Most of the interest in a new high-speed rail network concentrates on its benefits for moving people around the country and getting them off the roads — but I think this is missing an important point.
Most road journeys are short or medium-distance trips for work or everyday ‘runaround’ purposes rather than major excursions between different parts of the country, hundreds of miles apart. If people are travelling long distances it tends to be for holidays, complete with luggage and children which they would not want to load on and off a train.
The main benefit of new dedicated lines could be for the efficient movement of freight, which would clear many trucks off our roads and make driving easier for everyone. Anybody travelling near our major ports, such as Felixstowe, Southampton and Dover, knows that the roads are choked up with trucks carrying goods into and out of the UK.
If all that could be moved by rail on a network running at maximum capacity which does not have to fit into passenger timetables we could get much of that off the roads. I am willing to bet it would be more environmentally friendly, too.