The Anonymous Widower

Will We Get HSW Before HS2?

In this post about the BBC’s knocking of HS2, I jokingly referred to the Great Western Main Line as HSW, for High Speed West or High Speed Wales.

But is it that far from the truth?

A high speed railway is defined as one where speeds of 200 kph or 125 mph are possible.  The fastest lines run at 320 kph or 200 mph.

So what speed can we expect to see on the Great Western Main Line, after it is fully modernised in 2017?

Currently the fastest trains in the UK are the Class 373 ( 300 kph) used by Eurostar, the Class 390 ( 225 kph) used by Virgin and the InterCity 225 (225 kph) used by East Coast. The latter two trains are restricted to 200 kph, due to signalling restrictions on their lines and because they have to mix it with slower trains.

It is also interesting to note that the Class 395, which bring the high speed Kent commuter services into St. Pancras run at 225 kph.

The new trains for the electrified Great Western Main Line are based on the Class 395 and are called Class 800 and Class 801. These have a design speed of 225 kph, but will be limited to 200 kph on traditional lines.

But Brunel built the Great Western for speed and a lot of the route it is pretty straight and much has four tracks. It is also going to be resignalled to the highest European standards with in-cab signalling. The latter is necessary to go above 200 kph. So it shouldn’t be one of the most difficult tasks to make much of the line capable of 225 kph or even more.

The only real problem on the line is the Severn Tunnel. But as Crossrail has shown, we have some of the best tunnel engineers in the world.  So just as the Swiss dealt with their railway bottleneck of the Simplon Tunnel, all we need to do to improve the Severn Tunnel is give the best engineers their head and let them solve the problems, whilst the politicians sit around and watch and wait. After all it’s only a baby compared to the massive twin bores of the Simplon.

As an aside here, I do wonder if one of the most affordable solutions might be to use a modern tunnel boring machine to create a new tunnel alongside the current one.


So I believe that even if it still goes slower on opening, trains to Bristol and Wales will be doing 225 kph before the end of this decade.

If that isn’t a high speed railway like HS1, I don’t know what is?

But whatever we call it, it’ll be here several years before HS2!

I think we need to call for three cheers for Brunel, who got the route right in the first place.

October 19, 2013 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , ,


  1. […] to Cardiff and South Wales as trains speed along at 225 kph. The line which, I’ve called HSW will probably change the way we think about high speed […]

    Pingback by A Beginner’s Guide On Opposing HS2 « The Anonymous Widower | July 21, 2014 | Reply

  2. […] In October 2013, I wrote Will We Get HSW Before HS2? […]

    Pingback by Grand Union Seeks ’91s’ To Cardiff « The Anonymous Widower | May 29, 2022 | Reply

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