Peter Parker's High Speed railway

Sad Sprinter

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According to Ken Clarke's memoirs-Kind of Blue, he mentions that Peter Parker had wanted to begin to develop a high speed railway in England before deciding instead to build the APTs. Is this true and was there any work undertaken on it?
 
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WesternLancer

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According to Ken Clarke's memoirs-Kind of Blue, he mentions that Peter Parker had wanted to begin to develop a high speed railway in England before deciding instead to build the APTs. Is this true and was there any work undertaken on it?
wasn't the APT project well underway well before Sir Peter had anything much to do with BR? The decision to go for tilt must have been made in the late 1960s / early 70s presumably.
Is it more likely that when he was appointed Board chairman in 1976 the French TGV project was well advanced and he may have started to wonder if that was not a better option?

I've not checked any sources on my answers I should say, so I'm speculating.
 

Midnight Sun

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APT project started in January 1969 when Stanley Raymond was BR chairman. The person who pushed the project foreward through Whitehall for funding was Dr. Sydney Jones head of BR Research.
 

Bald Rick

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Possibly related, but PP certainly pushed the idea of a very simple channel tunnel - a single bore, single track line (known as ‘the mousehole?’) - in the late 70s / early 80s, which got Governement interested enough to launch the competition for what was eventually built.
 

edwin_m

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Possibly related, but PP certainly pushed the idea of a very simple channel tunnel - a single bore, single track line (known as ‘the mousehole?’) - in the late 70s / early 80s, which got Governement interested enough to launch the competition for what was eventually built.
That was after the abandonment of the previous Tunnel scheme a few years earlier, in large part because it did include a new line across Kent which attracted a lot of local objections. Other than that I have no recollection of any serious proposal for high speed lines in the UK until HS1.
 

Sad Sprinter

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wasn't the APT project well underway well before Sir Peter had anything much to do with BR? The decision to go for tilt must have been made in the late 1960s / early 70s presumably.
Is it more likely that when he was appointed Board chairman in 1976 the French TGV project was well advanced and he may have started to wonder if that was not a better option?

I've not checked any sources on my answers I should say, so I'm speculating.
Well Clarke himself was involved with Transport from 1979-1982 and the quote from the book is "Peter Parker and his board were very keen to move towards high-speed trains of the kind seen on the Continent", but doesn't go into too much detail ang suggests the APT was seen as a better idea. So perhaps he was unaware that the APT predated the TGV.
 

edwin_m

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Well Clarke himself was involved with Transport from 1979-1982 and the quote from the book is "Peter Parker and his board were very keen to move towards high-speed trains of the kind seen on the Continent", but doesn't go into too much detail ang suggests the APT was seen as a better idea. So perhaps he was unaware that the APT predated the TGV.
The prototype TGV was authorised in 1969 so nearly contemporary with APT, although the latter was in essence a continuation of earlier research. The first high speed route in France was opened in 1981 so it would certainly have been possible to see high-speed trains on the Continent during that period.
 

WesternLancer

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Well Clarke himself was involved with Transport from 1979-1982 and the quote from the book is "Peter Parker and his board were very keen to move towards high-speed trains of the kind seen on the Continent", but doesn't go into too much detail ang suggests the APT was seen as a better idea. So perhaps he was unaware that the APT predated the TGV.
Thanks - sounds like the sort of lobbying that may have happened between Senior Board / Chair and Minister when Minster (or I see Clarke was in fact Parl Under Sec of State at the time) asks for briefing about 'why has France got this new TGV and we seem to have this train that does not work properly and keeps needing more money etc etc'

I can imagine the conversation in fact (and the Yes Minister type briefing from the civil servants at the DfT to Clarke...'Oh the BR Board just want more money as the French have got a better result than BR have minister - you must dissuade them as the Treasury will not have it and the PM is no fan of the railways...')
 

LNW-GW Joint

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Wasn't the premise of APT that it delivered high speed without the bother of upgrading the tracks?
A 140mph APT on 1970s infrastructure would indeed have been "transformational".
But even WCRM didn't deliver that.
 

Bald Rick

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Wasn't the premise of APT that it delivered high speed without the bother of upgrading the tracks?
A 140mph APT on 1970s infrastructure would indeed have been "transformational".
But even WCRM didn't deliver that.
No, it was that it could be done without the bother of building completely new, straighter, alignments.

The tracks would always need upgrading, which is of course what WCRM did (and the GW upgrade in the 70s, and the MML upgrade in the early 80s, etc. Etc.)
 

Taunton

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Up to TGV, future high speed rail had idolised the Shinkansen in Japan, always looking at completely separate alignments throughout, not necessarily noticing that the reason for that in Japan was that they were a different gauge. TGV brought the idea of high speed alignments on the cheap to build rural bits (completely lost on HS2 it seems), and running on to existing alignments with all the upsides of incremental development that provides as well.

