This week marks the 40th anniversary of TGV operation in France, and hence 40 years of high-speed rail across the country. The TGV network has continued to grow since its initial Paris–Lyon route, and there are more plans to further expand. In fact, across Europe – nay, the world – high-speed networks keep growing. Because, well, they just work.
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The future of transport will without question rely on high-speed rail: it’s efficient, better for the environment than aviation, and frankly, simpler for passengers. I don’t have to turn up at St. Pancras two hours in advance of my train’s departure to Paris. High-speed rail travel is just fantastic. It’s trains, but fast.
The whole Future Rail team seems to agree with me, anyway. So, we decided to dedicate a good chunk of this issue to them.
We profile Tibet’s first bullet train – and some of the nifty engineering required to handle the challenging terrain it travels through. We also look into the somewhat dubious rumours of a high-speed underwater railway from China to the US, via Russia and Canada. It sounds too good to be true, and spoiler: it probably is. We also chronicle the legal issues that have faced HS2 since the project’s inception, in light of Siemen’s and Talgo’s recent complaints.
As well as all of that, we also look at some of the new technology being used, trialled, or developed for rail. Our cover story looks at the increasing use of body cameras by staff on the railways. We explain why they are a valuable tool against the abuse that rail staff are, sadly, increasingly having to endure.
We also highlight some interesting new technology with the potential to improve post-pandemic UK railways, as we showcase some of the winners of this year’s First of a Kind competition. They’re all great, obviously, but SignalBox was particularly handy during some scheduling issues (read: cancellations) faced by yours truly on a recent journey on the East Coast Main Line.
And, out of the Netherlands is a new piece of remarkable technology that has the potential to improve the accessibility of train travel for deaf passengers, by using AI to translate last-minute station announcements to sign language. It really is impressive.
On the important topic of making trains more accessible, we also speak to Alan Benson about SWR’s new assistance scheme, which cuts down the time required for advance booking from 24 hours to just 15 minutes. I’ll say again: it cuts the time down from 24 hours to 15 minutes. Colour me impressed. Trains should be for everyone, and this is taking us one step closer to that. But there’s still more to do, as Alan explains.
Oh, and a couple of tube stations opened in London this week, in case you hadn’t heard.
Peter Nilson, editor
In this issue
All aboard the Stockholm–Berlin night train
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the Malmö–Berlin train route. A year later, Swedish operator Snälltåget has launched a new night train service to link Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. Ilaria Grasso Macola profiles the new railway to find out how it came to be and how it fits within the bigger night train renaissance at EU level.
The technology that will improve post-pandemic UK rail journeys
The theme of this year’s First of a Kind competition was building back railway in a greener and more-passenger friendly way to attract back travellers a year and a half after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ilaria Grasso Macola rounds up some of the most interesting technologies to find out how they will help bring back capacity to the UK railway network.
Travelling through the mountains: Tibet’s first bullet train
For the first time in history, those visiting Tibet can experience the area’s mountains and views at high speed, via Tibet’s first-ever bullet train. Stretching 435km, the line connects the capital city of Lhasa with the city of Nyingchi, allowing all 31 provinces of mainland China access to this new line. Frankie Youd explores the project, highlighting some of its impressive design features.
Should train guards wear body cameras?
As the number of assaults against rail personnel has increased in the last few years, operators such as Virgin Trains and South Western Railway have decided to adopt body cameras to protect the safety of staff. Ilaria Grasso Macola looks at whether body cameras are the way forward, or if they infringe on citizens’ right to privacy.
Assisting deaf passengers with train travel: AI sign language
Due to a large majority of station announcements being delivered over tannoy systems, deaf individuals could miss out on vital updates. Frankie Youd explores new technology that translates announcements into sign language.
China’s wet dream: the underwater railway
According to reports, China has plans for a 13,000km high-speed railway line that would travel from mainland China, through Siberia and Eastern Russia, and then under the sea to Alaska. Although the project is currently on hold, Frankie Youd investigates whether this line could be a future possibility.
Siemens Mobility joins a growing list of complainants against HS2
The UK high-speed railway project HS2 has recently received the latest of a series of legal challenges brought by railway stakeholders and members of the public, with the project stirring controversies since its inception. Luke Christou highlights some of the legal issues HS2 has seen.
Next Issue preview
In our next issue, we look towards station management as we profile a UK startup helping train stations manage their waste. Though not the most glamorous of operations, waste management can play a crucial role in controlling the environmental impact of a station. We find out how a new system in place at London Victoria and Brighton is helping.
We also profile some new rolling stock, as well look at the new TGV M from Alstom, as well as finding out about the worlds first battery-powered freight train.
The German Green Party has recently unveiled its plans for a trans-European night railway network to connect the continent and diminish the environmental impact of planes. According to the party, the project will also involve linking Scotland’s biggest cities – Glasgow and Edinburgh – to the rest of the continent via London.
In light of this, we dig into the night sprinter’s specifics to find out whether it’ll only be just a dream, or if a climate-friendly and affordable night train network can be achieved by the end of the decade.
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