The British government announced a £9.4bn package of investment in the railways in England and Wales today, which – if it is realised as proposed – adds to the recent efforts to bring the motherland of rail transport up to the standards of many other countries around the world. The announcement comes in a year in which another major railway infrastructure project is widely discussed in the United Kingdom: “High Speed 2 (HS2) is a planned high-speed railway between London and the English Midlands, Northern England, and potentially the central belt of Scotland” (see Wikipedia).
Phase 1 of HS2 has been discussed widely earlier this year, after the latest route plans from London Euston to Birmingham/Lichfield were proposed as part of the HS2 public consultation.
The detailed route proposal shows the geographical location of some of the most critical parts of the line that has some considerable opposition amongst various interest groups. While a high speed rail network requires space for the fastest legs of the journey – usually to be found in the countryside – the shorter parts of the line are not without problems either: As the line connects the most populous areas of the countries, it has to go through some densely populated areas as well, which are less visible on the overview maps of the project (another map is featured on the BBC website). The following map therefore takes advantage of the fisheye perspective of a gridded cartogram that shows the proposed HS2 (phase 1) route plotted on an equal population projection map. The map also includes the average speeds in an area, demonstrating the (obvious) slowdown effect of densely populated areas, mainly London and Birmingham as the main destinations that this line connects in the initial stage. The map also shows nicely how the fastest part of the journey squeezes through the least populated corridor between these areas, and it also gives an impression of ‘travel time’, i.e. where one spends much of the time in a high speed train. Its not the landscapes that fly past the window while travelling at highest speed, but the urban landscapes that one creeps along quite slowly when leaving and approaching the major cities: