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HS2 will be on par with Japan’s punctual bullet train, with issues ‘designed out of the system’

HS2 Ltd has promised that the mammoth project connecting London to the Midlands and the north will transform the country’s travel in the same way that the world’s first-ever high-speed rail line – Japan’s Tōkaidō Shinkansen – did in 1964.

Before the Shinkansen opened, the 515km-long journey between Tokyo and Osaka took a staggering seven hours. When the line opened in 1964, that was dramatically slashed to just four hours. And during the past 50 years, the performance, technology and operations of the Tōkaidō network were “constantly refined,” bringing the fastest service down to just two hours and 25 minutes with reliability that is measured in seconds.

“HS2 will bring this step change in travel to the UK,” the organisation promised in a new report from outgoing chairman Sir David Higgins. “HS2 takes much of its inspiration from the Shinkansen, providing high capacity, fast, frequent and reliable services between our largest cities.

“It will form the backbone of the UK’s future rail network, with highly integrated connections with conventional rail and other transport modes to serve a wide area of the UK beyond those areas directly connected to the HS2 network.

“This mirrors a masterplan drawn up for the Shinkansen network in the 1970s, designed with the intention that everyone would be able to access the Shinkansen within one to two hours. This masterplan still forms the basis for authorising new lines or extensions to existing lines.”

Similar to how the Shinkansen became a “central feature” of Japan’s economy – bringing large cities closer together, changing business patterns, connecting firms with suppliers, spurring trade and tourism, and supporting commercial development – Higgins also expects HS2 to “completely redefine the transport experience and the future geography of the UK economy.”

“HS2 will benefit from 50 years of international experience with high speed rail, as well as the latest technology, as we bring this new level of service to the UK. The potential for change is enormous,” he wrote in the report.

“HS2 will fundamentally change the way we think about reliability and train travel in Britain. Our ambition is for HS2 to achieve world-class levels of reliability, on a par with Japan’s Shinkansen high-speed rail network. HS2 will be a railway that can be depended on seven days a week.”

In a statement released alongside the report – produced to highlight the progress HS2 has made so far – transport secretary Chris Grayling commented: “HS2 will not only be the backbone of our national network, but a truly ambitious project that will drive huge economic growth right across the country.

“Sir David Higgins has been instrumental in laying the groundwork for the success of this vital project. As this report shows, before he steps down from the role of chairman, HS2 is already delivering on its incredible potential, with jobs and business opportunities already being created well before the first services are expected in 2026.”

Higgins also promised that HS2 services will be “unrecognisable to today’s commuters,” offering a dependable service with world-class standards – and with the stress of tickets, delays and other passenger frustrations “designed out of the system.”

“HS2 will be judged, in the end, if it can be considered a railway for everyone,” the outgoing chairman concluded.

Top image: blanscape via iStock 


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