9 Mar 2010

Network or hub-and-spokes

High speed rail is predicated on a hub-and-spokes pattern of transport centred on London. However, most journeys are not city-centre to city-centre but begin and end somewhere in a conurbation. Many journeys do not naturally pass through the centre of a conurbation but are more conveniently made by travelling around it. It may be that the actual point-to-point journey starts and/or ends within easy reach of an airport. Forcing people to travel through city centres is unattractive to potential passengers and aggravates congestion.

80% of the population of Britain is dispersed into about one-third of the country's land area. A hub-and-spokes system is ill-suited to serve people's travel needs with such a pattern of settlement. What is needed here is a network of connecting routes to create a wide range of journey opportunities.

In South-East England, such a system might develop services such as a group fanning out from Ashford towards Brighton, Reading (and onwards to Oxford and Milton Keynes), and Stratford/Cambridge and Peterborough. The trains would run as regular-interval, limited-stop regional expresses connecting to the radial routes which they crossed; for instance, the Ashford to Redhill service would call at Tonbridge, Redhill (on a new flyover), Guildford and Aldershot, giving interchanges at each place to the routes out of London.

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