(Letter originally printed in The Guardian but heavily edited…………)
Whilst commentators have been arguing about how many jobs and where, no one has raised the question of “value for money”. At £5.4m per carriage, these are the most expensive trains ever in real terms. As a comparison for the same money, 30,000 high speed luxury motorway coaches could be got, increasing the total size of the UK Bus and Coach fleet by 50%. Or over 300 medium haul jets each carrying 200 passengers. Similarly ready to run TGV’s from France would be able half the price. These are the same as the Eurostar trains run at 125mph (rather than 190mph) by GNER between London and Leeds for some years to provide more capacity.
As a straw in the wind, the City of Cologne is faced with renewing its 30 year old rail carriages, at €3m each, they have instead opted to refurbish for another 30years at only €1.6m each. Refurbishing the HST’s would be better value than new TGVs. The £3bn saved could be used for electrification of some main lines, eg. GWR or Midland.
With renewable power, railways are the only transport system that can be fossil fuel independent and carbon free.
Or the money could reopen important links to relieve congested motorways, eg M62 between Leeds and Manchester. This is another opportunity lost to expand UK railways and provide a genuine alternative to road transport for passenger and freight movements.
Professor Lewis Lesley
30 Moss Lane,
Liverpool L9 8AJ