This was originally published last week by 51 M
It was interesting to hear the Prime Minister at this week’s PMQs inform the House about the government’s plans concerning the roll out wi-fi access on trains to help businesses and individuals.
The Prime Minister: It is vital for businesses and for individuals to be able to access wi-fi, do their work and make other contacts while they are on trains. I am pleased to announce plans that will see the roll-out of free wi-fi on trains across the United Kingdom from 2017. The Government will invest nearly £50 million to ensure that rail passengers, who make more than 500 million journeys every year, are better connected.
Not too long ago the cornerstone of the business case for HS2 was the monetised value of shorter journeys for business travellers as the time spent on trains was ‘unproductive’. Unproductive rail travel has now trundled off into the sidings as we embrace the technological possibilities of the modern world.
Such a fundamental volte-face may not count for too much in the rarefied atmosphere of £50bn vanity projects but the abandonment of key principles – off and on the track (remember the HS1/HS2 being chopped last year) makes for some pretty spectacular shapeshifting. Whether the taxpayer, who has to stump up for all this, is on board is quite another matter.
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Almost anyone could see through that foolish idea that people could not work on trains, and therefore travelling time was necessarily ‘wasted time’!
Nevertheless, it is true that speed and therefore, shorter journey times, have always been a selling point with all forms of transport.
“Nought to 60 in …seconds”…, “Just three and a half days to New York…” Concorde…, “five hours to Edinburgh…”
After the opening of the M4, rail services to Bristol and South Wales were revived; some would say ‘saved’, with the introduction of the Inter City 125 trains.
More recently, Chiltern Mainline have made a marketing feature of their reduced journey times between London and the West Midlands, comparable with the timings of a few ‘crack expresses’ years ago, when the line was head to head with the Euston service.
Higher speeds also enable fewer trains to maintain a given service,thus saving on capital costs for the train operator.
Extra station stops enable more would-be travellers to access a service- but will tend to lengthen thhe journey times. Modern rolling stock, especially electric trains with rapid acceleration, can compensate for this, but it is still a matter of balancing speed and passenger accessibility.
But speed still sells- whether one intends to work,to read , sleep or just gaze out of the window!