I recently attended an ISCR seminar on the future of rail. According to the speaker, Dave Heatley, there’s basically no future for rail. Rail is unfixable in its present form, he argued, without making some “heroic assumptions” about how we measure externalities and the opportunity cost of keeping rail.
Heatley’s damning report (available soon on the ISCR site) will no doubt be seized upon by the Road Transport Forum and others to justify the further erosion of rail services in New Zealand leaving the growth of road freight unchallenged – their peculiar version of urban hell (unless you’re wealthy enough to live a long way from major arterial routes).
Subsequent questioning from the audience revealed that there was a lot wrong with Heatley’s work. To the question of how Peak Oil was factored into his analysis, Heatley dismissed concerns about the security of this finite resource, responding that there was 1000 years’ worth of fossil fuels left under the ground. Tell that to the International Energy Agency.
Even if you accept all of Heatley’s arguments, they completely sink if you care a bean about energy security. Or climate change. Or if you just think trains are cool.