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UK Green Lights HS2 High Speed Rail Line

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the rollin-all-night-long dept.

Transportation 329

An anonymous reader writes "The United Kingdom has given the green light to the first phase of its proposed High Speed Two train line. In response to environmental concerns, the route for HS2 will now include extra tunneling in the first 90 miles, so not to disrupt the natural beauty of the English countryside. The first phase will connect London to Birmingham and could be functional by 2026."

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At that speed (-1, Offtopic)

dexomn (147950) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671518)

How will they be able to stream live video to big brother???

A good start, but... (4, Insightful)

anyanka (1953414) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671528)

...any chance they'll ever fix the horrible mess they've made of the non-high speed lucky-if-you-get-there-alive train service in the UK?

Re:A good start, but... (2, Informative)

Dominic (3849) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671550)

Unlikely, seeing as the three largest parties don't support renationalisation of the trains.

Re:A good start, but... (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671860)

They don't have to nationalise it, just impose caps on fares and mandate track improvements (you know, the ones the taxpayer spends a few hundred million pounds on every few years) actually be completed. Then, if the companies do go bust and no one will buy them, I suppose they could be nationalised...

Re:A good start, but... (2)

Dominic (3849) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671932)

...except that is exactly what they're not doing when the companies go bust, even when they are much more efficient when (briefly) run by the state.

The last government didn't do this either, despite a motion suggesting exactly this being passed by 2:1 at the 2004 Labour conference.

Re:A good start, but... (5, Interesting)

myurr (468709) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672038)

Except Labour did effectively renationalise Network Rail when they forced Railtrack into administration and then created Network Rail to take its place paying £500m in the process. However they couldn't call it nationalisation otherwise they would have had to pay an extra £1.5bn to the shareholders, so instead they created a really convoluted management structure but still get to have their say in how it is run due to the government paying for various projects and by being able to appoint a director that other members cannot remove. Network Rails debts (all £20bn) are also underwritten by the government. Network Rail receives something in the region of £5bn a year in taxpayers money on top of the revenue collected from the tain operators.

So the tracks, signalling and numerous stations are all state owned and state run. And yet the regulator says that Network Rail is significantly less efficient than other track operators across Europe (some 30+% less efficient), and we still have massive infrastructure problems in the UK.

The train operators are pretty dire, thanks to privatisation that didn't include competition at the passenger level which makes it a state sanctioned monopoly, but it is laughable to suggest that things were any better when the entire show was publicly run or that Network Rail are doing any better. The UK government, or more rightly the civil service as this spans multiple governments, doesn't exactly have a stellar record in delivering value for money or even just good services let alone large scale projects. Can you name one major project that has come in under budget or ahead of schedule? The vast majority end in failure, massively late, massively over budget, or some combination of all three.

Re:A good start, but... (5, Interesting)

Dominic (3849) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672068)

Actually, BR was both more efficient and much better for the UK economy. I just happen to have written a piece on this very subject a couple of days ago: http://www.dominictristram.com/2012/01/05/rail-fare-increase.html [dominictristram.com]

Re:A good start, but... (1)

rufty_tufty (888596) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672084)

No matter how deep you dive into the UK's rail industry it just gets worse.
Another example (from my brother in law who works for the railways) is the local operators lease the rolling stock, they are not allowed to own it. For round numbers it's about £1 million a year for a carriage that costs about £10 million new.
However the carriages were already paid for. Some of them are 25+ years old, and the companies that own the stock have little incentive to invest in new stock, because, well why would you? Occasionally the electoare complain enough and then you get demand handouts to pay for the new stock.
I just wish I'd bought shares in them when they were being set up...

Re:A good start, but... (4, Insightful)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672228)

Blame that on John Major, breaking up the rail system and selling all the money-making parts off for pennies on the pound to private industry, then rolling up all the complex and expensive stuff into Railtrack.

An ideal way to privatise profit and nationalise risk.

BR needed modernisation badly, but privatisation was not it the answer there - at least not the way it was done.

Re:A good start, but... (2)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672306)

Well, the government is really good at poorly thought out privatisation that.

They have done exactly the same to Royal Mail. Forced them to sell off the profitable part (collecting money for letters), and forced them to continue the difficult expensive part (delivering them) for a very low fixed fee. Of course now they want to privatise it because it is loss making.

I suspect exactly the same will happen as happened with Railtrack. They will give good payouts to the directors, fail to meet targets, get fined and then go bust. It's critical infrastructure so it cannot be allowed to fail, so it will be bailed out, at which point the bailouts go straight to the directors. This will repeat for several years until it is quietly nationalised again.

Re:A good start, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38672094)

Uh...... if you dictate fares and track improvements that's exactly the same thing as nationalisation, except you are not taking any credit for when it goes tits up.

Re:A good start, but... (1)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672256)

Especially since National Rail isn't a for profit company. Anything they make is invested back into infrastructure. It's in a state between government owned and a typical for profit corporation.

Re:A good start, but... (1)

makomk (752139) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672002)

Nope. This is basically just going to make the normal train service worse if anything as train companies stop offering services that compete with it in order to make more money from the more expensive tickets on the new high speed line.

Pffft, natural beauty. (-1, Troll)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671540)

There's not much English countryside left south of Manchester is there?

