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British Rail High-Speed Trains. The international definition of high-speed rail embraces new lines with a top speed of at least 155 mph and existing lines with a top speed of around 124 mph.
As of 2011, there are four “classic” main railway lines in Britain operating at up to 125 mph, plus 70 miles of purpose-built high-speed line.
The first purpose-built high-speed rail line in Britain was the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the first section of which opened in 2003. The building of the line (re-branded “High Speed 1″ in 2006) provoked discussion in the national media and specialist rail circles on the merits of constructing further high-speed lines. A second purpose-built high-speed line is now planned by the government — High Speed 2 — which will connect London with Birmingham, and at a later phase cities in northern England (including Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds). Alongside this scheme, are plans by the Scottish Government to build a high-speed rail line between Edinburgh and Glasgow, to open by 2024.
At present, a mixture of 186 mph Eurostar international services and 140 mph Southeastern domestic passenger services use High Speed 1. Attempts to increase speeds to 140 mph on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) and West Coast Main Line (WCML) have both failed, partly because trains that travel above 125 mph are considered to require in-cab signalling for safety reasons. The term High Speed Train (or HST125) is currently also used as a brand name for the present British fleet of Class 43 125 mph InterCity diesel trains.
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