High Speed Rail 88


There is no scenery so beautiful is is not enhanced by a train running through it. If the Victorians had equivalents of the silly people from the Chilterns Society, we would never have the amazing beauty of the Settle to Carlisle railway.

The biggest problem about the government’s plans for high speed rail are that they are far too limited. Rail is by far the most resource efficient way of moving large quantities of people, and above all freight, around the country, and is much less disturbing to the environment than the equivalent motorway capacity. An updated and expanded rail network is an absolute necessity for the UK.

Unfortunately not only are the government’s high speed plans very limited, they doubtless will involve a model whereby the taxpayer pays for the construction, the fares are sky high, the taxpayer pays an operating subsidy and yet there is “profit” for a “private” operator and its financiers, who purchase our politicians.


88 thoughts on “High Speed Rail

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  • Steve

    A rapid and fit for purpose inter-city network is the way to go but as you say it won’t be affordable to you or me. This is Britain. We don’t do services for the people anymore.

  • Ray

    The other important factor in HSRs – as the Chinese will testify – is that families can visit each other by day return, meaning there’s no need for overnight stays, possibly hotel bills etc. It can make long distance travel much more economical

  • Yoav

    Public services for the last 30 years have designed to make private profit not provide a service. This one is no different.

  • Iain Orr

    “There is no scenery so beautiful it is not enhanced by a train running through it” seems provocative and raises a puzzle – is the same true about a road carrying cars and lorries and buses? I think Craig has hit on a fine example of what might be called communal aesthetics. Because of their history, railways and trains are designed and seen as public goods – which is part of the reason why monopoly privatization has been so disappointing in the UK. Similarly, no town is not enhanced by a church or mosque or temple … or sportsfield. And no high street is not enhanced by a public library and a musuem. All are expressions of communal life – shared pleasures and aspirations.

  • Passerby

    I came across this anecdote in Germany.
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    The German manufacturers whom were building some train coaches destined for UK, had to spend four million Euros trashing their test track and making it as crappy as the rail network in UK.
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    To me this proves that our genius in running down everything so it is maintained at the knife edge, saves us millions and we don’t have to spend the monies the German did to crap the place up.
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    Also what would happen to the property prices? Further, why do people need to travel? What is this firberoptic revolution for then?
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    Lets face it, if the government was able/willing/wishing to carry out the upgrade they would do so (remember Iraq war?), without much fuss, the kabuki of “opposition” lets them off the hook and diverts the charges of inertia that has resulted in failing infrastructure that is falling apart at the seams.

  • lwtc247

    “we would never have the amazing beauty of the Settle to Carlisle railway.”
    If you meant we would never have the (easy) chance to see the beauty along the Settle to Carlisle railway, or, that the scenery between Settle to Carlisle is beautiful, then I’d agree, but none of it is beautiful because a railway winds it’s way through it. You are saying it’s the railway (limestone chips, metal tracks, overhead cables, signal lights, sign boards, sleepers etc which is beautiful.
    Agreed that beautiful scenery (which may have been rendered eco-starved by man) can withstand a train line or two going through it, similar to wind-turbines.

  • KingofWelshNoir

    I agree, trains can be beautiful. A super-streamlined high speed train sweeping through the vista from time to time won’t despoil it in the slightest. Roads, of course, are a different matter.
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    It’s a crime we have lagged so far behind the rest of the world on this. Japan had it’s first bullet train in 1964. Even Morocco has more miles of high speed track than us.

  • Passerby

    Sorry about this unrelated bit of info, but it shows the genius of human in contravening the established order by using the established methods, a truly elegant mathematical solution, which I am impressed with.
    ,
    the world’s newest religion explained
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    What are the Kopimist prayers and meditations?
    We have a part of our religious practices where we worship the value of information by copying it.
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    You call this “kopyacting”. Do you actually meet up in a building, like a church, to undertake these rituals?
    We do meet up, but it doesn’t have to be a physical room. It could be a server or a web page too.

  • Abe Rene

    Amen. Put that in the Manifesto of the “Reformed Socialist Party” (say) and include also the complete re-nationalisation of the NHS (sudden death to all public-private partnerships), an end to local councils being made to put public services out to tender by private companies, restoration of the country’s pension funds, selective grammar schools and full university grants for the ablest students, an encouragement for vocational training apprenticeships and restimulation of manufacturing, and you may get my vote!

