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UK Green Lights HS2 High Speed Rail Line 329

Posted by samzenpus
from the rollin-all-night-long dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The United Kingdom has given the green light to the first phase of its proposed High Speed Two train line. In response to environmental concerns, the route for HS2 will now include extra tunneling in the first 90 miles, so not to disrupt the natural beauty of the English countryside. The first phase will connect London to Birmingham and could be functional by 2026."
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UK Green Lights HS2 High Speed Rail Line

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  • by anyanka (1953414) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @04:08AM (#38671528)
    ...any chance they'll ever fix the horrible mess they've made of the non-high speed lucky-if-you-get-there-alive train service in the UK?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dominic (3849)

      Unlikely, seeing as the three largest parties don't support renationalisation of the trains.

      • They don't have to nationalise it, just impose caps on fares and mandate track improvements (you know, the ones the taxpayer spends a few hundred million pounds on every few years) actually be completed. Then, if the companies do go bust and no one will buy them, I suppose they could be nationalised...
        • by Dominic (3849)

          ...except that is exactly what they're not doing when the companies go bust, even when they are much more efficient when (briefly) run by the state.

          The last government didn't do this either, despite a motion suggesting exactly this being passed by 2:1 at the 2004 Labour conference.

          • by myurr (468709) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @06:28AM (#38672038)

            Except Labour did effectively renationalise Network Rail when they forced Railtrack into administration and then created Network Rail to take its place paying £500m in the process. However they couldn't call it nationalisation otherwise they would have had to pay an extra £1.5bn to the shareholders, so instead they created a really convoluted management structure but still get to have their say in how it is run due to the government paying for various projects and by being able to appoint a director that other members cannot remove. Network Rails debts (all £20bn) are also underwritten by the government. Network Rail receives something in the region of £5bn a year in taxpayers money on top of the revenue collected from the tain operators.

            So the tracks, signalling and numerous stations are all state owned and state run. And yet the regulator says that Network Rail is significantly less efficient than other track operators across Europe (some 30+% less efficient), and we still have massive infrastructure problems in the UK.

            The train operators are pretty dire, thanks to privatisation that didn't include competition at the passenger level which makes it a state sanctioned monopoly, but it is laughable to suggest that things were any better when the entire show was publicly run or that Network Rail are doing any better. The UK government, or more rightly the civil service as this spans multiple governments, doesn't exactly have a stellar record in delivering value for money or even just good services let alone large scale projects. Can you name one major project that has come in under budget or ahead of schedule? The vast majority end in failure, massively late, massively over budget, or some combination of all three.

            • by Dominic (3849) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @06:38AM (#38672068) Homepage

              Actually, BR was both more efficient and much better for the UK economy. I just happen to have written a piece on this very subject a couple of days ago: http://www.dominictristram.com/2012/01/05/rail-fare-increase.html [dominictristram.com]

            • No matter how deep you dive into the UK's rail industry it just gets worse.
              Another example (from my brother in law who works for the railways) is the local operators lease the rolling stock, they are not allowed to own it. For round numbers it's about £1 million a year for a carriage that costs about £10 million new.
              However the carriages were already paid for. Some of them are 25+ years old, and the companies that own the stock have little incentive to invest in new stock, because, well why woul

            • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999&gmail,com> on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:25AM (#38672228)

              Blame that on John Major, breaking up the rail system and selling all the money-making parts off for pennies on the pound to private industry, then rolling up all the complex and expensive stuff into Railtrack.

              An ideal way to privatise profit and nationalise risk.

              BR needed modernisation badly, but privatisation was not it the answer there - at least not the way it was done.

              • Well, the government is really good at poorly thought out privatisation that.

                They have done exactly the same to Royal Mail. Forced them to sell off the profitable part (collecting money for letters), and forced them to continue the difficult expensive part (delivering them) for a very low fixed fee. Of course now they want to privatise it because it is loss making.

                I suspect exactly the same will happen as happened with Railtrack. They will give good payouts to the directors, fail to meet targets, get fined

              • by 0123456 (636235)

                Blame that on John Major, breaking up the rail system and selling all the money-making parts off for pennies on the pound to private industry, then rolling up all the complex and expensive stuff into Railtrack.

