As global high speed rail goes full steam ahead, UK must maintain investment to create a truly national high speed network

  • Major infrastructure companies come together in new report to emphasise progress being made in constructing major high speed rail networks across the globe 
  • International community recognises the essential role that high speed rail has and will play in stimulating modal shift as we move towards net zero 
  • With countries across the world investing in high speed rail, including the new Biden administration in the United States, the UK must keep pace with investment in its own network 

A new report published today demonstrates the transformational role high speed rail is playing in revolutionising travel across the globe, driving policy makers’ economic and environmental decisions, whilst creating international links that will become ever more important in our increasingly globalised world. The report serves as a reminder that amongst a global push for more and expanded high speed rail services, the UK must keep pace with its own investment to create a truly national high speed network. 

Published by High Speed Rail Group (HSRG), International High Speed Rail Voices examines the benefits, opportunities and extent of international high speed rail, with contributions drawn from across the infrastructure industry. Countries such as France are shown to be investing heavily in high speed rail as part of net zero efforts, with Government pandemic support for Air France predicated on domestic journeys being undertaken by high speed rail not planes. Similarly, the new Biden administration in the US has made clear that investment in high speed rail will be a central tenet of its climate agenda. 

The world’s leading high speed nations, China and Spain, view high speed rail as much more than simply a transport network; it is seen as strengthening connections, and in doing so bringing cultures and countries together. These and other leading high speed countries have used the railway as both an economic driver and a foundation for national ties.  

By implication, the report demonstrates the UK would be left behind were we not to push ahead with HS2 (and beyond) to create a truly national high speed network in the years ahead. 

Featuring contributions from Hitachi Rail, High Speed 1 (HS1), Thales, Mott MacDonald, Italferr, Siemens Mobility, Railway Industry Association (RIA) and the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE); the report offers analysis on the impact of high speed rail internationally across a number of key themes:

  1. Bringing countries together High speed rail is providing transport spines for countries and in so doing reshaping economic geographies and helping build and stimulate both regions and national cohesion. 
  1. High speed rail as a means of delivering modal shift and net zero Transport accounts for around a fifth of global carbon emissions, and as such decarbonisation of the sector is critical to net zero goals. To achieve this, there must be modal shift from road and aviation to electrified railways, including high speed rail. 
  1. International services With the growth of national high speed networks, international connections are expanding too as high speed rail continues to make rail more attractive and provides an alternative to flying for long distances and intercountry travel.
  1. Innovation in the high speed rail market New technologies are being deployed to bring forward new high speed rail routes, extend and upgrade existing networks and improve the passenger experience.
  1. High speed rail and COVID-19 The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on high speed rail. But with trains already among the safest ways to travel, new steps entrenching that safety and rail’s increasing popularity mean that high speed rail schemes and services are set to expand. 

Commenting on the report, a High Speed Rail Group spokesperson said:

“The report makes clear that high speed rail has been embraced by countries around the world, and this is only set to increase in the years ahead. Domestic criticisms of the UK’s growing high speed network are in stark contrast to our European neighbours and beyond, who recognise the inherent economic, environmental and societal benefits brought about by such programmes.

“As the UK considers the future of its own rail network, including high speed, through the upcoming Integrated Rail Plan, it is of the utmost importance that the many benefits of high speed rail as attested to in this report are born in mind.”

Photo credit: High Speed Rail Group

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