Tony Blair has personally intervened to push forward the scrutiny of proposals for a high-speed hovering train link between Glasgow and London, giving the first clear signal that the government is seriously considering the plans, write Sarah Richardson and David Rogers.
The government has asked for the Ultraspeed project, a proposed “maglev” train capable of travelling at a speed of 500 km/h, to be considered as part of an extensive review of transport infrastructure options by outgoing BAA chief executive Rod Eddington, according to industry sources. The project has been developed by a private consortium called Ultraspeed.
A source close to Ultraspeed said Downing Street had hinted that it was becoming more interested in the scheme, which uses magnetic levitation technology and is based on similar schemes in Shanghai and Germany.
The source said: “No 10 has asked Eddington to scrutinise Ultraspeed in his review of transport infrastructure. Tony Blair has also asked Alistair Darling, the transport secretary, to hold further meetings with the Ultraspeed project directors.”
Alan James, UK Ultraspeed project leader, would not be drawn on his contacts with government but said that he anticipated extensive discussions in the future. He said: “Ultraspeed looks forward to having substantive dialogue with the government. The project would provide significant economic benefit to the country.”
No 10 has asked Rod Eddington to look at Ultraspeed in his review of transport infrastructure
Source close to Ultraspeed
The Ultraspeed link would be faster than most short haul air travel and would be more energy efficient, with only 20% of the emissions of a conventional train. Trains carrying up to 1200 passengers would be carried along a fixed route steered by electromagnetic force. The course could be built on the ground or elevated by up to 20 m, depending on the surface of the land. This would enable it to pass over the present infrastructure.
A provisional route mapped out for the system would enable passengers to travel from London to Birmingham in 30 minutes, and from Heathrow to Newcastle upon Tyne in 100 minutes. It could operate every 10 minutes. Transrapid maglev technology is the only ground transport system in the world safety-certified to travel at 500 km/h, with an automated operational control system constantly monitoring and adjusting the power supply to provide high levels of safety and reliability.
The world’s first commercial Transrapid maglev route opened in Shanghai in late 2003. A test facility is also operational in Germany.