Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

UK Labour gov’t wants HSR network AND Heathrow expansion

Sorry for the lack of updates recently, but I’m spending this term studying abroad in London, and between jet lag, school obligations, and being sheerly overwhelmed, I haven’t had much time to keep up with rail news. Hopefully being here and traveling this country’s rails myself will shed some light on America’s own passenger train situation on this blog. If not, there will at least be photos.

However, in the spirit of getting back into things, I think it’s appropriate to take a look at some HSR developments going on here in the United Kingdom. Environmental activists and the Conservative opposition have for a while been getting behind the expansion of high-speed rail in the country as an alternative to building a third runway at Heathrow. Now the ruling Labour government is also endorsing the high-speed rail plan, but sees it as going along with further airport expansion. The opposition is wary. From the BBC:

Conservative transport spokeswoman Theresa Villiers said rail would cut Heathrow flights by 66,000 a year, 30% of the planned capacity of the third runway, eventually rising to 44% with a more extensive high speed rail network in the UK.

John Stewart, a campaigner against Heathrow expansion, said: “We do support high-speed rail as an alternative to a third runway but we do not think there is a market for both as they will both be going for short-haul passengers.

“It’s either one or the other.”

The odd part of this plan is that it seems that Heathrow would be the hub of any domestic HSR, with London of course keeping its Eurostar HSR connection to Europe at Kings Cross. I’m all for intermodality, and I think both airlines and passengers have something to gain from high-speed trains. But having the airport as the center of the network? That seems a bit dubious to me, especially with a city as strong as London and the existence of numerous extant passenger stations and routes within that city. Oh well, it’s certainly more promising than HSR news we’ve been hearing on this side of the Atlantic.


Filed under: International High Speed Rail

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January 2009