Rail Developments (updated)

High speed is going to be in the news for some considerable time to come. It is a fast, effective way of moving large numbers of people from a-to-b without the reliance on cars or air travel. I doubt whether, even in my life time, there will be much in the way of ultra high speed in the news (with the obvious exception being in some very forward thinking Asian countries), so for now I can at least content myself with the fact that high speed is on the agenda in pretty much most countries that take the future of travel and communications seriously enough to make provision for a future.

I start with news from Australia. This is a country that is unimaginably vast but finds the majority of the population concentrated in one area. Perfect, one might think, for the creation of a simple but effective high speed network. Not so now and, given there seems to be very little on the political agenda, not so much in the future either. However, I read with interest that Sydney airport is experiencing growing pains to a point of reaching a critical point in it’s capacity; the discussion now is about building a second airport somewhere in the vicinity or making Sydney airport bigger. This is not proving to be too popular, especially when you ask where it would go and where the current one could grow. Local politicians have struck a brilliant idea, suggesting a high speed railway be built between Sydney and Canberra citing the fact that the airport in Canberra is under used, has the potential for expansion, plus building the high speed line would improve links between the two cities and solve the airport issue with minimal impact. This is a fabulous idea in that it provides solutions to two issues: air transport and inter city transport. Taking the 288 km journey from Sydney to Canberra is around 4h 19m. A new high speed link would dramatically reduce this to 2hours with strategic stops along the way (assuming an average speed of 200km/h could be reached). This, of course, would also mean faster journey time to Sydney and Canberra  from those strategic stations along the way. | Source: SMH

Meanwhile in the UK the talk about high speed two. I am writing this whilst travelling in to London on the UKs only high speed line. I, like many other people on is train, are benefiting from a route that makes living in the South East of England more commuter friendly, so when it comes to all this talk about building another routing my reaction is going to question the delay, and additionally question when only one route will be built at a time. So with all this talk about new high speed lines being built in the UK (okay, a single route) a group of charities, nature conservation and heritage groups are getting together to form a collective body to call for a more considered approach to building these lines, one that does not simply build without considering the impact these lines will have on the countryside and the people along these routes. To my mind this is a better approach than flatly rejecting the schemes as vanity projects or White elephants or simply being against the projects because of reasons I can’t even begin to fathom. This new group seems to accept that higher speed rail is more acceptable than new motorways or more air travel and this is something I can only agree with. As said before, my only concern is that the approach is hazardously slow and should get the new routes built quicker and existing routes improved enough to run 140mph trains along them at a good average speed. Until they are built I will have to content myself with what I have. | Source: BBC News

Updated (2011-04-19)

A report in today’s Guardian suggests that the EU might legislate against short haul flights within Europe; this is part of the EU’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The short haul flights would be replaced by high speed rail. This more would increase capacity in Heathrow, for example, since flights within the UK and cities in France, Netherlands, Germany and Belgium would be served by rail…

This has happened in Madrid and Barcelona, where 50% of the market has moved to high-speed rail. It is comfortable for everybody. Airlines can put emphasis on long-haul flights, which is better for their business.

Whether this would see the speed of rail improvement improve or even go slower remains to be seen; however, this should be encouraging for people who want to see high speed rail have a greater impact on travel across Europe | The Guardian