And I've never been north of Manchester...

Yes lots, also lots of rich city types (5, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671594)

Lots of beautiful English countryside south of Manchester. Also lots of stockbrokers / rich city types who don't want their countryside fantasy shattered by noisy development work. A bit like the rich lords and ladies 150 years ago who complained about their views being ruined the first time they put railway lines across the land.

Though to be fair there are ecological concerns to be taken into account this time round seeing as we've got less countryside left.

Not just railway lines (5, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671644)

Yes, the HS2 tunnels are an expensive sop to rich Conservative donors. But the idea has history. On its way through Bath, the Kennet and Avon Canal is hidden away as much as possible so that the Jane Austen crowd didn't have to look at the grubby people who brought their coal in. The railway followed the same route. And the main road from Bath to the M4 has a hideous cutting which is visible from the city, but was built purely for the benefit of a pair of BBC journalists who lived on the hill opposite. Millions were wasted...

Which is why it is funny in a way that Lord Astor has suggested that HS2 is unnecessary and an improved Internet backbone for better video conferencing would be a more sensible use of the money. The fibre link from London to Birmingham could easily be laid along the existing railway or canal network.

Re:Not just railway lines (1, Flamebait)

Xest (935314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672022)

Let's just make it clear how much of a waste of money this actually is.

£33bn ($50bn USD), for a new train line between only two cities, that wont be ready for 12 years, and when it does, shaves only a mere 20minutes or so off the journey.

I assume a company like Capita is getting the contract? The same Capita that runs sizable portions of the rest of our train network along with the companies that run the remaining parts of it for 33% more than our European neighbours who have more reliable, more modern, and cheaper trains.

Re:Not just railway lines (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38672042)

1hr 30min down to 49 minutes.. Seems like they shave 40 mins off, not 20.

Re:Not just railway lines (3, Informative)

philcowans (2548324) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672274)

Am I not right in thinking that the reduction in time also represents a significant increase in capacity? It seems like you'd be able to run almost twice as many trains on the new lines.

Re:Not just railway lines (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38672116)

Actually the £33bn cost is the Y-shaped network to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. To Birmingham it's £15.8bn to £17.4bn.

Re:Not just railway lines (4, Insightful)

shilly (142940) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672250)

As someone else has said, it's 40 minutes, not 20. And obviously, that's far from the only benefit of HS2 -- self-evidently, it's a huge increase in capacity. Capacity is much more important than speed.

Re:Not just railway lines (2)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672252)

As pointed out by the AC, but I'll post while logged in, the £33bn is for the full network. It's approximately £15bn for the London-Birmingham route.

As is typical for private industry, they won't undertake such a project because they can't see past next quarter's balance statement, but something needed to be done - the increase in rail traffic is going to overtake the capacity of the current lines in the coming future (over 10 to 15 years) and alternative options such as lengthening platforms and running longer trains on the current lines simply wouldn't address the issue (especially with regard to freight).

While it's an expensive project (all major infrastructure projects are) it will be a net-postive result for the economy as a whole. It just requires a large up front investment.

Re:Yes lots, also lots of rich city types (3, Insightful)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671788)

Though to be fair there are ecological concerns to be taken into account this time round seeing as we've got less countryside left.

The easiest way to fix that is to get some farmers in the area to take some land out of production and just leave it alone. Within a few decades, you'll have woodland there as that's the natural state for most of the UK anyway (that which isn't bare rock or open water). Sure it won't be undisturbed natural woodland but there's almost none of that anyway; too many hundreds of years of human interference have already been and gone.

Re:Yes lots, also lots of rich city types (2)

slim (1652) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672318)

Sure it won't be undisturbed natural woodland but there's almost none of that anyway; too many hundreds of years of human interference have already been and gone.

Indeed. Most people will look at a British countryside scene and mutter words like "unspoilt" or "natural when it's really nothing of the sort.

  - almost all grazing land would naturally be forest
  - most of our forests are managed conifers being grown for timber. Indigenous forestry is deciduous.
  - hedges, dry stone walls are pretty, but they ain't natural.
  - a typical chocolate box scene will include roads (OK, not motorways...), trains etc.

Re:Yes lots, also lots of rich city types (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38672166)

Lots of beautiful English countryside south of Manchester. Also lots of stockbrokers / rich city types who don't want their countryside fantasy shattered by noisy development work. A bit like the rich lords and ladies 150 years ago who complained about their views being ruined the first time they put railway lines across the land.

Though to be fair there are ecological concerns to be taken into account this time round seeing as we've got less countryside left.

Well I'll be blunt. The appearance of the countryside has exactly Jack Shit to do with environmental concerns. Those are concerns of human aesthetics, and nobody would give a shit if it was ugly countryside. In fact, there are more environmental concerns with the additional tunneling work, but because it's hidden underground people don't pay much attention.

Re:Yes lots, also lots of rich city types (2)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672328)

Confirming that the "environmental concerns" are really concerns over property prices on the part of people rich enough to own country homes in the Chiltern Hills...

Re:Yes lots, also lots of rich city types (1)

slim (1652) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672330)

Well I'll be blunt. The appearance of the countryside has exactly Jack Shit to do with environmental concerns.

