||It has been suggested that this article be merged into Transrapid. (Discuss) Proposed since July 2013.|
The UK Ultraspeed line was a proposed high speed magnetic-levitation train line between London and Glasgow, linking 16 stations including Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle and six airports. It was rejected for development in 2007 by the UK government in favour of high speed rail. The company behind the proposal ceased efforts to promote it in early 2013.
The proposal was a system based on Transrapid technology; the trains would travel at up to 500 km/h (310 mph) reducing journey times. With a total route length of 800 km (500 mi) the system would have been over twenty-six times longer than the 30.5 km (19.0 mi) Shanghai Maglev Train (also using Transrapid technology).[original research?]
The proposed route was to serve cities on both the West Coast Main Line and East Coast Main Line with spurs to Liverpool and Heathrow Airport. The promoters claimed the route would assist the economic integration and development of its east-west segments (rather than focused on London) and that "only maglev can effectively serve both roles (regional-scale super-metro and intercity), using the same vehicles"[non-primary source needed] The proposed network include three stations serving London with Heathrow Airport, a Park and Ride at the M1/M25 junction and either a Stratford or Kings Cross station. Rapid acceleration would have allowed all-stops service and still provide shorter door-to-door travel times than comparable air services. The projected total cost was between £29 billion (promoter estimate) and £60 billion (UK government estimate) including all guideways, land and gliding stock.
By comparison the preferred 531 km (330 mi) High Speed 2 rail network will have a 'trunk' from London to Birmingham branching to Manchester and Leeds respectively, at an estimated cost of between £52 billion (UK Government) and £80 billion (Institute of Economic Affairs). These estimates includes track, land and rolling stock.
Proposed Journey Times
The following are the hypothetical journey times in minutes compared with present journey times by train. The table also includes the proposed journey times of High Speed 2.
|Between||Present time||High Speed 2 time a||Ultraspeed timeb|
|London and Birmingham||84 minutes||49 minutes||30 minutes|
|London and Manchester||128 minutes||68 minutes||54 minutes|
|London and Liverpool||128 minutes||96 minutes||73 minutes|
|London and Leeds||132 minutes||82 minutes||74 minutes|
|London and Glasgow||248 minutes||218 minutes||160 minutes|
|Manchester and Liverpool||50 minutes||N/Ac||18 minutes|
|Manchester and Leeds||54 minutes||N/Ac||19 minutes|
^a High Speed 2 times base limited stopping service with 1, 2 or 3 stops depending on the route. ^b Ultraspeed times include stopping at every intermediate station. ^c Not part of the current proposed route for High Speed 2
This system would have travelled at a top speed of 500 km/h (310 mph). Acceleration and deceleration would have been more rapid than a conventional rail; this would have reduced the number of trains required for the same level of service and increased the amount of time at top speed, decreasing point-to-point travel times. The promoters quoted 5 km for maglev to reach 300kph rail service reducing the acceleration distance by 75% and 27 vehicle units for a London-Manchester-(Liverpool)-Leeds network.
The elevated guideway of maglev would both have required a 'land-grab' of ~2.5 m² per linear metre of guideway and even allowed for wayleave rental of air rights rather than purchase of the alignment, thus saving on capital costs. Savings on land purchases would also defray the cost of any tunneling required. The minimum curve radius of 1,600 m at 300 km/h and a maximum gradient of up to 10% would allow the guideway to follow existing roadways such as the M62 corridor across the Pennines. Also because the guideway would have been elevated it would have travelled over most existing infrastructure.
Because high speed rail reduces the number of journeys taken by car and aeroplane between cities and would, in turn, contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport. In the case of maglev, the presumed take-up of rail travel would be higher as it provides realistic alternative to short-haul flights and the better point-to-point times compared to car travel. The promoters also state the noise of the maglev vehicles at 500 km/h (90dB(A) @ 25m) is lower than HSR. (The vehicles would run at 200 km/h on city approaches with a noise no louder than the urban background of 70 db(A)).[third-party source needed]
The promoters claimed the Shanghai maglev which uses the same technology ran at 99.9% availability, due to factors such as the main control equipment would have been static in the guideway and also given there would have been no mechanical contact between the vehicles and the guideway there would have been little wear of either under normal operation. Maintenance costs were estimated at 35% to 50% lower than high speed rail.
