tisdag 4 september 2007

Eurostar record breaker

milf eurostar train paris
Originally uploaded by candidphoto.

The Eurostar was due to make its record-breaking test run over the new route today.

Whether this investment was actually good value for money is a moot point. There may be a case for a high speed rail link to the north but most journeys are local and urban, not between cities hundreds of miles apart. It would probably be better to spend the money on local transport instead, for example on urban tram systems. And also on electrification and upgrading of existing routes.

Due largely to decades of economic mismanagement, around 85% of the population of Britain live in about one-third of the land area, roughly speaking within a radius of about 150 miles from Coventry. This means that inter-city journeys are typically a lot shorter than they are on mainland Europe, and so higher speeds do not give such useful reductions in journey times. Bearing in mind that costs rise exponentially with speed, and that there is an optimum speed for trains of around 160 km/hour, and the case for high speed lines in the UK looks a bit shaky.

In addition, it is essential to remember that what counts are door-to-door journey times. There is no point in spending £5 billion so that passengers can get from Paris to London half an hour faster, only for them to be delayed in traffic jams outside the station, or, for that matter, in pre-travel check-in delays.

Not only would investment in urban and local travel be of benefit to far more people, it would also reduce actual long-distance journey times as well.

It is unfortunate that rail commentators focus on things that look good on the headlines.

And incidentally, Eurostar should update their computer sytems; they could not book me a return journey for a three-month stay away, so I ended up taking the ferry. This proved so pleasant and inexpensive that I will travel the same way again in the future.

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