The problem is that "environment" is an extremely overloaded term; broadly it just means "the stuff around you".

Appearance is one property of one's immediate environment, and it's important to some people.

Re:Pffft, natural beauty. (3, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671604)

You probably haven't been to much south of Manchester either. There's the peak district [google.co.uk] , dartmoor [google.co.uk] , norfolk [google.co.uk] , The chilterns [google.co.uk] (the ones that the HS2 protesters worry about), and the south downs [google.co.uk] to name just a few.

Re:Pffft, natural beauty. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671638)

That looks like a lot of well-grazed and well-sown fields and hills, not much natural beauty. Some, but not much.

Re:Pffft, natural beauty. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671922)

The chilterns are moderately pretty, but not in the same class as the others you mention. Most of it was ruined decades ago by people building large country houses. What remains is spoilt by far too many houses, major roads and expensive cars. There are much worse places to put a train line.

The actual concern is not environmental in a scientific sense, but property prices.

Have you ever been to these places at weekend? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672160)

It's like the entire city decides to go for a walk in the country at the same time.

Crowds of inappropriately dressed people squashed into every little patch of green they can find.
 

14 years?? (2, Insightful)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671560)

14 years to complete just part of it?? It took only six years for the greatest mobilization in world history to defeat the Axis.

Re:14 years?? (5, Funny)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671568)

That's because the Germans were involved. When Germans are on the team, things get organized a lot faster.

Re:14 years?? (0)

domstroi (2505744) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671588)

Yes! Oboi [sbordom.com.ua] zyr'...

Re:14 years?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671688)

That stretches "on the team" a bit. :P

Re:14 years?? (5, Funny)

anyanka (1953414) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671914)

Well, you know – if it hadn't been for the US in WW2, the UK would have had decent train service now... :P

Re:14 years?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38672134)

Actually if it hadn't been for the US in WW2 the Germans would have built a world class train service in the UK now.

Instead we have the half assed, "what is exactly is an 8 hour work day again?" one built by the British

:P'''''''''''

Re:14 years?? (5, Funny)

Malc (1751) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672276)

Conveniently ignoring the fact that the US waited until they knew they were on the winning side. Just like a bunch of Manchester United supporters.

So would the USA (2)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672286)

If germany hadn't been defeated do you think Hitler would have stopped at the atlantic? The nazis and the japanese would invaded and nicely carved up the USA so you'd probably have bullet trains running across your country by now and be eating at McSushi.

The T34 tank (2)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672188)

The T34, which was arguably the war-winning weapon for the Russians in its various incarnations, used a BMW-designed advanced light Diesel engine. You could say that BMW was on the Russian team.

Re:14 years?? (5, Insightful)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671596)

You can thank the exponential growth of bureaucracy over the last 70 years for that. It's the same reason why it took 7 years to build the original World Trade Center and now more than a decade after 9/11, they're "hoping" that it will be almost done by 2020 (19 years after).

Re:14 years?? (3, Informative)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671836)

19 years is very long. Is the 19 years for all 7 towers? The Burj Khalifa, Taipei 101 and Petronas Twin Towers all took about 6-7 years, and they cost less than USD2 billion.

Not expecting it to be this fast:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hdpf-MQM9vY [youtube.com]
But if it's 19 years for one or two towers, it is crazy.

Re:14 years?? (1, Redundant)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672192)

You can thank the exponential growth of bureaucracy over the last 70 years for that.

That word doesn't mean what you think it does.

Re:14 years?? (2)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671752)

The thing is, allied forces weren't operating on a shoestring budget and this project isn't that important to preserve sovereignty to warrant bankrupting the nation.

Re:14 years?? (5, Informative)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671774)

It took only six years for the greatest mobilization in world history to defeat the Axis.

Yes, well this time you don't have Russians doing the bulk of the dirty work for you.

Re:14 years?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671926)

Nope, just the Poles.

UK digging is mostly by Bulgarians. (2)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672200)

The Poles are increasingly doing the middle class jobs. The Russians...the oligarchs will loan the money to the Government so that the Government won't extradite them to Russia when Putin needs a rouble or two.

Re:14 years?? (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671816)

It took only six years for the greatest mobilization in world history to defeat the Axis.

And how long did it take to rebuild Europe after?

And did you just suggest world-war levels of expenditure... so that you can get your shiny new train built faster?

Re:14 years?? (4, Interesting)

Nadir (805) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672036)

Premise: I'm half-Brit half-Italian.
A while ago an Italian newspaper compared the time it took to build the Channel Tunnel compared to the Milan Bypass Railway (6 vs 24 years) poking much fun at our (Italian) slowness. Now that Italy has a full high-speed rail link between Turin-Milan-Rome-Naples (which included digging new tunnels in the Appenini mountains) built in less than 20 years (nearly 1000 Km), someone should write a similar article.
Obviously these times and distances are laughable compared to France and Japan anyway.

Make it a one way (2, Funny)

millwall (622730) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671598)

Save 50% of the cost and make it a one way southbound line.

I don't know a single Londoner who voluntarily would want to travel to the grim north [wikia.com] .

