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Britain’s politicians would be wrong to undo rail closures

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By John Kemp

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© Thomson Reuters 2019.

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The current (in my view slightly crazy, but anyway) structure of rail in Britain means that if a private operator thinks they can make money running a service, they should be allowed to have a go.  I guess what is being suggested here is that govt. will have some form of subsidy scheme to make it worth their while.

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Demanding that a rail line make a profit is a little like demanding that the sewer network in your town make a profit. It is very cheap to make a home without water and drain pipes and a town without sewers, but large, shared benefits accrue from having them -- like increased density, more efficient use of land, and general well-being. That's why zoning laws require them. The same could be said of rail, which allows increased density, better fuel efficiency, reduced pollutants and greenhouse gases, more efficient use of land, more universal access to transportation. No transportation system is unsubsidized. Fuel taxes do not fully pay for roadways. Air fares (taxes, landing fees) do not fully pay for airports and air traffic control systems. Furthermore, this article ignores network effects. The branch and short lines may not have many passengers, but how do passengers get to the trunk and long-distance lines? The system must be considered as a system.

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