The case for sleeper trains replacing air travel is very much a European thing.1 Flight shame (flygskam) is reducing demand for air travel, and European distances are such that overnight trains are feasible. At one point it looked like the combination of high-speed rail and budget airlines would doom European night trains, but that trend seems to be reversing itself: ÖBB’s Nightjet service is expanding in the face of soaring demand, and other operators are planning to reintroduce sleeper trains.
Last weekend there was a major accident on Autoroute 50 near Buckingham: a head-on collision left one woman dead; a man is being charged with impaired driving.
Most of Autoroute 50 is a two-lane expressway, which might need some explaining. It’s an undivided, two-lane highway built to freeway standards. Cars travel at freeway speeds (100 km/h in this case) but there’s only one lane of traffic in each direction (except for occasional passing lanes), separated by a double yellow line. It’s also literally half of a freeway: the overpasses are built to accommodate a full freeway, but only one of the two roadways is built; there’s space for the other roadway to be built later.
Seven people have been killed in accidents along the undivided stretch of Autoroute 50 since 2013, which is leading to calls to build that other half of the freeway. Having taken that stretch of highway more than once myself, I understand the problem: drivers go fast and tailgate you until the next passing lane. Freeway-style driving on a two-lane highway does not make for a relaxing drive.
But the old highway that Autoroute 50 bypasses, Route 148, isn’t completely safe either. In 2007 a 14-vehicle crash east of Masson-Angers killed one and injured six. Route 148 is twisty and scenic and passes through every town; Autoroute 50 is straight and has great sight lines. It’s not an inherently dangerous road — that is, until you put speeding and drunk drivers on it. If the traffic levels warrant twinning some of Autoroute 50, so be it, but I’m skeptical of solving behavioural problems with engineering. Twinning a highway might address head-on collisions, but it doesn’t make speeding or impaired driving go away.