Fact 1 – Brigadier Lloyd – who originated the conversion idea - based his first cost figure on one quoted by MP Sir David Robertson for converting the Inverness-Wick line. Sadly, when the opportunity arose a few years later to implement this dream, Sir David opposed railway closure! (See opportunities). They may have discovered it had ‘26 foot steep walls supporting the line & single line viaducts & tunnels’ (see Highland Railway by Ross).


Fact 2 – Lloyd next seized onto a suggestion that the cost of converting railways could be based on the cost of building one airfield on virgin ground, where all machines, labour and materials would be concentrated, instead of being spread over 20,000 meandering route miles. He then went on to reduce that cost – quoted by someone in that field – by 40%! (See full reprint of the 1955 debate at the Institution of Civil Engineering or an extract in Railway Conversion – the impractical dream). Lloyd said the cost of ‘platform removal, illumination, drainage, traffic lights, land marking and tunnel ventilation’ were ‘incidentals’ - ‘something of little significance’. Tunnel ventilation would be a major and costly task with heavy costs to provide electric power in remote rural hilly areas.


Fact 3 – The Conversion League published figures claimed to be the cost of converting 29 short sections of closed railways totalling 43 miles to prove the cheapness of conversion. When local authorities were contacted to validate these figures, almost all denied having separate figures for building a road surface on the sections of closed railway, which were invariably a small part of a longer stretch. One local authority said that the cost was no less than building a new road on virgin land. (Details will be found in the above mentioned book).


Fact 4 – Later, the League and its successors tried to use the cost of converting a short section of a line near Southport as its basis. They ignored the statement by the engineer who built that road that ‘the soil formation was favourable’. When the League’s opponents quoted a ‘conversion’ that was more costly, the League said that the soil there was unfavourable therefore should be ignored!


Fact 5 – At the 1955 Institution of Civil Engineers, county road engineers and private contractors quoted cost levels for work actually undertaken that were significantly higher than those claimed by the League, which persisted in quoting their own figures in subsequent claims.


Fact 6 – Conversionists have not grasped that broad brush figures are no substitute for written quotations for converting a specified route.


Fact 7 - A claim made by Conversion League chairman Dalgleish, that fuel duty paid for buses more than covers the road track cost that they cause, is untenable. The share of capital and maintenance costs of roads attributable to buses was never established, so it is impossible to say whether they pay their share or not. A study by consultants of road costs revealed that road haulage was paying less than their share – a fact tacitly accepted by hauliers, albeit they said by a lower margin. A case of pleading guilty to a lesser charge. It is likely that buses which are much heavier than cars are not paying a share which covers their wear and damage to road surfaces


Fact 8 – The only study based on an operational route (East Anglian services) had its figures challenged by independent bodies. The constructional task in that study was seriously underestimated because the implications for removal of existing structures and equipment were not comprehended. (See Railway Conversion – the impractical dream).


Fact 9 - In a recent letter to LTT, Withrington (aka Transwatch) described critics named by the authors of the Liverpool Street conversion study as ‘the fools, who challenge conversion costs’. They include county engineers, construction companies, scientific and road transport media. At the I.C.E. debate in 1955, a county council which had actually converted 15km of disused line and was working on another 12km, quoted £206,000 per km. The main problem was variation in the consolidation of the formation, drainage improvements required to create run-off from a road, and the removal of railway structures. A private company had converted 3.5km into a 6.7m carriageway for £406,000 at 1969 prices. A GLC speaker referred to a study of a 5km section for an estimated £0.25m per km for a 6m carriageway and £0.35m per km for a 8m carriageway. These - by unbiased parties - were all significantly in excess of the figures used in the Study, whilst Withrington tries to claim that conversion cane be done for less than claimed in the disputed study. In the same letter he said that ‘an estimate by a ‘prestigious firm of engineers’ may not be set aside by me’, but my book shows conversionists sarcastically dismissed estimates by ‘prestigious engineering firms’ who rubbished conversionists’ estimates. He, of course, is setting aside the estimates by prestigious road engineering experts – who had practical experience on conversion.


Fact 10 - A major weakness in the East Anglian study is that the cost of conversion would be borne by 39m diverted motorists – not by payments in cash, but by the benefits they gain from assumed shorter journey times. This form of benefit is completely ignored by those who bleat that motoring taxes exceed the cost of roads, despite the fact that such gains form a part of the justification for road building. If time savings can be claimed for road vehicles transferring to converted railways, then time savings arising from improvements to the road network must be converted to money and added to the costs actually incurred in road building, renewals & maintenance, and the costs incurred as a result of accidents, etc.


Fact 11 - It is clear that no route could be financially self sustaining on the sole use by buses and lorries, even assuming that they were not too high or too wide


Return to Freight


Return to Opportunities


Return to Benefits


Much more information will be found in “Railway Conversion – the impractical dream” by E.A. Gibbins


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