So that’s it, the government has spoken. One high speed rail (HSR) is all we are to be allowed. Rail companies can’t promise their customers future developments to improve capacity and journey times. This is due to the increased energy consumption by high speed trains. It looks like we will only have the rail link from St. Pancras to the Channel Tunnel for some time. As the rest of Europe embraces HSR we are being left behind by a short-sighted and economically illiterate administration.
In a letter obtained by The Times, Tom Harris, the Rail Minister, 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 125mph – the current maximum speed of domestic trains – to 220mph leads to a 90 per cent increase in energy consumption.”
The Rail Minister is unaware of the fact that with trains travelling at higher speeds they in fact increase capacity on the line, so energy consumption per passenger is only slightly higher than at lower speeds. Moreover, without increasing speeds or capacity the UK rail network will reach capacity sometime around 2015, at that point more people will switch to travel by air or roads, thus increasing carbon outputs and energy consumption via these two higher polluting forms of transport.
We find ourselves in the unfortunate state where the government of the day can dictate what is done to the infrastructure of the rail network, as well as the companies that use it. All they can really promise us are delays every weekend from now until 2014. Imagine where we’d be now had the railways never been nationalised. Perhaps not at the level of quality that the Japanese do, but I suspect we’d be able to travel to Scotland in just over 2 hours...