High-speed rail in the United Kingdom
The international definition of high-speed rail embraces new lines with a top speed of at least 250 km/h (155 mph) and existing lines with a top speed of around 200 km/h (124 mph). As of 2011, there are four "classic" main railway lines in Britain operating at up to 125 mph (201 km/h), plus 108 km (70 mi) of purpose-built high-speed line.
The first purpose-built high-speed rail line in Britain was the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the first section of which opened in 2003. The building of the line (re-branded "High Speed 1" in 2006) provoked discussion in the national media and specialist rail circles on the merits of constructing further high-speed lines. A second purpose-built high-speed line is now planned by the government — High Speed 2 — which will connect London with Birmingham, and at a later phase cities in northern England (including Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds). Alongside this scheme, are plans by the Scottish Government to build a high-speed rail line between Edinburgh and Glasgow, to open by 2024.
At present, a mixture of 300 km/h (186 mph) Eurostar international services and 225 km/h (140 mph) Southeastern domestic passenger services use High Speed 1. Attempts to increase speeds to 140 mph (225 km/h) on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) and West Coast Main Line (WCML) have both failed, partly because trains that travel above 125 mph (201 km/h) are considered to require in-cab signalling for safety reasons. The term High Speed Train (or HST125) is currently also used as a brand name for the present British fleet of Class 43 125 mph (201 km/h) InterCity diesel trains.
High-speed steam 
During the age of steam locomotion, the British railway industry strove to develop reliable technology for powering high-speed rail services between major cities. Various claims exist for the first locomotive to break the 100 mph (160 km/h) barrier, notably the Great Western Railway's City of Truro (1904) and the LNER's Flying Scotsman (1934). Locomotive power capable of reaching 126 mph (203 km/h) has existed in Britain since 1938 when the LNER's Mallard broke the steam locomotive speed record.
Despite advances in locomotive engineering, the railway infrastructure was unable to support safe running at such high speeds and, until the mid-1970s, the British railway speed limit remained at 100 mph (160 km/h).
The APT 
In the 1970s, British Rail began to explore new technologies for enabling high-speed passenger rail services in the UK. While the Japanese and French railway authorities had decided to build completely new tracks for their respective Shinkansen and TGV high-speed rail systems, British Rail opted instead to develop a train capable of running on existing rail infrastructure: the Advanced Passenger Train (APT), with a top speed of 155 mph (249 km/h). An experimental version, the APT-E was tested between 1972 and 1976. It was equipped with a tilting mechanism which allowed the train to tilt into bends to reduce cornering forces on passengers, and was powered by gas turbines (the first to be used on British Rail since two Brown-Boveri locomotives (18000 and 18100) in the early 1950s). The 1970s oil crisis prompted a rethink in the choice of motive power (as with the prototype TGV in France), and British Rail later opted for traditional electric overhead lines when the pre-production and production APTs were brought into service in 1980-86.
Initial experience with the APT trains was good. They had had a high power-to-weight ratio to enable rapid acceleration; the prototype set record speeds on the Great Western Main Line and the Midland Main Line, and the production versions vastly reduced journey times on the WCML. The APT was, however, beset with technical problems; financial constraints and negative media coverage eventually caused the project to be cancelled.
InterCity 125 
During the same period, British Rail also invested in a separate, parallel project to design a train based on conventional technology as a stopgap. The Intercity 125, otherwise known as the High-Speed Train (HST), was launched in 1976 with a service speed of 125 mph (201 km/h) and provided the first high-speed rail services in Britain. The HST was diesel-powered, and the Great Western Main Line (GWML) was the first to be modified for the new service. Because the GWML had been built mostly straight, often with four tracks and with a distance of 1 mile (ca. 1.6 km) between distant signal and main signal, it allowed trains to run at 125 mph (201 km/h) with relatively moderate infrastructure investments, compared to other countries in Europe. The Intercity 125 had proven the economic case for high-speed rail, and British Rail was keen to explore further advances.
InterCity 225 
BR then proceeded to electrify the ECML and ordered a new fleet of Intercity 225 electric trains in the mid-1980s. These were capable of 140 mph (225 km/h) and although not initially equipped to tilt, were designed to be easily upgraded to tilt mode by having trailer profiles that tapered inwards at the top and suitable bogies. Speeds of 140 mph (225 km/h) were tested on the southern, straighter sections of the ECML by using a flashing green aspect on the signals. This indicated it was safe to proceed above 125 mph (201 km/h), but HMRSI eventually ruled that this was dangerous and that speeds above 125 mph would require in-cab signalling. The 225s were therefore limited to 125 mph (201 km/h) and have been ever since.
