I have been looking into high speed trains. I have made three day return journeys to Manchester and Leeds recently and decided to take the train. I have been hoping to win some green plaudits!
On each occasion I have wished to be in those cities in time for the start of the business day. This has meant driving to London and staying overnight there, in order to have a chance of getting to the London terminus in time the next morning by tube. It would take me three hours by train to get from home to the correct London station, meaning there are not early enough trains to do the job.
On two of the three occasions the early train north was delayed by more than 20 minutes before leaving owing to the non arrival of some of the train crew. On each occasion the trains were practically empty. I counted numbers on one journey. There were 13 people in a 67 seat Standard carriage, 1 person in the 30 buffet car seats, and 13 people in the 123 1st class seats in 3 first class carriages. It is hardly a green way to travel, to propel all that huge weight of carriages at high speed burning electricity, a secondary fuel. There is both the power station energy loss and the inefficiency of the electric motors. Fuel burn per passenger must have been higher than going by car.
When the trains were moving they went quite fast enough. The problem with the total journey time was the delay in leaving, and the time to and from the station to commence and finish the journey. It was difficult to understand why we need more capacity on these routes, given the poor showing of passengers for what should have been the morning rush. Had I attempted to get on a commuter train or a train from Reading at the same time they would have been crowded.
Returning one day on a lunch time train after making my speech in the north, we were told there would be no hot meals “owing to staff shortages”. There was no great commercial drive to serve passengers better and make more money as a result.
There are no seat belts on the train, though they travel considerably faster than a car is allowed to travel on a motorway. The luggage is placed on open shelves above passengers’ heads. Seats and tables have hard edges. At the very least the train companies could put in netting or hatch doors to restrain the luggage in case of accident.