HSL - Hopelessly Silly Trains?

On May 29th I wrote, Heathrow Hub Proposed, regarding Arup's proposals for a new station at Heathrow with connections onwards to Birmingham and the North for High Speed Train travel.

Greengauge 21, a high speed pressure group, has costed the benefits to West Midlands businesses would be £2.2 billion while Atkins suggested the benefits to the UK of a high speed rail link between London and Scotland could boost the economy by £60 billion.

This is what makes the recent announcement by Rail Minister Tom Harris all the more bizare. He has claimed that high speed trains would damage the environment and suggested the government has ruled out building a new rail line even though a high speed line is one of the options being officially considered by ministers.

The Minister also warned that high speed trains travelling faster than 125mph, the current top speed of domestic trains, were not environmentally friendly. He said: “The argument that high-speed rail travel is a ‘green option’ does not necessarily stand up to close inspection. Increasing the maximum speed of a train from 200kph (125 mph) to 350kph (217 mph) leads to a 90 per cent increase in energy consumption.”

There is some truth in the less than compelling case environmentally for High Speed with the following figures although not when you consider using High Speed as an alternative to short-haul flights.

The per-passenger-mile carbon cost of trains travelling at 186 mph is higher than for most current British intercity services, but barely a tenth as high as for the short-haul flights with which these trains compete. And the European experience, including that of Eurostar, is that given this choice passengers overwhelmingly take the train.
Railways: A British Bullet Train.

Whatever the government decides time is running out for the West Coast Main Line which is having a £9 billion upgrade, cutting journey times between Birmingham and London by 20 minutes, due to be completed this year and which will reach capacity in five to seven years. However it seems that speed isn't the concern for some with this comment in the above Times Article.

Mr Willis has said Britain's transport challenges are “congestion and reliability, not journey times”. He sets his sights embarrassingly low. Like France and Japan, this is a developed country. It needs to move - and fast.
Railways: A British Bullet Train.


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