Letter: Take the slow train

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The Independent Online
Letter: Take the slow train

Sir: There is no way of realising James Murphy's dream (letter, 15 May) of a train journey between Newcastle and Paris taking only five hours. The total market for travel between the North-east and Greater Paris is relatively small. Air is always likely to be both quicker and cheaper than train. The potential demand for rail could never support an adequate frequency of service.

The current British fascination with high-speed trains contrasts with a growing disillusion with them on the Continent. High-speed trains are not environmentally friendly. Both fuel consumption and noise increase sharply with speed. If the trains require new tracks, they are immensely intrusive; if they use existing tracks, they very much reduce the capacity for freight and for local passenger trains.

The Channel Tunnel rail link is not the only high-speed rail project that should be urgently re-examined. The reconstruction of the West Coast main line to enable it to carry high-speed trains will cost at least pounds 2bn. This is a huge diversion of resources from less glamorous but far more worthwhile rail investment.

STEPHEN PLOWDEN

London NW1

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