Wisbech-March line reopening cost increase to £200m

eastdyke

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So is there any appetite within the industry to constructively challenge those standards? As someone has pointed out, in some cases they are effectively ensuring people continue to use less safe and more polluting forms of transport, so are sort of self defeating in a way.
I think that IF the difference between Wisbech re-opening going ahead and not going ahead was solely based on the level crossings v bridges (whole life both cases) costs then this might be a good project on which to base the argument for that. [note the big IF]
Looking at East-West Rail Western Section phase 2, not all level crossings in Marston Vale are to be replaced by bridges or road diversions. Some will remain, albeit in upgraded form.
The traffic for which these are deemed safe, both road and rail, will be orders of magnitude greater than anything on Wisbech-March.
And it should be incumbent on ORR, not just Network Rail, to be a part of that debate.
 
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Midnight Sun

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only one crossing is across a road of any significance (the A47) and due to planned commercial development beyond that road the line would now have to stop short of there so why would they need bridges ?

Which would be over two miles from the Town Centre and next to a traveller site. Would you leave a bike or car there? Not saying that all travellers are light fingered, but some are.
 

Midnight Sun

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One thing with the Wisbech March line is that it has not been formerly closed instead mothballed. Unlike the Alloa or Tweedbank lines.
The BCR for Wisbech – Cambridge 2tph, with Town Centre station is 2.3
March_to_Wisbech_Rail_Link___Outline_Business_Case_v1.3
 

Midnight Sun

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It might still be cheaper to build to Watlington. The land is fairly flat so diverting around development shouldn't be too difficult. And you might be able to run a better service without depending upon Ely North improvement by either diverting some of the King's Lynn services to Wisbech, or splitting them at Watlington (once the power upgrade project to allow longer trains is completed).

Building a new formation on virgin ground is not cheap. More so in the Fen due to the ground conditions.
 

al78

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You like buses, We know that. You don't like counter view thats it. . The bus service may be timetabled for 40 minuites, but often take 50 to 60 minuites or not even turn up at all. Which is often the case with the last bus. Having to leave a hour early to insure that I get there on time, In a effect makes it a hour and 40 minuites for seven miles from March station to Wisbich Bus station. I can get to Kings Cross from March in less time.

The bicycle option is looking attractive. I could walk seven miles in an hour and 40 minutes, to cycle it would take half an hour if it is nearly all rural.
 

Midnight Sun

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The bicycle option is looking attractive. I could walk seven miles in an hour and 40 minutes, to cycle it would take half an hour if it is nearly all rural.

Coming from Wisbich you be facing a very strong head wind all the way. As for walking no pavements for most of the way and in the dark in winter after 5pm. Which people often end up do when the last bus does not turn up. And don't have the £30 for the cab fare.
 

tbtc

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A new bungalow wouldn't bankrupt the country though. The rate of inflation on the railway is absurd. That applies to running costs, improvements to existing lines, reopenings, HS2, everything. We already approach reopenings essentially with the view that railways are a thing of the past, not a viable mode of transport for the 21st century. HS2 is the best brand new line we can think of and has been (still is in the case of Phase 2) under serious threat of cancellation because the costs are out of control. The existing network needs massive investment to cope with the demands of climate change, carbon targets etc. If nothing changes a lot of questions are going to be asked about the existence of railways at all in much of the country.

I agree that rail costs are much higher than I'd like them to be, and are pricing the railway out of a lot of things - but construction costs generally are very high - look at how much it cost just to convert a lane of motorway from hard shoulder to "smart motorway" (or the cost of adding one additional lane to existing motorways) - all construction costs significantly more nowadays.

I'd like HS2 to be built but it suffers from the same increasing costs as other projects - I guess one difference is that some people are prepared to turn a blind eye to the spiralling costs on their favourite schemes but need a dose of smelling salts if they see HS2's costs go up at a similar percentage.

