Archive for the ‘high speed railway’ Category

291 km/h – Pendolino sets new record

Saturday, 23 November 2013


The 270 km/h run on 17.11.2013. Video by ralfovski.

On 16 November 2013, high-speed testing of Poland’s ETR 610 Pendolino trains began on the CMK trunk rail line. Test runs are being carried out on the weekends of: 16-17 November, 23-24, November 30 Nov – 1 Dec, and 7-8 December.

During the course of the tests, which take place approximately between 10:00 and 15:00hrs, normal train services are suspended over the CMK, and the trains that were due to run are either cancelled or re-routed through Chestochowa.

The speed and breaking trials are part of the certification tests for the Alstom-built Pendolino trains being delivered to Poland. Twenty 7-unit ETR 610 sets, together with a new depot and a 17-year maintenance contract were ordered by PKP IC for 2,640 million PLN (65 million euro).

The trains are being certified for up to 250 km/h (155 mph) running. With a requirement for a 10% safety margin the objective has been to work up to a speed of 275 km/h (171 mph).

On the first day of the trials on 16 November 2013, the test train reached 242 km/h. On 17 November, it reached a speed of 270 km/h, breaking a little publicised record of 250.1 km/h set by an earlier generation Pendolino test train some 19 years earlier.

Today, the test train, with Rail Minister Andrzej Massel and other rail VIPs on board, achieved its objective and exceeded the 275 km/h target reaching a top speed of 291 km/h (181 mph).

To enable the high speed tests to take place, the section of CMK track used for the tests (between Gorą Wlodowska and Psary) had to be re-fettled with new ballast, and its overhead catenary replaced. For today’s record-breaking run the 3k DC voltage supply was tweaked by PKP’s electricity distribution company, PKP Energetyka.

Sadly, there is nowhere on Poland’s railway network actually certified for 250 km/h (155.3 mph) running, although a number of sections of line, including a short section of the CMK trunk line, are certified for 160 km/h (100 mph) running. PKP has plans to upgrade the CMK for 200 km/h (124 mph) running, and then in stages up to 220 km/h (137 mph), and eventually to 230 km/h (143 mph).



One swallow does not a summer make.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

letterLord Adonis’s letter to Sir David Rowlands

(Click on letter to download original from Department for Transport website.)

The Fact Compiler is to UK railways, as Guido Fawkes is to Westminster politics.

The Fact Compiler does not reckon that Lord Adonis’s letter to a retired civil servant – much hyped in the UK media – is evidence of a real intention by the current UK government to build a North – South high speed railway line.

The Fact Compiler is probably right.

Source – The Railway Eye

Written Answers to Questions

Monday 16 March 2009

Railways: SCOTLAND

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many times he has met the Scottish Executive Minister to discuss proposals for a high-speed rail line to Scotland.

Paul Clark: The Minister of State, Lord Adonis, spoke to the Scottish Executive Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change regarding high speed rail services to Scotland in January. Officials from the Department for Transport meet regularly with Scottish Executive officials to discuss a range of cross-border transport issues, including rail.

Source – Hansard

Brown to push through 3rd runway?

Saturday, 10 January 2009


The masthead of the Stop Heathrow Expansion website

(Click to go to website.)

Two UK national newspapers reported on Friday that the government go-ahead for a third runway at Heathrow is imminent. Pro-runway groups, including: The British Airports Authority, British Airways, British Midland Airways, the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress, are holding a special meeting on Monday to publicise the case for building the third runway. Gordon Brown and Geoff Hoon have agreed to present the decision for the Cabinet’s approval on Tuesday and a decision may be announced later that day or on Wednesday.

The bad news, for the hundreds of thousands of people who will be affected, will be sweetened by so-called ‘binding assurances’ that strict limits on emissions and aircraft noise will be met. Also there will be an announcement that Heathrow will be linked to Britain’s High Speed railway network if the government decides to go ahead with the latter.

But if a decision is announced next week, the battle will not stop then. Local authorities and anti-runway community groups will seek to challenge the government’s decision and postpone the ‘point of no-return’ until a Conservative government is elected. Prime minister, Gordon Brown, must fight a general election by 2010 at the latest and opposition leader, David Cameron, has said that he opposes the third runway proposal.

BTWT’s position on the third runway is simple. Going ahead with a third runway at Heathrow is would be environmental madness. London, whose air quality is already below international standards, would be faced with an even more concentrated cocktail of polluting toxic chemicals. CO2 emissions from aeroplanes and motor traffic fumes would increase. We also believe that the Government’s case that Heathrow must have a third runway to remain a major international hub is seriously flawed. Heathrow’s role as a major international hub is already declining.

If you really want to run in the Eurohub race you need at least FOUR runways, AND to be plugged into Europe’s high speed railway network. Europe’s busiest airport, Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris has four runways, its own Ligne Grande Vitesse station and room for further expansion. Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport is planning its SEVENTH runway and has a station served by Thalys High Speed trains connecting to Antwerp, Brussels and Paris. Frankfurt Airport has excellent rail links (nearly one third of all passengers come by rail) is building its fourth runway and has room for even more. Even with a third runway, Heathrow – with its lack of fast main line rail services (Yes I do know about the rail link to Paddington!), rat infested passageways, and widely dispersed terminals – hasn’t a hope of remaining in the top league.

There is massive opposition to Heathrow, not only from the million plus residents who will face more noise and pollution, but also by the twenty odd local authorities that represent them. Mr Brown is an unelected Prime Minister, representing a party that received only 35% of the votes cast at the last election. If he tries to force the decision through, he will face a crisis similar to the one which brought down Mrs Thatcher in 1990.



FT – Cabinet set to back Heathrow expansion
Daily Mail – Heathrow WILL get approval for 3rd runway

FOURTH runway for Heathrow???

Saturday, 15 November 2008

MPs debate Heathrow expansion.


Charles de Gaulle Airport, near Paris.
Photo Wikpedia Commons

(Click to see the photograph in its original context and details of licensing.)

Faced with overwhelming opposition from local residents, the London boroughs, other affected local authorities and the majority of MPs to the idea of building a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport, what does Gordon Brown intend to do? Why build a third runway, that’s what!

During a Parliamentary debate that took place on Tuesday 11 November, the overwhelming majority of backbench MPs as well as the frontbench Conservative and Liberal speakers expressed themselves unreservedly against the idea of a building a third runway at Heathrow Airport. For those without the time to read the full transcript of the debate the following selection from the speeches of Geoff Hoon, (Secretary of State, Department for Transport; Labour), John Gummer (backbench Conservative), Norman Baker (Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Transport; Liberal Democrat), John McDonnell (Hayes & Harlington, Labour) and George Young (North West Hampshire, Conservative).