In the promoter's factbook, their estimated cost estimates are £20M-24.75M/km which compared to the High Speed 1 known cost of £46M-48M/km shows would have shown marked reduction in cost compared to the slower High Speed 1 channel tunnel link.[non-primary source needed] The promoter contended that at this level of saving, it would have been important to fully investigate the costing before committing to something that was potentially twice as expensive per km for a much less useful system.[original research?] For comparison, the system in Shanghai equates to around £28M/km, which was not directly comparable due to differing construction conditions in China.[original research?]
In preparation for the 2007 whitepaper that ultimately rejected the maglev proposal the government commissioned a report by transport professors Roderick Smith and Roger Kemp which reviewed the option. Their report raised a number a major criticisms of the Ultraspeed proposal including:
- Maglev would use 40% more energy than HSR. Carbon dioxide emissions would increase because of this. Only about 10% of passengers would transfer from air travel so there would be minimal savings.
- car travel with at least one passenger would emit less carbon dioxide
- stations on the outskirts of cities would not replace ordinary rail as door-to-door travel times would be similar. These station locations would also encourage car use.
- there is limited experience with maintenance costs and with passenger comfort on a winding, undulating and long route as would be required in the proposal.
- the vehicles do not comply with UK existing safety standards
- realistic costings on land acquisition, service diversion, provision of feeder services to city centres and power supply feeds had yet to be prepared.
- a major disadvantage of maglev is its inconpatibility with existing infrastructure.
- the use of proprietary technology is potentially in conflict with European Directives on interoperability or competition policy
Documents published by the promoters contest the findings on energy use, carbon dioxide emissions and savings in travel times  however there does not seem to have been formal response published. The route diagrams published by UK Ultraspeed state "central" city stations for five of the fifteen non-airport stations proposed.
The project was rejected for future planning in the Government White Paper Delivering a Sustainable Railway published on 24 July 2007 in favour of conventional High Speed Rail. It cited the following reasons:
- given construction costs in Shanghai were three times higher than equivalent high speed rail so the projected cost is likely to be "of the order of £60 billion", not £29 billion claimed by UK Ultraspeed
- the maglev technology is proven over relatively short point-to-point stretches of line, but scaling it up to a national network introduces a further level of technical risk.
- the higher speed of maglev inherently involves higher levels of aerodynamic noise and energy consumption.
- the capacity of maglev would be substantial, but it offers less potential operational flexibility than a conventional railway
- speed is not of itself a strategic priority
The promoters of the project rejected these criticisms and pointed out an error in the White Paper which stated that the £29 billion "excluded land-take" whereas this was included in UK Ultraspeed's estimates. They tried to get the government to reconsider its rejection but in May 2013 they announced cessation of promotional activities.
- "UK Ultraspeed evidence to the Eddington Review". October 2006. p. 94.
- "UK Ultraspeed: Response to High Speed 2 consultation".
- "High Speed 2 (HS2) Railway, United Kingdom".
- "The High-Speed Gravy Train: Special Interests, Transport Policy and Government Spending". 19 Aug 2013.
- "Better journeys between cities | HS2". hs2.org.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
- "Trains Manchester to Leeds | Get times and cheap tickets | thetrainline.com". thetrainline.com. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
- "500km/h ground transport for Britain". UK Ultraspeed. Retrieved 2012-12-13.
- Kemp, R.; Smith, R. (June 2007). "Technical issues raised by the proposal to introduce a 500 km/h magnetically-levitated transport system in the UK".
- "Delivering a Sustainable Railway". Department for Transport. July 2007. Retrieved 2012-12-13.
- "UK Ultraspeed - Change In Status". 2013-05-14.
- UK Ultraspeed
- Link to BBC Newsnight film about UK Ultraspeed (at top right of page)
- International Maglev Board - with a special UK Ultraspeed section