(see also "HS2 is bad because it'll chop trees down" and "HS2 is bad because people aren't interested in time savings" and other complaints which apparently only apply to HS2 and not to other schemes - e.g. nobody worries about the trees that would be cut down if we had to strip back Victorian embankments on lines that were abandoned over fifty years ago)

Projected Train Journey Time 12 minutes, 1 stop

Current Bus Journey Timetabled to take (8 stops) 40 minuites, over slow narrow bad road. Infact often takes 50 to 55 minuites due to traffic on the last mile into Wisbich. First bus does not arrive at March station until after the 8.08am has departed,. Last bus back to Wisbich leaves at 5.10pm. The first bus is also a school bus to Neal Wade school, So only runs on school days. And people wonder why the locals want their rail service back.

Maybe this just suggests that the demand between the two places is so poor that it can't sustain more than a token bus service - if there aren't enough people to warrant an all day minibus then a train with at least a couple of hundred seats is going to be massive over-provision

The problem is, as @DarloRich is fond of pointing out, NR are the experts on this and are the only people really qualified to push back on unnecessarily onerous standards, therefore if they won't do it, who will

It's funny how the Forum's mood swings between the "belt and braces" approach (e.g. we need at least two safety critical members of staff on board a 153 because all sorts of one-in-a-million things could go wrong) and laissez-faire (e.g. we should just bung some tracks down on Victorian alignments and not worry about having to comply with modern safety standards - "accessibility" is just an excuse to scrap my favourite 1970s trains)

NR comply with the law and with the Government's standards - they don't pluck things out of thin air.

But that ignores the fact that people generally don't like bus travel. Buses are usually cramped, slow and uncomfortable. The train option also offers a through service to Ely and Cambridge. Improve the frequency and operating hours of your bus service all you like - most people will continue to drive

I like the way that these debates swing from "this would be a vital public transport link to reconnect isolated communities and provide an essential service to left behind places" to "eugh - a bus? that's what commoners use - I wouldn't be seen dead in something so downmarket".

The "if you build it, they will come" approach is often used to justify significantly increasing rail frequencies/ train lengths, but apparently you don't think that a more frequent bus service operating all day long will attract people out of their cars.

You want a train and everything else is wrong, so everything will be done to reach that conclusion, we get it.

It's amazing how many rail enthusiasts are "conveniently" blind to other forms of transport.

Heavy rail is really good at what it does best, but incredibly inflexible/expensive at some other things (hence buses often being an answer)
 

Taunton

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It's amazing how many rail enthusiasts are "conveniently" blind to other forms of transport.

Heavy rail is really good at what it does best, but incredibly inflexible/expensive at some other things (hence buses often being an answer)
The real blindness is that for 90%+ of the population cars are the answer, way ahead of any bus, and have been for a couple of generations now.
 
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I have the prestigous benefit of both living in the federal republic of Wisbeckistan AND I was the second last driver to bring the dog food off the branch.
As I have said may times the primary use of a railway is to move people or goods (hopefully both), So lets look at freight, apart from Nestle there is no other industry in Wisbech or surrounding area that would warrant a train, even Nestle(as was then) Spillers joined with Metal box and latterly John G Russell (Grantham) to run S93 so realistically freight is a non starter.
Passenger, there is a pretty good Excel service to Peterborough and Lynn/Swaffham etc these buses are regular and by virtue of the fact they are not full would indicate that even filling a Class 153 may be difficult.
Infrastructure, Is knackered totally, Chain Bridge condemned as last train went over it, track bed knackered total relay needed, crossing Elm Road needs replacing, Coldham and Waldersea gated crossing will need total modernisation, Redmoor was open crossing, needs redoing then A47 you really took your life into your hands there, open crossing even at 10mph. The public always seemed to think they could take on a Class 56 and win !! and Weasenham Lane currently more or less 4 gate posts now. will need re doing. To finally end in Nestle yard, I am pretty sure they wouldn't be too pleased with a station on their site.
Then the other end I am sure the Shunters at Whitemoor would be increasing chuffed with a passenger service interferring with day to day shunts etc.