At least Shinkansen was on rails, where politicians and high-placed amateurs are often fixated by hovertrains, monorails, maglev, hyperloops, and anything else even more incompatible and unworkable.

APT was a development because the West Coast is a far more corkscrew alignment than out of either Kings Cross or Paddington, and there's hardly any of it suitable for over 100mph without tilt. It was a shame they did not do more development of the prototype before rushing to the pre-production units, which had a notable number of fundamental points which the Pendolino etc shows were just wrong.
 

quantinghome

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TGV brought the idea of high speed alignments on the cheap to build rural bits (completely lost on HS2 it seems), and running on to existing alignments with all the upsides of incremental development that provides as well.
That's unfair to HS2 I think. LGVs don't generally need to build new or extended stations or routes through major cities because there is capacity available (apart from Lille and Marseilles where they did build new dedicated routes through urban areas). The situation is completely different in the UK where we need new routes in pretty much every large city and additional platform capacity in the city centres. And of course, HS2 does run on to existing alignments where there is capacity available.

I suppose you could have built HS2 purely as a rural high speed network, then construct the urban sections as separate projects: the Euston station extension project, the North London relief line, the Birmingham intercity station project etc. But what's the point of that other than keeping the headline cost down by splitting it into half a dozen projects?
 

LNW-GW Joint

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In the early 70s, BR Research in Derby was a beneficiary of the bankruptcy of Rolls Royce, when they picked up some key aero design skills for the APT project.
As history appears to be repeating itself with new cutbacks at Rolls Royce, I wonder if the railway can benefit in some way.
The engineering landscape at Derby is completely different today of course, with nothing like the same scope for railway design work.
 

Ianno87

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That's unfair to HS2 I think. LGVs don't generally need to build new or extended stations or routes through major cities because there is capacity available (apart from Lille and Marseilles where they did build new dedicated routes through urban areas). The situation is completely different in the UK where we need new routes in pretty much every large city and additional platform capacity in the city centres. And of course, HS2 does run on to existing alignments where there is capacity available.

I suppose you could have built HS2 purely as a rural high speed network, then construct the urban sections as separate projects: the Euston station extension project, the North London relief line, the Birmingham intercity station project etc. But what's the point of that other than keeping the headline cost down by splitting it into half a dozen projects?
With the risk that the different bits don't functiom cohererently as a "whole"

Ask SNCF what they've achieved for high speed in the last 50 years, compared to the UK.
What is that then?

Each French high speed line is akin to an HS2 equivelent in its own right, each with Phases of build...just like HS2 (but 4 of them)
 

quantinghome

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With the risk that the different bits don't functiom cohererently as a "whole"
Indeed.

Each French high speed line is akin to an HS2 equivelent in its own right, each with Phases of build...just like HS2 (but 4 of them)
The crucial difference was that the French network had surplus capacity on their existing urban lines and stations in Paris and other cities. Therefore, with a few exceptions, their high speed infrastructure did not need to extend into urban areas.

By contrast, most UK cities have congested approach lines and stations with no room for additional services. If the UK had done the same (as Taunton suggests) we would have been able to run faster services, but with no overall increase in capacity. And capacity is the driver for HS2, with speed a secondary benefit.
 

Taunton

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Well, while we have been fiddling around demanding that only a utopian solution gets built, and whinging about what we can't do instead of what we can, what has been achieved in the last 50 years? About 80 miles of line from London to Folkestone it looks like.

The original TGV started well outside Paris and terminated short of Lyon. It of course made a considerable difference from the word go and was well received. Part of the TGV ethic was there was no premium pricing, it was normal fares (HS2 please note). Since then it has been extended in towards Paris Gare de Lyon through the suburbs, and a bypass of Lyon done. Plus routes built in just about every other direction from Paris. Meanwhile for much of that time the "no room" ECML was running 3-car 313s, not even well filled, over Welwyn viaduct in the peak, and abandoning one of the three tunnels into Kings Cross.
 

WesternLancer

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Well, while we have been fiddling around demanding that only a utopian solution gets built, and whinging about what we can't do instead of what we can, what has been achieved in the last 50 years? About 80 miles of line from London to Folkestone it looks like.

The original TGV started well outside Paris and terminated short of Lyon. It of course made a considerable difference from the word go and was well received. Part of the TGV ethic was there was no premium pricing, it was normal fares (HS2 please note). Since then it has been extended in towards Paris Gare de Lyon through the suburbs, and a bypass of Lyon done. Plus routes built in just about every other direction from Paris. Meanwhile for much of that time the "no room" ECML was running 3-car 313s, not even well filled, over Welwyn viaduct in the peak, and abandoning one of the three tunnels into Kings Cross.
Yes, just about sums it up! Well put I think. Tho quantinghome makes a good point about capacity. However, back in the 1970s I would think those capacity issues were not such a driver, so a 'french style' approach would have been plausible then, which would have been when Sir Peter and colleagues were musing over it.

