Has the time come to radically rethink our ideas on rail travel before the nation pours further huge sums into shoring up 19th century technology?
Rail performance is limited by steel wheels running on steel rails, resulting in long stopping distances, massive headways and complicated control systems. Buses are cheaper, just as safe and are far more flexible.
A possible solution would be to rip up all those high maintenance rails and replace them with reinforced concrete guided busways. Buses on these routes would be able to travel at much reduced headways, with consequently much higher capacity, and with the flat gradients and large radius curves of railway alignment, speeds of 200km/h should be possible.
Those worried about increased pollution and noise would do well to remember trolley buses - at least that is 20th century technology.
Perhaps this is not the answer, but I am sure of one thing, train travel is pretty well at the limit of its development at a sensible price. Very few people could afford to travel by rail if they paid the true cost.
Brian Masters (M), 39 Baffins Road, Copnor, Portsmouth, PO3 9BD.