Teresa Villiers MP, for Chipping Barnet and the Conservative Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, argued eloquently in favour of ditching plans for a third runway at Heathrow and linking Heathrow to a new UK high speed rail network. She maintained her composure in the face of many government sponsored interruptions. Serious students of the Heathrow expansion project are encouraged to read her arguments against the third runway and those of many other MPs in the full Hansard transcript of the debate.

John Gummer Suffolk Coastal, Conservative

What is wrong with Britain when we can never take any big decisions in a sensible manner? I happen to think that airport expansion is not—for reasons associated with climate change—the way forward. If it really is necessary to have more airport facilities, it would be sensible to do what every sensible nation has done, which is to put them somewhere where aircraft do not have to fly up and down over large numbers of people…

It is depressing in the extreme to see a former Minister laugh at the idea of doing something about high-speed rail, when he used to be in charge of the railways at a time when nobody was working for the railways, and then suggest that it is somehow inappropriate to demand what every other nation in Europe has done about similar problems…

I read carefully what the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said:

“Only if Britain plays its part will a global deal in Copenhagen to cut emissions be possible, so far from retreating from our objectives, we should reaffirm our resolve.”

What does he then do? He goes to Copenhagen and says, “What I want you to do is to follow the British route. We are going to build a new coal-fired power station in Kingsnorth without any kind of carbon capture or sequestration. We are going to expand the airport at Stansted. We have already increased the number of airplanes there. What is more, to show our commitment to the battle against climate change, we are going to have a third runway at Heathrow.” What kind of leadership is Britain going to be able to provide in Copenhagen if the Government fail to understand that joined-up thinking is a necessary part of fighting climate change?

The truth of the matter is that we have a real opportunity at this moment to set the world on the right course. It is no good wittering on about the fact that this or that country has not done it, so until they do, we are not going to do it. We did not win the battle of the industrial revolution by saying, “We are not going forward with industrialisation until they have.”

In the new green revolution, we have to take these decisions for the economic future of our country. I remind the Secretary of State that the quality of life report was written by someone who did not have a constituency reason for writing it and he did so at the point at which the Conservative party took the ideas on board—not for short-term local constituency reasons, but for the longer-term reason that we cannot cut our emissions by 80 per cent. by 2050 and build a third runway at Heathrow at the same time. We simply cannot do that…

What is more, as Mr. Raynsford pointed out, the same arguments will emerge next time. I have been in the House for a long time, and I have heard them all before. I have heard it said that we must have a fourth terminal, we must have a fifth terminal and we must have more capacity, because otherwise Heathrow will collapse, the British economy will collapse, and the world will collapse. That is not true, and the figures have to be fiddled to make that argument appear true…

Norman Baker Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Transport; Lewes, Liberal Democrat

Heathrow will carry on as a major airport. Despite all the doom and gloom from the Government, it will not suddenly shut down if it does not get a third runway. It will carry on at, or near, capacity. We need to deal with the situation of passengers arriving at Heathrow who currently find it most convenient to transfer to another aircraft, so that in future they transfer to rail. That requires plugging in the high-speed network with Heathrow in a way that facilitates such journeys, so there is one more leg to go. That would be a sensible way forward.

The Secretary of State was keen to talk about the 2003 White Paper, but, as Mr. Gummer pointed out, so much has changed over the last five years. After all, the Government’s 2003 energy policy was against nuclear power, and we are now told that it is the best thing since sliced bread. They have managed to change on that in the past five years, but they have not changed on aviation. Why not?

Exactly so. A lot of things have changed since 2003, including that a much stronger case is now being put for high-speed rail by Network Rail and others, which means there is a capacity for modal shift that was not anticipated. I do not mind the Government being committed to a 30-year long-term air strategy—the Secretary of State said it would be long term—but why does the rail strategy run out in 2014? Why are there no plans beyond 2014 to improve our railways? We have some longer platforms and trains now, but there are no plans beyond 2014—no lines opening, no commitment yet to high-speed rail, no electrification. A lot of things have been talked about, but nothing has been delivered on beyond 2014. Why is it right for air to have a long-term strategy, but not railways? That shows the unbalanced way in which the Department for Transport has addressed transport policy over the years: it has been roads, good; air, good; rail, bad; bus, bad. That simplistic way of looking at matters accurately reflects how the Department has dealt with transport policy.

John McDonnell Hayes & Harlington, Labour

I am arguing for reaching some form of consensus across the House about the way we approach the issue. This is such a big decision that it needs to be taken out of the party political knockabout arena. We need to have a discussion. I dislike the tenor of the debate on both sides of the House, not only because of my constituency interests but because of the significance of the decision, which I mentioned. The onus is on us to treat the matter seriously and see whether we can find cross-party agreement.

The alternatives that have been put forward deserve better analysis. I actually think that the Marinair proposal that the Mayor [Boris Johnson ed.] has now taken up was dismissed too lightly in the assessment in the White Paper. I also believe that the Government dismissed too lightly the idea of developing a proper regional airport strategy linked to a high-speed rail system.

Let me briefly go through the arguments and look for a way forward, and let us see whether we can get some agreement. This is a major decision that will, as the Secretary of State said, affect the long-term interests of our economy. It will also make or break our climate change policy. It has immense economic consequences not only for London and the south-east, but for the country as a whole. If we are good Europeans, we should look to the overall implications for European economic and transport policy. The policy will cause immense social division within the country. Many people are disillusioned with the whole process of consultation, assessment and policy making that the Government have undertaken. They are angry, and the anger is building. I believe that it is building into a form of direct action the like of which neither the Government nor the country have ever seen. We saw what happened at the climate camp, but Heathrow is becoming the iconic battleground for the climate change campaign, not only in Britain but throughout Europe. Forging ahead with a decision to expand Heathrow will sow social division; it will divide our country and bring us into conflict in a way that we have not seen before.

We need to take the decision out of the political knockabout arena. We should accept that events have moved on since the 2003 White Paper. The Government have introduced a new Planning Bill. We were given assurances on the Floor of the House that if the Heathrow decision was taken under the procedures in that legislation, there would have to be a new national policy statement. If the decision is not taken under the new legislation, we will go back to the old planning inquiry system. The process for terminal 5 lasted five years, and on that basis the process for terminal 6 and a third runway will probably take seven years.

