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Letters to the editor: Issue 563 28 Jan 2011

Freight user time isn’t properly captured in transport appraisal

Vanessa Kovacevic, Newmarket, Suffolk

I have been following the debate about value of time with considerable interest. I think, however, it is time to go back and ask a basic question.

That is, value of time to whom? Are we talking of the value to the national economy, or to the traveller concerned, or some mythical value that covers everything? If it is national economy money we are spending, which we are, surely the relevant value is that to UK plc. We need to understand that can be very different to the value to the traveller....

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Your Comments:

Martin
14 Mar 2011

I agree that the transport planning sector does take a curious approach to valuing time as a justification for spending money.

Case in point, journey time for rail from London to Birmingham is cut by 10 minutes by some investment or other. This is given a £ value and aggregated up to the expected number of passengers, plus any growth because of the shorter journey time. This total number is assumed to be the value of the project to UK plc / a basis by which we can see if the investment cost is value for money. No doubt, HS2 will have been appraised on something similar.

Take the average traveler... me.

I'm going from London to Birmingham. From leaving my house or office to getting to my destination (my door to door journey), I've allowed most, if not all the morning.... not a number of minutes.

10 minutes less on the train is nice, but I don't value that time at all... all it means is 10 more minutes in bed or time for a coffee and browse of the paper at the station! This is not productive or useful time in any sense. I'm sure the same is true for the vast majority of travelers.

We should be investing in things because they are the right thing to do for the long term. I fully support HS2, not because someone might save 15 minutes here or there - I couldn't give a hoot. But it would mean a step change in our transport infrastructure that will benefit the country for the next 70-80-90 years! Viewed like this, its silly even bothering to look at journey time savings. Its either a good thing to do, or its not.

And I utterly agree with the points about freight. Too much focus on analysing things that don't matter, and no focus on the things that ultimately do.