Economics: Cost Benefit Analysis and Transport Safety

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An Introductory Video on Cost Benefit Analysis for A Level or 1st Year Undergraduate Students

This presentation is about  Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA).  It is an introduction for A Level students.  In particular for the AQA Examining Board: Unit 3.  The presentation provides an introduction and a safety-related example which could be used in a post 16 lesson.  It concludes with an evaluation of the technique.


Economics students should be able to evaluate the usefulness of Cost-Benefit Analysis as a technique.  Such evaluations should be balanced and provide points for and against.  Economics attempts to measure costs and benefits in monetary terms.  Therefore, it has an advantage over other subjects such as geography and politics which tend  not to measure costs and benefits explicitly.


The problem for economics occurs when it becomes over reliant on mathematical analysis.  Such quantitative scrutiny can become disconnected from the policy making process.  It should be acknowledged that solely numerical CBA is only one possible input into decision-making.  There are other political or social inputs into policy which can be equally important.


Cost–Benefit Analysis can be a useful tool but the politics of a situation is relevant.  More effort needs to be devoted to the fundamental political choices that have to be made. 


For example, transport policy has to choose between investment in rail transport or road transport.  A PhD thesis on the willingness to pay for food safety offers a detailed attempt at this technique.

Cost Benefit Analysis Video

YouTube Video

Transport Safety:  A letter on the Proposed Dualling of the A1  in Northumberland


This is a letter to a local newspaper which makes the case for spending on the railways rather than the roads.


In Monday's newspaper, a case was made to dual all of the A1 north of Morpeth to the Scottish border.  This could reduce road accident levels by cutting the number of dangerous overtaking manoeuvres, which take place  on the A1 in Northumberland. 

But, there are nearly 3,000 deaths on British roads each year.  Also, you are 100 times more likely to be killed on the roads than on the railways.  If transport policy were loaded in favour of the railways and away from the roads, then this might reduce the overall number of transport fatalities.  One way of doing this would be to increase the tax on petrol and re-invest the additional money on the railways.  The re-opening of the train line between Alnwick and Alnmouth would be a priority.  This would mean that you would not need to use a road to get between Alnwick and Newcastle.

A1 dualling would provide more convenience and faster journeys for motorists.  But it is questionable whether it is the best way to achieve general transport safety aims, such as a reduction in deaths and injuries.   If railway lines in Northumberland had remained open, then there may have been less traffic and fewer accidents on the A1. 

Food safety policy could be seen as a trade of between productivity and safety.  Transport safety policy in the U.K. could be seen as a trade-off between convenience and safety.  British society since c1906  has, in general terms, chosen convenient transport over safe transport.  The flexibility and convenience of the car has been prioritised over the safety offered by the railways.  It would be better if transport policy was loaded in favour of railways to offer the British public safer travel.  The aim of the letter was to make this point.