Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Try reading something

Posted in Great Britain, High Speed, Infrastructure, Politics by Chairman Pip on 8 December 2010

If a man has a straw coloured, unruly mop of hair, can he really be taken seriously? Can anything that comes out of his mouth be digested without thinking “what a Class A1 idiot”? You may think I’m referring to Boris Johnson but, as it happens, I’m not. Instead I’m talking about Michael Fabricant, the current Honourable Member for Lichfield. He has made a statement “urging the Prime Minister to re-think the route and use tilting trains” when it comes to High Speed 2. His rationale for making such a statement is that HS2 Ltd made no reference at all to the potential use of tilting trains in its initial report under the previous government.

The only excuse I have heard from HS2 so far is that ‘the tilting makes passengers sick’ which is the what I heard years ago about not using Pendolinos. I occasionally suffer from seasickness, but haven’t ever felt the need to throw up on a Virgin Pendolino. Yet.

There is a reason that HS2 made no reference to the use of tilting trains. The plan is that trains on High Speed 2 will run at 250mph, which is the whole purpose of building a genuine high speed line. Even tilting trains would have trouble taking sharp curves at that kind of speed, with it more likely they’d hop the rail and fly off in some other direction (probably straight on). Now, as spectacular as it would be to see a Class 390 airborne, I’d just as soon not. So, building our High Speed 2 with Mr Fabricant’s proposed twisty, “lets avoid all the Tory constituencies in the Chilterns” route immediately brings our speed down to no more than 155mph, not that much faster than the inital top speed on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen when it opened in 1964, and much much slower than modern high speed trains. The whole point of building High Speed 2 is to allow faster travel than now. Indeed, were it not for the issue of in-cab signalling, we would probably have express trains running at 140mph on both the East and West Coast Main Lines. In any case, building High Speed 2 as a corkscrew rather than a ruler means any possibility of through running to the Tunnel, and thence to the European network, goes out the window, because the TGV and ICE trains used at over 200mph in France, Germany and elsewhere, would not be able to run, because they don’t tilt.

It occurs to me that those vocal objectors to building High Speed 2 on its proposed route don’t seem to have made any effort to speak to people affected by the construction of High Speed 1. I recall that there was furore and uproar over taking it straight through the heart of north Kent, thus bulldozing “The Garden of England”. Has it not occured to anyone that nobody seems to complain about it, even when a train does go by? Has it also not occured to people that construction techniques are a lot different, and the preservation of the environment around such a project is one of the paramount concerns in this day and age? But I suppose those things don’t matter to the Nimby on a mission.

“PM urged to re-think high speed rail route and use tilting trains”
“High Speed Rail doesn’t have to be ugly”

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