CZ/SK verze

"HSRs Bring Great Economic Growth and Social Connectivity," Says Andrew McNaughton from Network Rail High Speed

&quote;HSRs Bring Great Economic Growth and Social Connectivity,&quote; Says Andrew McNaughton from Network Rail High Speed
photo: University of Cambridge,"HSRs Bring Great Economic Growth and Social Connectivity," Says Andrew McNaughton from Network Rail High Speed
12 / 07 / 2023

During the International Forum on High-Speed Rail in Europe & Private Capital, Prof. Andrew McNaughton, chairman of Network Rail High Speed Ltd., lectured on his experience in the implementation and financing of high-speed rail in Europe and Great Britain. The RAILTARGET editorial team had the opportunity to learn more about the British HSR model in an exclusive interview.

Do you think British high-speed railways have some disadvantages or shortcomings that can be improved? And on the other hand, what are the main advantages of British high-speed railways?

The main advantage of HSR in Britain is the way it has brought people closer together, whether for work, leisure, socializing with friends and family, or enabling tourism. This is done by shortening the journey time between places, which we think of as shrinking the country, thinking of distance in time rather than kilometers.

This means people have access to a wider variety of jobs at better pay without needing to uproot their families or leave their communities. For businesses, it means access to a wider skill base for the same reason. For everyone, it means an afternoon or evening at an event rather than all day traveling, a day trip rather than overnight, or a weekend visit to relatives who otherwise would be too far away.

The result has been great economic growth and social connectivity, the value of which far outweighs the income from fares alone. And because HSR is the best way to travel between major centers, existing roads and railways can be repurposed to handle more freight and regional passenger traffic. So everyone gains, even if they are not HSR users.

Our shortcoming has been to be slow in realizing it is more than "old rail but faster" and that, as well as time saved, people value a "nice" journey at a fair price. So our trains are efficient but pricey and "cold." For our next HSR line, we are playing in much more welcoming train environments with family carriages, leisure spaces for groups, and quiet spaces for solo or business travelers. And a greater range of fares is modern travel.

Can you highlight the main benefits that HSR generally brings?

HSR has almost no emissions and pollution if powered by green electricity, and much less than roads even today. We have also rather overengineered our HS2 routes because people we pass are scared of the noise and visual intrusion. Opponents put out stupid stories of people being made sick by HSR trains passing! So our costs have gone up to do tunnels past villages when a bit of earth wall would have been enough, for example. But when HS1 was operational without so much engineering, no one noticed the trains, so this new expense is a pity; politicians should have been firmer.

Are there any HSRs in any country that you consider to be inspirational for the United Kingdom or also for the Czech Republic?

Our inspiration is Japan- fast, frequent, clean, utterly reliable, and utterly safe- and so everyone uses the Shinkansen - many times more than the predictions! And we love Italy because the competition between HSR operators has driven up customer service and given a range of fares, so it’s affordable for no-frills basic travel or more luxurious if you wish to pay a bit more. They all have the same journey times and reliability, so they compete to be attractive to different passenger groups. Look at the Italo website to see modern HSR travel!

Is there currently any cooperation between the UK and the Czech Republic? If not, are you open to any future cooperation?

I have guided the CZ ministry and SZ people since 2017 (and helped promote HSR in CZ since 2014). It is a lovely country with great people, and I have enjoyed the cooperation. It really is ideal for the proposed HSR network to bring prosperity to the East and improve travel for most of the country. And remember, as the country at the heart of Europe, the main benefits will be to your people, for the same reasons as in the UK.

I brought in the French to assist with technical design as they have the best fit for trains that run on HSR and finish their journey on conventional lines - so you don’t need to build HSR everywhere before people get the benefits. You will build in stages, and after each stage, things improve. The first stage towards Brno will reduce the journey time from 3+ hours to 2 hours or less, and then the second stage gets that to 1 hour a few years later. There are many other examples, like in Ústí or Ostrava, which means you don’t have to wait decades before starting to change the way people live and travel in CZ.

And yes, I will enjoy further cooperation if people ask for it. I fear I am the current world expert on HSR, and I genuinely enjoy passing on knowledge on everything from planning, public and political consultation, and appraisal to design construction and operation. Being a Scot and therefore no longer in the EU is a pain, but personally, I am a European and have chaired many European committees, and that won’t change.