Re:Make it a one way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671976)

Never gonna happen anyway. The Wilson government will cancel and we'll go with a more-expensive, late-delivered, USA option.
Oh. Wait. HS2?? I heard it as "TSR2", scuse...

Re:Make it a one way (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38672310)

They're called Manchester United fans

The problem with our railways is not speed (4, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671660)

Its capacity and cost. A return from Leeds to london tomorrow will cost £123 [nationalrail.co.uk] off peak. That's just under 200 miles so its chaper to drive. If you want the chapest travel then you would go by coach for £9.50 [nationalexpress.com] . It seems to me that for the same or less than HS2 they could have longer platforms, double decker coaches (like in France) and get the cost down. I would rather have a 2 hour service for about £30 that I could actually use than a 50 minute one for £200.

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671700)

Double decker means redoing all the bridges and tunnels along a line, linger trains might involve moving all the signals.
While doing these the lines are probably shut. We do need new lines, I wish they could just be built in the way the French do though.

And yes if I'm unelected dictator the rail company heads will be 1st against the wall!

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (2)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671842)

[Longer] trains might involve moving all the signals.

Only if the train gets so long that it doesn't fit between two signals! That's pretty rare, and in the places where it does happen they cope just fine with having trains in two signal blocks at once. (In any case, goods trains with a full load of containers get much longer than any passenger train.) The real constraint on signal separation is the ability of trains to come to a stop safely, and the real constraint on train length is platform length and the fact that they'll have to move signals at the end of station platforms to accommodate longer trains (if there's a signal there; there isn't at all stations). But that's (usually) a much simpler problem to deal with as you don't need to do everything at once.

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (3, Insightful)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671876)

Thing is, rail capacity has been a problem for decades, double decker trains are an obvious solution, but when they build a new bridge over a rail line, they still build it to fit a single decker train under it.

They should have simply mandated 20 years ago, all future infrastructure should be capable of taking a reasonable height double decker train and at least some of that infrastructure would by now be already in place.

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671950)

There is a very good case for building the line to the same loading gauge as HS1 ie, the same as used in France etc. Then the Double Decker trains (as used in on many TGV Services) would be viable.

Some of the route will follow the line of the old Great Central line from Marylebone to Rugby, Sheffield etc. This was the last mainline built in the UK before HS1. It was built to Continental Loading Gauge and this was in the early years of the 20th Century.

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (1)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672204)

They are building the line to the European loading gauge. The line is designed to be fully compatible with European very-high-speed lines, as DB and SNCF have expressed an interest in running through trains from European cities to Birmingham through the Channel Tunnel once the Eurotunnel monopoly expires. Additionally, the line is being built to serve very long trains (up to 12 European-length carriages).

All-in-all, the wider/taller loading gauge (which provides the option for double-decker carriages) and the long platforms will mean that HS2 will provide enormous numbers of seats between London and Birmingham.

It's not practical to upgrade most UK lines to the larger gauge, because it would mean rebuilding every station, raising every platform, re-laying every piece of track with wider separation (displacing hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses near train lines), widening every cutting and embankment, rebuilding every bridge, and reboring every tunnel. It would be possible, but not politically viable (imagine the voter response to being told that there will be no train service between London and Bristol for the next five years due to regauging, and oh by the way, we're taking half your back garden).

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (1)

stevelinton (4044) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671718)

Longer platforms is being done anyway. I suspect the double decker trains would involve so much reworking of tunnels bridges and stations that it would not be cheaper than building a new line.

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671744)

Its capacity and cost. A return from Leeds to london tomorrow will cost £123 [nationalrail.co.uk] off peak. That's just under 200 miles so its chaper to drive. If you want the chapest travel then you would go by coach for £9.50 [nationalexpress.com] . It seems to me that for the same or less than HS2 they could have longer platforms, double decker coaches (like in France) and get the cost down. I would rather have a 2 hour service for about £30 that I could actually use than a 50 minute one for £200.

Actually, by taking an off-peak train you saved about 50% of the standard fare of GBP 249 ... strengthening your case on the cost front.

But the cost is significantly affected by the constraints on capacity. Unfortunately, simply putting more capacity on individual trains (longer double deckers) won't create any more competition ... and the level of current competition is approximately zero.

What we really need is lots more track ... preferably track that's cheaper to lay than HS2

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (5, Interesting)

doghouse41 (140537) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671786)

Good point but enhancing an existing line to improve capacity and speed is far more problematic than building a new line on a greenfield site. I think they realised that after comparing the success of HS1 (Channel tunnel to London) when compared with the West Coast main line upgrade that was taking place at the same time.

- There is a finite limit to the number of trains you can run down any stretch of track. Once you reach that limit (which is quite close on existing track) You have limited options to increase capacity:-

    > Make the trains/platforms longer. Good in theory, but requires major changes to existing infrastructure. (Demolition of existing buildings in town centres) Changes in track layout, particularly at terminus stations. Changes in signalling (for longer trains).

  > Double decker trains. This requires a change in the loading gauge of the lines. A particular problem in the UK that has a smaller existing track gauge than Europe. This is why double decker trains are widespread in Europe and non-existent in the UK: there simply isn't the room for them. Changing the gauge basically means rebuilding the entire railway, with all the disruption that brings. (i.e. rebuild bridges, overhead lines, all track-side structures, track alignment, platforms....)

