Commuter rail lines should be converted to express busways to deliver cheaper travel for shorter journeys, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has urged.
Fares could be 40% lower, the think tank argues in a report on Paving over the tracks: a better use of Britain’s railways published today.
The IEA argues that a fleet of 150 coaches per route, each seating 75 travellers, could do the same job as commuter rail lines currently carrying 250,000 passengers a day into central London during morning rush hours. The service would take up one-seventh of a one-lane busway of the same width as a rail line.
Buses could also run ‘off track’ along existing road network, to link towns and villages that currently lack direct rail links.
But Campaign for Better Transport chief executive, Stephen Joseph said the report ‘is based on fantasy numbers and bears almost no relation to the real world. It would jam up London and other cities while adding greatly to noise and air pollution, problems the report largely ignores against all recent scientific research’.
Richard Freeston-Clough, from transport user watchdog London TravelWatch, added: ‘This is not the way to go. Busways have their place in some areas, but not on busy commuter routes’.