  • DonnyDarko

    Before the big sell off of British Rail, they ran the company deliberately down into the ground.
    This was done on purpose so’s the sale would be made at rock bottom prices when all those intrepid young entrepreneurs jumped in selflessly to save our Rail.Ha.
    Our rail network never recovered.
    The prime land alone which British Rail owned was extremely valuable and made many of John Majors pals very wealthy.And since then not alot has changed. You get on our over crowded trains ,normally into a cloud of someones perspiration.The trains are full of the flotsam and jetsam of god knows how many passengers and the travelling experience is always negative.
    In Europe the French and German all weather high speed trains put our attempts to shame.You can set your watch to the second when they begin their gradual start as they pull out of the stations and effortlessly switch into high gear between cities.They are roomy,air conditioned and clean and pleasant to walk through to the restaurant cars, which are actually fun to sit or stand in watching the countryside disappear behind you.State owned and a symbol of national pride.Ours are just a memory of Government corruption and corporate greed.
    A railway network will probably always struggle for real profitability, but I wonder how much the tax payer was swindled out of one of the crimes of the last century.
    I agree with you Craig, re-nationalise.But that would just produce another crime as the tax payer would pay inflated prices for what was once theirs.
    Like air, water and power generation,the ownership of the rail network belongs in the hands of the tax payer.

  • Dale Martin

    In the not so distant past I had occasion for repeated back and forth travel from Bradford to Stoke on Trent and not having a car I looked at both rail and road alternatives. The first trip I made was by rail, slightly more expensive than the coach trip by road alternative, but nostalgia had me taking it as I had not travelled by rail for many years. The first part of the journey from Leeds to Manchester was an absolute nightmare, I was travelling during the rush hour, standing room only and by the time I had reached Manchester I was convinced the nostalgia that had brought me on this rail journey was actually a figment of my imagination created during deep slumber, but then once on the Manchester to Stoke on Trent run I have to say that there is something strangely pleasing about the hypnotic clickety click on the line as you journey from one small station to the next. From then on though I chose to go by road, in the end more cost effective and just as importantly avoiding the Leeds to Manchester rush hour which is no fun at all. But the truth is of all the journeys I made through that period in time nothing was anywhere near as satisfying as that trip I made from Manchester to Stoke by rail, the powers that be have been truly insane in privatising and allowing the fat cats to get their hands on what should have been the number one mode of transport interconnecting the cities in this country. From every way I look at it, ecologically, efficiency, transport of goods and people it has such common sense future (and past wasted) potential that makes it hard to understand why it has been allowed to falter while we continue to pursue a road transport system that pollutes, frustrates and gridlocks its way into the future.

    But in your final analysis you hit the nail on the head, we are locked in to a political landscape of politicians for hire, pipers who play the tune and the tune is determined by the one who throws the most money into the pipers hat and makes a request for a song that most suits their mood. Politics should be a place for moral visionaries, dreamers who see beyond their own limited and inconsequential lifetimes and deluded compulsion to work toward becoming the richest corpse in the obituary section of The Times,,,,,,,,,,,, But instead what we have is nothing more than self seeking bit part actors, dodgy little B list celebrities content to read from any script as long as the stage lights shine on them and the complimentary gifts keep rolling through the dressing room door.

  • Michael Stephenson

    Lwtc247;
    I don’t know if you are familiar with the Settle to Carlisle railway, but as anyone who has done the Yorkshire 3 peaks will attest the best views on that walk are the ones including the Ribblehead Viaduct.

  • ingo

    I’ll second Donny Darko’s description of EU train services, punctuality is a pre requisite for integrating transport modes something our exploded UK railways are unable to fathom.
    It was the big mangtra of Labour in 1997, to integrate transport modes, they didn’t manage to connect Norwich station with its airport, not even a bus service. Privatisation of rail was a mistake and its should be reversed.

    I favour a high speed railway that roughly follows a figure of 8, with Edingburgh, Glasgow at either end of the northern loop, Birmingham at the centre, and London and Bristol at either end of the southern loop. Time considerations will be the only limiting factor to stops in between these cities, I have no preferences as to where they stop.

  • John Goss

    “Unfortunately not only are the government’s high speed plans very limited, they doubtless will involve a model whereby the taxpayer pays for the construction, the fares are sky high, the taxpayer pays an operating subsidy and yet there is “profit” for a “private” operator and its financiers, who purchase our politicians.”
    .
    A nationalised service is financed in the same way. It’s just that the profit, if any, goes into the service, and therefore there is no profit. But that’s the great thing about nationalisation. I used to have this argument with those in favour of denationalisation and handing services to the private sector. Today the motive for formerly nationalised industries is no longer profit, but greed! Nationalise everything. It won’t make everything better, but we’ve just received two horrendously inflated bills for electricity and gas. We can just about afford these because we are not in debt. Some families are going to find 2012 misery because of the greedy monopolies, who will only realise what their greed has caused, when it is too late and comes back to bite them!

