The British high-speed train fiasco

The first serious plan for a high speed train between London and the north of England was prepared by the British government in 2009. It was announced at a cost of 36 billion pounds sterling (42.8 billion euros , at the current price). Quickly, the bill flew: 50 billion pounds, then 88 billion and, finally, 106 billion, or even perhaps, according to one of the authors of a controversial study, 170 billion … The delivery of the project does not nor was it postponed either, the 2040s being regularly mentioned for the laying of the last kilometer of rail.

Thursday, November 18, Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to limit the damage. The ambitious project to build this high-speed line has finally been revised downwards. It will link London, Birmingham and Manchester, in the north-west of England, as planned, but its second branch, Birmingham to Leeds, in the north-east, has been canceled. Too expensive and too distant in time, decided the head of government. “It is now clear that with the initial project the high speed lines would not have reached the East Midlands and Yorkshire [dans le Nord] before the beginning or the middle of the 2040s ”, he explains.

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Instead, he promises to invest in the electrification of existing lines in the North, which still run on old diesel trains. “It may be less glamorous, but it’s more important”, observes Mr Johnson. The scaled-down project should still cost £ 70 billion, with a first commissioning between London and Birmingham from 2029, and final delivery between 2035 and 2040.

Very restrictive local building permit rules

How does the United Kingdom, a world train pioneer (the first steam locomotive dates from 1804, in Wales), lag so far behind in its rail network? “It is as if the Victorians had developed the train in the West, but kept the network of canals in the east of the country”annoys Andrew Adonis, the former Labor Minister of Transport, who developed the first draft of 2009.

Boris Johnson had made “Rebalancing” of the country to the North a priority, and this decision is seen as a denial of its promise. Even his own troops are annoyed: Conservative MP Robbie Moore, whose constituency was to be served, said to himself “Deeply disappointed”.

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The name of this “British TGV” says a lot about the state of the national rail network: High Speed ​​2 (HS2, high speed 2). It is indeed only the second high-speed line in the country, the first being that of the Eurostar, opened in 2007. The United Kingdom, birthplace of easyJet, is a country where it is common to take the plane to connect London to Glasgow or Edinburgh.

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The British high-speed train fiasco

Fuzzy Skunk