Friday, December 16, 2005

The Misguided Busway

It appears that the Cambridge Misguided Busway scheme has been given the go ahead.

For those that don't know, this involves the conversion of a disused railway line into a special trackway for buses, parallel to a very heavily congested trunk road. The claim, presumably, is that this will provide an alternative and relieve the congestion.

Unfortunately, what we are going to see is a horrifically expensive white elephant.

The best thing - and the obvious course of action - would have been to convert the disused railway into a used railway.

The fundamental problem lies in the idea that you can spend at least £70 million and convert a railway line into a successful bus route This simply won't work, because doing so combines the worst features of rail and road transport. The snag with railway lines is that - partly because they were built so long ago - they tend not to follow traffic patterns. Not only do they not follow the traffic, the stations tend to be in useless places. The misguided busway inherits these weaknesses.

The advantage of using the railway as a railway is that, while it suffers from these weaknesses too, it can give benefits in other areas. In particular, it can act as a feeder line, with commuter traffic a particular target - so you can go to a local station for a long-distance trip. Also, the line could be used as additional or diversionary capacity for other rail traffic.

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