We should commence cross-party discussions about the development of a new national policy statement on aviation, and see how times have moved on and how Government climate change policy has changed. We should set up an independent—properly independent—review of aviation strategy and decide where the Heathrow decision fits into it. On that basis, we can at least attempt to seek consensus on this critical decision.

However, if the Secretary of State thinks that he can railroad the decision through the House without a Division, he is sorely mistaken. The least the Government can promise us is that any final decision will be taken democratically, by this House, in a Division, on the basis of the decisions that our electorates made to have us represent their interests in this matter.

Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport; Ashfield, Labour

Today, international travel is no longer the preserve of the wealthy, although it is fair to say that the better-off are taking advantage of far more flights than even they might have made in the past. However, the real point is that everyone is benefiting. The number of international flights taken by UK residents more than trebled between 1986 and 2006. That meant that in 2006, UK residents made on average one international flight a year, whereas in 1986 that figure was one flight between three people. In the past 12 months, more than half the population took at least two flights.

To illustrate what that means in practice for our constituents, let me take an example chosen not entirely at random. The latest census data show that the leafy north London seat of Chipping Barnet has a population of 103,000 people. Using those UK averages, we can calculate that more than 50,000 constituents of Mrs. Villiers took at least two flights in the past 12 months. Of course it is also important to bear in mind the fact that some 50 per cent. of the hon. Lady’s constituents are in managerial occupations and so tend to use air travel even more.

I hope that the hon. Lady will be explicit to her constituents about the implications of her party’s position: less frequent, less reliable and more expensive flights. Moreover, she will have to explain to her constituents that if she gets her way, instead of making the 25-mile journey to Heathrow, they will have to get used to flying to Paris or Schiphol for a connecting flight. The number of passengers passing through UK airports has also grown rapidly, from 32 million in 1970 to 241 million in 2007, a rise of around 650 per cent.

George Young North West Hampshire, Conservative

Is it not the case that the growth of low-cost flights has been in flights from airports other than Heathrow?

Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport; Ashfield, Labour

That is of course the case, but the reality is that there is enormous demand for flights from Heathrow that has not been satisfied in recent years. That is precisely why the right hon. Gentleman’s former colleague, the noble Lord Mawhinney, made the statement to which I referred earlier. The right hon. Gentleman’s Government—the Government whom he consistently supported—were looking at capacity in the south-east in the early 1990s. He knows that full well. Therefore, as a distinguished Member of the House, he ought to be able to explain rather more effectively than those now on his Front Bench why his party’s policy has changed so dramatically on the basis of a massive increase in the number of flights, albeit without any explanation of how that capacity will arise.

Norman Baker Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Transport; Lewes, Liberal Democrat

Our policy has not changed as a matter of fact, but may I draw the Secretary of State back to the 2003 White Paper, on which he has predicated so much of his speech today? Does he not accept that the world has moved on significantly since 2003, both for the reasons that Mr. Gummer gave and because of the potential for high-speed rail and the developments in transport elsewhere? It is simply unwise to rely on a 2003 White Paper to work out what should happen to aviation in 2008. Will he therefore revisit the major concerns, rather than concentrating this debate solely on the environmental consequences, important though they are, for the communities around Heathrow?

Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport; Ashfield, Labour

If the hon. Gentleman has studied the White Paper as carefully as I hope he has, he will have noticed that we are talking about the requirements for this country’s aviation to 2030. As I have referred to the previous Conservative Government looking into capacity in the early 1990s and concluding by 1995 that Heathrow was already full in a practical sense, let me make it clear that even if we decided to go ahead today, which clearly we will not, it would be at least 2020 until a further runway was available and a further terminal constructed. That means that some 30 years would have elapsed on a decision that was being considered by the previous Conservative Government in the early 1990s.

It is therefore wrong to suggest that the issue can be determined on the basis of this year’s or next year’s forecast. We are talking about a strategic decision. It is disappointing that the Conservative Opposition have, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying so, simply adopted the rather short-term approach that is characteristic of the Liberal Democrats.

In the strange way that Parliamentary democracy is practised at Westminster, the house did not divide on whether or not the third runway should actually be built, but on the procedural motion, That this House has considered the matter of adding capacity to Heathrow. Any BTWT readers who believe the Government’s argument that Heathrow needs a third runway to remain competitive with other European ‘hub’ airports should reflect on the fact that Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris is about to start construction of its fourth runway, and is already on the TGV high speed rail network.

MPs’ plot to stop Heathrow runway

Monday, 3 November 2008

The proposed third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport,
map Daily Telegraph

(Click map to read the original Daily Telegraph March 2008 article in which it originally appeared.)

The Daily Mail published an article last Tuesday which claimed that Ministers were helping to stir up a rebellion among Labour MPs in a bid to sink the plan to build a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport.

John Grogan, MP for Selby in North Yorkshire, said that some senior Government figures, including Cabinet members, have privately urged him to launch a parliamentary revolt against the controversial airport expansion. Mr Grogan has sponsored an early day motion (a parliamentary device to signal MPs’ concern) urging the Government to rethink its Heathrow plans. According to Mr Grogan, there was ‘mounting nervousness’ among ministers that the runway plan could cost Labour a string of marginal seats around the West London airport at a General Election. ‘Given that airline traffic is now falling significantly, the Government surely cannot continue to base its policy on a White Paper on airports dating back to 2003.’

The motion urged the Government to rethink its plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport and to give full consideration to alternative solutions; regrets the Government’s heavy reliance on data supplied by the BAA in assessing the case for expansion and notes the likely forthcoming break up of BAA’s ownership of three of London’s airports following the investigation by the Competition Committee; believes that the consultation paper Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport was deeply flawed, as it paid insufficient regard to the costs of air and noise pollution in the surrounding areas and the commitment to curb carbon dioxide emissions to tackle climate change; regrets the fact that provisions to improve high speed rail lines from Heathrow to major cities have not been fully explored, along with the potential of other UK airports to handle more long haul flights; and urges the Government to initiate a consultation on a new national planning policy statement on the theme of airports and high speed rail.

The criticism of BAA supplied data is a shot across the bows to the tripartite alliance between the Government, civil servants and BAA which a year ago looked unstoppable. In March this year, The Times revealed how data on the impact of a third runway were repeatedly altered, giving the impression that its effect on noise and pollution would be negligible. Figures for carbon emissions were massaged down by the crude device of excluding incoming international flights from the calculations. BAA was effectively given a veto on the contents of the consultation document, being allowed to rewrite it. On Wednesday the new Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon told MPs on Wednesday he would make a decision after studying a summary of the 70,000 responses to the consultation. By Thursday the BBC had picked up the story as opposition leaders urged the government to to think again. By today 105 MPs had already signed Mr Grogan’s motion. Importantly, this includes some 40 Labour MPs, including former ministers Michael Meacher and Frank Dobson.

