Swiss Railways train in Zurich Station
Our campaign got more publicity this month in the letters page of Rail Magazine – here is the text of our letter which was printed in full:
The special report from HS1 Ltd published in Rail 938 could be seen as a load of “Greenwash”. They publish a lot of sustainability statistics for 2020-21 which look good on paper but do nothing for the modal shift they claim to want to achieve. For example, the 14% reduction in electricity use is hardly surprising given the reduced number of Eurostar and Javelin trains using the line due to the Covid pandemic. While they are clearly doing a lot of charitable work with other organizations, none of this is likely to result in making full use of this low-carbon gateway from the UK to Europe.
While they say they want to achieve a modal shift, they fail to tell us how they plan to do this. They say that they can “make the modal shift happen right now, but we just need some entrepreneurial thinking around the sides”. We find it extraordinary that a private company lacks the relevant “entrpreneurial thinking” needed to produce a proper plan for full use of HS1.
One of the key issues which they fail to mention is the high level of track access charges for both HS1 and the Channel Tunnel. These charges are far higher than most of the high speed lines across Europe and act as a deterrent for any new train operators. This also means that Eurostar finds it harder to compete against the airlines and the private car.
If we are to achieve a real modal shift and make full use of this asset, track access charges must be reduced. This may require UK Government intervention for HS1. It would also require joint UK/French Government intervention for the Channel Tunnel. This is surely not too much to ask when the UK is chairing COP 26 in November and we are facing a climate emergency.
BUT – Since this letter was published there might be some light on the horizon ! RENFE the Spanish state train company have announced their interest in running a London-Paris service in competition with Eurostar.