HR2 vs Local transport
Here is an interesting letter from the Independent – is High Speed Rail a 20th Century technology and should our priority be more and better local links?
Letters: Perspectives on rail travel
Independent Friday, 7 May 2010
No need for HSR here
I agree whole-heartedly with the letter from Ally Horne (28 April), referring to the high cost of high-speed rail, and I can add some detail.
As manager of one of Britain’s leading European rail-ticketing agencies, I have to deal with this problem day in and day out. It is true that the rush to build dedicated lines is increasing costs to the traveller. The rail companies are seeking to recoup their investment. It is very unfair that the burden then falls on the traveller through the fare-box because it is the traveller, through taxation, who largely paid for the construction anyway.
The cost of a ticket from London to Strasbourg by rail has spiralled up and up since 2007 and is now extremely uncompetitive with air-travel on both price and time, even allowing for the time the plane takes to go to Baden-Baden across the Rhine; that means passengers have to take a bus back. SNCF will say that discount tickets are available but, in practice, these can be limited to as few as 10 per train, and they are soon snapped up.
In France, in particular, high-speed lines are built to superb standards, with trains running at 200mph, but stations are still being built in green fields, up to 20 miles from the town they purport to serve (see Lorraine TGV for Metz/Nancy) so that any gain in time from Paris Est is then lost by local travel to and from the true destination (Lorraine-Metz is 25 minutes by bus, Lorraine-Nancy is 35 minutes).
According to the Thomas Cook European timetable, the fast service to Champagne-Ardennes takes 42 minutes but then leaves the traveller “stranded”.
The old service to Chalons-en-Champagne, by EC service to Germany, but now demoted to secondary trains, takes 93 minutes yet takes you to the centre. It was an 83-minute trip before the TGV line was built.
Britain does not need to follow France down the high-speed route. Please do not build our planned line (HS2), but do run one London/ Birmingham train an hour non-stop in, say, 72 minutes, one call at Coventry and International in 80 minutes, and the third call at all principal stations in about 100 minutes, and you have a perfectly adequate service without any more investment.
Birmingham does not need to be 45 minutes from London. Use the money to double the viaduct and twin tunnels at Welywn North on the ECML, electrify the Ely to Peterborough, Birmingham/ Derby and Bedford/ Sheffield lines, and others in the North-west and around Leeds, build a flyover at Newark to eliminate the flat-crossing, reopen Bedford to Bicester so we have a new cross-country link and reopen March to Spalding to remove the freight off the ECML which causes blockages at Peterborough.
The improvements list is endless, and very necessary.
David Gunning, Manager, TrainsEurope Limited, March, Cambridgeshire