ELECTION DEBATE ON ROAD & RAIL
Our leaders, at all levels of government, are taking positions on the importance of infrastructure for road and rail.
Balance Research would like to say to those leaders who are promoting major road infrastructure: "Don't lock yourselves into a position where you must go ahead with major road infrastructure even if you discover, in time, that rail would be better value".
You may, on reflection, realise that rail will use less resources and provide more passenger capacity for the same money. Rail tunnels and road tunnels are both very costly per kilometre (e.g. four road lanes, or two rail tracks) but when compared "per thousand passengers per peak hour" there is just no comparison.
A road lane, operating at safe separations, can carry about 1800 vehicles per hour, assuming normal speed range and no large vehicles. With typical occupancy, this could equate to 2000 persons per hour per lane. This could rise to 2500 with more sharing of car rides.
A rail track, using modern separation methods and longer trains, can carry between 20,000 and 40,000 passengers per hour.
Road safety statistics (as collisions per million vehicle-kilometres travelled) are improving. But the actual number of collisions is not improving at that rate because total traffic is growing. It is desirable that infrastructure investments be designed to reduce road traffic, so directly lowering the toll of road trauma.
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Balance ResearchBalance Research, a voluntary organisation, is based in Melbourne, Australia. We study and write on policy issues relating to Transport and Telecommunications.
Our Director is Michael Isaachsen, who has many years' experience in researching and debating transport issues, and who worked for nearly 30 years with Australia's telephone company (now Telstra).
The main thrust of Balance Research's transport work is to place certain issues about the usage of resources by transport onto the public agenda.
If society is to avoid a blow-out in resources used by transport, public transport and rail freight must grow much faster than now contemplated despite the new-found zeal of most governments for rail expansion.
By the time when total transport tasks reach four times today's level, if society wishes to avoid four times today's road traffic, infrastructure and financial incentives must be in place for the rail industry to carry not four times but perhaps twenty times the rail traffic.
The result of ensuring rail capacity and limiting road growth, compared to continuation of present policy, will include reduced road trauma and lower use of resources (energy, land and quiet enjoyment as well as billions of government money). When Governments find ways of quantifying and sharing these savings with those who make them possible, financiers will be keen to invest.
Beneficiaries will include those with a continuing need to use the roads, as the less critical tasks will be attracted away by rail's improved service and its subsidy equalised with that of road. At present, governments and society are giving more subsidy to the mode which uses more resources. Without these changes, the road system will become unworkable: industry and travel will be stifled.
Our telecommunications work mainly relates to Australia's official scheme for numbering of telephone services. Telephone number schemes previously indicated, by their first two or three digits, the geographic locality where each service is located. This is important socially and for understanding the likely charge for calling. This meaning in numbers has been eroded by the current scheme, introduced by the ACA's predecessor in 1996. The present scheme makes no provision for expanding local number-ranges in a contiguous fashion.
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