Fasters Roads and Trains Lines – Bad Political Priorities!

No matter where you are, in London, Sydney, New York, Paris or Helsinki, you have all seen that motorways are full of traffic during rush hours and the holidays.

Building one more grand project does little or nothing to relieve traffic jams or crowded trains… especially if motorways are built first…

Motorways are hard on our environment because they use oil, sand‚ steel and concrete in huge volumes. The cars and trucks that use them use plastic, metals, and fossil fuels. Big SUVs demand the fast lane and take up a lot of room just like our politicians. They demand bigger and better roads that we end up paying for without thinking about the damage to the air, land and water.

Our politicians also demand that we have faster and faster railways that can take us as fast from one city to another. But when there is already a motorway built, there is little incentive for men and woman drivers to leave their cars at home, and even less when they must buy expensive tickets for the whole family.

Traffic consultants involved in new motorways will tend to estimate that there will be more people traveling in cars than in a train between two cities. The number of new cars tend to exceed these estimates when you open a new motorway especially when it is built before a new train line built. You can be sure that drivers will flock to the new motorway, but not rush to travel on a new fast train line when that is built at a later date. Drivers tend to stick to cars that are sunken costs and take you from one address to another directly.  When a company pays for the car there is very lttle incentive to change to the train!

Train lines can be built, but at horrific costs with over-optimistic traffic volumes. When they start to operate planners get disappointed because passenger numbers are too low and ticket costs too high compared to the cost and comfort of having your own car so fewer trains lines get built and more motorways thrive!

Now here in Finland we have already built a fast motorway between Helsinki and Turku some 175km at a horrendous cost. One privately owned construction company won the contract for running the motorway for some 20 years. It takes some two hours plus to drive in one direction. There is no lack of cars and lorries using this connection because it is cheaper and faster than using the train in operating terms.

Now the new PM here wants to have a 1-hour high speed train built alongside the existing track at a cost that is beyond belief! The current time for the train is less that 2 hours, and you can ask why anybody wants a faster train when the ticket costs will be much higher than the current one-way ticket cost of €40.

People who travel by car will not suddenly start to use the train because they have sunken car costs and gas for the same journey. The fast train will only be travelling between Helsinki and Turku without stops. So users will have to travel to the city centers first find expensive parking or use local public transport! Fast trains lines are expensive and will reduce the availability of local traffic budgets for public transport.

So who will benefit from a fast train?

  1. If I live in the center of the city and have a good job that means I can afford to live there, then I will benefit if I do not want to use my car! But if I have a good job, why would I want to leave my SUV at home because I can save time by driving directly on the motorway to my meeting point which is probably not in the centre of the other city?
  2. If I am a low-income worker, then an expensive train ticket in a fast train is too expensive. But when a fast train is built there will be fewer local trains because public transport budgets will be constrained. Then I will take the privately-run bus at much lower cost…

Demand will not fill up the carriages, and ticket prices will be much higher that the current two hour trains.

The fast train one-hour train connection will look nice in “Visit Finland” brochures but it will be sadly empty, and cost the taxpayers too much! But since the new PM is from Turku, he may want to show his neighbors what he has achieved, while the rest of Finland will pay for many decades after he loses the next election!

… and he will never travel on such a train during his time as PM because they take a decade to build!

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