The safety of the Government's controversial £33 billion HS2 rail scheme is being questioned amid warnings that high speeds proposed could cause catastrophic track failures and derailments.
HS2 supporters claim it will be able to run up to 18 trains an hour – one every three minutes 20 seconds. However, one of the world's leading experts on the geo-engineering of railways, Porfessor Peter Woodward said high-speed running creates problems in track which he claims "may threaten the stability and safety of the train".
Professor Woodward warns that speeds as high as those proposed could trigger "ground waves" of vibration, known as Rayleigh waves, causing rapid deterioration of the track, including possible derailment and ground failure.
Last month Transport Secretary Justine Greening approved HS2, with the first phase a new high-speed line from London to Birmingham. Two new stations will be built in Birmingham.
The line will pass close to Lichfield, Whittington, Hints and Streethay in Staffordshire. Packington Moor, near Lichfield, faces being flattened to make way for the new railway line.
High-speed rail has a fairly good safety record but experts are worried that HS2 plans to run trains faster than any other line in the world. Trains will travel at 225mph, rising to 250mph within a few years.
Most high-speed lines, including Britain's existing Eurostar, run no faster than 186mph and the world's current fastest rail-based trains, France's TGV Est, travel at 200mph.
Prof Woodward told The Engineer magazine: "The analogy is that of an aircraft going through the sound barrier." The academic and a colleague have been awarded almost £500,000 by the Government to investigate the issue.