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By way of illustration, this section makes comparisons between the effects associated with roads, rail and navigable waterways and suggests solutions applying principles of the Practice Pointers relating to landscape and biological diversity. Further detail is included in the specialist technical reports (Appendix). Tables 5.1 to 5.4 located at the end of the section provide a comparative summary of much of the information. 



There are a number of essential differences between roads, railways and waterways. The context for the differences needs to be understood particularly when considering modal choice (Table 5.1).




Possibly on account of the extent of the road network, the associated implications relating to landscape and biological diversity have been studied in greater detail than for rail or waterways. The road network is well-documented and characteristically hierarchical including ancient lanes a few metres wide with occasional use. At the other extreme are motorways with numerous lanes in each direction with rapid movement of traffic, although occasionally it can standstill on account of the lack of traffic capacity.


Continued building of further roads is not an automatic solution to congestion and more radical solutions are being sought, for example road pricing, modal split. In other cases roads are associated with specific types of development, for example the short-term abstraction of timber or minerals, or military objectives, or to benefit tourism.


Apart from obvious differences in the hierarchy such as the dimensions and the level of use, other differences relate to characteristics of interchanges (nodes) and (Table 4.1) associated facilities. Usually motorways have minimum curvature and gradients, junctions are grade separated often with lighting, service stations and resting areas are integral, the motorway is fenced and users are restricted i.e. no horses or learner drivers. Local roads may include sharp bends and steep gradients, have few crossing or entry restrictions, need not be fenced and generally service areas form part of adjacent development i.e. alongside housing etc. Such differences can have consequential implications with respect to the effects on landscape and biological diversity including those resulting from cumulative effects.




The extent of the European railway network is considerably less that that of the road network. The turn of the 21st century heralds a period of growth with technological advancements enabling faster trains with associated upgrading or construction of new tracks and rolling stock, and intermodal facilities. Rail freight is being encouraged to revitalise. A number of abandoned tracks are being re-opened for recreational purposes, for example cycle routes; as well as for new roads and commercial rail traffic.


A typical cross section width of a railway is about half that of the equivalent road (Table 4.1). Most lines are associated with additional land for sidings, maintenance depots and stations. Generally the line is accompanied by overhead cables and is fenced. Crossing points are either at grade (level) or grade separated. High-speed trains require the most stringent standards of track with implications for the horizontal and vertical alignment.




Inland navigable waterways comprise canals and navigable rivers. After an early expansion in the Industrial Revolution waterways were unable to compete with railways and later road freight. Subsequently recreational uses developed. Other uses of canals relate to drainage, routes for telecommunication cables and water transfer. The multi-purpose use of waterways distinguishes them from roads and railways.


Within the pan-European region the extent of waterways is a fraction of both the road and rail network. However, the waterway network plays a greater transport role in some lowland states and in the lower reaches of large rivers it is the main form of access, for example in parts of northern Siberia. In the Netherlands about a fifth of the total inland freight tonnage is conveyed by boat and half of the 5000 km of waterway is available for boats over 1000 tonnes but even here much of the network is used for recreational purposes. In contrast, in England and Wales well over half of the waterways are either abandoned or not navigable (DETR 2000); navigable sections contribute to the carriage of one percent of the domestic freight.


The carriage of freight along larger navigations seems set to continue and the size requirements of the industry increase, with implications for the upgrading or construction of new navigable waterways. Large vessels set the requirements for other users (Bekker G et al 1991).


Canals are artificial in origin although some have developed from watercourses; in contrast navigable rivers are natural. Compared with road and rail, the alignment of canals has the least flexibility due to the need to maintain the same level. This has resulted in some dramatic aqueducts as well as extensive embankments. Locks provide the means of descending slopes. Their width determines the maximum width of boats using the waterway. As with roads and railways some features on canals can be of historic or landscape importance e.g. aqueducts and pump houses.

 Bank protection is required particularly for canals to accommodated shipping loads. Some canals need access tracks for maintenance purposes. Regulation of flows and the creation of navigation channels by dredging are required to enable transport use of rivers.

Long distance sight lines are necessary in the vicinity of structures over the channel which in themselves need a high clearance to accommodate boats. Such bridges may need large approach embankments. As with railways, terminals (ports, harbours, marinas) are an essential part of the network and require land.  

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