The Null Device

London to Glasgow in five minutes

To commemorate the upgrade of the West Coast Main Line (that's the one that runs from London to Glasgow via Birmingham), the BBC has posted a time-lapse video of a train journey from London to Glasgow, filmed from the cab of a train and sped up to five minutes.

The upgrade of the line, to allow Virgin Train's Pendolino tilt-trains to actually do the tilting thing, has cut journey times by 30%, making the London to Glasgow journey just four hours and 30 seconds. However, compared to railways on the continent (such as France's TGV system), it is still slow; the maximum speed is 200kmh, or under two thirds of that of what they call a "fast train" across the Channel. Watching the video gives a hint to why this is so and likely to remain so for some time: the track ahead of the train curves hither and yon, still apparently following the path laid down in the 19th century to avoid powerful landowners' concerns and keep gradients low enough for the relatively feeble locomotives of the day. Whilst the aristocracy is not what it used to be, and today's trains have less of a problem with gradients, the West Coast Main Line remains too wavy to be traversed at speed.

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