We are to get a bullet train (which some droll spark has named the ‘javelin’ in honour of the Olympics – geddit?) as of 2009. The aim is not only to whisk sports spectators from downtown St. Pancras over to the main-goings-on at the Olympic stadium in Stratford (in just 7 minutes, apparently), but also rush Chunnel traffic from the coast to London in record time.
Londonist would like to know how the javelin is going to reach the legendary speed of the Japanese bullet trains in such a short, cross-town ride. And although the track record (‘scuse pun) of the ‘shinkansen’ is exemplary:
Shinkansen operators have continued to increase frequencies, sustain near-flawless timekeeping and have, as of 2007, the enviable record of no fatality having befallen a passenger due to the service's operation.
Londonist would also like to know how the technology and service fares in the hands of, er, the average British railwayman. In Japan a train-driver reputedly committed hara kiri for repeatedly arriving at his destination late. This dedication to duty is not awfully common in the UK.
But sweeping all such scepticism and cynicism aside, what Londonist is most surprised about in this story is the fact that it seems to represent a case of (you might want to sit down for this) the government honouring its promises. In a white paper of 2004, they wrote thus:
But the railways are suffering from historic under-investment stretching back for
decades, and from a flawed structure put in place at the time of privatisation.
Substantially increased levels of investment are now being made to address this
legacy, but the structure must also be changed if we are to build the railway that the
country needs for the future.
This high-speed train would seem to be delivering in every sense.
Image courtesy of liquidx’s flickr photo stream.