Meanwhile, internal studies at BR were investigating the case for a new dedicated track, but none of this work is in the public domain.
High-speed DMUs 
In the early 2000s, a number of Train operating companies introduced diesel multiple units (DMUs) capable of 125 mph (201 km/h) speeds, including the Adelante, Voyager, Super-Voyager and Meridian/Pioneer units.
In 2002, Virgin Trains introduced a new high-speed service on the West Coast Mainline with a fleet of 53 custom-designed Pendolino trains. The nine-car trains were constructed by Alstom and are equipped with a tilting mechanism developed by Fiat to enable them to run at high speeds on existing rail infrastructure, thus fulfilling the aims of the APT project some 30 years later.
The Pendolinos were designed to run at 140 mph (225 km/h), but require in-cab signalling for high-speed operation. The 2004 West Coast Main Line modernisation programme, which was an upgrade to the infrastructure to allow faster line speeds, ran over budget, and plans were consequently scaled back. As with the introduction of the Intercity 225 in the 1980s, the lack of signalling upgrades resulted in the maximum line speed being restricted to 125 mph (201 km/h). Some members of the fleet were later lengthened to 11 carriages.
The following table lists the speeds of the fastest trains operating in Great Britain in 2010 which are capable of a top speed of over 125 mph:
|Name||Locomotive Class||Type||Max. Recorded Speed (mph (km/h))||Max. Design Speed (mph (km/h))||Max. Speed in service (mph (km/h))|
|Eurostar||Class 373||EMU||209 (334.7)||186 (300)||186 (300)|
|Javelin||Class 395||EMU||157 (252)||140 (225)||140 (225)|
|InterCity 225||Class 91||Electric Loco||162 (261)||140 (225)||125 (200)|
|Pendolino||Class 390||EMU||145 (234)||140 (225)||125 (200)|
|InterCity 125||Class 43 (HST)||Diesel Loco||148 (238)||125 (200)||125 (200)|
|Adelante||Class 180||DMU||125 (200)||125 (200)||125 (200)|
|Voyager||Class 220||DEMU||125 (200)||125 (200)||125 (200)|
|Super Voyager||Class 221||DEMU||125 (200)||125 (200)||125 (200)|
|Meridian/Pioneer||Class 222||DEMU||125 (200)||125 (200)||125 (200)|
High Speed 1 (HS1) 
The Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL), now known as High Speed 1 (HS1), was the first new mainline railway to be built in the UK for a century and was constructed by London and Continental Railways. After a lengthy process of route selection and public enquiries in the second half of the 1990s, work got under way on Section 1 from the Channel Tunnel to west of the Medway in 1998 and the line opened in 2003. Section 2, continuing the line to London St Pancras, started soon after Section 1 and was opened to the public on 14 November 2007.
The HS1 line was finished on time and under budget. The reduction in journey times and increase in reliability achieved through the opening of Section 1 enabled Eurostar to capture 71% of the total London-Paris market and over 80% of the leisure market and Section 2 has increased these figures further. Additionally, the connections provided to the WCML, MML and ECML by Section 2 may see growth of hitherto marginal markets, by finally allowing Regional Eurostars to operate, at least on the electrified ECML and WCML. Eurostar's chief executive stated[when?] that the company believes it can take 50% market share even on 4½-hour journeys, a journey time that would put Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds within reach of mainland Europe.
Market share statistics of Eurostar on London-Paris (punctuality between brackets):
- September 2006 (July–September 91.4%)
- August 2005 71.03% (January–September 87%)
- May 2005 69%
- August 2004 67.87% (January–December 84%)
- July 2004 65.88% (January–June 89%)
- October 2003 65%
- July 2003 60.23% (January–June 77%)
The completion and successful operation of CTRL Sections 1 and 2 spurred much discussion and several proposals for new lines in the UK and many interested parties are hoping to capitalise on the momentum given to these ideas by the completion of the complete CTRL. These proposals are discussed below.
The construction of High Speed 1 also permitted the introduction of a new domestic high-speed service when in 2009 Southeastern launched its high-speed route between London St Pancras and Ashford International. Operated with a fleet of British Rail Class 395 trains, the service reaches a top speed of 140 mph (225 km/h). Southeastern High-Speed is currently the only British domestic high-speed service allowed to run above 125 mph (201 km/h).
