A snail-like top speed
Why has it taken Eurostar 20 years to start running trains to Marseille and Amsterdam? The problem was, there were no genuine high speed lines in Britain for the trains to run on, according to an article on the ‘Citymetric’ website.
[Eurostar is expanding to Marseille and Amsterdam. But why has it taken 20 years?, Paul Prentice, Citymetric, 17 Apr 2015]
There were only the East and West Coast Main Lines, with a relatively snail-like top speed of 125mph. As a result, journey times on the UK side could not match the genuine high speed networks on mainland Europe, and while British Rail did begin running a shadow service of regional trains connecting with Eurostar at Waterloo in 1995, these trains ran almost empty. They’d ended completely by 1997.
In any case, a nine-hour rail journey time between Glasgow and London simply couldn’t compete with pioneering budget airlines. […]
Aside from how to get trains through the tunnel, there are also questions over the lack of capacity on the rail network in northern France. High Speed 1, the line between the Channel Tunnel and St Pancras International, is only about half full, which allows for excellent reliability on the British side – but what happens when high speed trains meet congestion at the other end? Without French investment in their equivalent infrastructure, LGV Nord, the “paths” do not exist, and the delays might stack up.
This sounds like a load of old nonsense. Firstly, the rail journey time between Glasgow and London is not nine hours.
Secondly, the prior non-existence of through services between London and Marseille, and London and Amsterdam, cannot be a result of there being “no genuine high speed lines in Britain to run on”.
Thirdly, had they started running, the Nightstar trains would have been loco-hauled, and unable to run at more than ~160 km/h, even on new-build lines.
Fourthly, the idea that the LGV line to Paris is “approaching capacity” is questionable (especially in respect of the section between Calais and Lille). HS1 was, in essence, designed to French specifications (signalling included), so the line capacity on either side of the Channel is probably the same.