Rail Minister Tom Harris has dismissed the option of a High Speed rail route for the UK, stating that “The argument that high-speed rail travel is a ‘green option’ does not necessarily stand up to close inspection. Increasing the maximum speed of a train from 200kph [125mph – the current maximum speed of domestic trains] to 350kph leads to a 90 per cent increase in energy consumption. The economic geography of the UK is very different from other countries with high-speed lines. The main challenge for the UK’s transport network is congestion and reliability, not journey times and connectivity.”
This contrasts with the Labour 2005 election manifesto which promised to look into the feasibility and costing of building a high speed line.
Chris Davies, the LibDem MEP for North-West England expressed his disappointment and pointed out that the Government has failed to take into account the benefits of rail compared to air travel. A high-speed train produces about 90 grams of carbon dioxide per passenger-kilometre, compared with just over 50g/km for a conventional electric train. But a domestic flight produces 225g/km.