Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts


Posted in Great Britain, High Speed, Infrastructure by Chairman Pip on 10 January 2010

I saw a programme on National Geographic today, part of their Megastructures series, called “Britain’s New Railway”, on the construction of High Speed 1. It was interesting to see some of the things that they had to overcome during the construction of the line, such as building through the chalk of Blue Bell Hill to create North Downs Tunnel, which has a larger cross section than other rail tunnels in the UK to avoid the difficulties of the pressure wave as the train enters it at high speed, Medway Viaduct, the longest high speed rail span in the world at 1.2km with unique ‘v’ shaped supports that are designed to avoid toppling in the event of a train travelling at 300km/h slamming on its brakes, and the Thames tunnels, which carry the route underthe river and London on the final approach to St Pancras, which had to be built avoiding the possibility of subsidence by tunnelling directly under existing rail lines (i.e. the Tube). There’s no doubt that High Speed 1 is a brilliant achievement. But, what irked me a little was that all the people involved in the project that were talking about it on this programme were saying how the UK was now up with its European neighbours with high speed rail. Except that, of the G8 nations in the EU (Britain, France, Germany, Italy), France has 1700km of high speed rail, Germany 1300km, Italy 815km and the UK just 110km. In addition, the networks (that’s NETWORKS) in these other countries all link their major cities together. The UK’s line links London with…well, the Channel Tunnel. Not a lot of use for domestic travel really. So, yes, congratulate yourselves for building it, and getting services running. But let’s not go sucking each other’s dicks until such time as the UK starts building an actual high speed network.


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