High-Speed Rail - Transport for Britain in the 21st century

High speed rail technology is well-proven and operates in many countries across the world. The case for high speed rail is compelling:

  • It provides considerable additional transport capacity, which forecasts show will be sorely needed in the future
  • High speed rail delivers a step-change improvement in connectivity and journey times
  • It is an environmentally sustainable solution to the country’s transport needs
  • By providing effective links between city regions and with major airports, high speed rail will boost economic development across the country, particularly in the Midlands, the North and Scotland, and potentially Wales and the South West too.

Greengauge 21 set out in 2009 a strategy for a comprehensive network of high speed routes linking all Britain’s major cities in Fast Forward: A high speed rail strategy for Britain. This full national network of high speed routes can be developed from HS1, the UK Government’s plans for HS2 and the Scottish Government’s plans for a High Speed Rail Link between Edinburgh and Glasgow (download our slide: GG21 HSR-Network).

Our high speed rail accessibility slideshow illustrates how a national high speed rail network can transform connectivity across Britain.

With over 1,000 seats per train and service frequencies of more than 15 trains per hour in each direction, high speed rail will deliver the additional long-term transport capacity that Britain will need as our existing road and rail networks fill up.

And high speed rail is the sustainable transport alternative: not only does it have a strong economic case, but the carbon emissions of travel by high speed rail are only one-quarter of those of car and air travel.

Greengauge 21 is a not-for-profit organisation, established in 2006 to research and develop the concept of a high-speed rail network as a national economic priority. We have no vested commercial interests in the development of high speed rail.

On this website you can read about Greengauge 21, learn about the case for high-speed rail and download our publications. Read our blog for up to date comment on emerging issues and share your views via Twitter or Facebook. You can also download our fact sheets and case studies to find out more about high-speed rail and the case for its development:

In the UK High Speed 1 opened fully in November 2007, linking London with the Channel Tunnel. High Speed 1 is having a major impact on travel between the UK and continental Europe, with Eurostar services that have cut journey times from London to Paris, Brussels and beyond.

High Speed 2 will link London, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds and beyond to Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh using the existing network and will be fully open by 2033. There will also be a link across London so trains can run though to HS1 and Europe.

The Scottish Government is looking at the best way to accommodate HS2 services from 2026 and is looking at new alignments allowing faster access to Glasgow and Edinburgh. And options for the extension of HS2 north of Manchester and Leeds are also under consideration though a joint study between the UK and Scottish Governments.

High-speed trains operate on new tracks at over 300 km/h (200 miles per hour) and above, but can also run onto the existing rail network to serve a wide range of destinations. The first high-speed train in the world was the Shinkansen in Japan, which opened in 1964. France followed with its first TGV line in 1981. Other countries with high speed railways include Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, South Korea and China.