BRITAIN’S celebrated High Speed Trains bowed out this week on the last stretch of railway on which they could show their paces – the Midland Main Line from St Pancras to Sheffield. Sleek, elegant and still modern-looking, despite being 45 years old, they have been described as the workhorses of the railway – though racehorses would be a better description, since one holds the world speed record for a diesel train – 148mph, set in 1987.
Many folk were at the lineside to mourn, and it especially ironic that the new Japanese designed trains brought in to replace them on many of their traditional routes have been confined to depots because of cracks in their underframes, causing chaos across Britain. Designed by guru Sir Kenneth Grange, and built by British engineers, the HSTs were far superior products, with comfortable seats, wide windows and generous amounts of space inside. By contrast the expensive Hitachi Class 800 trains are cramped, with hard seats and harsh lighting. And now there are flaws in their construction.
Some HSTs will continue on Cross Country routes, in Scotland and on secondary lines in the West Country. But the magic has now departed. Farewell, then High Speed Train. You were probably the best train ever built.