As the bickering within the Tory party continues over the proposed high speed rail link from London to the West Midlands and beyond – which I considered yesterday – things are moving forward elsewhere in Europe, free of the flat earth mentality displayed by Conservative Associations around the Chilterns.
Until twelve years ago, the rail journey between Spain’s first and third cities, Madrid and Valencia, took well over six hours. Driving, road coaches and flying were preferable on time and convenience. All that changed when new and upgraded lines were opened between Albacete and the Valencia satellite town of Xátiva, along with a new fleet of trains: now the trip took just three and a half hours.
Rail began to take a far larger share of the market, so much so that longer trains had to be deployed to cope. But the journey time could not be reduced further, and neither could more trains be put on, because of the need to use the existing tracks at each end of the journey. The Madrid approaches were, and still are, busy with commuter trains and freight.
So an all-new rail line has been built to connect the two cities. This will free up capacity along the recently upgraded tracks for freight paths, especially into the Valencia area, where there is significant manufacturing industry, along with the demands of the port there. The area’s economy will be better placed for recovery as a result.
And so a successful passenger service will be withdrawn next month – in favour of a far faster one on the new high speed line. The fastest journey time between Madrid and Valencia will be just 95 minutes. That’s seriously fast, but then, across Europe, countries are serious about high speed rail, and the wider benefits for national and international transport capacity.
Alternatively, there is the stance of ConservativeHome, to stick head firmly in sand and hope that reality goes away. Time to get real, Monty!