The pollution shadow from Heathrow, is generated not only by 2,612 plane movements daily (combined landings and take offs), but also by two incinerators which disperse radioactive particles and dioxins all over London and the South East. So if you live in Britain and feel that enough is enough, why not write to your local MP and urge him to sign John Grogan’s motion.

Son of a railwayman, and a railway fan…

Monday, 6 October 2008

Geoff Hoon admires a model railway.

(Click picture to see it in its original context on Geoff Hoon’s website.)

The reshuffle at the Department of Transport is complete. Geoff Hoon, the son of a railwayman, has replaced former Secretary of State, Ruth Kelly, and Lord Adonis takes over the rail portfolio from former Under Secretary of State, Tom Harris. Our favourite railway pundit, Christian Wolmar wrote a very hostile article on his blog regarding Hoon. Hoon is a man so devoid of charisma or style, and so smug and complacent, that it is a wonder he has survived in politics so long and, indeed, been in the Cabinet for over half a decade. However, it is only fair to point out that Wolmar’s hostility has more to do for Hoon’s stance with respect to the war in Iraq rather than Hoon’s views on transport policy, which are largely unknown.

The appointment of Adonis as rail minister gets the thumbs up treatment from Wolmar. Adonis is a real enthusiast for the railways and he even reviewed my book very favourably… His two passions are schools and railways, and this is his dream job. Bringing us down to earth in his own post about Adonis’s appointment, our blogging colleague, The Fact Compiler, reminds us that, At the end of his review of ‘Fire and Steam’ Lord Adonis adds: “The big debate for the future is if and when High Speed Two and Three are to follow”. Well my Lord. Perhaps you can now tell us?

We wait in hope.

Birmingham spotlight – part 3

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

More shops, but no more trains…

The winning design for New Street Station,
© FCO Network Rail

Its obvious to all, but the most myopic civil servants and Ministers, that at many points in its network Network Rail is running out of capacity. Those of us who actually travel by train will remember the bargain basement sale of railway land to property developers, particularly in urban areas, and may wonder whether these two phenomena are in some way connected.

The concept of safeguarding railway land for future growth was until recently totally unknown in the Department for Transport and its predecessors. After all, the orthodox thinking was that they were managing a facility whose use was declining. Nowhere is the government’s (regardless of the actual political party in power) bias against railways more clear than when it comes to planning for the future. Whereas new roads are built in anticipation of future growth. Railway development occurs on an ad hoc basis in response to current congestion and grumbling commuters. Railway prices are maintained at the highest levels in Europe to deter the much faster growth growth which would otherwise occur.

Birmingham is a classic case study. In the good old days, Birmingham had two main line stations, and two railway lines from London, which shared the load between them. Birmingham Snow Hill on the former Great Western Railway, received trains from London Paddington, via High Wycombe, Banbury, Princess Risborough and Leamington Spa and then forwarded them on via Wolverhampton Low Level, to Wellington, Shrewsbury; and then to Chester and Holyhead; or via Welshpool to Aberystwyth, or Pwllheli. Birmingham New Street received trains from London Euston, via Rugby and Coventry and then sent them on via Wolverhampton High Level, to many destinations further north served by the former LMS railway. Meanwhile there was a third North to South railway (the former Great Central main line) which had a connection to the GWR route from London at a point between Banbury and Leamington Spa.

The two London-Birmingham-Wolverhampton railways worked splendidly together, particularly when things went wrong on one of the lines. The arrangement also helped to reduce overcrowding at peak hours, but it seemed terribly wasteful to the car-bound civil servants in London who determined that Birmingham did not need two principal railway stations. Snow Hill was closed at the end of the 1960s, its wonderful ‘winter garden’ glass roof demolished, and the site was turned into a car park. Subsequently, Snow Hill has been reopened as the eastern terminus of a Birmingham-Wolverhampton tramway, and the western terminus for the Chiltern Railways service running from London Marylebone, but it is only operating at a fraction of its previous capacity.

Arup’s proposed location for a ‘Grand Central station in Birmingham

Now Birmingham New Street is bursting at the seams and there has been some debate as to what to do. It doesn’t need an Einstein to open up a map of the city centre and to notice to that the former GWR and LMS main lines cross each other a little to the East of the City centre and that this is an area of derelict former railway and run down industrial land in need of development.

There is plenty of room here for a much larger station with a much greater capacity for serving trains than at New Street. Such a new station could be served, both by the ‘bursting its seams’ line from Euston, and the line from Marylebone or Paddington, which still has surplus capacity. In the future the railway line from Birmingham Snow Hill to Wolverhampton Low Level could be restored, relieving the pressure still further.

Now comes the stroke of genius! Much of the GWR line into Birmingham is four track or more – two fast tracks, two slow tracks and various goods loops and sidings. If HS2 is constructed, its ‘Birmingham branch’ will have to penetrate the Birmingham suburbs somehow. What better way, than alongside the old GWR route. Moreover, if HS2 is constructed along the route of the old Great Central main line, then this route actually had a branch which connected with the GWR line. So the new station would be in the right place and have the spare capacity to serve HS2’s Birmingham branch as well!

We would like to claim the credit for all this creative thinking, but although using the former GCR main line for HS2 has been one of our on-going campaigns, the proposals for a Grand Central station in Birmingham are the work of Arup.

And how has the Department for Transport and Network Rail responded to Arup’s visionary proposal? Why, they’ve come up with a £ 600m plan of their own to redevelop New Street at its existing location which will not add a single train to the station’s existing capacity, but will have plenty more room for shops in the concourse. At least it will give frustrated passengers something better to do than milling round aimlessly in the concourse when waiting for their delayed trains.

I suppose it’s no good thinking that Ruth Kelly’s successor might reconsider the decision?

Tom won’t, but Terry will

Monday, 28 July 2008

Terry Hill, chairman of Arup

While Britain’s Rail Minister, Tom Harris, has been busy telling MPs that the UK is too crowded for high speed rail, and that high speed trains are not very ‘green’. Terry Hill, the chairman of Arup has been progressing his plans to build Britain’s next high speed line. Here’s an extract from an interview with him published in yesterday’s Sunday Times.

Hill and his fellow Arupites are old hands at the big politics that go with big projects. They were the behind-the-scenes movers and shakers on decisions that shaped the face of Britain over the past two decades.

