Speed in South Korea

Sir - With reference to your Comment item ’TGV Bypass’ in RG 9.97 p557, I should like to point out that the Korean High Speed Rail Authority (KHRC) has had 350 km/h as its criteria for infrastructure design since the very beginning.

While South Korea’s technology transfer programme provides good basics for high speed rail engineering and manufacturing, the specific TGV model which has been chosen will be obsolete well before the country’s export market might be a reality. This suggests that they are very wise to make a fresh start.

Kenneth Lawson

Bluemont, Virginia, USA

(Adviser to KHRC 1991-95)

Time to bite the bullet

Sir - In 1937 Britain’s County Surveyors’ Society studied the problems of accommodating high-speed inter-urban traffic. The solution was not piecemeal improvement of existing trunk roads but a new network of special roads: motorways.

In 1997 Britain’s railways are faced with the legacy and restrictions of a network built over 100 years ago. Private train operating companies are looking to attract more passenger and freight traffic to rail. Soon the capacity of the Victorian network will be reached - compounded by the mix of fast inter-city and slower freight and regional trains on the same tracks.

Old tortuous railways with limited clearances cannot be economically upgraded for high speed trains. The Japanese came to this conclusion in the 1960s, when the Tokaido Shinkansen was built. France, Germany, Spain and Belgium followed suit, and new lines are planned in South Korea, the USA and in Britain from London to the Channel Tunnel.

But new lines are environmentally disruptive, and where new alignments are used, controversial. Work being undertaken at Liverpool John Moores University envisages the use of existing transport corridors to minimise the need for new land. A detailed study has been completed for a line offering a 15min transit between Liverpool and Manchester airports.

More exciting is a plan for a 320 km/h line following the M1 and M6 motorways. This would increase the passenger capacity of the corridor by nearly 50%, with rail offering a competitive alternative to inter-urban car travel. London to Birmingham would take about 40min, and London to Manchester 75min. The cost of such a rail-road would be under £1bn, less than the proposed upgrade of the West Coast Main Line, yet delivering faster journeys and a substantial capacity increase throughout the London - Glasgow corridor..

Dr Lewis Lesley

John Moores University, Liverpool , Great Britain