Tuesday, September 04, 2007

19th century Rail

As the high speed rail link is finally tested between Paris and London, it is certainly progress to report that the journey time between the two capitals is now set to be 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Unfortunately, it is rather depressing to report that the average speeds into London on other railway lines are now slower than they were in 1910! I am sure that the Victorian engineers that had such vision to create the network in the first place would be astonished to find that it takes five minutes longer to get from Richmond to Waterloo, for example, than it did 100 years ago..

Mind you, across the UK, we seem to be missing the vision to create an effective and efficient transport system. Partly this is put down to cost. The price of land and other inputs makes investing in infrastructure a far more expensive proposition per mile of track than it is in France, for example. On the other hand the UK is half the area of France, so any high speed track is likely to be more densely used. Nevertheless it is frustrating to note that London is linked by a high speed line only to Paris and Brussels, whereas Paris is linked to at least ten other destinations- and the number is growing rapidly. It can surely not be long before taking the train to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport seems a better bet than transiting the squalid corridors of Heathrow- and at what cost to British jobs?

In there was a single French-style 200 mph high speed line from London to Aberdeen, for example, it would only take about two and a half hours to get between the two cities. Edinburgh would be an hour and twenty minutes from London, and Newcastle barely an hour. Instead the rail service from Aberdeen, even the Express, takes over 7 hours to King's Cross. Even the plane, city centre to city centre takes nearly four hours.

Once, we could have argued that investment in motorways was more justified than in rail. Now, however we have inadequate motorways, inadequate railways, and mostly even our airports look tatty, tired and seedy. Driving across France over the summer, there is still new investment going into French infrastructure. In the UK, however investment in infrastructure, the new terminals at Heathrow aside, whether public or private has essentially ground to a halt.

Hard to believe that there won't be serious consequences for British competitiveness.


Anonymous said...

Phew for a second Cicero I thought you were going to blame Putin again


Devil's Kitchen said...

"I am sure that the Victorian engineers that had such vision to create the network in the first place..."

I am sure that the private companies that built and funded the network would be equally surprised and disappointed.

However, that is what happens when the state takes over: far from investing in the infrastructure, governments prefer to spend its money on more headline-grabbing material.


P.S. Word verification: "furyxu"...

Cicero said...

DK- yep, tend to agree with that, well, not the word verification, obviously... :-)