Remember Margaret Thatcher’s mid-1980s plan to build three orbital roads for London, Ringways 1, 2 and 3? Thought not. Hill helped kill it. Remember the British Rail scheme to bring the high-speed rail line from the Channel tunnel carving through the south London suburbs? No? Hill and his merry men killed that too.

Now Arup has another cunning plan, a £4.2 billion extension of the high-speed line. It would run west of the capital to a new mega station near Heathrow, kick-starting new rail lines to the north, and perhaps removing the need for the airport’s third runway. Hill went to see transport secretary Ruth Kelly about it last week.

Click here for the complete article.

Arup were responsible for designing the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, now rebranded as HS1. They were also involved in the Sydney Opera House, the Pompidou Centre in Paris and in most of the new venues built for the Beijing Olympics.

In January Arup announced that it was working on a feasibility study for HS2, a new high speed line from London to the North. The company had first suggested building such a line 18 years earlier. Observing the distinctly chilly welcome that Greengauge’s plans for high speed rail received from the UK Treasury and Department for Transport, Arup repacked their plans and in May launched a proposal to build a new transport hub at Heathrow Airport, one that could in the future be served by high speed rail. Now Arup are advocating extending HS1 from Central London to the proposed Heathrow hub.

Perhaps, their slowly, slowly catchee monkey approach may just turn out to be successful.

UK Government dithers about fast rail

Sunday, 27 July 2008

St Pancras (Eurostar) Station in rush hour.
Photo Daniel Berehulak/Getty/The Guardian

(click on picture for original context)

9 July 2008

East Coast Railway Line

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether she plans to introduce a high speed rail network on the East Coast.

Mr. Tom Harris: The Secretary of State invited Network Rail to begin work to develop longer-term options for the railway network. As part of this, on 23 June 2008 Network Rail announced a strategic review of the case for new rail lines. It will consider five of Network Rail’s strategic routes, north and west of London: Chiltern, East Coast, West Coast, Great Western and Midland Main Lines. It is too early to say what the results of this study will be or where any potential new lines might go. The study is expected to be complete in July 2009.

Still I suppose that it’s a small step forward from Tom Harris saying that High Speed Railways were not green enough to be built in Britain.


Councils give Ruth Kelly £30bn high speed rail alternative to Heathrow runway 3.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Rt Hon Ruth Kelly MP, Secretary of State for Transport
photo The Guardian

(click to see original context)

The 2M Group is an alliance of local authorities concerned at the environmental impact of Heathrow expansion on their communities. The membership comprises the London Boroughs of Brent, Camden, Ealing, Greenwich, Hammersmith and Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Kingston, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Richmond, Southwark, Sutton and Wandsworth, and the boroughs of Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead and South Bucks District Council. The group, which took its name from the 2 million residents of the original 12 authorities, now represents a combined population of 4 million people.

In January the 2M group of councils sent 20 key questions to transport secretary Ruth Kelly who announced her backing for a new runway at the airport before the start of the Government’s consultation on the plan. The 2M Group of councils drew up the list after residents complained that the Department for Transport’s consultation document had been made deliberately complicated and one-sided.

A spokesperson said: “Many people have said they find the 238-page consultation document and the eight-page questionnaire bewildering. Yet for all the great mass of detail so much of the vital information on environmental impact and economic benefits is missing. We hope residents will find it useful to include some of the 2M questions in their own response to the minister. We are not saying these are the only questions but they do cover the main concerns people have expressed so far. The Government has made this consultation as difficult as possible – our aim is to simplify matters so that residents can test the minister on the key assumptions that lie behind her support for expansion.”

Now in the next major development of their campaign the Group are about to launch a plan for a new £30 billion high-speed rail line linking Liverpool and Manchester to Heathrow. The proposal envisages a single England-Scotland spine route and several spurs that would reach out to major cities including Liverpool and Manchester. It would run alongside the M1 and use the disused Woodhead line to Manchester, including the rail tunnel.

Edwards Lister, leader of Wandsworth Council said: “We are delighted to publish these proposals because we want a debate. We have a Government that can’t see further than the next runway. “It’s time for some imagination in UK transport planning. We don’t pretend for one minute we have all the answers but at least we’re asking the right questions.”

Richmond Council leader Serge Lourie added: “The country’s roads are grinding to a halt and all ministers want to do is put more planes in the sky and more cars on the ground. Even expanding just the existing Heathrow runways would bring another million road journeys. The real demand is for sustainable transport options that actually help people and businesses move around the country.”

If you are disturbed at the way the UK Government is trying to push through the case for the 3rd Heathrow runway why not drop a note to your MP. You find all the details you need to know here. You can use the e-mail link provided on the site, or if you would rather send a real letter, once you have the name of your MP you should address it to:

The House of Commons
House of Commons

61 ICE-3 sets withdrawn for axle checks

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Third generation German high speed train ICE-3. Photo Wikipedia Commons

Deutsche Bahn AG withdrew 61 of its ICE-3 trainsets from service on Friday, 11 July for safety checks following a derailment on Wednesday in Cologne. 78 services were cancelled over the weekend while ultrasound tests were carried out on the axles. The inspections were announced after a broken axle caused one of the trains to derail None of the 250 passengers aboard the train were hurt. In 1998, an ICE-1 trainset at Eschede shed a wheel rim. In the ensuing derailment 101 people were killed and 88 injured. The Eschede accident was the world’s worst ever high speed railway disaster.

“We are playing it safe with the checks,” said Karl-Friedrich Rausch, DB board member responsible for passenger services. “The safety of our passengers is the highest priority.” Routes from Cologne to Frankfurt, Munich and Stuttgart, and from Frankfurt to Paris, are likely to be worst affected by cancelations. The situation should improve after the weekend as the trains are returned to service.

The Cologne prosecutors’ office is investigating the accident to determine whether the axle was damaged during the train’s high-speed journey from Frankfurt airport to Cologne. A passengers had reported hearing unusual noises to the guard, and said he was told, “Don’t worry. That doesn’t mean anything.”

The ICE 3, designed by Siemens and built by Siemens and Bombadier, is the flagship of Deutsche Bundesbahn InterCityExpress operations. There are some radical changes compared to previous ICE trainsets. Top speed is 206 mph (330 km/h) and the train can can climb inclines as steep as 4 %. Power is provided by motors driving 16 powered axles throughout the whole train, similarly to the French Alstom built AGV. The ICE 3 is an eight-car `half train’ which can operate independently or be coupled to another unit.


UK cools down high speed expectations

Monday, 30 June 2008

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.