New high-speed line proposals 
In 2001, two privately sponsored proposals were put forward to build high-speed lines in the UK. The first, from Virgin Trains, was part of its tender for the ECML franchise. The second, from First Group, was independent of the DfT / SRA rail franchising process. Neither was welcomed by the government, which in the wake of the Hatfield rail crash was focused on - as it saw it - getting the rail network back to reliable operations. There was also a suggestion[by whom?] that at that time government officials overseeing the railways favoured increased nationalisation of infrastructure rather than allowing the creation of additional track operators, seemingly against the notion of public-private partnerships (PPPs) promoted elsewhere.
Virgin Trains' ECML bid 
When the ECML franchise (then operated by GNER) came up for its first renewal, Virgin Trains raised the idea of constructing new track and purchasing a new fleet of trains for the line. These so-called VGVs (Virgin Grand Vitesse, after the French TGV) would have been capable of 330 kilometres per hour (210 mph) and would have used a mixture of new track and existing track. The new track would be from Peterborough to Yorkshire and on from Newcastle to the Scottish border. This first line would have opened in 2009 and was chosen for ease of construction in the south and elimination of severe curves in Northumberland. Later, if successful, further stretches would have been upgraded. Publicity material featuring Virgin branded TGV and ICE trains appeared, and it was stated that the stock would be built in Birmingham. Virgin's bid was rejected, and GNER's franchise was renewed.
First Group's plans for the GWML corridor 
Around the same time First Great Western, operator of lines west of London, announced a study into a 320-kilometre-per-hour (200 mph) line from London to South West England and South Wales. First sponsored the study and input was given by other stakeholders in the regions to be served.
Journey times from London given included:
- Swindon 35 mins
- Bristol Parkway 49 mins
- Cardiff Central 70 mins
- Swansea 120 mins
- Plymouth 140 mins
Although First stated that this report would be published and given to the SRA and government, little has been heard of the plan since the initial press release. Many[who?] at the time felt that First should concentrate on day-to-day running of its services.
Government-commissioned studies 
Since the completion of Section 1 of the CTRL, various government departments and ministers have commissioned reports into the viability of high-speed rail. This is in part due to the success of the CTRL project, part due to realisation that upgrades to existing infrastructure offer poor value for money and cannot hope to meet future capacity needs, and part due to increasing environmental concerns over the expansion of the short-haul airline industry.
Atkins study 
In 2001, the SRA commissioned Atkins to perform a feasibility study into the transport and business case for high-speed rail. The study, published on 29 October 2004, looked at combinations of 11 routing options to accommodate forecast traffic flows and concluded:
- New capacity is required to relieve the WCML by 2015
- Further new capacity will be required to relieve all three north-south routes by 2031
- Construction of the complete proposed network would cost £33bn, the shortest option £10bn
- The line would give a cost-benefit ratio of between 1.9 and 2.8 to 1
Furthermore, additional work was done to look at the impact of road pricing, downgrading the enhancements to the ECML, and changes to the Treasury's green book method of assessing project finance. All three areas were found to improve the case for high-speed rail.
The Atkins study proposed a line between London and Stoke-on-Trent, broadly following the existing WCML and using the WCML for onward connection, as its baseline scenario.
- Atkins Option 1
The study concluded that new lines should be built each side of the Pennines, with the eastern line continuing to Edinburgh and Glasgow. A branch also serves Heathrow Airport. This is the £33bn "end game" scenario.
- Atkins Option 8
The study considered a link between Manchester and Leeds but did not take this forward.
- Atkins Option 10
Commission for Integrated Transport 
In 2004 the Commission for Integrated Transport commissioned Steer Davies Gleave to produce a report on high-speed rail. The report focused on the reasons why the costs being quoted for British HSR routes (particularly in Atkins) were high in comparison to other countries, in addition to investigating the business case and transport case for such a network.
The routes studied gave journey times from and to London as follows:
|Destination||Current Journey Time||HSR Journey Time|
|Birmingham||1h 10m||0h 55m|
|Manchester||2h 08m||1h 06m|
|Leeds||2h 05m||1h 25m|
|Liverpool||2h 08m||1h 15m|
|Newcastle||2h 50m||1h 40m|
|Edinburgh||4h 05m||2h 06m|
|Glasgow||4h 20m||2h 32m|
The study gave the following recommendations:
- That the Government and SRA begin to plan now for High-Speed Rail (HSR) as part of a wider strategy to ease the anticipated capacity constraints on the existing networks. Schemes that appear to offer good value for money should be actively progressed.
- That costs of HSR projects are closely examined to bring them closer to the lower costs achieved in Europe. They should take account of possible reductions in underlying costs and further cost reductions if the industry structure, safety regulations and the approvals process were reviewed.
