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crypto and public policy

Theory and Practice: The Eurostar

Filed under: General — July 29, 2003 @ 5:59 am

“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are different.”

I took the Eurostar from Paris to London this past weekend. The Eurostar is effectively a French TGV that crosses from the French rail system to the British one via a 120km tunnel. On the French side, the train is the fastest TGV yet, leaving speeding cars on the highway looking like snails. On the British side, we slowed down to a crawl. Then the rain caused a signalling problem which stopped the train for an hour.

So yeah, fast trains work if fast rails are in place.

Thankfully, the British side of the track is being entirely redone. In Fall 2003, new rails (the first new rails built in Britain in 100 years) will shave off another 20 minutes off the Paris/London trip and greatly improve reliability. In 2007, the last part of the old British rail will be replaced, shaving yet another 20 minutes. By then, we can expect the Paris/London trip to be just a tad over 2 hours. British rails will be made to fit the standard.

Now if they could only do something about the train food….


  1. Wendy:

    Not having spent much time in Europe, I always find that sort of thing incredible – when the Paris-London trip is two hours by train, that’ll be the current time equivalent of Boston to, say, New Haven. There’s maybe a little more to recommend a day trip from Paris to London than one from Boston to New Haven. Is it the American driving culture that keeps us from having decent train service? Or pressure from the airlines? Your earlier train post makes sense (the shared resource problem), but I think it’s not quite that simple.

  2. Ben Adida:

    You’re right, it’s definitely more complicated than I expressed, especially given that Amtrak was actually formed *by* regulation and not by markets. But I still think the automatic American backlash against all forms of regulation is what truly prevents these new markets from truly taking shape.

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