Building an entirely new line brings you all of the benefits of longer platforms, double decker trains, and a much higher speed. All without causing any significant disruption to existing lines. It's cheaper in the long run. And it provides a much bigger increase in total capacity and resilience for the money.

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (3, Interesting)

rumblesan (2551402) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671812)

the problem is more just that it's old and is still based on design decisions made years ago. the lack of capacity and the higher cost are just by products of this. The height of trains is limited by all the tunnels about, which will be a major engineering work to increase, the length is limited by most platforms and the width is limited by the gauge. these things were all chosen a long time ago and we just keep trying to sticky plaster over it. basically, we got stiffed because we were early adopters

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (5, Informative)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671822)

It seems to me that for the same or less than HS2 they could have longer platforms, double decker coaches (like in France) and get the cost down.

Longer platforms are coming, where possible and sensible, but double decker coaches aren't. The problem is that the standard size of space for a train (i.e., the size of tunnels and bridges) is enough smaller in the UK that there's not enough room to put a double decker coach through it. Moreover, the UK uses bridges very heavily by comparison with much of the world.

I would rather have a 2 hour service for about £30 that I could actually use than a 50 minute one for £200.

Yes, but if you go two weeks further out (and are willing to travel outside peak times) there's a fare on the same route for £22.60. (I'm not sure if that's a return or a single; the website's interface isn't quite as clear on that as I would want.) Booking at the last minute is costly, but booking well ahead is pretty cheap.

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671956)

Same in Germany. Booking ahead (and being fixed with the train) can bring a 50% reduction, usually 25%

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38672088)

Booking ahead (and being fixed with the train) can bring a 50% reduction, usually 25%

This is just a tax on spontaneity :-(

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672296)

I think you're referring to "loading gauge".

I wonder if there will be enough room for DB and Thalys trains to run from Cologne or Paris right through to Manchester. Finally some competition. Looking for to the DB trains coming through the tunnel to London next year (or is it 2014?). Eurostar is pretty out-dated, and the stop in Brussels Midi is really grating after a while.

This HS2 line is embarrassingly late, and it's still years away. The UK was years behind our neighbours when the Eurostar route was porposed *sigh*

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (3, Interesting)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672314)

And again the car wins, because you don't have to plan a 200 mile day journey 2 weeks in advance...

The rail network in the UK is really quite poor - let me detail two separate journeys for you which literally made me get a car (and that was no little decision, as it also meant learning to drive ;) )...

The first one involved travel from Leicester to Bath, ticket cost was about £40 return. The journey from Bath to Bristol was fine, but then the Virgin train to Birmingham arrived. Full to the brim. My booked and reserved seat was a waste. The conductor announced that the train would not e leaving until enough people got off, but there was no replacement and the next train was an hour wait ( and no guarantee it wouldn't also be full). Eventually I get to Birmingham, where the train to Leicester has nine platform alterations, with the last alteration coming as the train left the station from a platform we could see but not get to! Another missed train, another wait.

The trip back from Leicester to Bath was all done on rail replacement transport - in other word, busses. Fantastic. National Express do a direct service for a tenner, but I had to pay way more than that for four separate stages.

The second journey on the same route, from Leicester to Bath, got me to Bristol - and there I stayed for eight hours, because of a signalling failure on the South West line, where the train was coming from.

Eventually a train turned up after 4 hours, and everyone piled on. Then the conductor announced that the train that had been delayed was behind this train and would be arriving at the platform directly after the current train had left, and anyone with tickets for that train should get off and take it. As I had an "ultra cheap" ticket which required me to take a specific train, I had the choice of staying on and being stiffed for another ticket, or getting on the next train as promised.

I got off, and the train left. Immediately then "my" train had another hour delay announced. They had lied.

In both circumstances, the train companies never bothered to reply to my complaints.

I now own a car and drive places. Fuck rail travel.

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671900)

Prices for tomorrow are always expensive, but if you book in advance it goes down a lot. Edit that for two weeks from now and the cheapest fare is £88.50 - still not cheap, but less than the price of 70 litres of petrol, so probably not much cheaper to drive. Swansea to London return cost me £50 and speed is the irritating part - the train averages about 60 miles per hour. It takes 3 hours to go from Swansea to London, but only 2 hours to go from London to Brussels, which is a little bit further. Fixing this wouldn't require new rails, it would just require them being repaired so that the Intercity trains that they were originally built for (which can travel at 125 miles per hour) can operate at their maximum speed safely. At that speed it would only be about an hour and a half, which makes doing the round trip in a single day feasible.

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (2)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672298)

Note that the biggest problem with that route is the section between Cardiff and Swansea, where the terrain is so hilly that the only way to speed up the existing tortuous train route would be to rebuild it entirely with lots of tunnels. Note that the main reason that the government recently decided not to electrify that section was that the increased speed benefits of lighter, faster electric trains would not be realised on that section of line.

Once the trains get past Bristol, they do get up to full speed. Also, note that the three hours on that route includes several stops, which bring down the overall average speed quite severely! London to Brussels only stops at Ebbsfleet, Calais, and Lille on the way, and runs on very high speed lines all the way.