                Blame that on the EU, who told them they had to do it that way.

              • Well done for blaming John Major..... A lot of people wrongly accuse Thatcher for the privatization of the rail, but She always tried to resist that, even stating that privatization of rail would be its Waterloo.

      • Especially since National Rail isn't a for profit company. Anything they make is invested back into infrastructure. It's in a state between government owned and a typical for profit corporation.

    • by makomk (752139)

      Nope. This is basically just going to make the normal train service worse if anything as train companies stop offering services that compete with it in order to make more money from the more expensive tickets on the new high speed line.

  • 14 years?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fnj (64210) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @04:17AM (#38671560)

    14 years to complete just part of it?? It took only six years for the greatest mobilization in world history to defeat the Axis.

  • Save 50% of the cost and make it a one way southbound line.

    I don't know a single Londoner who voluntarily would want to travel to the grim north [wikia.com].

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @04:49AM (#38671660)
    Its capacity and cost. A return from Leeds to london tomorrow will cost £123 [nationalrail.co.uk] off peak. That's just under 200 miles so its chaper to drive. If you want the chapest travel then you would go by coach for £9.50 [nationalexpress.com]. It seems to me that for the same or less than HS2 they could have longer platforms, double decker coaches (like in France) and get the cost down. I would rather have a 2 hour service for about £30 that I could actually use than a 50 minute one for £200.
    • by stevelinton (4044)

      Longer platforms is being done anyway. I suspect the double decker trains would involve so much reworking of tunnels bridges and stations that it would not be cheaper than building a new line.

    • by doghouse41 (140537) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @05:17AM (#38671786)

      Good point but enhancing an existing line to improve capacity and speed is far more problematic than building a new line on a greenfield site. I think they realised that after comparing the success of HS1 (Channel tunnel to London) when compared with the West Coast main line upgrade that was taking place at the same time.

      - There is a finite limit to the number of trains you can run down any stretch of track. Once you reach that limit (which is quite close on existing track) You have limited options to increase capacity:-

          > Make the trains/platforms longer. Good in theory, but requires major changes to existing infrastructure. (Demolition of existing buildings in town centres) Changes in track layout, particularly at terminus stations. Changes in signalling (for longer trains).

        > Double decker trains. This requires a change in the loading gauge of the lines. A particular problem in the UK that has a smaller existing track gauge than Europe. This is why double decker trains are widespread in Europe and non-existent in the UK: there simply isn't the room for them. Changing the gauge basically means rebuilding the entire railway, with all the disruption that brings. (i.e. rebuild bridges, overhead lines, all track-side structures, track alignment, platforms....)

      Building an entirely new line brings you all of the benefits of longer platforms, double decker trains, and a much higher speed. All without causing any significant disruption to existing lines. It's cheaper in the long run. And it provides a much bigger increase in total capacity and resilience for the money.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rumblesan (2551402)
      the problem is more just that it's old and is still based on design decisions made years ago. the lack of capacity and the higher cost are just by products of this. The height of trains is limited by all the tunnels about, which will be a major engineering work to increase, the length is limited by most platforms and the width is limited by the gauge. these things were all chosen a long time ago and we just keep trying to sticky plaster over it. basically, we got stiffed because we were early adopters
    • by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Thursday January 12, 2012 @05:28AM (#38671822) Homepage

      It seems to me that for the same or less than HS2 they could have longer platforms, double decker coaches (like in France) and get the cost down.

      Longer platforms are coming, where possible and sensible, but double decker coaches aren't. The problem is that the standard size of space for a train (i.e., the size of tunnels and bridges) is enough smaller in the UK that there's not enough room to put a double decker coach through it. Moreover, the UK uses bridges very heavily by comparison with much of the world.

      I would rather have a 2 hour service for about £30 that I could actually use than a 50 minute one for £200.