Conclusion
Mr Barclay loves to say how he backs it etc, The local rag loves to remind us every so often. realistically not going to happen so much so I offered the Bramley Line I would drive their first train across there for free. still waiting
 

Maltazer

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I like the way that these debates swing from "this would be a vital public transport link to reconnect isolated communities and provide an essential service to left behind places" to "eugh - a bus? that's what commoners use - I wouldn't be seen dead in something so downmarket".

I said nothing of the sort. I merely stated that buses tend to be cramped, slow and uncomfortable - nothing about who was using them.

If you want people to use public transport instead of cars, you need to improve the offer.

One way is by reintroducing the train service. But if you're going to insist it has to be a road vehicle, then a non-stop coach that doesn't divert into every passing village is going to be the absolute minimum needed. And if it's only going as far as March railway station, it needs to be timed for connections and be very reliable too. Maybe the railway should operate it (and not sub contract to the cheapest coach operator in the area).

Otherwise the car wins.
 

Midnight Sun

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Maybe this just suggests that the demand between the two places is so poor that it can't sustain more than a token bus service - if there aren't enough people to warrant an all day minibus then a train with at least a couple of hundred seats is going to be massive over-provision

More a case of Stagecoach greed, the timetable as it is, can be run using just two drivers. The service is busy enough to warrant the use of double deckers all day. Stagecoach are only aiming at the Bus Pass market. Any one with a onward rail journey has a 40 minuite wait for the train and the same with the return journey. In the days of Norfolk Green before Stagecoach took over. The wait was only ten minuites. The buses started early and finshed later. The bus fare puts people off as well at £7 return(The last Norfolk Green fare was £3.30). When Stagecoach cut the service back. Many people had problems with getting home from work either from Wisbich, March or futher away. The best paid jobs in the area are in Cambridge. Rail would put Cambridge within 45 minuites of Wisbich instead of the current two hours.
 

Midnight Sun

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I said nothing of the sort. I merely stated that buses tend to be cramped, slow and uncomfortable - nothing about who was using them.

If you want people to use public transport instead of cars, you need to improve the offer.

One way is by reintroducing the train service. But if you're going to insist it has to be a road vehicle, then a non-stop coach that doesn't divert into every passing village is going to be the absolute minimum needed. And if it's only going as far as March railway station, it needs to be timed for connections and be very reliable too. Maybe the railway should operate it (and not sub contract to the cheapest coach operator in the area).

Otherwise the car wins.

The road goes through every village which has traffic calming measures in place. Plus this is not a fast road it's narrow with many sharp bends.
 

Robertj21a

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Projected Train Journey Time 12 minutes, 1 stop

Current Bus Journey Timetabled to take (8 stops) 40 minuites, over slow narrow bad road. Infact often takes 50 to 55 minuites due to traffic on the last mile into Wisbich. First bus does not arrive at March station until after the 8.08am has departed,. Last bus back to Wisbich leaves at 5.10pm. The first bus is also a school bus to Neal Wade school, So only runs on school days. And people wonder why the locals want their rail service back.


Sounds more like the bus service is all that's really needed. I just can't see where the passenger numbers to justify a rail line are supposed to come from. Pie in the sky ?
 

quantinghome

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Sounds more like the bus service is all that's really needed. I just can't see where the passenger numbers to justify a rail line are supposed to come from. Pie in the sky ?
Quite. Not from the area but it appears that there is a fast and frequent bus service from Wisbech to both Peterborough and Kings Lynn which presumably runs on a commercial basis.

But not to March. Why not? Is there simply no demand? If it's debatable, then why not run a trial direct non-stop service every half hour, connecting with train at March, and see what happens. Probably costs the same as the GRIP3 for restoring a passenger rail service.
 

D365

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The real blindness is that for 90%+ of the population cars are the answer, way ahead of any bus, and have been for a couple of generations now.

Which is something that clearly has to change this decade.
 

al78

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The "if you build it, they will come" approach is often used to justify significantly increasing rail frequencies/ train lengths, but apparently you don't think that a more frequent bus service operating all day long will attract people out of their cars.

