On another website it is claimed coach travel is the second only to travelling by plane in terms of the safest form of transport. Does anyone know if this is true? Surely railways are safer than road transport?
The figures seem to show that it is true but the difference needs to be treated with extreme caution as you are not really comparing like with like.
There figure quoted is for bus and coaches, not coaches alone and includes local bus journeys as well. This impacts the figures hugely as local bus services (which make up more than 95% of all bus and coach journeys) are much shorter than rail journeys and buses tend to travel at low speeds and as such are involved mostly in very minor collisions, when compared to rail accidents. This means you are more likely to be involved in a bus crash than a rail crash, but less likely to be killed or injured as a result.
Another factor to consider is that thankfully with both modes of transport (one you remove deaths due to suicides from the rail figures) are so very rare that the number changes quite a lot depending on which period you look at. Most significantly the amount by which the figures change on a year by year basis is bigger than the difference between them. This means that sometimes rail comes out better and sometimes coach comes out better. This fact means that the difference between the two modes is not statistically significant. (Statistical significance is the way by which statisticians determine if a set of figures really mean what they say the do).
In reality you cannot really say that either mode is safer than the other.
'Road' travel is most definitely more hazardous than rail travel, but buses and coaches specifically report lower figures than the railway. However, as with any of this type of stuff, it all needs to be taken with a very large pinch of salt!