Saturday, December 03, 2011

High Speed Trains

I'm basically a railway fan. Time and time again, strategic mistakes seem to have been made in managing our rail network, resulting in towns isolated and cities badly served. Over the last 30 years we've seen old lines re-opened and even new lines built. On top of that, Britain has been a pioneer of railway technology.

However, I am a bit of a sceptic about the need for the High Speed 2 rail route. Billions of pounds (from where?), lots of countryside chopped up and hordes of nimbys protesting for years can only follow. It's seems to me that the problem facing our railways at the moment is capacity. Trains are crowded, and there just aren't the slots for expanding services - either passenger or freight.

Wouldn't it be better to look at making our existing network better? The West Coast Main Line capacity gets limited by the double track sections in very busy areas, especially in the Midlands. Why not spend a fraction of the HS2 money on dealing with some of those bottlenecks? Some would be difficult and expensive to fix, but nowhere near the bill for HS2! Or why not look at investing to reopen some of the routes which would take the strain off currently busy ones? The Woodhead route would relieve cross-Pennine trains, the old Midland route through Derbyshire via Matlock, Bakewell and Buxton would give extra north-south capacity, or why not go the whole way with the current partial reopening of the Waverley route from Carlisle to Edinburgh via Hawick?

I want to see more railways, more trains and better routes, but is the priority really getting from London to Birmingham in record time?

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