People must choose rail journeys over short-haul flights, says transport secretary Andrew Adonis in an article on the front page of today’s Guardian. To this end, the government aims to switch 46m domestic air passengers a year to a new north-south rail line—plans Adonis originally outlined an article in Prospect in January, (now free to read to non-subscribers).
As all commuters know, overcrowding on Britain’s trains is a big problem. But 1,300 extra rail carriages over the next five years will help, Adonis wrote in Prospect, as will £26bn over the next decade to improve capacity.
Some critics doubt that that the plans are workable because the distances between our cities are too small. However, Adonis argues that we can learn from Japan, where high-speed rail already works. “The distance between London and Manchester is similar to Tokyo-Nagoya. High-speed rail doesn’t just suit longer distances.”
Whether or not Adonis’s ambitions will be realised remains to be seen. When it comes to choosing rail over flight for longer distances, however, we will probably have to wait a little longer. For now, the priority must be to ensure that we can just get on a train at all.