UK cools down high speed expectations

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In the 1950’s the “Bristolian” was scheduled to run at up to 100 mph. From a painting by Trevor Newton. (Click on picture to go to artist’s website.)

Wales online carries a report by Rhodri Clark of the Western Mail how the meaning of the phrase “high speed rail” is being devalued in the UK.

ARRIVA Trains Wales is advertising for rolling stock for a “high speed rail service in Wales”.

But the builders of France’s legendary Train à Grande Vitesse need not apply, because a “high speed” train in the Welsh context is not quite the same as the 186mph engines that routinely streak across France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Italy and part of England.

Because even though the service planned by ATW will cut up to 30 minutes off today’s journey between Holyhead and Cardiff, the average speed will still only hit a genteel 53mph.

The current rail journey from Cardiff to Holyhead takes anything from 5 hours to 5 hours 55 minutes. Mr Clark’s article continues,

Many other areas of Europe have invested in new railways to cut journey times. In December a high-speed railway was opened in a mountainous area of southern Spain which depends heavily on seasonal tourism and is so deprived it qualified for Objective One funding.

Long-distance trains from Málaga now travel at twice the average speed of Wales’ proposed “high speed” service. One of the first to try out the new railway was Sheila Shingleton of Swansea, who owns an apartment in Málaga. “It’s wonderful. We went from Málaga to Córdoba in 48 minutes. It used to take two and a half hours.”

Non-stop high-speed trains take two hours 35 minutes from Madrid to Málaga, about 25% further than Cardiff to Holyhead via Wrexham.

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