The Great Race

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Which was faster the plane or the train? Click to find out

After the rather sombre tone of our recent posts, here is a little light hearted fun, courtesy of the Daily Telegraph. There’s been a long-standing debate between the editor of W-wa Jeziorki blog and BTWT about what is the best way to travel long-distance in Europe – high speed train or take the plane. We maintain that travel by train is inherently superior. You can work on your laptop, read a book or engage the other travellers in conversation. Every time one travels by plane, one’s life is shortened by 6 weeks because of the stress and toxic fumes involved. In reply our friend Mike claims that plane travel is faster.

When the Eurostar service was transferred to St Pancras and the shortest rail journey time from London to Paris was shortened to just 2 hours 15 minutes, the Daily Telegraph decided to put both modes of transport to the test. Two of its travel writers were sent out to race from Westminster to the Eiffel Tower.

Francisca Kellett took the plane: the British Airways 12:50 from Heathrow

We meet in the morning in the slanting shadow of Big Ben. Not quite pistols at dawn. I don’t need a pistol. I have an aeroplane.

How can I be anything but optimistic? I am taking the fastest mode of transport available to the travelling public.

My flight, from Heathrow to Paris Charles de Gaulle, is scheduled to take a whisper more than an hour. Charles’s Eurostar journey takes two hours 15 minutes.

Even taking into account the time it takes to get to the airport, check in, pass through security and do it all again at the other end, I’m bound to win. I own this race. It’s mine.

Click here to read the rest of Francisca’s account of her journey.

Charles Starmer-Smith took the train: the Eurostar 12:30 from St Pancras

Our head-to-head begins under Big Ben. As we both set off from Parliament Square, the sun illuminates the clock’s golden hands. Today is all about time.

I arrive at St Pancras by Tube, well ahead of schedule, which gives me a chance to marvel at the revamped station. It took 11 years for the architect Alastair Lansley to create what he calls “a deliberate essay in saying we’re going to be bigger and better than our rivals”. As shafts of blue light cascade down from the majestic roof of iron and glass, it seems worth the wait.

I wander though the pillared concourse, but none of the shops and restaurants is open, there’s no sign of the farmers’ market we were promised and a few businessmen grumble that even the executive lounge is closed. But they are soon appeased by complimentary boxes of Champagne and chocolate by way of apology. A children’s choir on the concourse launches into My Favourite Things.

Click here to read the rest of Charles’s account of his journey.

Seen the video? If not click on the picture at the head of this article. I think that there’s no question as to which is the superior mode of transport. N’est-ce pas?

Birmingham backs high speed rail

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Eurostar train crosses the Medway on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link now dubbed “High Speed 1” (photo originally published on and republished by European Tribune)

A development programme was launched on Friday, 13 June to promote high speed rail development. Its purpose is to encourage the government to create a national strategy for high speed rail and to examine the case for high-speed rail links in five corridors.

Greengauge 21 director Jim Steer announced the launch of the £0.75M programme at the Railway Forum event in Birmingham. The event was attended by representatives from Eurostar, Network Rail, and Bechtel – one of the companies responsible for building the high-speed rail links between the Channel Tunnel and St Pancras which opened last year.

The programme, which will be funded by a consortium who are creating a Public Interest Group to oversee the work, will investigate funding options as well as consulting widely on the conclusions reached by earlier studies and on the outcome of this programme.

The proposal to construct a line from London to Birmingham received enthusiastic support from Birmingham City Council chief executive Stephen Hughes “The West Midlands Rail Capacity Study has shown the critically important West Coast Main Line runs out of capacity within 20 years”, said Mr Hughes. “It is vital we start planning for high speed rail services linking London and the continent with Birmingham International and the city centre. The study suggests economic benefits to the city will amount to over £1 billion, particularly benefiting the financial and business services sectors, but also construction, hotels and restaurants, real estate and other businesses.”

The new route, probably from Moor Street Station, would link to the Channel Tunnel, enabling passengers to travel from Birmingham to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam in three hours, and would offer express services to London and Heathrow in less than 50 minutes Research already carries out by the by the council suggests the best route would be to lay new track next to the Chiltern Line, from Moor Street to London via Warwick Parkway. A separate spur line to Birmingham International Airport and the NEC would also be constructed.

The case for connecting Birmingham and London by high speed rail is really a ‘no brainer’. Unfortunately the realisation of this project depends entirely on Government approval. Recently Tom Harris, Undersecretary State for Rail, questioned the environmental benefits of building high speed railways in the UK.


Harris spins his way out of high speed rail

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Tom Harris, Under Secretary of State for Transport
responsible for railways in the UK

It is not parliamentary language to accuse a UK government minister of lying, so instead BTWT accuses Tom Harris of ‘being economical with the truth’. A host of press articles in May about a new high speed line from London to the North gave rise to speculation that the UK government might at last be about to commission a feasibility study for the new line. BTWT bided its time before commenting, waiting for a signal as to the government’s intentions. Now Mr Harris has given that signal and it is firmly fixed in the stop position. Yesterday’s Times reports.

Despite repeated promises to consider the benefits of a dedicated new line capable of carrying passengers from London to Scotland in less than three hours, ministers are thinking again.

In a letter obtained by The Times, Tom Harris, the Rail Minister, said: “The argument that high-speed rail travel is a ‘green option’ does not necessarily stand up to close inspection. Increasing the maximum speed of a train from 200kph [125mph – the current maximum speed of domestic trains] to 350kph leads to a 90 per cent increase in energy consumption.”

Mr Harris was responding to an appeal by Chris Davies, the Liberal Democrat MEP for the North West of England, asking the Government to make its position clear. Mr Davies pointed out that France had already built 1,000 miles of 190mph line, was planning another 500 miles and was considering raising the top speed of trains to 225mph.

Mr Harris claims that Britain has less need for high-speed rail than other European countries. He said: “The economic geography of the UK is very different from other countries with high-speed lines. The main challenge for the UK’s transport network is congestion and reliability, not journey times and connectivity.”

Mr Harris’s comments contrast sharply with Labour’s 2005 election manifesto, which pledged to “look at the feasibility and affordability of a new North-South high-speed link”.

The fallacies on which Mr Harris’s conclusions are based were quickly pointed out by Chris Davies.

Mr Davies said that Mr Harris had failed to acknowledge the environmental benefits of persuading domestic air passengers to transfer to high-speed rail. He added: “It is very disappointing to see the minister scrabbling around for excuses for the Government’s inaction on high-speed rail, especially when those excuses are so weak.”

A high-speed train produces about 90 grams of carbon dioxide per passenger-kilometre, compared with just over 50g/km for a conventional electric train. But a domestic flight produces 225g/km.