- That the Government examines ways of maximising private sector involvement in HSR. This should take account of the potential impact of any future national road charging scheme on passenger demand and its potential to make private sector investment more attractive.
- That changes in the appraisal process be considered relating to value of time, economic impact analysis, environmental assessments and risk/optimism bias allowances.
- Additional capacity will be required by 2015
- Ways to reduce the currently high cost of new rail infrastructure such as high-speed lines include:
- Building lines in phases rather than all at once could produce a cost saving of 20%-30%
- British project management, planning, design and legal costs can reach 25% of the total cost (compared with 3% on the Spanish Madrid - Lerida line) and could therefore be reduced
- If these cost savings materialise, then the benefits could outweigh the costs by 3 to 1
Eddington report 
In 2006 British Airways' former chief executive Sir Rod Eddington produced a report on future transport strategy.
The report covered all transport modes and had initially been expected to strongly recommend investment in high-speed rail. However, on 29 August 2006 The Times reported that Sir Rod would state that given a limited transport budget, a high-speed rail link is not the most cost-effective option to obtain higher capacity on the rail network and therefore should not be built. Most of the press continued to take this line when the report was finally published, drawing scorn from both opposition parties, Labour back-benchers and transport pressure groups alike. The report seemed to confirm this:
“ Significant momentum has built behind the case for a new network of very high-speed rail lines in the UK. This is often associated with new technologies, such as magnetic levitation devices, currently in very limited use in China. The business case is often argued to rest on the transformational impact of such a network on the UK’s economic geography. However, new high-speed rail networks in the UK would not significantly change the level of economic connectivity between most parts of the UK, given existing aviation and rail links. Even if a transformation in connectivity could be achieved, the evidence is very quiet on the scale of resulting economic benefit, and in France business use of the high speed train network is low.
Faced with such arguments, supporters of HSLs point to the capacity increases such new lines would deliver in London and selected urban areas by removing some or all interurban trains from commuter and freight lines. Such benefits are likely to be both real and substantial. Crucially though, these goals could be achieved by other solutions, and perhaps at much lower cost. The range of policy measures would include fares pricing policy, signal-based methods of achieving more capacity on the existing network, and conventional solutions to capacity problems e.g. longer trains. Indeed, in keeping with a non-modal approach, the measures assessed should include improvements to other modes that support these journeys (e.g. motorway, bus, and urban access improvements).
New lines – including new very high-speed lines – should take their place within this range of policy measures, and each should be assessed on their merits before selecting the option that offers the greatest returns on investment. An alternative argument is sometimes made on environmental grounds because a very high speed line from London to Scotland could attract modal shift from air. Such arguments must be made with care given that total domestic aviation emissions, including flight between other cities, account for 1.2 per cent of the UK’s annual carbon emissions (CO2 equivalent), including allowance for the climate change impacts of non-carbon emissions from aviation. Furthermore, rail’s energy consumption and carbon emissions increase with speed and this would erode rail’s environmental advantage and so it is important to consider the costs involved in reducing carbon emissions in this way.
However, Sir Rod later claimed both to the press and to a parliamentary select committee that he was quoted out of context in reports at the time, had aimed his comments specifically at speculative MagLev options, and in fact was in favour of using conventional high-speed rail to relieve congestion once existing main lines reached capacity. Nevertheless, enthusiasm for such projects seemed to wane after the report's publication, at least in Westminster. The topic remained much on the political agenda in the North East of England and Scotland.
Greengauge 21 Study 
|Greengauge 21 Proposal (2009)|
In June 2007, the campaign group Greengauge 21, led by Jim Steer, published a proposal for High Speed Two. It evaluated options for high-speed rail in the UK and recommended an £11bn route from London St Pancras and Heathrow to Birmingham and the North West, which they dubbed HS2. The report recommended the new line be built in the M40/Chiltern Main Line corridor, and used it as the basis for its findings. This route has the greatest strategic advantage, as the Chiltern Main Line is a popular alternative to the WCML from Birmingham to London, and also lends the opportunity to build a branch line to Heathrow Airport, giving the passengers served by the WCML a direct service to one of the world's premier international airports. The WCML is also the corridor which would be under the most pressure in the next 15 – 20 years. A connection to High Speed 1 would allow Eurostar terminals to open in Birmingham and Manchester.
