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High Speed trains are most effective when running over long distances (say 150-170+miles) at sustained high speeds, as in Europe, because they can then cruise with minimal power consumption, they are unable to do this

 in the UK as our island is so relatively small.


To go into more detail about how this consumption will affect the UK:

1. HS locomotives have huge engines requiring prodigious amounts of power (See rear).

2. Those engines require most power at start to get the train to an economic speed (180-250mph) after every stop.

3. Those trains will have to stop regularly, (40 to 70 miles) to collect enough passengers to begin to meet costs.

4. Stopping at such regular intervals greatly increases power consumption and costs (see back).

5. The considerable demands for power from the national grid are no longer the most efficient (or green) means of producing electric power for railway locomotives, while starting and stopping at such short distances is wholly uneconomic for High Speed trains.

6. To produce power of the order required (see Mr. Whitehead back), while bearing in mind that we are committed as a nation to phase-out the burning of coal, oil, gas, or nuclear fuel , even with the increasing amounts of renewable energy being bought on stream, it is likely that we may have to return to further construction of new power stations to burn coal etc. or nuclear fuel.

7. Both options are very undesirable given known collateral damage, both short and long term, therefore those options hardly form a good basis for a low carbon economy and a     dubious heritage to leave our descendants! Demands such as those overleaf can only make matters worse, or at best make far more protracted, the attainment of the low carbon         society sought.

8. 23.6.2011 It has just been announced that sites for further nuclear power plants are under consideration, despite the recent Japanese experience and Germany announcing that it is to turn away from Nuclear fission as a power source due to potential hazards and long term detrimental effects and costs in decommissioning . Our government presumably feels that radiation is good for you!


Sometime ago I produced a leaflet/poster regarding the excessive amount of power required to drive HS2s trains (right). Most thought I was being over-imaginative in my fight against the building of HS2, while I could never get an official response, be it in writing or face to face at  the “road-shows”. A letter in the Birmingham Post by “a man who knows” (below) made me realise that I had been given the facts I lacked and the leaflet (right) was born.

OrtonPower Hungry!Water Orton

Stop   HS2

More power to the train

By Andrew Whitehead on Jan 25, 11 01:20 PM

Whilst looking at the wind farm issue in my last blog, I couldn't help but do a little maths around energy production and consumption, which made even more thought-provoking reading.


As a law firm, we are receiving instructions from land owners and landlords who expect to be affected by the construction of HS2, (the high speed rail link from London to Birmingham and beyond for those who have been abroad for the last 18 months) and, quite naturally, are seeking to maximize the compensation they will be paid. Whilst there are no formal procedures in place for the intended Hybrid Bill /CPO, this is an important time for businesses, institutional investors and landowners to get themselves organized to ensure they receive the best compensation package achievable.


However, looking at the figures surrounding the route, my eye was drawn to the energy consumption figures for these new 200m long trains making the journey 50 times a day in each direction. The energy consumed by the line in one year will be an eye-watering 150 million kWh, even allowing for the regenerative braking benefit, which returns energy to the system as trains brake from their 225mph top speed.


To put the figures into context, and with my earlier wind farm comments in mind, the figure of 150 million kWh breaks down to about 4700 kWh per journey, which coincidentally equates to the entire energy consumption per year of the average UK household.


So, just 100 trains per day on this part of the route will require the same annual energy input as 36,500 homes, a reasonably large town. Or more importantly the output of about 36 onshore wind turbines, a reasonably large development.


We all know that when governments invest as much time and effort as successive governments have in this project they are likely to go ahead, so I think we must all accept HS2 is going to happen. And there are, of course, many benefits for the West Midlands, including the predicted creation of thousands of jobs and a sharp rise in economic prosperity.

For now, we must await a formal consultation which the government will open next month. We can also expect to see a revised business case, with strong support already in evidence from Birmingham City Council, which will be of great interest to the many pressure groups that have raised doubts about the viability and economic case for the project.


I suppose this illustrates just how many moving parts there are in the de-carbonisation jigsaw, and the challenge of sustainable economic development.

Text Box: As with life in general things have moved on. Advisors to the French Government now say that TGV trains need to run uninterrupted for periods of 1.5+ hours between stops to make them cost effective, this is say at a speed of 225mph they must travel 330-340 miles, making my estimate look very shabby. Want a d ay ticket to the highlands?
Power consumption and power generation are much in the news and reports seen are far from reassuring.