Roderick A Smith

High-Speed Rail 

My interest in high speed rail has been strengthened by my observations of the shinkansen in Japan and its huge and successful development since my first trip on it in the early 1970's. The shinkansen opened to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics in 1964: since then the network has spread throughout Japan, the intensity of operations has been hugely increased and the fifth generations of trains are now in use. France, then Germany and currently many other countries in western Europe  have now developed high-speed trains, so the shinkansen can be seen as a Catalyst for the Renaissance of Rail. It is fair to ask the question, "Has the time come for a high-speed network in the UK?"

For many years I have been trying to generate interest in high speed rail by giving lectures to groups ranging from technical and professional audiences, railway enthusiasts and school children.

I arranged for the gift of an original shinkansen from JR West to the National Railway Museum in York. As I have been observing visitors in the museum, I have often heard the comments along the lines of "If they had something like this in 1964, why haven't we got one now?"

However interest is quickening in the UK, stimulated by the success of the Eurostar connections to Paris and Brussels through the Channel tunnel, the high-speed link to London and the wonderful refurbishment of St Pancras Station. Both the Government and the Opposition are developing preliminary plans and I have been involved in close discussions with both.

More recently I gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament on the possibilities of a high speed link from Scotland to London.

There has been much comment about the possibility of a maglev (magnetically levitated) system in the UK. There exists some doubts about the practical realisation of this technology for a major system, but niche applications, such as links to airports such as the pioneering system at Shanghai remain a possibility.

Some of the technical diffculties which a UK system would present have been discussed in a report for the Department for Transport which I prepared with Prof Kemp of the University of Lancaster.

Several letters of mine to the editor of The Times proposing high-speed rail for the UK can be found in this document.

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