Branching off HS1, it would briefly follow the WCML and GWML, branching off at the connection with the Central Line, going to Northolt Junction, where it will follow the Chiltern Main Line and have a triangular junction serving a branch to Heathrow. The line will be tunnelled at Chiltern stations, up till Princes Risborough, where it will incorporate itself with the intercity line, up to Banbury, where it will branch off and hug the M40 and M42, before joining the Birmingham Loop, at Birmingham International/NEC. Links to Milton Keynes and Oxford via the Varsity Line, and Banbury in the middle of the Line, would experience a growth in services. Local services on Chiltern, WCML south of Rugby, and Banbury - Coventry - Birmingham could be intensified.
The new line would enable journey times of:
- London to Birmingham in 45 minutes
- Birmingham to Paris in 3 hours
- London to Manchester (via the WCML after the Trent Valley) in 1 hour 30 minutes
- Manchester to Paris in 3 hours 45 minutes
The line would be built to the continental loading gauge, allowing the use of double-decker trains.
On 3 July 2007 reports appeared in several British newspapers about the UK government's forthcoming 30-year strategy (see below). It was stated that "Britain may need High Speed Two", but that "the strategy will stop short of promising to pay for the line".
In September 2009, Greengauge 21 published a new study into High Speed Rail. This was far more extensive than Network Rail's proposal, calling for a full, integrated high-speed network totalling around 1500 km. Greengauge's plan calls for two north/south corridors from London, which would broadly parallel the ECML and WCML, together with three east/west corridors between London-Bristol, Sheffield-Manchester and Edinburgh-Glasgow. Both the north/south lines would consist of new-built high-speed lines, while the east/west corridors would run on existing lines upgraded to allow 200 km/h running. One of the central parts of the Greengauge 21 proposal is to have it linked directly with High Speed 1, to allow through running to the Channel Tunnel, thus enabling trains to run direct from regional cities to Europe. The draft timetable produced as part of the plan estimates that trains could run between Birmingham and Paris in approximately 3 hours.
- High-Speed North-East - the North-East route would run north from London to Cambridge, with a spur connecting to Stansted Airport, before diverting towards the East Midlands, stopping at Nottingham and Sheffield. It would then run as far as Leeds, before resuming the route of the ECML towards Newcastle. Between Newcastle and Edinburgh, the route would consist of existing upgraded line rather than new build.
- High-Speed North-West - the North-West route would be completely new build. This would run north towards Birmingham, with a spur to Heathrow Airport, before reaching Manchester and Liverpool. Both of these would be on branches off the main line, with Manchester at a triangular junction; the main line would continue north where it would fork, with branches to Glasgow and Edinburgh, where it would connect with the North-East Line.
- High-Speed West - the Western corridor would consist of existing track upgraded to 200 km/h, and would run west out of London stopping at Heathrow, Bristol and Cardiff. A triangular junction at Heathrow would allow access from these western destinations to the North-West route without the need to go via London.
- High-Speed Trans-Pennine - the Trans-Pennine route would be a short corridor of upgraded line connecting Sheffield and Manchester. Both of these would be on triangular junctions, allowing access to all destinations on the North-East and North-West corridors.
- High-Speed Scotland - the Scottish route would be a corridor between Edinburgh and Glasgow, consisting of entirely new-build line.
Government White Paper: Delivering a Sustainable Railway 
In July 2007, the new Transport Secretary, Ruth Kelly, delivered a white paper on the future of the railways. The report outlined the government's strategic plan for the railways until 2037. It overlooked high-speed rail options, the government opting instead for "further study" and saying that dedicated "magnetic rail link" and freight lines were "too expensive". Amongst the support documentation for the white paper was a report by transport professors Roderick Smith and Roger Kemp which reviewed the options for a MagLev trunk line, particularly those proposed by UK Ultraspeed, and concluded that it was a high-risk option, with a high impact on transport energy use and therefore Carbon dioxide emissions.
Second Atkins study 
In March 2008, The Observer and The Sunday Times both reported that a second report for the Department of Transport by Atkins entitled Because Transport Matters showed that the original Option 8 (a high-speed network on both west and east coasts) would give a benefit of £63bn, well in excess of the predicted costs of £31bn. The report suggested building two 300 kilometres per hour (190 mph) lines on the East and West coasts. The West coast line would run to Manchester, and the East coast line would run to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Travel times of 71 minutes to Manchester and 74 minutes to Sheffield were mentioned in the report.
