11 Aug 2016 Ooh-aah Double Decker. State-of-the-art French Trains for HS2?
Setting aside the hubbub over the HS2 project and the strength of feeling on both sides of the argument, I’m sure I’m not alone in being excited by the possibility of double decker trains coursing through the UK countryside in the near future.
French train maker Alstom hopes to win the £7.5billion contract to build rolling stock for the controversial line, which would link London, Birmingham and Leeds, and the firm would opt for double deckers – surely the most exciting French export to hit our shores since Eric Cantona? (apologies to Thierry Henry).
Britain’s relationships with trains has long been passionate, quirky and perhaps steeped more in a hankering after the old than an embracing of the new. Nothing brings out fervent crowds of misty-eyed spotters more than the thick whiff of soot and some sleek vintage styling.
But one of the pleasures of traveling abroad is enjoying the sleek, hushed, speedy, air conditioned and dazzling beauties which grace many of the tracks of Europe.
The Alstom design builds upon the Duplex TGV trains the company engineered for the French high-speed network, which use power cars at each end.
The specification for the 160 650ft long HS2 trains have yet to be fully finalised and any contract to build them won’t be awarded until 2019.
Alstom’s proposals for a twin-deck design would, they say, deliver trains which are no higher than a single-decker but they would be wider, to meet European track standards. They would be expected to create elbow room for a further 40 percent of passengers than the 430 to 500 people accommodated by standard trains. The company also says much of the build work would be carried out in the UK.
Of course some say the extra space will be used to maximise profits rather than improve passenger experience.
Arguments about emissions, the cost of HS2 and the wisdom of installing high speed trains for use on relatively short journeys will, I’m sure, continue to gather steam right up until the expected 2026 launch date. But I hope we are able to embrace the thrill of the new.