Faster trains, Fewer Planes?
Network rail announced an idea for a new high speed train route that would travel from London and linking Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Birmingham could be reached in 46 minutes, Liverpool in 83, Manchester in 66, Glasgow in 136 and Edinburgh in 129.
If it happened, and if these timings were met, it would probably reduce the number of internal flights linking Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh with London freeing up slots for other flights and removing some, if not all, of the reasons for airport expansion. After all there has been a reduction on the London-Paris route since Eurostar started.
But is this all pie in the sky?
Firstly Network Rail has no mandate to bring this about. Secondly the government is going to bring on its own plans. Thirdly how long will planning take even if there are no objections and finally, the cost. Working backwards, Network Rail estimates a cost of £34 billion but bringing benefits of £55 billion. The estimated time for completion could be 2030 which seems so far away that I for one will probably be pushing up daisies. That alone could make this notviable but, on the other hand, any government agreeing to it now, wouldn’t be around for any overuns later. As for the cost? It doesn’t all need to be spent now.
From a personal view, this tinkering is insufficient. If we are to invest in a high speed rail link more parts and do the job properly. And if we do it, plan that it happen sooner.
Over the next month or so, people will pore over this report and the governments one pointing out pluses and minuses. The biggest minus is our inability to do things decisively and quickly. So accept it or dismiss it but don’t let’s hang on like we have done with the cross rail project in London or the rail linkage to Edinburgh Airport.