High Speed Two 
High Speed Two (HS2) is a proposed high-speed railway in the United Kingdom serving London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Leeds, or alternatively London, Manchester, Liverpool, Preston, Glasgow and Edinburgh but not Sheffield. The UK Government launched a formal high-speed rail project in January 2009, and high-speed rail has the support of all three main political parties. The UK Government has now approved construction, due to begin in 2017, with the first trains running by 2025. Subject to consultation, the London terminus for the high-speed line would be Euston, a new Birmingham city-centre station would be built at Curzon Street, and there would be interchange stations with Crossrail west of Paddington and with the existing intercity rail network near Birmingham airport. The only other high-speed route in the UK is High Speed 1 (also known as the 'Channel Tunnel Rail Link').
HS2's proposal is for a Y-shaped network between London and England's major regional cities, serving Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, East Midlands and Newcastle, with connections on to the West Coast and East Coast main lines to allow through servcies to Scotland. The Greengauge 21 study states that the total route length, including the connections to the existing network and High Speed One, would be 150 miles (240 km).
Network Rail study 
|Network Rail High Speed Proposal|
In August 2009, Network Rail published a study outlining its proposals for the expansion of the railway network. The headline proposal was its plan for a new high-speed rail line between London and Glasgow/Edinburgh, following a route through the West Midlands and the North-West of England. This plan, whereby the new line would follow a similar but not totally parallel route to the West Coast Main Line, would involve trains running from both London and Birmingham as southern termini to Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Included in the report are draft timings which put Birmingham less than an hour from London, Manchester just over an hour, Liverpool just under 90 minutes, and just over two hours to Glasgow and Edinburgh, with sixteen trains per hour estimated from London, and four trains per hour between the regional cities. The report also looked into the question of services to Heathrow Airport, and came to the conclusion that running all trains from London via Heathrow reduced the benefit of the line by as much as £3 billion. Instead, Network Rail's proposal would entail a short spur from the main line terminating at Heathrow, reducing the road and air traffic to the airport from the cities that the line would serve. Network Rail also outlined the case for not including such areas as Leeds and the North-East of England in the proposal, with two main points:
- The journey time from London to Leeds via Manchester would not be reduced significantly enough over the existing route via the East Coast Main Line to warrant the cost of building the connection.
- Leeds would be the top target market for any proposed high-speed line from London to North-East of England, so building a connection to Leeds would reduce the strength of the case for that.
Heathrow Airport to Gatwick Airport 
The UK Government is studying a proposal for a 180 mph line between London Heathrow and Gatwick Airports. The journey would take 15 minutes and provide the first direct rail link between the two airports. The plan could virtually make Heathrow and Gatwick into a single hub.
Technology choices 
Any operators of a new high-speed route are faced with a decision on which technology to use. There are two alternative technically viable but incompatible propulsion technologies available to allow speeds of over 200 mph: Wheel-on-rail (high-speed but essentially traditional railway trains) and magnetic levitation (Maglev) trains and variations of both exist.
Most high-speed systems in use in the world today use highly developed but otherwise traditional rail technology, designed to operate at 300 km/h (186 mph) or marginally higher speeds. All railways operating at these speeds on a regular basis use electric traction, although onboard power generation has been considered in the past. Full details of this type of traction can be seen on the High Speed Rail page.
There are various train architectures in use: articulated rakes of coaches have been used by Alstom for the TGV, Eurostar and derivatives of these trains and more recently with the Bombardier Talgo AVE S-102. Meanwhile Siemens and Japanese manufacturers of the Shinkansen have promoted non-articulated multiple unit designs with the Velaro, ICE 3 and bullet trains. More recently, Alstom combined the benefits of both with the AGV. It was partly used to achieve the current TGV's world record of 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph), set in April 2007.
Two high-speed systems are either being deployed or close to being deployed worldwide:
The other main Maglev technology close to deployment is JR–Maglev in Japan, where an alternative and incompatible system to Transrapid has been developed. This uses cooled, superconducting magnets to improve efficiency and currently holds the Maglev speed record of 581 km/h (361 mph). The Japanese government has approved plans to extend the experimental Yamanashi line into a full link between Tokyo and Osaka (Chūō Shinkansen).
Route choices 
||This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2011)|
The promoters of both wheel-on-rail and maglev systems in Britain, and the technology-agnostic studies that have been commissioned by government departments and third parties, have concentrated on the North-South axis of Britain for the first route. There is some disagreement on whether a single central route, both west and east coast routes, or a single S-shaped route taking in the major population centres (as proposed by maglev promoters) should be constructed first.
