High-speed rail pitch for the UK Aug 2009
Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk
- More than 55km of underground work on a brand new dedicated high-speed rail line between London and Glasgow is a proposal launched this week by the UK's rail infrastructure owner Network Rail. The plan grows out of a study concluded last year into creating new rail capacity to relieve congestion on the country's existing network.
Dedicated high-speed trains on a dedicated high-speed track
- At an estimated £34 billion (€38.5 billion/US$55 billion), the 2,400km (1,500 miles) line would link London with Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, and Glasgow and every part would be new construction with eight new stations, 138 new bridges over roads, railways and rivers, and more than 1,500 miles of twin track ballast, sleepers, rail, signalling and power catenary. Built specifically for long distance passengers only, the new line would free up capacity on the existing network for local services and for moving more freight. With new trains travelling at 325km/hour the trip to Birmingham would take 45 minutes and Edinburgh and Glasgow would be reached in just over 2 hours, less than half the time it takes now on existing services.
- The case for promoting the new infrastructure is that rail passenger numbers continue to grow, reaching 1.3 billion per year today, more than at any time since 1946 when the UK rail network was more than twice the size as it is today, and that by 2020, the existing lines to Birmingham and the north west will be full. The study also sites the experience of high-speed rail systems in other countries of the world that have generated large revenue streams, have taken significant traffic off roads, and almost eradicate domestic air travel. The Madrid to Seville route in Spain, it reports, opened about 17 years ago to provide a 2.5hr rail journey between the two cities and has taken away about 90% of the former air traffic market. Reducing carbon emissions and reaching new international environmental improvement targets is another major promotion of high-speed rail. The following table published in the report lists the amount of high-speed rail planned to be in service by different countries of the world by 2025. The report states that the UK "lags significantly behind" others in developing new and high-speed rail infrastructure.
- Network Rail would not build or finance the project. The report states that international experience proves only governments can fund new rail infrastructure and suggests that a consortium similar to that established to build the UK's first high-speed rail line between London and the Channel Tunnel into Europe could manage construction. Once build, Network Rail says it should manage the line as an integral part of the national network and to ensure the best advantage is achieved. Network Rail is also a major stakeholder in the £16 billion Crossrail project in London that will connect heavy rail services under the heart of the capital from west to east.
- Iain Coucher, Network Rail Chief Executive said: "High-speed rail can transform Britain and revolutionise passenger journeys." With a forecast of generating £55 billion of value set against a capital construction cost of £34 billion, he said; "the line has a sound business case that will pay for itself."
- In unveiling the proposals this week, the desire was to have the first section of the line between London and Birmingham in service by 2020. The UK Government must approve the project before any further development can take place. If given the go-ahead, it would take a projected five years to decide on the exact route and complete the planning stages.
- For its part the UK Government is currently conducting its own rail network review and has established a HS2 (High-Speed 2) study group to consider new high-speed routes for the UK. Network Rail has made available its weighty report, running to more than 1,500 pages of research, modelling and analysis, to the HS2 study team in the hope it will support an early decision by government by next year (2010). Responding to questions about raising funds for the project during a time of economic recession, Coucher said that the bulk of the funding will be needed for construction and that would start for some years yet and by that time, the recession will be over. He added: "As well as running Britain's railway day-to-day, Network Rail also looks at long-term planning. Today the railway is thriving, we want that to continue."
Europe Berlin to Palermo - TunnelTalk, Feb 2008
California HSR (video) - TunnelCast, Nov 2008
Califronia plans for high speed rail - TunnelTalk, July 2008
Crossrail - TunnelTalk, July 2009
Network Rail website