It depends on how reliable, convenient, fast, and comfortable the bus service is. If it lacks on any of those four, people aren't using it en-mass.

To really tempt people out of their cars, you need to make the bus service more attractive than driving. This often means making driving less convenient as well as providing convenient alternatives. In dense urban areas, this happens naturally through traffic congestion, and through policies such as taking space away from cars and giving it to pedestrians, bicycles, and buses. That doesn't happen in a rural area, since traffic congestion doesn't exist in general, and parking is free or low cost, so why would anyone choose a bus instead of their car.
 

Bald Rick

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Well this escalated quickly!

With no apologies for multi quoting...

Well, why would you expect a 75mph branch line to be built to the same standard as a new high speed one ? And if the rule is no level crossings, then that's the same standard in terms of level crossings as a new high speed line.

I’d expect most of the standards to be similar for new lines of both types, with some variations to take account of technical differences. Rails 1438mm apart would be the same for both for example. Curvature can be tighter for lower speeds. But I would expect safety standards to be the same, ie the risk of a passenger being injured or worse to be no worse for a new conventional line than for a new high speed line. Hence no level crossings, as they present the single greatest infrastructure risk to passengers on the rail network.

Whilst I can understand reticence to install new AHBs, surely fully gated crossings with CCTV or obstacle detection eliminate most of the risk associated with level crossings?
Unfortunately, they don’t. I have attended several accidents vehicles have gone through closed barriers at CCTV crossings.

Not possable on that road even, running nonstop take a average of 35 minuites even a car takes at least 30. The road is narrow weaves from side to side, has many sharp bends. The road surface is not level so gives a very rough ride at speed. The last mile and a half from Elm across the A47 roundabout into Wisbich can take 20 minuites or more, The bus does not stop anywhere after Elm other then the Bus Station.

Not possable, even at 3am in the morning, Unless the bus driver has a death wish. People still have to get to the Bus station, Most people will not be either going and coming from the Town Centre, but from other parts of the town.

But google maps says 20 minutes, based on actual monitoring of journeys being made, right now. Accepting that these are cars, I guess the bus will be a little longer. Besides, I would expect it to use the A47, not the B1101. (Which is also 20 minutes). Rather than spending £200m for a new line that would enable a shuttle from Wisbech to March, you could spend perhaps £200k on some bus priority measures?

Alternative ways have been examined already. The report recommends ditching cheaper options for Wisbech to March such as a guided busway (£75m) or a train-tram (£152m). A busway shuttle was described as "poor value for money" and rail only was the best option as it has "a much more certain and lower risk delivery path".

Alternative ways of reinstating the line. Not alternative ways of improving public transport between March and Wisbech, a crucial difference.


But that ignores the fact that people generally don't like bus travel. Buses are usually cramped, slow and uncomfortable. The train option also offers a through service to Ely and Cambridge. Improve the frequency and operating hours of your bus service all you like - most people will continue to drive.

More people use the bus in this country than use the train. And the £200m doesn’t buy you a through service to Ely or Cambridge. Far from it.


When did it become necessary for all rail re openings to have zero level crossings ?, considering the Stirling -Alloa line reopened just over a decade ago has them .

At least 15 years. Stirling to Alloa didn’t close, it remained open for freight.

I think that IF the difference between Wisbech re-opening going ahead and not going ahead was solely based on the level crossings v bridges (whole life both cases) costs then this might be a good project on which to base the argument for that. [note the big IF]
Looking at East-West Rail Western Section phase 2, not all level crossings in Marston Vale are to be replaced by bridges or road diversions. Some will remain, albeit in upgraded form.
The traffic for which these are deemed safe, both road and rail, will be orders of magnitude greater than anything on Wisbech-March.
And it should be incumbent on ORR, not just Network Rail, to be a part of that debate.

The difference here being that the Marston Vale line is open, level crossings and all. The part of EWR Western section 2 that is new is being constructed without level crossings (and there were several before it closed).

