High-Speed Railroads – Do we need them?

by Michael Smith

Many people may think this question rather frivolous and insincere but it is a serious question indeed.

In fact I would say that we do not need high-speed railways but instead railways that work, are reliable, can get to a destination in a decent time and are running to those destinations in a half-hourly or at least hourly tact.

The current Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has been on about that we need a high-speed railroad to Birmingham to get there in 35 minutes, so I understand, from London.

I would say that we do not need a high-speed railway to Birmingham but we need a rail service that is cheaper than flying there and reliable, which gets you there in an hour and a half or such for definite at a cost of say 40 GBP return and not, as I was quoted in 2008, for 215 GBP.

When we can fly for 65 GBP return to Spain but the train costs well over 200 GBP for a much shorter journey then somewhere along the line something is not right.

Personally I would not mind being on a train to say Birmingham for 1.5 hours or even 2 when I know that I will get there no problem and at a decent low price. And I am not alone here in this. Many a business traveler that I have spoken to and with is with me in this. We all would quite happy be and hour and a half on the train as long as we knew that we will get there at the specified time and at a decent price.

There is no problem spending a little time traveling when at the same time one can do work or, if so inclined, just relax with a good book. The price has to be right, though. No, of the rail travel – not the book.

He powers that be are not going to be able to get people from the car onto the rails if the companies are (1) kept in the hands of people whose only interest is profit for their shareholders and (2) when the prides keep rising, and that well above the rate of inflation. It is not going to work.

One can but wonder whether the “we must get people out of their motorcars” has not another agenda even for, otherwise the rail prices would be kept low. There can be no other answer for this. Something is not right in the state of Denmark, to paraphrase Hamlet – and no, I do not smoke.

Once upon a time, and no, we are not starting a fairytale, trains were relatively cheap and affordable in this country but now they no longer are.

Britain has become the most expensive country, as far as rail travel and public transport is concerned, of all European Union countries. The prices in the UK are 80% higher than those of the next most expensive one, France, and France sure is not cheap. So, how much cheaper are the prices then in other countries, such as Germany, Belgium, Denmark – yes, that place again, and other countries? One can but wonder, can one not.

Now, if it can be done so much cheaper in all those other countries without the rail companies and public transport operators going to the wall then somewhere along the line something does not compute as far as Britain is concerned. Or is it just me.

So, to reiterate once again, we do not need “high-speed” rail links to Birmingham or Scotland; we need cheap and reliable trains that doe the journey, if need be, in a couple of hours rather than 35 minutes or such. Speed is not the issue; the cost however is.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009