Trying to compare rail and express coach…

Today the BBC News published a news item about the government investing £8b investment in rail which is not all bad for sure. The BBC also published a graph showing increases in the number of rail journeys over the past 20 years, rising from about 850m to 1,300m trips per year and I wanted to compare that with express coach.

I have already posted about the fact that the government no longer collects statistics for express coach separately from buses which results in a figure for a mythical mode called ‘bus and coach’, so, in order to try and find some comparably statistics I returned to my ‘2000 Annual Abstract of Statistics’ which was published prior to the loss of data collection however there isn’t a table for passenger trips by express coach or rail in there (there is a table for London Underground though).

It does however show that receipts for ‘Other (non-local) services’, by which they mean express coach, were a healthy £1.1b (from table 14.10) which compares well with rail at £3b for the same year (from table 14.16). There is a table for passenger kilometers for rail of 35b km (table 14.16) but not for express coach. For coaches it provides vehicle kilometers only which came in at 1.5b km (table 14.10). If we knew average occupancy levels we could reverse engineer a passenger km figure but that isn’t given. If it was 20 people then we would be approaching the same ‘passenger km’ figure as for rail which is certainly interesting.

The 2000 data gives total number for vehicles (buses plus coach) of 76,000 (table 14.10) but only breaks this down by size (up to 16 seats, 17-35 seats etc) rather than by express/local. It is therefor not possible to compare this data with rail which doesn’t publis any figure for 2000, although today’s news report says that the post-investment rail capacity will be 185,000 seats. I have not been able to find out how many trains that relates to.

The overall message is that the statistics, even where they are available are not arranged to be useful when assessing the role for express coaches. This is important when deciding how to spend £8b in period of austerity.

Personally I would like to see statistics for express coach to be collected again and published alongside rail. If it is aggregated then it should be with Rail not with bus in a section titled ‘Rail and Express Coach’. National Express made this change when they branded their rail services as ‘National Express’.