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Railway Conversion - the impractical dream

01 Nov 2006

Book review

by E A Gibbins

'IF YOU are criticised on statistical grounds you must first check the source data', states Gibbins, who provides a detailed riposte to claims by the Railway Conversion League and Transwatch that much of the UK rail network could, and should, be removed to provide rights-ofway for new roads.

He shows that the lobbyists' examples of conversions are almost all short lengths of former trackbed which have disappeared beneath much wider roads; including part of a single-track branch which was swallowed by a motorway. The story of the Pennsylvania Turnpike is traced, showing that claims of a successful US conversion are false.

Misleading comparisons of different types of roads and railways are reviewed, including the distortions caused by focusing solely on motorways. Restricted formation width is shown to be an obstacle to road use, Gibbins finding that 'so obsessed are the conversion theorists with the desire to prove that railways can be converted to good roads, they are willing to accept sub-standard width roads'.

Meanwhile 'they decry the inadequacy of of those tens of thousands of miles of similar width roads as having being built in the horse era, and air-brush them out of any comparison with rail.'

£13·95 from Leisure Products, 11 Bedford Grove, Alsager, Stoke-on-Trent, ST7 2SR, UK