The BCR for Wisbech – Cambridge 2tph, with Town Centre station is 2.3

Indeed. Based on a capital cost of £99m, and an annual operating cost of £2.5m. As we know the former is out by a factor of two, and does not take into account any work necessary between March and Cambridge to enable the service (of which there would be much, leaving aside the Ely issues). The operating cost is also out, probably by a similar factor. I estimate that just operating a shuttle between March and Wisbech is going to cost £2m a year before you maintain the infrastructure.

One way is by reintroducing the train service. But if you're going to insist it has to be a road vehicle, then a non-stop coach that doesn't divert into every passing village is going to be the absolute minimum needed. And if it's only going as far as March railway station, it needs to be timed for connections and be very reliable too. Maybe the railway should operate it (and not sub contract to the cheapest coach operator in the area).

Which is precisely what I was suggesting. Non-stop, 4 high quality* buses an hour, through ticketing. It’s not hard to do.

* WiFi, USB, air con, comfortable seats, free bacon sandwiches first Monday of the month.
 
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6Gman

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Well, why would you expect a 75mph branch line to be built to the same standard as a new high speed one ? And if the rule is no level crossings, then that's the same standard in terms of level crossings as a new high speed line.

It's ludicrous.

Also, if an old church falls into dereliction, then someone does it up again, they're not expected to demolish and rebuild the fabric of the building from scratch - the old walls and roof effectively have 'grandfather rights', yet when reinstating a railway line, we have to build it as new. It's ludicrous.

When it comes to having an open mind about new routes, I wouldn't trust NR as far as I could throw it.

My understanding is that although the walls and (possibly) the roof might have grandfather rights the interior and the exterior, where relevant, would need to meet modern building standards for safety.

I have recently been involved with a Listed Building, converted to apartments some years ago, which suffered a severe fire. The intention is to rebuild - but it has been made clear that the apartments will need to reach current safety standards, not those which applied pre-fire or at the time of their previous conversion.
 

158756

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Quite. Not from the area but it appears that there is a fast and frequent bus service from Wisbech to both Peterborough and Kings Lynn which presumably runs on a commercial basis.

But not to March. Why not? Is there simply no demand? If it's debatable, then why not run a trial direct non-stop service every half hour, connecting with train at March, and see what happens. Probably costs the same as the GRIP3 for restoring a passenger rail service.

From a quick glance at this map: https://commute.datashine.org.uk March might actually be the biggest commuter destination for people from Wisbech. The bus journey time is poor though, and the traffic and parking situation probably doesn't do anything to deter car use for anyone who actually has to pay to use the bus. No one will use the bus service which currently exists to connect with the train at March. Rail would also struggle for local traffic in that market unless the frequency was unusually high.

The key thing proponents of the line will/should highlights is what a rail service could offer (obviously Ely is an obstacle to this - but Ely really needs fixing anyway, so any potential service to Wisbech should just add to the BCR) which a bus cannot: an attractive service to Cambridge. Wisbech is a seriously deprived and isolated town, Cambridge has by far the best jobs in the area (and obviously quality higher education as well). Demand for that route now is not particularly high, but potentially rail could make it a realistic commute for a lot more people.
 

Clayton

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A rail service would be popular if it was regular and guaranteed a quick way through traffic, which buses and even electric cars don’t. It would allow people to live there and work in Cambridge, which would increase house prices in Wisbech and attract new leisure businesses. (Then locals would complain about being priced out ...)
 

Robertj21a

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Everyone to their own views but I simply don't see any real demand to warrant a rail line - and I'm sure there's a lot of other rail improvements that could be made for £200m.
 
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Well the promised £500m isnt going to go very far at this rate. Blyth was costed at £191m in 2016 at Grip 2 so thats probably nearer £300m and thats on an existing operational line! Then we have Colne - Skipton which needs a total rebuild so thats going to be £150-200m. Given the billions needed for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail let alone Midlands Connect and East West Rail there aint going to be much if anything left to fund these reopenings. RDG/RIA should be leading the way here in coming up with appropriate standards with ORR to rebuild branch lines so they are affordable otherwise all thats going to happens is the £500m will be spent on glossy consultants reports.
 

quantinghome

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A rail service would be popular if it was regular and guaranteed a quick way through traffic, which buses and even electric cars don’t. It would allow people to live there and work in Cambridge, which would increase house prices in Wisbech and attract new leisure businesses. (Then locals would complain about being priced out ...)