All studies have argued that a hub at Heathrow Airport would be desirable as both an interchange for air services and local rail services to the west and south of London, but several studies also show it would not be financially viable due to extra tunnelling costs. The Atkins study has identified routes to the West Midlands, Liverpool and Manchester as being capacity constrained by 2015 and this is almost certainly where the first HSL will be required. Atkins also recommended having two routes, one each side of the Pennines. The study recommends against a trunk and branch structure.
Various route options between London and Birmingham have also been suggested, some incorporating an intermediate stop in the vicinity of either Oxford (a city of international prominence), or Northampton (being roughly half-way), or at another point which will allow convenient interchange with the national rail network (e.g. Bicester, for both the Chiltern Main Line and East West Rail Link).
The Maglev option, promoted by UK Ultraspeed, takes a route from London to Manchester, with a branch to Liverpool, then directly across the Pennines to Leeds, with a branch to Sheffield, before heading north east to Teesside and Tyneside then north to Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Atkins study includes a trans-Pennine option, but puts more emphasis on a line through the East Midlands to Sheffield, Leeds and then north on a similar trajectory to that of the maglev.
Use of existing infrastructure 
The advantage of conventional wheel-on-rail technology is that it can use existing infrastructure to access city centres. So far, the studies have stopped short of recommending a London terminus, but it is generally assumed that it would be at or close to the High Speed 1 station at St Pancras. Indeed, it is assumed that the route would interface directly with HS1 to allow through running. However, the new railway will most likely be built to the larger continental loading gauge — just as with HS1 — so access to city centre stations over existing lines will require structures on the route to be altered and therefore negate some of the advantage conventional technology has in this respect.
The UK Ultraspeed proposal does not envisage a Central London terminus at all, but instead proposes stations at Heathrow and Stratford. The latter would offer direct connections with Eurostar and both terminals would connect to the city centre via Crossrail. The route from Stratford would follow the Lea Valley and meet the Heathrow branch at a parkway station by the M25 on the north side of London. UK Ultraspeed argues that this gives direct access to more relevant locations in and around London than a single terminus at or near the Euston Road.
Many British cities have existing rail corridors which are currently not in use, and some proposals for new high speed routes emphasise the use of these, to enable interchanges with existing railway stations. In some cases, these corridors were formerly rail freight or locomotive yards; others are the remains of closed routes. In many cases the corridors are incomplete, having been encroached upon by development, or with bridges having been removed. In many cases they are protected by local town planning policy documents. Where their re-use is possible, it is considered more sustainable, and cheaper, than the wholesale construction of a new route through (or under) the urban landscape.
Direct vs maximum intermediate population coverage 
A route taking in many of the major cities along the UK Ultraspeed route - crossing the Pennines and maximising the number of journey options possible with a single train - would total 700 km (430 mi). A route taking a line east of the Pennines, missing Birmingham and Manchester but including Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds, would total 634 km (394 mi) along the core. By comparison, today's WCML is 642 km (399 mi) end-to-end.
Taking the new Madrid–Barcelona high-speed rail line as an example of the state of the art, the trains available for a conventional British high-speed line would be capable of 350 kilometres per hour (220 mph). The Spanish line is 621 kilometres (386 mi) long with an advertised journey time of 2½ hours, giving an average speed of 248 kilometres per hour (154 mph). Furthermore, since the opening of the LGV Est, a TGV covers the 167.6 kilometres (104.1 mi) from Lorraine TGV railway station to Champagne-Ardenne TGV railway station in 36 minutes, at an average speed of 279.3 kilometres per hour (173.5 mph). This service calls at both stations and so is representative of a high-speed service with 100 mile stopping frequency. Moreover, the TGV that achieves these timings is only capable of 320 kilometres per hour (200 mph) and so is slower than the Spanish unit.
This shows that the time penalty incurred by routing the line via Birmingham and Manchester could be expected to be less than 15 minutes for Leeds and points north. At this average speed, Glasgow would be 2½ hours from London. In contrast, UK Ultraspeed claims an end-to-end journey time of 2 hours 35 minutes, and passengers wishing to access Central London would need to take a Crossrail journey of at least 15 minutes and change trains.
What must also be considered is that despite the direct "East of the Pennines" route having a shorter core length, in order to provide services to Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, branches of considerable length are required. Therefore, the overall amount of extra track required is three times that of the core length of the "S" option that takes in Birmingham and Manchester directly. These branches come to an additional 201 kilometres (125 mi) of route, as opposed to the 66 kilometres (41 mi) outlined above. The option still requires a traversal of the Pennines.
