1 Mar 2011
Reply to questionnaire chapter 1
Yes. But there is not a competition between rail in Britain and rail in other countries. The idea that Britain will in some sense be "left behind" suggests the idea of some kind of sporting event. It is possible to travel from London to Cologne all the way by high speed train, and I have done so several times. This route is not in competition with London to Newcastle, a comparable distance which I also use regularly.
I have stopped using both in recent years because I find the alternatives cheaper, more comfortable and more convenient. Neither route provides an affordable walk-on service or even an affordable walk-on service off-peak. Common to both routes are cramped and uncomfortable trains, shortage of luggage space, and complicated fares are complicated tied to travel on a particular train. This adds to the stress of the journey and means one has to allow substantial time in case things go wrong, thereby negating much of the advantages of high speed.
In the UK, 80% of the population live south of Manchester and east of Bristol ie one third of the land area. Inter-city journeys are typically less than 150 miles long and not centre-to-centre. Thus there is little advantage in making the rail leg of a journey faster than 100 mph. To reduce journey times the need is to improve connectivity.
Rail investment in the UK means improving the existing network through the development of routes such the east-west line north of London, reopening of lines closed under Beeching and the development of urban light rail to shorten local journeys. The number of local journeys made is an order of magnitude larger than the number of long distance trips, and all of the latter start and end with a local journey.