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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Rail firm considers 200mph trains
First Great Western train
The new service could cut journey times
First Great Western is investigating a new 200mph railway line linking the South West with London.

The aim is to introduce high-speed trains which will drastically reduce journey times.

A six-month study will look at Japanese and French style high-speed solutions.

If implemented, the new service could cut journey times from Plymouth to London from an average of four hours to two hours and 20 minutes.


I think the existing links that we have hold back economic growth and hold back tourism

Bob Mills,
Plymouth Chamber of Commerce
The project will investigate technology, rolling stock, routes, timescales and feasibility as trains would need dedicated lines.

The managing director of First's rail division, Dean Finch, says the South West has been the Cinderella of rail infrastructure investment and a new generation of train travel will turn that around.

The company says there is an urgent need to replace the current train fleet, and high-speed trains would cut costs and avoid disruption to existing services.

Managing director Chris Kinchin-Smith said: "The closest equivalent we have is the Eurostar, which is based on French TGV technology.

"These are trains that can accommodate up to 600 people and have reliability because they'd be running on dedicated tracks.

"There would be no slower trains to get in the way and they would have inherently high punctuality."

However, if new lines are needed, they could cost 50m a mile, which could go up to 60m a mile if tunnelling is involved.

As yet there is no information saying how it would be paid for, when it could be achieved, or how far west the new line would extend.

Economic growth

But passenger and business groups are welcoming the study, saying the project cannot be delivered quickly enough.

Bob Mills, from the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, said it is very encouraging news.

He said: "I think the existing links that we have hold back economic growth and hold back tourism.

"The fact that First Great Western has taken the initiative to have this study and this consultation process is very encouraging.

"The end results could be of considerable benefit to the West Country."

'Reality working'

But a Cornish MP said the train firm should be concentrating on the services it is providing at the moment.

Truro and St Austell MP Matthew Taylor said: "It ain't going to happen.

"I don't mind people looking at this, and if they can come up with a way of making it work, then fine.

"But let's actually get the reality working - the trains replaced. That's what First Great Western should have been announcing."


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See also:

16 Oct 02 | England
16 Oct 02 | Business
15 Oct 02 | Scotland
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