For years, the UK’s train system has been plagued by delays, expensive tickets and journey times that would be made shorter if you’d simply chosen to drive. However Transportation Secretary Lord Adonis is hoping to change all that by unveiling plans for a £30 billion high-speed rail network that if built, would reduce the journey time from London to Birmingham (194.9km apart) to a mere 45 minutes.
With passenger numbers expected to triple by 2020, investment in the UK’s rail system has been a priority for the government for years, however this is the first time the proposal has gained any form of traction. “The time has come for Britain to plan seriously for high-speed rail between our major cities,” Lord Adonis said to reporters. “The high-speed line from London to the Channel Tunnel has been a clear success, and many European and Asian countries now have extensive and successful high-speed networks. I believe high-speed rail has a big part to play in Britain’s future.”
In terms of potential controversy, the network would see the construction of a new terminal in Birmingham as well as the possible extension of the network further north to Glasgow, and there are already concerns about the environmental impact of the project. The government has already stated that they will attempt to “minimise the environmental impact” of the project through a combination of tunnels and following existing rail and road corridors, but the county of Buckinghamshire has said it will fight to “protect its precious countryside“, not to mention the 440 homes that may be demolished to make way for the line.
The project has garnered a lot of support in the UK over the past several years, with many saying it would be a “green alternative” to more motorways and a third runway at Heathrow. However the biggest concerns with the project are time and money. Whichever way you cut it, £30 billion is a lot of money and with construction not expected to start until 2017, many are wondering whether this could simply be another UK pipe dream that will be plagued by delays and cutbacks.