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?