  • craig Post author

    lwtc247 yes, I am saying it is the railway which is beautiful, or enhances the beauty. I am indeed contending the scene is more beautiful than if the railway were not there.
    DonnyDarko
    Renationalise without compensation. They’ve had enough taxpayers’ cash in subsidy already.

  • Dale Martin

    They have indeed had enough taxpayers cash already and got away with blue murder in regard not fulfilling contractual obligations too. On the connected issue of nationalisation for me its simple, all sectors that are fundamentally necessary for the well being of society should always be firmly in the hands of society. Health and I include the development and production of medicines, energy, transport, food and even possibly housing but I would have to give more thought on that, should all be government controlled. No private company ever has or will operate with the interests of society as its mission, they operate for profit and domination of their market and in the interests of the few that sit at the boardroom table being absolute. But,,,,,,,,,, not matter which way I view everything it all falls down because of one very real and true fact,,,,,,,,, though I see the only real way of society moving forward as being government control for the basic necessities I listed above, in the end if society does not wake up and understand that society itself needs to take an an active interest in what is in the interest of society, then even nationalised these areas become controlled by the few and as big a shit pile of self interest as the private sector always will be.

  • Mary

    We oppose the HS2 High Speed Rail link, because the business case is based on unrealistic assumptions, the environmental impact has not been assessed, it is not green, the strategic benefits are questionable, and the money could be better spent on other things.

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    The proposed £17 billion development of HS2 is being promoted on strategic, economic and environmental grounds. The myths and facts behind these arguments tell a different story.
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    The myths and facts.
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    http://stophs2.org/facts

  • lwtc247

    Thanks for the clarification Craig. A post construction rail line through the deep countryside isn’t too bad I guess, but the is something mildly unsettling about it bcause it’s the first sign of ‘encroachment’ (whose ultimate conclusion is a decaying urban jungle like parts of N.Y.)

  • Jack

    There’s an old saying about not being able to run a knocking shop. This has applied to almost every central and local government activity I’ve come across for as long as I can remember.
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    IMHO, it’s just as well that brothels aren’t a govt service. If they were, there’d be 20 pimps for every hooker. The pimps would of course all have management diplomas and 5-figure salaries, and the poor hookers (on minimum salary of course) would soon be worn out with free perks! Every taxpayer would be be billed for their services, on the basis that they were there whether we wanted them or not.
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    My own experience with both public and private ownership is that when it comes to developing a public service ethos, neither side can deliver – one has no such intention and the other congenitally cannot hack it. No point in blaming private industry for chasing profit – I’ve rarely encountered a central or local govt agency that wasn’t run by people in it for what they could personally get out of it in the short term. That isn’t simply coincidence – unless properly governed it soon becomes policy as like attracts like. I don’t see anything ever changing, and I’ve given up wondering what the answer might be.

  • Frosty

    @Passerby is that bit about German manufacturer spending 4 million on replica track thing actually true? I can see plenty of info about Siemens spending 9 million Euros on an ex RAF base in German but this was for making sure they had test track that replicated UK specs as well as various others which isn’t necessarily to “making it as crappy as the rail network in UK.”

  • ingo

    The greatest problem for HSrail is the lack of expertise we hold in our own country in advanced HS engineering. When China is testing a 500km/hrs. train, Britain is beginning to think about fast intercity as being advanced, the state of research and state development needed cannot be achieved here. A nationally exploded service has made it impossible to plan large scale routing, I would also argue that a private HS rail is not feasible without massive public subsedies.
    I would also like to see an airship passenger service to the continent being developed, a fast direct, more ecologically responmsible service that uses modern british made air transportation vehicles.
    http://www.hybridairvehicles.com/

  • Mary

    RMT: End train deal amid euro slump
    Published on Saturday 7 January 2012 13:13
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    The cost of a controversial Government decision to award a lucrative train-building contract to a German firm ahead of a company in Derby has increased by £140 million because of the slump in the value of the euro, a union has claimed.
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    The Rail Maritime and Transport union renewed its call for a reversal of the Thameslink fleet contract being given to Siemens ahead of Derby-based Bombardier.
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    A series of parliamentary answers to Derby Labour MP Chris Williamson said that the Siemens bid was priced in euros, so with the 10% decline in the value of the currency since tendering, the cost to the UK taxpayer on the £1.4 billion contract has increased by £140 million, said the RMT.
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    General secretary Bob Crow said: “The catalogue of failure behind the betrayal of Bombardier has sunk to a new low with the taxpayer now expected to subsidise Siemens to the tune of £140 million due to the collapse in value of the euro.
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    “RMT has said for months that the chaos in the financial markets has delayed the sign off of the Thameslink deal and now that we have been proved right it is time for the Government to cut the lies and give this vital work to the Derby workforce, who are geared up and ready to go, while there is still time.”
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    http://www.bucksherald.co.uk/news/regional-news/rmt_end_train_deal_amid_euro_slump_1_3396109

  • Mary

    The cost of HS2 is stated as £32 billion here. It will never happen
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    1 January 2012 08:30
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    A HS2 legal challenge is being drawn up even though the final decision is yet to be announced.