Inter-city lines are severely overcrowded and there is strong evidence that future demand has been underestimated. The total distance travelled by train is growing by about 10 per cent a year, but over the next five years the Government is planning to increase capacity by only 22.5 per cent.

In January Iain Coucher, the chief executive of Network Rail, told The Times that by 2020 Britain needed at least three domestic high-speed lines to add to the 68-mile link between London and the Channel Tunnel.

Richard Brown, the Chief Executive of Eurostar, also added his weight to the debate in a letter published yesterday in The Times.

Sir, Any useful assessment of the environmental benefits of high-speed rail must rely on far more than a simplistic comparison with the energy consumption of conventional trains (“High-speed rail travel is not a green option, say ministers”, June 6).

To start with, no one except the Government is proposing that future high-speed trains would operate at 350km/h (217mph). The current European maximum is 300km/h (186mph) with an emerging consensus that 320km/h (199mph) is the practical maximum in future — so the increase in energy would not be as great as the Government suggests.

Secondly, the actual passenger load factor on Eurostar services is twice as great as that assumed for high-speed trains in the recent rail White Paper, thus halving the Government’s estimate of energy use per passenger journey.

Furthermore, high-speed rail has a proven record across Europe of enabling very significant modal shift from plane to train, delivering a vast saving in carbon dioxide emissions generated by people who would otherwise fly. Research has shown that a Eurostar journey generates less than one-tenth of the carbon dioxide emissions of an equivalent flight.

Electric trains can also be switched to even lower-carbon sources of electricity as soon as these become available under the Government’s energy plans, unlike aircraft and road vehicles which are likely to remain very largely wedded to fossil fuels for the foreseeable future.

Finally, any assessment of environmental impact should also be based on the next generation of high-speed trains, which are about 25 per cent more energy-efficient than current fleets such as Eurostar.

With domestic main lines running out of capacity, and with the current rapid expansion of the continental high-speed rail network, the case for further high-speed lines in Britain should be properly and fully investigated.

Richard Brown
Chief executive, Eurostar

If you live in the UK and feel as strongly as we do that the UK is the railway Cinderella of Europe, perhaps you could write to to your own MP, pointing out the fallacies in Mr Harris’s comments, and asking them to obtain details of the basis on which Mr Harris made his extraordinary claims?

You can obtain your MP’s name and address as well as all sorts of other interesting information from TheyWorkForYou.

You may also enjoy playing with L’EcoComparateur, a very nice CO2 emissions calculator for different transport modes. Sadly, it doesn’t do London to Warsaw just yet and, in fact, seems to work best when the journey originates or ends in France. On 25 June, the International Union of Railways is running a workshop to launch the ‘UIC Eco-comparison tools for European routes‘. Perhaps UK Transport Minister, Ruth Kelly, should make sure that Mr Harris attends.

France takes pole position in race to build and equip Polish high speed rail

Thursday, 5 June 2008


Alstom’s 360 kmph AGV

In a daring display of French audacity, and showing none of the recitence of their more staid European rivals, the French Embassy in Warsaw hosted a very successful two day seminar on modern transport solutions. The detailed management of the seminar, which took place on 2 and 3 June was handled by UBIFRANCE, the French Agency for international business development together with the Polish Ministry of Infrastructure. The seminar targeted Polish decision makers involved in railway transport and public transport. The French delegation was lead by Mr Dominique Bussereau, the French Minister for the Environment, Energy, Sustainable Development and Land Use Planning, while the Polish delegation was lead by Poland’s Minister of Infrastructure, Mr Cezary Grabarczyk and also included Deputy Minister Juliusz Engelhard, who carries Ministry’s railways portfolio.

The first session discussed public transport in Poland and France, paying particular attention to urban transport development and the role of local authorities in planning and running public transport services. The second session, focussed on high speed rail, an area where French engineers lead the world, and Poland plans for a “Y” shaped high speed system from Warsaw to Wroclaw and Poznan, via Lodz. Other matters that were discussed included financing options for the EUR8 billion project as well as the role of private-public partnerships.

Mr Busserau (third left), Mr Engelhard (right)
Mr Grabarczyk (third right)

During Tuesday’s session Mr Grabarczyk announced that the plan to build Poland’s high speed railway is due to be submitted for government approval in the next few months. Mr Grabarczyk added that he hoped to have a feasibility study completed by 2010 and to to begin track construction by 2014 with a view to completion in 2019. “The priority is linking into the European network,” he commented.

The aim is to have 35 separate trains serving the line. Poland will be inviting bids for the locomotives and rolling stock, Grabarczyk said. However, he did not hide his admiration for the new AGV train from the French group Alstom, which is due to go into service in Italy in 2011 and is set a service speed record of 360 kilometers per hour. “The AGV doesn’t seem to have any competition,” he said.

Currently, the 345 km rail trip from Warsaw to Wroclaw drags out for five and a half hours, the 330 km from Warsaw to Poznan lasts three hours and the 130 km Warsaw to Lodz takes two and a half hours. High speed trains could cover either of the first two journeys in around an hour and the Warsaw-Lodz trip in less than half an hour.

Seminar Programme pdf download (WARNING – French text)

Model railways

Friday, 16 May 2008

High speed ICE in Stuttgart

(photo korchstall)

First a model railway journey from Stuttgart to Northallerton, by fellow wordpress blogger korchstall. Korchstall normally blogs about his tiny model railway based on industrial narrow gauge practice, but this time, it was the journey itself that was a ‘model’ of fast, comfortable and stress free travel.

Well, it turns out that travelling across Europe by train was easier than we dared hope. The bus, tram and trains generally behaved themselves and worked reasonably to schedule, the station staff were friendly, we could carry food and water, go for walks along the train and see the view (except in the tunnel). it was far, far better than flying.

The only slightly stressful part of the journey was the change from the Cologne-Brussels train to the Eurostar. Normally the procedure for changing train was pretty simple: get off train, follow signs to platform, find the approximate place for our coach and wait until the train pulled in. Eurostar insists on shoving its passengers through all manner of checks, and on top of this the British Immigration service checks our passport here, it seems a bit odd to be checking passports for the UK when we have to cross the border to France first, but there we go.

To be fair to National Express, the train left on time, and two hours and twenty minutes later we were in Northallerton. We’d travelled half way across Europe and arrived within two minutes of the planned time- earlier, as it happens.

Try that in a car.