      Yes, but if you go two weeks further out (and are willing to travel outside peak times) there's a fare on the same route for £22.60. (I'm not sure if that's a return or a single; the website's interface isn't quite as clear on that as I would want.) Booking at the last minute is costly, but booking well ahead is pretty cheap.

      • by Malc (1751)

        I think you're referring to "loading gauge".

        I wonder if there will be enough room for DB and Thalys trains to run from Cologne or Paris right through to Manchester. Finally some competition. Looking for to the DB trains coming through the tunnel to London next year (or is it 2014?). Eurostar is pretty out-dated, and the stop in Brussels Midi is really grating after a while.

        This HS2 line is embarrassingly late, and it's still years away. The UK was years behind our neighbours when the Eurostar route was

        • by Viol8 (599362)

          "I wonder if there will be enough room for DB and Thalys trains to run from Cologne or Paris right through to Manchester."

          Yup - HS2 is being built to UIC loading gauge so as long as they have the foresight to link up to HS1 that should be physically possible. Whether the company running HS2 will allow it or try and charge foreign operators silly money for track access is another matter of course.

      • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:50AM (#38672314)

        And again the car wins, because you don't have to plan a 200 mile day journey 2 weeks in advance...

        The rail network in the UK is really quite poor - let me detail two separate journeys for you which literally made me get a car (and that was no little decision, as it also meant learning to drive ;) )...

        The first one involved travel from Leicester to Bath, ticket cost was about £40 return. The journey from Bath to Bristol was fine, but then the Virgin train to Birmingham arrived. Full to the brim. My booked and reserved seat was a waste. The conductor announced that the train would not e leaving until enough people got off, but there was no replacement and the next train was an hour wait ( and no guarantee it wouldn't also be full). Eventually I get to Birmingham, where the train to Leicester has nine platform alterations, with the last alteration coming as the train left the station from a platform we could see but not get to! Another missed train, another wait.

        The trip back from Leicester to Bath was all done on rail replacement transport - in other word, busses. Fantastic. National Express do a direct service for a tenner, but I had to pay way more than that for four separate stages.

        The second journey on the same route, from Leicester to Bath, got me to Bristol - and there I stayed for eight hours, because of a signalling failure on the South West line, where the train was coming from.

        Eventually a train turned up after 4 hours, and everyone piled on. Then the conductor announced that the train that had been delayed was behind this train and would be arriving at the platform directly after the current train had left, and anyone with tickets for that train should get off and take it. As I had an "ultra cheap" ticket which required me to take a specific train, I had the choice of staying on and being stiffed for another ticket, or getting on the next train as promised.

        I got off, and the train left. Immediately then "my" train had another hour delay announced. They had lied.

        In both circumstances, the train companies never bothered to reply to my complaints.

        I now own a car and drive places. Fuck rail travel.

        • Well, I live in Surrey, and regularly travel between Woking, Guildford, London, Oxford and Cambridge (I don't have a car). And I literally can't remember the last time a train I wanted to travel on was cancelled, or sufficiently late that I missed a connection or important connection.

          Although in fairness I must point out that, despite running on time, First Capital Connect trains from Kings Cross to Cambridge are incredibly shitty and crowded.

          Don't forget, folks: the plural of "anecdote" is not "data"!

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            The requirement for "data" doesn't apply if the outcome is a person modifying their behaviour based on their own experiences.

            If I have several bad experiences, it doesn't matter to me one bit that other people are having good experiences - it doesn't change my experience at all. Statistically my experience might not rise above being an outlier, but it's still my experience and that is what I base further behaviours on.

            I'm glad you enjoy good experiences on the railways. It doesn't affect myself at all.

    • Prices for tomorrow are always expensive, but if you book in advance it goes down a lot. Edit that for two weeks from now and the cheapest fare is £88.50 - still not cheap, but less than the price of 70 litres of petrol, so probably not much cheaper to drive. Swansea to London return cost me £50 and speed is the irritating part - the train averages about 60 miles per hour. It takes 3 hours to go from Swansea to London, but only 2 hours to go from London to Brussels, which is a little bit furt
      • Note that the biggest problem with that route is the section between Cardiff and Swansea, where the terrain is so hilly that the only way to speed up the existing tortuous train route would be to rebuild it entirely with lots of tunnels. Note that the main reason that the government recently decided not to electrify that section was that the increased speed benefits of lighter, faster electric trains would not be realised on that section of line.