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    Aylesbury Vale District Council has started preparing the case for a judicial review of the decision – even though Justine Greening will not announce whether the £32 billion scheme will go ahead until January.
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    Legally the council only has three months to seek the review.
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    Officials have started work now because they do not believe there will be enough time to draw it up once the decision has been made.
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    The council is a member of the 51m campaign group of 18 authorities that oppose HS2.
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    It has pledged £100,000 to a fighting fund and so far spent £35,978 of that money lobbying against the plans.
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    This week the council’s cabinet agreed to start preparing the legal ground work ‘in readiness for the possibility that the government decides to go ahead’.
    /..
    http://www.bucksherald.co.uk/news/local-news/councillors_ready_to_start_legal_challenge_over_hs2_1_3373797

  • Tom Welsh

    It’s funny how aesthetic appreciation evolves. In the 18th century Dr Johnson notoriously thought that the Highlands of Scotland were nothing but a desolate wilderness, which would be much improved by having some nice towns and mansions built on them.

  • Dale Martin

    @ Jack…… I would never blame a private industry for making profit, profit is exactly what private industry is supposed to do. But in the same token, something that is supposed to be run in the interest and well being of the public at large has no place being put under the control of the private sector whose only interest is profit for itself. The logical place for anything that is in the interest of the public to be is in the public controlled sector and although I have to agree with you regarding public sector failings, would you not agree that ultimately its down to the failure of the general public that it is that way. We accept and elect politicians and a political system that is inherently flawed and controlled by financial inducement from the private sector, we allow our politicians to accept lucrative consultancies with private corporations, receive dubious political donations and go on all manner of all expenses paid trips funded by the private sector interests, then act surprised when we read in the tabloids that these politicians have been working in the interests of these private groups and counter to our interests all along. But who was it elected them in the first place, who sat back and refused to stand up and call an end to it and who was sat eating pizza and watching football while the politicians we elected spent all their time courting the private sector and not overseeing the public? We can quite easily say that the public sector couldn`t organise a piss up in a brewery, but the reality is that the vast majority of the public failed to organise even less than they.

  • Tony K

    Half the fun of travelling on German Rail is the comfort and speed. The other half is mentally preparing yourself not to say “Thanks” in English, when the conductor says “Good Luck” or is just me that does that? Craig makes a very good point. Rail can be, and is beautiful, especially if the trains are aesthetically pleasing. The problem we will have , is companies gouging on their construction tenders for maximum profit , and the Rail companies putting on inadequate rolling stock. Do we have anyone in Government who knows how to negotiate a sharp business deal? Anyone else travelled between Bristol and Birmingham on a Pendelino on a Friday night? There’s an object lesson in cattle-trucking for profit right there. Personally, I’d rather the Government re-nationalised rail as a critical public asset. Fat chance of that, far too many Tory donors with their fingers in the mix

  • Passerby

    We can quite easily say that the public sector couldn`t organise a piss up in a brewery
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    If they were not inefficient, then private sector would have to shape up too. The whole stinking game is designed around uncompetitive practices, and cronyism of one sort or another. Hence the mess.
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    Analysing the costs of the “day to day business” of big conglomerates, it will be soon an all too apparent fact; these prohibitive costs are being made good by over pricing and under delivering goods/services, to maintain the dividends and shareholders profit levels.
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    What is the point of public sector? what is the point of private sector? when both are designed to under-perform? the competitiveness lark is just to fool the punters, there can never exist a competitive environment, what would the shareholders do if such a stupid environment ever existed?

  • DonnyDarko

    Mary: Siemens have a long history of bribing their way into contracts. There’s a very well known case where they won a contract for the road pricing for trucks in Germany.In the end after years of construction, and Govt. money they had to admit failure and it was passed onto more capable companies.
    Siemens is almost like a nationalised entity where DE and AT are concerned and have huge clout wherever they go.
    In German they have a saying, “one hand washes the other” and that’s really the way it works over here.
    I find it hard to believe that our Politicians are so short sighted that they permit traditional industries and “expertise” to simply disappear under the pretext of so called fair bidding system. It’s not and never has been at this level just as property development isn’t.If we can’t build our own trains and rolling stock for a British rail network, then to echo Private Frazer,” we’re all dooom’d”.

  • kashmiri

    Craig, you wonderfully summarised how ‘ruling a country’ works. Not just UK: any country since time immemorial. Nothing to be upset about.

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