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We keep hearing the trains supporters go on about supposed benefits of a low-floor train. Based on what they say, "low-floor" will solve all of the very real and very serious problems that trains bring to the table. In fact, the supporters repeatedly try to make out that this wonderful new floor technology will make trains the greatest innovation in transportation since the invention of the shoe.
There is a problem or two with this rosy train floor scenario though. The first and probably most serious problem is fact that low floors don't solve anything at all. Seriously. They don't solve any problems at all for anyone. Not now and not ever.
Well, this "low floor technology" phrase just refers to the floor on some trains that are a bit lower than the floor on some other trains. It's not like the floors are ground level or anything like that.
In fact, entry to a "low floor" train is not even close to entry on a bus for example. A bus has a low door and a couple of steps to it's floor. So on a bus, you can get on and off literally anywhere you want. It can be on a road or a sidewalk or even a grassy field.
Buses don't even need a bus stop either. The bus driver just stops the bus where ever he or she wants. Then the driver opens the door and it's a done deal. At that point you can just walk off. Or on. Sort of amazing really.
But even with a low floor, the train is still is a giant steel box running on the surface among the people and the cats. So even with a low floor, it's still just as dangerous and just as ugly and just as slow as ever.
Low floors don't do anything about those train tracks it needs either. Nor do they eliminate the bridges, berms or any other ugly and costly structures that even dangerously exposed surface trains like the Valley Line need just to exist.
And these trains still need an overhead high voltage power grid too. So, the ugliness never stops and the power bills keep piling up. Plus, the train still monpolizes the entire traffic corridor instead of sharing it like buses do.
Low floors don't help reduce traffic congestion either. Nor to they reduce pollution or eliminate the need for train bridges, road crossings and other expensive infrastructure. These are things that all trains, low floor or not, still need.
So a trivial change in floor position doesn't solve anything. It's just a red herring, there to make you think the floor will somehow magically convert the train into something useful. But it won't.
Besides not solving anything, a so-called "low floor" train is totally meaningless anyway. Since these things still need concrete platforms in order to work at all, what's the difference if the platform is slightly higher or lower?
Lower does not save any concrete since concrete platforms are generally hollow and the ground underneath is built up (or down) anyway. And in construction, levelling and raising and lowering the ground level is all in the plan anyway. A few inches up or down at any point makes no difference to cost or build time.
So all trains, even "low floor" ones still need large, expensive concrete platforms. And since the people need to walk up to the platform anyway, who cares if the thing is an inch or two closer to the rails? The riders won't notice or care. The driver doesn't care. Nor do the construction and operation people. So low floor is not some sort of savior technology.
Its a nothing actually.
So, that's why "low floor" is bogus and nobody in their right mind needs to care about it.