UK set for major domestic and international rail revolution

UK set for major domestic and international rail revolution

UK set for major domestic and international rail revolution

The UK is undergoing significant rail developments on both domestic and international levels, which will see the train compete more effectively with road and air travel, reveals Euromonitor International research for World Travel Market London – the leading global event for the travel industry – released today (Tuesday 7 November) at WTM London.

Value sales of rail tickets to UK residents are forecast to be USD4.7 billion in 2017, according to the Top 100 City Destination Ranking WTM London Edition, by Euromonitor International.

The report says: “The decision on airport expansion around London keeps dragging on, and amid claims that UK airspace is overcrowded, legislators are looking for alternative ways of improving transport links.

“Furthermore, the impact of aviation on climate change, as well as localised pollution from increased congestion on cities’ roads, is putting rail in a more positive light.

“In 2017, London breached annual pollution limits after only five days. According to the office of the Mayor of London, 9,400 London residents die prematurely every year due to exposure to air pollution.

“Initiatives such as London’s congestion charge (charging drivers to enter central London) have had some effect, but have also increased overcrowding on public transport. 2017 and 2018 will see significant rail developments to alleviate some of this pressure.”

Channel Tunnel rail operator Eurostar is expanding its network, with a direct link with Amsterdam starting in December 2017. With a travel time of under four hours, it is believed that the rail provider can compete with airlines on one of the busiest routes in Europe.

Within the Greater London area, Crossrail and Thameslink are working on improving connections. Outside of the city, High Speed Two (HS2) will run from London Euston to Birmingham, Crewe and Leeds to improve connections to northern powerhouses.

However, if one man’s vision comes to fruition, it could render HS2 unnecessary.

Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, Space X and Tesla, is working on a new venture called Hyperloop One, a sealed tube through which pods can travel without air friction, at up to 1,200 km per hour.

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The first Hyperloop connection is planned to be built between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, yet Musk has proposed several other viable routes in Europe. One eye-catching route is between London and Edinburgh, via Birmingham and Manchester, which would take 50 minutes.

Author Wouter Geerts, Senior Travel Analyst at Euromonitor International says: “While very much in the early stages, if it ever came into existence, the Hyperloop could make HS2 redundant.

“Once HS2 is completely opened in 2033, travel from Edinburgh to London will take three hours and 38 minutes.”

Hyperloop One has also proposed routes between Glasgow and Cardiff (89 minutes) and Glasgow to Liverpool (47 minutes).

While Hyperloop One might take a while to come to fruition, travel companies are starting to look at partnerships with companies specialising in the rail sector. For example, in May 2017, Expedia entered into an agreement that resulted in it holding a majority stake in ticketing company SilverRail, which processes more than 25 million bookings a year.

When he was Expedia CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi declared: “Rail is ready for an online revolution.”

The Euromonitor Report adds: “Expedia’s investment in SilverRail shows that the internet firm believes in the growing importance of rail, and integrating rail on its ‘flight-heavy’ platform. It is an important move for rail, as better online accessibility will reduce the barrier to usage by customers.

World Travel Market London, Senior Director, Simon Press, said: “With concern growing about pollution and congestion both on the roads and in the air, it looks like rail could become part of the solution to UK domestic and international travel of the future.

“If the Hyperloop super-fast service comes to fruition, we could be seeing visitors to future WTMs arriving via pods in sealed tubes. Or, they could take a post- or pre-WTM London trip via Hyperloop to one or two of Britain’s other great cities to see what the rest of UK has to offer.”

eTN is a media partner for WTM.

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