I don't think it's really fair to compare those two routes, TBH. When you think about it, the Swansea-London trains are actually doing pretty well...

This has nothing to do with rail (1, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671924)

This is what is called a "Keynesian stimulus program"[2]. It's purpose is to spend 300 billion[1] into the economy in order to inflate the national debt away, save the banks and the contractors. At the taxpayers and citizens expense, the currency will be devalued causing inflation and taxpayers will have to service increased interest payments. The people who will be hit hardest by the additional inflation and taxation are the old, and the poor.

If they had spent the money on something useful, it would have crowded out the private sector, so they have to spend it on something which has no particular relevance; saving 20 mins between Birmingham and London is totally irrelevant.

[1] Yes, it says 32 billion now...
[2] Google Keynes, bottles and coal mines.

Re:This has nothing to do with rail (2)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672052)

Saving 20 mins between Birmingham and London is not the point of HS2. The reason for HS2 is to get Birmingham London passengers off the West Coast Mainline, to leave more space for local services that use the same line.

To use a car analogy, to drive from London to Birmingham, you can either use the motorways or drive on A roads. The motorways are designed for long distance traffic, and the A roads are for local traffic.

Re:This has nothing to do with rail (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672206)

No, really, it's purpose is to spend 32 billion+.

It is otherwise of no significance.

Re:This has nothing to do with rail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38672072)

Inflation is actually great for the poor. The poor have debts, which are denominated in currency. If you devalue the currency, you devalue their debts. If this inflation exceeds the interest they would have to pay on their debts, you can actually use inflation as a way to transfer relative wealth from the rich to the poor. This is because the rich 'own' the debts of the poor.

While this story is on GB, in the US the bottom 20% possess less than 5% of the wealth in the country, many of them having negative wealth in the form of debts. Inflation is fantastic for them. As someone who personally owes over $60k, and doesn't get paid enough to put a dent in it, inflation would be fantastic for me right now.

Re:This has nothing to do with rail (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672260)

The poor have debts, which

No, the poor don't have access to significant credit, the poor live in a cash society. They can't afford debts, banks don't lend poor people money. They lend rich people money. The wealthier you are the more collateral you have and the better able you are to service debt. Banks will lend wealthy people lots of money and the wealthy do very well from inflation. Assets: Property valuations, stocks, dividends, commodities all increase. Debts, as you mentioned are devalued.

What credit is available to the poor tends to be of very high interest; tens of percent or more easily outstripping all but hyperinflation.

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671960)

... It seems to me that for the same or less than HS2 they could have longer platforms, double decker coaches (like in France) and get the cost down.

In general I'd agree with you that improving the existing network is better investment. But double-decker coaches won't work on the existing railway because the loading gauge (lateral clearance from structures) is too small. A double-decker train was tried just after WW2 but it was too cramped and was scrapped.

The best investment on existing lines seems to be reducing headways by resignalling, so that there can more trains per hour.

Re:The problem with our railways is not speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38672168)

There's merit in what you say, but you're overstating the case. Looking at East Coast's website, you can get a return Leeds-London leaving tomorrow coming back the next day for £62. Yes, you're limited to specific trains, and the cheapest times might not be any use to you, but your costs comparison changes. Petrol would be about £40 each way, and then you'd want to consider depreciation and servicing costs etc of the car, plus the cost of your time as the train will get you there substantially faster. This assumes you haven't got a passenger in the car, mind...

Natural beauty of the English countryside? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671662)

Believe me, I've lived in that bit of England, it is anything but beautiful. The "Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty" is anything but. Firstly the Chiltern hills are not hills, it is at best slightly above the level of the surrounding countryside, which is perfectly flat. Secondly it's all been built on for the last 2 thousand years, in any other country it would be called a suburb of London.
I mean, it's pretty compared to the rest of southern England, but England south and east of Manchester is so overcrowded that there is not one square foot of wilderness left. Their areas of 'outstanding natural beauty' are neither outstanding nor beautiful. A high speed rail line is not going to significantly impact on the landscape.
It is of dubious value anyway. They say that it'll cut the journey time down to 50 minutes. It's only 100 miles or 160 km. That's a little over 100 miles per hour, but in theory the current trains are capable of 125 miles per hour which means the journey should take 48 minutes *with the current trains*. But on a 100 mile journey most of the time is spent stopping and starting or stopping at intermediate stations. Perhaps they should consider simply improving the current track, or running express trains? It's like the flight to Edinburgh from london, it takes 90 mins to cover 400 miles in a plane that flies at 500mph. Why does it take 90 mins? Because it spends 30 mins flying from London to Edinburgh, and an hour taxying, taking off, waiting for a landing slot, landing, and taxying again. This high speed train will be the same, by the time it has left the station, passed through london, passed through the chilterns at 50mph (so as not to disturb the badgers or whatever), passed through all the towns at 50mph, sped up, slowed down and arrived in Birmingham it will have travelled 50 miles at 200mph and the rest at less than 60mph. How else can a 100 mile journey at 200mph take an hour?
Add to that that the rail system in the UK is so expensive that ultimately noone will use this. Right now a 160km journey from London to Birmingham, one way, *with no guarantee of a seat*, will cost about 80 euros at peak times and take an hour and a half. (From http://www.thetrainline.com). Yeah you can find them cheaper, but they are during the day or bought a year in advance.
Even the journey from London to Edinburgh (ie the two main capital cities in the UK) takes 4 and a half hours and costs at least as much, probably more like 200 euros. It's only 600 km.
The rail system is so bad people in the UK either drive or fly; after all it's only a wee island, there's not much need for flying either.