And beyond the logistics I have always had the sense that the TGV project from the start created a tremendous sense of french national pride which itself then creates other political dividends for rail (albeit probably not for SNCF local services in rural areas!). I well recall a French family friend circa 25 years ago extolling the virtues of the TGV to me at great length and with great pride, even though (amusingly) he then admitted that he still often flew Paris-Maseille for business travel - I think this was soon after the Marseille TGV was opened so apols if I have the 25 years ago wrong - but it was his pride in the TGV even as a non regular user that stuck in my mind.
 

Bald Rick

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Well, while we have been fiddling around demanding that only a utopian solution gets built, and whinging about what we can't do instead of what we can, what has been achieved in the last 50 years? About 80 miles of line from London to Folkestone it looks like.

The original TGV started well outside Paris and terminated short of Lyon. It of course made a considerable difference from the word go and was well received. Part of the TGV ethic was there was no premium pricing, it was normal fares (HS2 please note). Since then it has been extended in towards Paris Gare de Lyon through the suburbs, and a bypass of Lyon done. Plus routes built in just about every other direction from Paris. Meanwhile for much of that time the "no room" ECML was running 3-car 313s, not even well filled, over Welwyn viaduct in the peak, and abandoning one of the three tunnels into Kings Cross.
Fairly sure the TGV required a supplement, albeit in the form of a compulsory reservation charge. I certainly had to pay extra when I first used it (albeit in 1991)
 

Bald Rick

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I well recall a French family friend circa 25 years ago extolling the virtues of the TGV to me at great length and with great pride, even though (amusingly) he then admitted that he still often flew Paris-Maseille for business travel - I think this was soon after the Marseille TGV was opened so apols if I have the 25 years ago wron
The LGV Rhône-Alpes was opened in 1994 (Lyon to Valence), and LGV Méditerranée to Marseille / Nîmes in June 2001.

Also worth pointing out that th original LGV-PSE was built specifically because the classic line via Dijon was at capacity; the high speed was a by product (albeit a very beneficial one).
 
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quantinghome

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Well, while we have been fiddling around demanding that only a utopian solution gets built, and whinging about what we can't do instead of what we can, what has been achieved in the last 50 years? About 80 miles of line from London to Folkestone it looks like.

The original TGV started well outside Paris and terminated short of Lyon. It of course made a considerable difference from the word go and was well received. Part of the TGV ethic was there was no premium pricing, it was normal fares (HS2 please note). Since then it has been extended in towards Paris Gare de Lyon through the suburbs, and a bypass of Lyon done. Plus routes built in just about every other direction from Paris. Meanwhile for much of that time the "no room" ECML was running 3-car 313s, not even well filled, over Welwyn viaduct in the peak, and abandoning one of the three tunnels into Kings Cross.
Sorry, but what are you talking about? You seem to be complaining that we haven't built enough high speed lines and at the same time complaining that HS2 is building too much line. Which one is it?

HS2 actually has some fairly obvious compromises such as not having Birmingham Curzon Street as a through station, removing links to HS1 and Heathrow from the plan and altering plans for Sheffield. If you want to see a utopian solution, check out HSUK's alternative 'plan' for a high speed network.

To be fair, specifying infrastructure for an eventual 400kph speed could is utopian and IMO was a bad idea. HS2's construction procurement has also been a mess.

But none of this detracts from the point that building new or extended stations and new lines through urban areas are essential for any high speed lines to operate effectively in the UK. They aren't profligate nice to haves. It's often forgotten but the first TGV line was built to relieve capacity constraints along the existing PLM line, particularly around Dijon. The French built lines where they had capacity issues and extended the network from there. We are doing the same, just our capacity problems are in the cities as well.

The reason we've not achieved much in terms of high speed rail on new lines is that up until the last decade or two we have had capacity on the existing lines to expand services. We have managed through a series of upgrades to run more and faster trains. This is almost certainly why new lines weren't being seriously considered in Peter Parker's day. But we've now reached saturation and need to build new lines.

EDIT: @Bald Rick, sorry repeated some of what you said.
 
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30907

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Fairly sure the TGV required a supplement, albeit in the form of a compulsory reservation charge. I certainly had to pay extra when I first used it (albeit in 1991)
In the far-gone days of distance-based fares, charging the via Dijon fare for a trip on the 15% shorter LGV was a supplement in itself.
 

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