Shaping Tomorrow’s Railways

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

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

With Parliament approving the second reading of the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill as the first stage of a wider network, the prospects for high speed rail in Britain are very positive indeed.

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 or the existing rail network. Greengauge 21 wants to see a national high-speed rail network that is fully integrated with today’s rail system.

Greengauge 21 first set out a strategy for a comprehensive network of high speed routes linking all Britain’s major cities in 2009 in Fast Forward: A high speed rail strategy for Britain. This full national network of high speed routes, which includes east-west links in the North, 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 the network: GG21 HSR-Network).

Looking ahead we will continue to research high-speed rail in Britain and will broaden our work helping to shape tomorrow’s railways:

  • Extending the network of high speed lines north to Scotland and across the Pennines
  • Promoting a network approach extending the reach of high speed services
  • Studying city region networks, cross city links and access to high speed rail hubs
  • Considering how rural areas can benefit as well
  • Showing how the existing network can best be freed up to maximize more local and regional services
  • Looking at where today’s rail network fails to serve well the demand for freight and logistics services
  • Investigating alternative links to ports and airports.

A national high speed rail network is fundamental in transforming connectivity across Britain. Our high speed rail accessibility slideshow shows how.

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.

Rail is the sustainable transport alternative: high speed rail has a strong economic case and the carbon emissions are only one-quarter of those of car and air travel as well.

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. And Eurostar passengers account of only half of the users of HS1: there are another 10m passengers each year enjoying Southeastern’s high-speed commuter service for Kent.

High Speed 2 will link London, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds and services will continue beyond to Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh using the existing network. HS2 will be fully open by 2033.

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.