Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

“…the rennaissance was just something that happened to other people.”

Posted in America, Europe, Great Britain, Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 18 January 2011

Results released last week have led the Chief Executive of Eurostar, Nicolas Petrovic, to claim that there is a “railway rennaissance” occuring. The operator carried a total of 9.5m people in 2010, up from 9.2m the year before, and in spite of the bad press it got from its train failure difficulties in the winter. In addition, Eurostar is now accounting for 75% of the rail/air market for travel between London, Paris and Brussels:

This is an exciting time for our passengers and our industry. With the expansion of new routes and services we are witnessing a real renaissance in rail travel.
Nicolas Petrovic, CEO Eurostar

This optimism is in spite of the continued machinations of Alstom and their case to have Eurostar’s attempted acquisition of their Siemens Velaro trains stopped. And it is true that, if Eurostar are prevented from purchasing the e320, then reaching new destinations may end up proving difficult, as the Class 373 units are restricted to 25kV AC and 3kV DC pickup using the OHLE – the German ICE network operates off of 15kV, while most of the railway network in the Netherlands uses 1.5kV DC. The Velaro platform has been designed with multisystem current operation, enabling it to operate without interuption in all of these countries, while the Class 373 is restricted to the high speed network and the ordinary network in Belgium. Nevertheless, despite this, it’s my view that Eurostar is on the up, and is leading the rennaissance in the use of the train. I expect Deutsche Bahn to be granted access to the Tunnel sooner rather than later, and potentially other operators will follow. But it isn’t just on the high speed, trans-European railways. I think it is a given that domestic air travel is on the downward – how many people fly internally in France or Germany anymore? The trend is becoming more noticible in the UK as well, with 85% of the London-Manchester market taken by the train, while 64% of people travelling between London and Newcastle ride the rails. Then there’s the case of cattle-truck commuter trains into all of our major cities as more and more people forsake their cars in order to get to work, leading to vehement protests about lack of train carriages. Even though there is anger at the conditions, it is still the case that more people are choosing to use the train. And not just in Europe either – many cities in the US are moving onto the idea of commuter rail, while, in spite of the results of the 2010 mid-term elections, the prospect remains good of having some form of high speed rail connecting cities across the country. The Chinese are busy building the world’s biggest high speed network, airport rail links are opening all over, new light rail projects seem to spring up daily. Even in spite of the global financial crisis, there seems to be an appetite for rail projects which, after all, are sources of both short-term infrastructure investment and long-term economic growth. So I think it is fair for Nicolas Petrovic to claim that there is a “rennaissance in rail travel”. Here’s hoping it continues.

“Eurostar boosted by rail ‘renaissance'”

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