Townscape – Manchester Model Railway Society’s ‘Dewsbury Midland’

Secondly, at this year’s RAILEX 2008 Model Railway Exhibition, you’ll have the chance to see 25 model railway layouts, including the Manchester Model Railway Society’s award winning ‘Dewsbury Midland’. The exhibition is being held on Saturday 24 May (10:30am – 5:30pm) and Sunday 25 May (10am – 5pm) at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium, Harvey Road, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP21 9PP, England.

Derelict canal – Pendon Museum (photo Robert Silverwood)

Thirdly, a model derelict canal (based on the Wilts and Berks) on arguably the most amazing model railway in the world at Pendon Museum.

Oh you want to see pictures of model trains? Just keep on clicking through the links!

574.8 km per hour

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Alstom’s record breaking run on 3 April 2007 (click on pic for video)

A year, one month and 12 days ago the French broke the world speed record for a conventional (steel wheel on steel rail) passenger train.

High Speed Railways (line speed at least 150mph/250kmph)

Now which country was it that first introduced railways as a modern form of transport?

Top Ten Trains

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Fast trains are becoming cool!, an American lifestyle e-magazine usually more concerned with fast cars and fast women, has devoted three pages to reviewing the greatest trains in the world. It’s a great summary of the success that really high speed trains have become. Perhaps someone should send a copy to Ruth Kelly, the UK’s Secretary of State for Transport.

Here is their assessment. BTWT has not endorsed the list.

1 – TGV – France

The French sense of style extends to train travel, naturally, with a smooth and rapid way for locals and travelers to get around. Like the AVE mentioned earlier, the TGV is an acronym, in this case “train à grande vitesse,” or “high-speed train,” and rightly so. Testing found it to be the fastest wheeled train at 357 mph, and passenger runs hit 200 mph. The BBC’s Top Gear pitted its host in a race from London to Monte Carlo with the TGV versus Aston Martin DB9. While Jeremy Clarkson won at the wheel of the Aston, it wasn’t by much, and his driving skills are far superior to most of us hacks that watch him. For us mere mortals, it’s a far safer bet to relax and trust the TGV.

Top route: Lorraine – Champagne-Ardenne

2 – Japan Railways Group – Japan

Japan’s original 130-mph “bullet train” of 1964 has inspired imitators, but the country’s high-speed trains are still among the fastest and most technologically advanced. Today, they’re better known by their official name, Shinkansen, or New Trunk Line (signs and information printed in English may still refer to them as “Superexpress”). Call them whatever you like; they’re reliable, safe and fast. Passengers aren’t treated to the same 361-mph top speed achieved in testing, but 186 mph still isn’t bad. Anyway, a study several years ago found the average Shinkansen nailed its scheduled arrival time within six seconds.

Top route: Tokyo – Shin-Osaka

3 – Eurostar – England

There are Eurostar lines throughout the continent (go figure), and they’re some of the best ways to get around. It doesn’t hurt if you’re in a hurry. The 1,290-foot trains cruise up to 186 mph in certain areas, yet the only real confirmation of this from your seat is the blurred scenery. It makes sense that few trains arrive late. All speed aside, one route stands apart. While it doesn’t move all that fast, the view isn’t that great and it continually operates at a loss, it still one you can’t miss, and here’s why: it’s the trip through Channel Tunnel, with the journey beginning at London’s historic St. Pancras International train station and ending in Paris.

Top route: London – Paris

4 – ICE/NachtZug – Germany

Like Italians, Germans know a thing or two about traveling rapidly. Unlike Italians, Germans have shown far greater acceptance of rail travel. Deutsche Bahn keeps passengers moving by day with their efficient and popular InterCityExpress, better known as ICE. For overnight trips, there’s the inviting NachtZug, or Night Train. Yes, many an overnight trip has been taken with Night Train, so don’t let the name give you the heebie-jeebies. After this Night Train experience, you’ll wake up refreshed with your internal organs in harmony and no holding cell in sight.

Top route: ICE “Sprinter”: Berlin – Frankfurt; NachtZug: Hagen – Prague

Wikimedia Commons

5 – TAV – Italy

In a country renowned for high-speed transportation, there are trains that uphold the tradition. The problem is that this has been a well-kept secret amongst many citizens, so TAV’s existence and growth merits recognition in itself. Like the majority of Americans, many Italians favour travelling by car or by plane. Trains are gaining popularity beyond intra-city use, and considerable efforts are being made to emulate and connect with Europe’s finest.

Top route: Rome – Florence

6 – Russian Railways – Russia

If you have a lot of time on your hands and a burning desire to live the experience, you can sit on a train for almost 6,000 miles on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Incidentally, the state-owned railway’s spot on the countdown is largely in recognition of the ability to operate the challenging stretch under frequently adverse conditions. For the rest of us with more limited time, attention spans and vodka than that trip demands, this is still the way to go between the Russian areas you’ll want to cover on a visit. It beats renting a Lada, anyway.

Top route: St. Petersburg – Moscow

7 – KTX – South Korea

The Korea Train eXpress is a modern take on The Little Engine That Could. After the initial Seoul to Pusan route was finished in 2004, passenger numbers were short of expectations. That contributed to overall operational losses, and frequent train breakdowns didn’t help matters. Still, there’s progress. Line expansion is underway, and ridership is on the rise.

Top route: Seoul – Pusan

8 – AVE – Spain

It’s a worthwhile pursuit to live up to one’s name in the transportation game, despite what Greyhound would have you believe. On the other end of the spectrum is AVE. There’s kind of a double meaning going on here, since “ave” is “bird” in Spanish, though this is really an acronym for Alta Velocidad Española (Spanish High Speed). The duality is real, though. For example, service from Madrid to Seville is so consistent, fares are refunded if the train arrives more than five minutes late.

Top route: Madrid – Seville

9 – Great Southern Rail Limited – Australia

Australian cities like Perth and Sydney are great to visit, but there’s so much more to the country. You need to see, well, the country. You could rent a ute, but all that driving is going to take a major chunk of time, even if you explore a region each time you visit. Your best bet is to span the continental coast and see a lot in-between on Great Southern Limited. Two of their three routes are long, multiday affairs, but given the accommodations and scenery, you probably won’t mind at all.

Top route: Perth – Sydney (Indian Pacific)

10 – VR – Finland

Scandinavia is generally underrated and under-visited, making it an unlikely place to bump into the familiar faces you’re trying to forget on vacation. Finland is one of those countries that just works; it’s exceptionally clean, efficient and trouble-free. The state-owned VR Group is no different. When you manage to pry yourself away from Helsinki, VR is probably the best way to take in the countryside as you tour outlying areas.

Top route: Helsinki – Iisalmi