French aiming to smash train world speed record

In 1990 French railways set the world speed record for conventional trains at 515.3kph (320 mph). In the new year they hope to push the record up to 550kph (342mph) and even reach 570kph (354mph). In June they are opening a public line from Paris to Metz that will reach a maximum speed of 320kph (200mph) and planning to follow this by upgrading all their high speed lines to 320kph. Meanwhile the top speed in Britain is 140mph on the east coast and 125mph on the west coast. The high speed line from the Channel tunnel to St pancras due to open in 2007 should reach 300kph (186 mph). Will we follow the French example for the rest of our lines and make them truely competitive with air travel?

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8 Responses to French aiming to smash train world speed record

  1. matt says:

    I have been on a TGV Nice to Paris overnight many moons ago. Certainly wouldn’t have thought to fly. Mine you, I had taken boats & trains all the way from Athens.

    Doubt the UK will ever follow France’s TGV example as the latter have government investment behind it. Privatising and splitting up the railways in the UK has only brought shiney new carriages and f**k all else. 😦

    P.S. Nice picture!

  2. keithsc says:

    Yes I agree the government investment is crucial – and yet our government tells us how much money they are investing into the train network – £15 billion over a three year period. So where is it going? See

  3. Pete Smith says:

    It’s difficult to find points of comparison between France and the UK. The massive government support for the TGV has already been mentioned. The UK railway system, like the nuclear power program which was discussed a few weeks ago, is a central national resource and should never have been privatised.
    There are differences between the UK and France. Culturally, the French have always embraced technology, rather than devoting their energies to finding ways of proving it’s a Bad Thing. Small towns are proud that the TGV passes through, rather than moaning about it. France is a much bigger country, with more space to build new high-speed lines and greater distances between population centres, allowing maximum speed to be maintained for longer thus boosting efficiency. There’s not much point in the UK having super-fast trains if as soon as they reach top speed they have to start slowing down for the next stop.

  4. matt says:

    Oh I don’t know Pete, Inverness isn’t all that bad. Quick zoom up from London for a weekend of fresh scallops and haggis hunting can’t be all bad. 😉

  5. Pete Smith says:

    And your point is? I like trains, they are my first choice for any journey. If I wanted to go to Inverness (which I don’t!) I would travel by train. Anything that makes a journey quicker is to be applauded. I was just pointing out that in the UK there are limitations on how fast a long journey can become, regardless of new train technologies.
    We don’t have the space, the cash or the energy to build completely new high-speed lines, so investment goes into upgrades of existing track. This means that high-speed services have to slot in between slower local services. Financial constraints mean that high-speed services aren’t just A to B, they have to stop at intermediate population centres using existing stations and junctions. The 1200 from London King’s Cross to Inverness calls at Peterborough, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Stirling and Perth. Even using existing rolling stock, it takes just over 8 hours, at an average speed of about 70 mph. Other services on the route are slower, and passengers may need to change trains on the way. To me, this suggests that it may well not be enough to say “We should make our railways like the French”, as we have complexities of infrastructure and geography that they don’t have.

  6. matt says:

    Yes, I do understand your point(s). Got to do something about the 35 flights from HTW to MAN everyday though.

    Why not utilize the sidings to motorways for high-speed rail. It’s a clear run. Build new stations at larger town motorway junctions. Passengers can be picked up by car, bus or taxi for their into town journey.

    Actually, … that’s not a bad idea. Let me see (scrolls through mobile). I’m sure I’ve still got Branson’s number here somewhere ….. 🙂

  7. Pete Smith says:

    At the end of the day, it’s just too cheap to fly. And the supposed impact on businesses if flights get more expensive is just bollox IMHO. There is still an embedded prejudice in favour of face to face meetings as opposed to video conferencing. Also prejudice in favour of flying to get to the meeting; it’s more ‘glamorous’ and ‘executive’, and you get a free G&T on the shuttle. And if you insist on using the train you get branded an oddball, and the meetings are all scheduled assuming plane timetables rather than train.

  8. keithsc says:

    Surely the demand is there. Numbers using rail services are increasing in this country. But improvements are hampered by the structure we now have and the investment. The fact we are a smallish heavily populated country means there are many people wanting to do the same journey. High speed journeys by train from London to Edinburgh, Newcastle, Manchester should be possible at times that could rival train journeys especially when booking in times and scurity checks are taken into account.

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