The additional route length involved in the "S" option is nearly identical to that incurred by Eurostar trains, which are routed through Lille, on their way from London to Paris. The detour adds approximately 41 miles to that journey, yet timings remain competitive with air and Eurostar enjoys significant market share. It is only now, 15 years after the construction of the LGV Nord, that discussions over a proposed direct line, the LGV Picardie, are taking place.
HSR promoters 
The recent interest in high-speed rail generated by the success of the CTRL has led to the formation of several companies and non-profit groups aiming to further the construction of domestic high-speed lines in Britain. The principal groups are:
Greengauge21 is a non-profit group aiming to establish conventional high-speed wheel-on-rail technology as the mode of choice for new lines. The group has performed studies on routeing, environmental issues and the use of high-speed rail as an alternative to short haul airlines.
Currently it is proposing a new high-speed line between, at first, London and Birmingham. This is tentatively called High Speed Two.
UK Ultraspeed 
UK Ultraspeed is a company formed to promote Transrapid magnetic levitation trains as the basis for a UK network. It works closely with Transrapid itself to keep maglev at the forefront of discussions in the government and media and is performing feasibility studies for a British route.
London and Continental Railways 
It was reported in August 2006 that London and Continental Railways (the developers of HS1) was to put forward a high-speed rail scheme to the Department for Transport this autumn. Its scheme would cost between £12 billion and £19 billion depending on the route chosen. The timing of this was to depend on the release of the Eddington Report described above. It is not known if this scheme was advanced in the light of subsequent developments.
Eleven cities campaign 
Eleven big cities announced a joint campaign for a high-speed rail network serving the entire of Great Britain on 9 September 2009. Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield stated as their goal that The campaign will be deliberately focused on the importance of building a whole network to link all our major economic centres together, not simply a sterile debate about where a first route should go. 
Other developments 
Intercity Express Programme (IEP) 
On 8 March 2007, the Department for Transport invited bidders to participate in the Intercity Express Programme or IEP. This is a project to replace the ageing Intercity 125 and subsequently Intercity 225 fleets with a new high-speed train designed to operate on the ECML, GWML and Cross Country routes. The project grew out of discussions between First Group and Siemens in the early years of the decade, later being taken over by the SRA and DfT.
On 12 February 2009, the DfT announced that Agility Trains, a consortium led by Hitachi, was the preferred bidder, with a train named the Hitachi Super Express. In February 2010 it was announced the programme was suspended pending an independent report, with a decision on its viability to be given after the 2010 General Election.
Liberal Democrats publish plans for British high-speed rail network 
On 2 August 2007, the BBC reported that the Liberal Democrats proposed the building of a high-speed rail network in Great Britain, connecting London with Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Tyneside and Scotland in the north and Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter in the west. Funding for the investment would come from an extra £10 tax per ticket on internal flights in Britain and tolls on road freight, mirroring similar toll schemes in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
On 22 August 2007, a Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP tabled a motion to the Scottish Parliament calling for a high-speed rail link between Edinburgh, Glasgow and London.
Tories publish plans to force short-haul passengers on to high-speed rail 
On 28 August 2007, The Times reported that the Conservative Party has found that 20% of all flights from Heathrow are to destinations that can be - or soon will be able to be - reached in a competitive time by high-speed rail (the top ten short haul destinations are; Paris, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Manchester, Brussels, Glasgow, Newcastle, Leeds/Bradford, Rotterdam and Durham/Tees Valley). They plan to impose a moratorium on airport expansion and force this traffic on to the railways, freeing up slots for long-haul flights and removing the need for a third runway at Heathrow and a second runway at Stansted.
Arup publishes plan for HS2 
On 2 December 2007, The Sunday Times reported that engineering group Arup, a member of the consortium behind High Speed One, was to put forward a plan for a second British high-speed line to the North of England and Lowland Scotland via Heathrow Airport. This would enable direct transfers between flights and trains to Continental Europe and British regions. The plan, closely resembling that of Greengauge21, was to be formally announced later in week commencing 3 December 2007.
Network Rail planning five high-speed lines 
In June 2008 the BBC and The Daily Telegraph reported that Network Rail was planning five high-speed domestic lines in Britain. The lines would parallel the East Coast, West Coast, Midland, Chiltern and Great Western Main Lines. A further line was planned to follow the route of the former L&SWR and GWR via Exeter to Plymouth and Penzance.
On 23 June, further details appeared on the Network Rail website. It has been mooted that the high-speed lines would be parallel to existing lines, although the possibility of the East-coast line passing through Stansted Airport has also been discussed.
See also 
- Rail transport in Great Britain
- High Speed 1
- High Speed 2
- Channel Tunnel
- Department for Transport
- Greengauge 21
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