car transport is fast (60mph+ average ideally, but as fast as possible), very high intensity service on a relatively small number of simple to understand routes.

Yes and no. If you're going to cram people in, yes. If you're going to provide interiors like the Class 397 or Southern Electrostars with lots of tables and space to socialise and work, then the extra time might not be a problem.
 

BayPaul

Member
Joined
11 Jul 2019
Messages
952
I feel that is a woefully out of date view that belongs in the 1960s. Recent experience has shown rail travel quite desirable for the relaxation time or thinking time on board, as well as the freedom and flexibility of not needing to consider parking, time allowed etc.
I love your optimism, but really, no! For the vast majority of people a car gives far more freedom and flexibility than a train. You can go where you like, when you like, never have to worry about missed connections, cancelled services, overcrowding, buying the wrong ticket, meeting a surly ticket inspector, or any of the other stressful things that can happen on a train. Driving you can get caught in traffic, but at least you have some measure of control. I also much prefer going by train, and for the sake of the planet more of us should, but I think that you are deluding yourself if you think that people are going to spontaneously change modes because the train is more relaxing and flexible than driving.
Owning a car is expensive
Not excessively so for most people. You can buy a reasonable second hand car for a couple of thousand pounds, maintenance wise you can get by with an occasional service, new tyres occasionally and annual MOT until it gets to around 100k miles, insurance isn't a huge cost once you are over 30, and modern cars are fairly fuel efficient. I budget my Fiesta at 20p per mile - half for fuel, and the other half for depreciation and maintenance.
The current situation with the Hitachi AT800s out of service suggest there is little chance rail projects can be quietly brushed under the carpet now.
Surely it is more likely that councils will look at the situation with the 80x trains and say that if this can happen to a brand new, expensively procured public transport fleet, we'd be better off investing in roads.
 

Mikey C

Established Member
Joined
11 Feb 2013
Messages
4,920
I feel that is a woefully out of date view that belongs in the 1960s. Recent experience has shown rail travel quite desirable for the relaxation time or thinking time on board, as well as the freedom and flexibility of not needing to consider parking, time allowed etc.
The train works well for many journeys, but for others it really doesn't, as you have to factor in getting to the station, and getting from the station at the other end, or how many connections you have to make. Or indeed the time of the last train.
 

HSTEd

Veteran Member
Joined
14 Jul 2011
Messages
13,972
Recent experience has shown rail travel quite desirable for the relaxation time or thinking time on board
I might have agreed whilst I still held a 1st Staff Pass, but now I am packed into standard class, with all the horrors of advanced purchase tickets, tiny seating and such. I don't.

In standard, time on a train is largely dead time. Even if you have a laptop you can't get it open in an airline seat without it awkwardly wedged between the seat back and your lap.

I can think at home, or at my destination.

as well as the freedom and flexibility of not needing to consider parking, time allowed etc.
As opposed to the freedom and flexibility of not having to worry about being stranded because you missed the last train by 60 seconds, or your connection fails and you end up spending hours on a bus or taxi?
 

A0wen

Established Member
Joined
19 Jan 2008
Messages
4,811
Yes and no. If you're going to cram people in, yes. If you're going to provide interiors like the Class 397 or Southern Electrostars with lots of tables and space to socialise and work, then the extra time might not be a problem.

Ignores the fact that you need to get to the station first and are invariably fleeced for parking to begin with. Don't say "oh but use a bus / bike" etc - I live on the edge of a large town, the nearest stations are 5 miles and 7 miles away. Any bus is going to take *at least* 30 minutes to cover those distances, if only because by their very nature they have to stop and pick up other passengers. So do I want my journey to / from work extended by 30 + minutes a day, just to assuage your guilt about the environment and desire to force people onto public transport ? Probably not.

And "socialising" on a train - please. Don't make me laugh. I don't *want* to socialise with other commuters. I want to socialise with my family or friends -and they're not the ones making the same journeys I am. I want a quite, comfortable environment, where I don't have to listen to other people's phone conversations, the overspill from other people's music, smell the scent of other people's food and drink or body odour. Particularly on a journey to work which is a journey I make through necessity, not choice.
 

paddy1

Member
Joined
11 Oct 2011
Messages
167
Location
Beds
The train works well for many journeys, but for others it really doesn't, as you have to factor in getting to the station, and getting from the station at the other end, or how many connections you have to make. Or indeed the time of the last train.
Or that the last train might be cancelled and you are at an unstaffed remote station with no one around to assist. I always monitor for cancellations and aim for the last but one service so as just to make sure
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Top