The High Speed Rail Group has submitted proposals to the UK government suggesting that using railway “Sleeper Services” will help the UK meet the legally binding imposed carbon neutral target by 2050. The group is the industry body appointed to represent High Speed 1 (HS1) which operates the London to Channel Tunnel high speed rail link and is encouraging the government to back sleeper trains as a choice for long distance European travel in competition to flying by plane which pre-pandemic, people in the UK used as their favoured mode of international transport more than other countries.
In addition, the Department for Transport issued a statement to confirm they were committed to increasing growth for environmental friendly international sleeper rail travel where this could be commercially viable. So with airline downtime due to the coronavirus pandemic and with people reluctant to fly as often, this may be the time for travellers to go green and sleep over to visit European cities like the popular destination of Vienna and as far away as Spain.
But… Yes, there’s a but!
There are still a few big issues to be negotiated and ironed out if the low-carbon travel option can ever be commissioned.
Firstly, there are the demanding channel tunnel fire safety regulations to overcome. And secondly, financially these type of sleeper trains are both much more expensive to assemble and also to run as the sleeping space required would be much more costly to accommodate and therefore there would have to be increased charges to travellers over and above normal seating carriages.
And yet, we can still hope, because one of the initial ideas when the Channel Tunnel was built, was to provide the opportunity for overnight travel until the low-cost airlines took to the sky in competition for holiday seekers travelling abroad. Perhaps with a determined collaboration between all parties concerned in environmental and construction challenges, a solution can be found as we move towards the tunnel’s 30th birthday four years hence.