        Once the trains get past Bristol, they do get up to full spee

      • by slim (1652)

        Prices for tomorrow are always expensive, but if you book in advance it goes down a lot.

        Not always. Unlike some people, I don't have many complaints about the UK rail system. But the vagaries of ticket pricing is irritating.

        *Sometimes* booking in advance is much cheaper, but not reliably so. *Sometimes* it's cheaper to buy a fare on the day, at the ticket window, than it is to book two weeks in advance.

        If you book in advance, you have to book a specific train. *Sometimes* that includes a reserved seat, sometimes it doesn't. If you get a reserved seat, you get the advantage of knowing you'll be

    • This is what is called a "Keynesian stimulus program"[2]. It's purpose is to spend 300 billion[1] into the economy in order to inflate the national debt away, save the banks and the contractors. At the taxpayers and citizens expense, the currency will be devalued causing inflation and taxpayers will have to service increased interest payments. The people who will be hit hardest by the additional inflation and taxation are the old, and the poor.

      If they had spent the money on something useful, it would have c

      • by jonbryce (703250)

        Saving 20 mins between Birmingham and London is not the point of HS2. The reason for HS2 is to get Birmingham London passengers off the West Coast Mainline, to leave more space for local services that use the same line.

        To use a car analogy, to drive from London to Birmingham, you can either use the motorways or drive on A roads. The motorways are designed for long distance traffic, and the A roads are for local traffic.

        • by Colin Smith (2679)

          No, really, it's purpose is to spend 32 billion+.

          It is otherwise of no significance.

          • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @08:17AM (#38672398) Journal

            No, really, it's purpose is to spend 32 billion+.

            The stretch to bitmingham will cost 15bn and save 40 (not 20) minutes, not to mention increasing capacity. The Full cost is for the full plan is for the extension to Manchester and Leeds which will cost 32bn and save considerably more time and also add capacity.

            The mainline is running close to capacity, and only the government has the foresight and funds to spend money on large infrastructure projects.

            Since you're likely to troll me with the same assertion as before, what do you propose should be done to increase capacity?

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        This is what is called a "Keynesian stimulus program"[2]. It's purpose is to spend 300 billion[1] into the economy in order to inflate the national debt away, save the banks and the contractors. At the taxpayers and citizens expense, the currency will be devalued causing inflation and taxpayers will have to service increased interest payments. The people who will be hit hardest by the additional inflation and taxation are the old, and the poor.

        Wow, are you a politician, or perhaps a Daily Mail writer? This is the exact same generic argument used against anything that the government ever does in this country and it has never once happened that way on the scale you suggest. If it did it would bankrupt the country, and I have a feeling they might stop a fair way short of that. How many multi-billion pound projects can you name where the cost was ten times what was originally budgeted for, outside of our nuclear weapons?

        In particular you don't seem t

  • Having been following the progress of HS2 through Parliament, I think it's safe to assume that the main means of transport that it will be enable will be yachts for the various Ministers, CEOs and lobbyists concerned in railroading (ho ho) it through.
  • which will benefit anyone but the middle class or poor. High Speed rail rarely if ever pays for itself and never benefits those who the politicians claim its aimed at. If anything it has been shown in countries like Spain is that in concentrates wealth in already wealthy cities because it gives greater ease of mobility to those who already have the wealth. Think, businessmen no longer needing to live in the city they work in but instead they can live in a resort style city or coastal city usually connected

  • Or course this will cost billions more and reducing time to Birmingham for that amount is pointless - Train delays will add this back on.
    It's just a shame by 2030 that amount of money only buys a system which is years old by today's standards. Why not aim higher? Or build in space to allow for greater. It will need to be done at some point.

    Make work, tax pump up the economy money debt should be used to build some infrastructure. Infrastructure second to none to get something that will benefit generations

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