Re:Natural beauty of the English countryside? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671722)

"but in theory the current trains are capable of 125 miles per hour which means the journey should take 48 minutes *with the current trains"

The flaw in that reasoning is 125mph is only the maximum possible speed.

The trains are rarely running at top speed, either speeding up from the last station or slowing down for the next. A faster train which can accelerate/brake faster can improve on that.

More importantly a lot of the existing track isn't suitable for going along at 125mph. You have old (often victorian) bridges which can't handle that speed, old sections of track where it would be unsafe, bends where the train couldn't get round it safely at that speed (or would at the very least be uncomfortable) and where suburbs where there would be too many noise complaints.

Re:Natural beauty of the English countryside? (2)

91degrees (207121) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671868)

It is of dubious value anyway. They say that it'll cut the journey time down to 50 minutes. It's only 100 miles or 160 km. That's a little over 100 miles per hour, but in theory the current trains are capable of 125 miles per hour which means the journey should take 48 minutes *with the current trains*. But on a 100 mile journey most of the time is spent stopping and starting or stopping at intermediate stations. Perhaps they should consider simply improving the current track, or running express trains?

Closer to 120 miles. Then again, we've had trains capable of running at 140mph since the 90's. Track and signalling are the problem.

Upgrading the line track isn't all that easy. We need to run trains while we're doing it. And there's no improvement to capacity. We need new lines. Building a brand new high capacity line that can take double decker trains will add capacity, while still allowing relatively slow trains on the stopping routes.

I think the other limiting factor is passenger comfort. Takes about 10 minutes for a TGV to get from 0-200mph. Slow down at the same rate and that's 33 miles covered at 100mph. that leaves 90 miles at 200mph. 36 minutes worth.

Re:Natural beauty of the English countryside? (2)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671874)

England south and east of Manchester is so overcrowded that there is not one square foot of wilderness left.

Wilderness? You must be American. Southern England hasn't had any wilderness for hundreds of years, and it's to do with farming not houses. You may find the English countryside rather tame compared with the Rocky Mountains or whatever, but we like it.

The wild bits of Britain are basically where farming is impractical.

Re:Natural beauty of the English countryside? (2)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672028)

Southern England hasn't had any wilderness for hundreds of years, and it's to do with farming not houses.

It's got a moral and spiritual wilderness. Will that do?

Re:Natural beauty of the English countryside? (4, Interesting)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671908)

Yes, transport in general in the UK is a mess...
As was reported recently, trains cost massively more in the UK than in other european countries, and if you live outside of a large city public transport is even worse or may be entirely lacking.

Concorde cut the journey time to new york in half, and yet it's no longer flying... Faster transport isn't whats needed, we need to decrease distances, decrease congestion and most importantly decrease the need to travel.

Encourage home working... Most office jobs can be done from anywhere with an internet connection and phoneline...
Stagger working hours - don't have everyone travel in for 9am, that just causes mass congestion at specific times and creates a horrendously inefficient transport system where the extra capacity to handle peak traffic is simply wasted at other times. Many staff never need to interact directly with third parties and so have no reason to be at work 9-5.
Convince businesses to get over this stupid obsession of having offices in central london (or other large cities), it doesn't make your company look prestigious it just increases costs and hinders your recruitment process because people are put off by the horrendous commute and will usually demand more money for working there. Instead, build your offices in small business parks located outside the centre of cities, not only are these considerably cheaper but there is generally affordable housing within a short distance. I personally have turned down several job offers that required commuting to central london.

Comment Operation Kickback (1, Troll)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671750)

Having been following the progress of HS2 through Parliament, I think it's safe to assume that the main means of transport that it will be enable will be yachts for the various Ministers, CEOs and lobbyists concerned in railroading (ho ho) it through.

Re:Comment Operation Kickback (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671852)

yachts for the various Ministers

Not yachts. Duck islands.

And in the following year (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671762)

there is supposedly going to be a maglev service between Tokyo and Nagoya (around 300km depending on the route taken).

Controversial (0)

neokushan (932374) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671862)

The really interesting thing about this new line is the amount of money they're pumping into it compared to the amount of money they're pumping into getting decent broadband into the country: http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/4962-why-the-vision-for-hs2-and-not-for-broadband.html [thinkbroadband.com]

Essentially, the estimate for 100% FTTH coverage of the UK was about £29billion - a lot of money for sure. This project is going to cost £33Billion just for phase one (Birmingham -> London). This project will get funded about £2.2billion per year, while broadband rollout is only getting 162million per year.

The argument is simple - if everyone has access to fast internet, then the need to travel to london is greatly reduced. Sure, people will still need to travel, but all those meetings and such could easily be done via teleconferencing.

Re:Controversial (1)

dotbot (2030980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671930)

This project is going to cost £33Billion just for phase one (Birmingham -> London).