You could do the same with buses for a tenth of the cost. Is traffic between Wisbech and March really so bad that it requires a dedicated right of way for public transport to give a decent travel time? Buy 4 high quality buses and install some bus lanes approaching the busier junctions. Sort out some through ticketing. Job done.
 

HSTEd

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You could do the same with buses for a tenth of the cost. Is traffic between Wisbech and March really so bad that it requires a dedicated right of way for public transport to give a decent travel time? Buy 4 high quality buses and install some bus lanes approaching the busier junctions. Sort out some through ticketing. Job done.
And in order to compare like with you will need to pass primary legislation requiring the bus service to be maintained ad infinitum, with through ticketing and ofcourse with the same provision for timetable robustness that the regular railways has.

Delay repay would have a field day.

EDIT:

The real takeaway however is that unless construction inflation can be got under control our society is completely stuffed.

It's growing faster than the real economy, which means eventually our society will be unable to replace collapsing existing infrastructure let alone build anything new and our society will fall apart.

I have my own theories about why this is (and what can be done) but something does need to be done about it.
 

Kingham West

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Having lived in Kings Lynn , before and after the upgrade and electrification , and boost in services £29 m , if I remember correctly .
I remember traffic rose 3 times , it’s really busy now ( I remember trains in the 80s with no passengers ).

The economic boost to the town is incredible .
I don’t see why a half hourly service to Wisbech can not do as well , and deliver benefits to one on Britain’s poorest communities, connecting it to Cambridge.
Don’t forget railways are for everyone to benefit from economically and socially , they are no just for enthusiasts.
2.3 is over the line
 

Bald Rick

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Well the promised £500m isnt going to go very far at this rate. Blyth was costed at £191m in 2016 at Grip 2 so thats probably nearer £300m and thats on an existing operational line! Then we have Colne - Skipton which needs a total rebuild so thats going to be £150-200m. Given the billions needed for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail let alone Midlands Connect and East West Rail there aint going to be much if anything left to fund these reopenings. RDG/RIA should be leading the way here in coming up with appropriate standards with ORR to rebuild branch lines so they are affordable otherwise all thats going to happens is the £500m will be spent on glossy consultants reports.

Let’s be clear, the standards for new lines are not onerous, and the basics have barely changed in three decades.

Skipton-Colne will be nearer £400m. Any new line is going to be in the region of £30-£40m per mile, and that’s cheap.
 

quantinghome

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RDG/RIA should be leading the way here in coming up with appropriate standards with ORR to rebuild branch lines so they are affordable otherwise all thats going to happens is the £500m will be spent on glossy consultants reports.
What standards would you modify? The trains are the same mass and the same size as mainline trains. They might be going slower but that won't save much in terms of track sub-formation or structures. Maybe simpler signaling? But that's already used on branch lines I think.

The only way you could save significant cash is by building to light rail standards, but then you'd lose the benefits of through-running.
 

yorksrob

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I’d expect most of the standards to be similar for new lines of both types, with some variations to take account of technical differences. Rails 1438mm apart would be the same for both for example. Curvature can be tighter for lower speeds. But I would expect safety standards to be the same, ie the risk of a passenger being injured or worse to be no worse for a new conventional line than for a new high speed line. Hence no level crossings, as they present the single greatest infrastructure risk to passengers on the rail network.

However surely the point is that railway passenger transport doesn't exist in a vacuum. It exists in a world of fast moving cars, lorries and buses, all of which interact with eachother with minimal signalling. If you price the rail out of the market, you're condemning people to far less safe forms of transport. The standard becomes a hazard to public safety.
 

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