Nonsense: it's just under £17Billion for phase one (Birmingham -> London). Your misunderstanding is probably the result of the atrocious quality of journalism there has been on this subject.

Re:Controversial (1)

neokushan (932374) | more than 2 years ago | (#38671952)

It appears you are right and I stand very much corrected. I had to do some digging, but this report from nearly 2 years ago breaks it down properly:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8561286.stm [bbc.co.uk]

He said the first 120 miles between London and the West Midlands would cost between £15.8bn and £17.4bn.

The cost per mile beyond Birmingham is then estimated to halve, taking the overall cost of the 335 mile Y-shaped network to about £30bn.

It appears that the estimation has risen slightly in the last couple of years to about £33billion, but yes, Phase 1 is about half of that. Still, the difference compared to the broadband investment is still quite staggering.

Re:Controversial (2)

dotbot (2030980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672110)

Certainly more should be invested in broadband but not instead of HS2. The pros/cons of additional transport capacity are fairly clear and it is easy to see that this is required given current usage trends. Understanding the pros/cons of fast internet requires some insight into future changes to the way society operates so is harder to justify to the public. Still, it should be persued because of the potential that it offers.

Clearly, the advent of the internet has not done anything to reduce rail usage in the UK, suggesting that, so far, it has not made travel redundant. Look at rail usage from the early 1990s, e.g. http://www.railway-technical.com/statistics.shtml [railway-technical.com] Who knows whether that trend will continue.

Re:Controversial (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672000)

I'm current;y working with multi-screen conference systems. A friend of mine had a job maintaining vacuum chambers. Both have expensive equipment that needs people to actually travel to use it. A surveyor needs to go to a site and survey. If an industry wants to show off its technology, it wants to show the physical items with actual people being able to see it close up and personal, and talk to experts directly. We want to meet other people and just browse technology and look for partners. The NEC is an ideal place for this, but people need to get there. Conveniently, HS2 stops there.

We have plenty of capacity for video conferencing as it is. I was talking to some guys on the other side of the Atlantic the other day. It may not be free, but it's not something we were worrying about the cost for.

Re:Controversial (1)

bazorg (911295) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672008)

If we could go further in this out of the box thinking, changing the work hours to 7 a day and then 6 a day, with different people starting and ending work at different times would surely improve the overcrowding in all sorts of transport. If having a 4 day work week is too radical to consider, just changing the routine to having a day week with 6 hours work day with a minor or no stop for lunch would have a major impact in the quality of life.

Re:Controversial (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672048)

"Essentially, the estimate for 100% FTTH coverage of the UK was about £29billion - a lot of money for sure."

Keep in mind that was BT's "Hey look, FTTH is far too expensive to roll out, well, unless you give us lots of cash Mr Prime Minister" estimate too.

In reality it will cost far, far less than that, the real figure is likely well under £20bn. That was a grossly inflated figure to try and push the government into giving BT as much money as possible to go ahead with the rollout. Some independent investigations into it have put the figure as low as £5bn if existing infrastructure, or specific road cutting tools for fibre were used instead of the current dig a massive fucking hole a few hundred metres down the road way of doing things.

Realistically, if it was done right, for the cost of this train link shaving a mere 20minutes or so off the journey between two cities, we could've had 1gbps FTTH to every address in the country, even the most isolated rural and island based ones.

Re:Controversial (1)

neokushan (932374) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672070)

Something tells me that neither project, regardless of funding, would be "done right". That's just not how the rail operators or BT work.

YOU FAIyL IT.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671880)

on my PeSntZium Pro

"The natural beauty of the English countryside" ?? (-1, Troll)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672006)

BUAAAHHAAAHAA.

Sorry. Had to catch my breath, almost died with laughing on reading that one.

Re:"The natural beauty of the English countryside" (1)

jcupitt65 (68879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672316)

The route passes through the Chilterns, an officially designated area of outstanding natural beauty. I'm in favour of the link but some pretty stuff will get trashed.

http://blog.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/2011/04/cycling-in-the-chilterns [ordnancesurvey.co.uk]

Tunnels? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672020)

If there's one thing I learned from playing Railroad Baron in DOS, it's rail tunnels are horrendously expensive and should be avoided whenever possible. Now, they're building tunnels just so someone doesn't have to see the train?

What a collosal waste of money (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672118)

which will benefit anyone but the middle class or poor. High Speed rail rarely if ever pays for itself and never benefits those who the politicians claim its aimed at. If anything it has been shown in countries like Spain is that in concentrates wealth in already wealthy cities because it gives greater ease of mobility to those who already have the wealth. Think, businessmen no longer needing to live in the city they work in but instead they can live in a resort style city or coastal city usually connected by these systems.

No, most of these newer rails systems are feel good projects usually funneling money into some favored groups pocket and then to the politicians who sponsor them. The Economist did some great articles on these systems many months ago. What ends up happening is the losses incurred by the communities where the trains don't stop are higher than the gains achieved. Worse, there is a never ending subsidy for those riding the trains which is a reverse transfer of wealth (to the wealthy). I have nothing against the wealthy, I just don't see why we don't call it out for what it is.

Re:What a collosal waste of money (2)

shilly (142940) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672292)

A resort style city? What, like Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham?

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