On 3 March, Jim Steer’s Greengauge 21 announced that
The HSR Industry Leaders Group has published a report detailing the the key economic, infrastructural and social consequences of abandoning High Speed 2. Great Britain — connected or not? outlines how failing to build HS2 will leave a clogged Britain, unable to meet its full potential, lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of infrastructure development.
The announcement did not make it clear that the HSR Industry Leaders Group is a body founded by Greengauge 21 itself.
The Department for Transport has refused to release a Steer Davies Gleave report concerned with capacity on north south rail lines. However, Figure 5 of the October 2013 Strategic Case for HS2 (below) was based on the report.
As can be seen, Figure 5 would suggest that the main lines north of London would not be “clogged” (as claimed by GG21′s Industry Leaders Group). In general, only sections of line in the big conurbations are shown as having High capacity pressure.
No doubt if other London termini were shown, they would also be marked as being subject to such pressure. Tackling localised rail congestion in the big conurbations is an entirely different matter, to building high speed rail.
The government’s strategy to build HS2 is utterly misguided, and totally unacceptable. Most of its stations are disconnected from the existing network, and HS2’s planners don’t know how it will be linked. They say it’s not their job -– it’s up to Network Rail and local planners to build the connections and make the system work. So say engineers Colin Elliff and Quentin Macdonald, in an outline of their alternative high speed scheme called ‘HSUK’.
Unfortunately, the details of the Elliff / Macdonald scheme are rather sketchy, and the website doesn’t seem to be quite finished.
But there is enough description to see that the HSUK proposal is for a new-build four-track “M1-aligned” high speed trunk from London Euston, with a ‘spine & spur’ configuration. Mr Elliff and Mr Macdonald claim that HSUK, would offer
* 25% cost savings over HS2
* 40% journey time savings across the entire intercity network
* 600 million tonnes potential savings in transport CO2 emissions
* minimised environmental damage through aligning with motorways
* a balanced national rail network efficiently interlinking all major cities; this will transform regional economies.
On one page the design speed of HSUK is stated as 360 km/h.
But on another, the proposed top speed is stated as 300 km/h.
All in all, quite confusing.
Even if the Camden HS2 – HS1 link were ditched, the likelihood is that building HS2 would still be more disruptive to the national transport system than an upgrade-based approach such as RP6. As the Beleben blog noted in July 2011, building HS2 necessitates extensive disruption to existing railways, in multiple locations, over an extended period.
Now, following a freedom of information request by the HS2 Action Alliance, some details of prospective HS2-related disruption to the classic rail system have emerged.
["Millions will face transport chaos because HS2 work 'will cause a decade of disruption on West Coast mainline'", Ray Massey, Daily Mail, 7 March 2014]
Internal documents seen by the Mail reveal forecasts that show punctuality and performance will ‘be likely to worsen by between 4 and 8 per cent’ though warns ‘bad days would be significantly worse’.
Until now, passengers have been unaware of the full extent to which their conventional long-distance and commuter lines face disruption while platforms at Euston are closed and services cut to make way for the new HS2 line.
Campaigners against the scheme say the problems unearthed are just ‘the tip of the iceberg’.
The FOI documents reveal
* Disruption to services for at least ten years from December 2016
* Rail bosses are confident ‘works don’t have a catastrophic effect on existing services’ only ‘from 2017 onwards’
* For the rest of the time performance will be ‘fragile’
* Fewer than 60 per cent of long-distance services will arrive on time
* ‘Significant’ weekend and Bank Holiday closures with widespread disruption in holiday periods including Christmas
* Platform numbers at Euston reduced from 18 to 13, with the number of approach tracks reduced from six to four
* Virgin train services will have to leave Euston just 25 minutes after arrival, leaving little time for servicing and cleaning
* Passengers face a 22 per cent shortfall in capacity in suburban services to major commuter stations such as Harrow and Wealdstone, Watford, Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted.
* Construction could result in a reduction in Birmingham and Manchester train from three to two an hour
If George Osborne’s vision of a total redevelopment of the Euston site were implemented, there would be a corresponding increase in the scale of disruption.
Network Rail has been accused of pushing through a ‘crass and timid’ design for the £600 million New Street Gateway development after Alejandro Zaero-Polo’s AZPML apparently walked, the Birmingham Mail reported. London-based Haskoll are now revising plans for the Gateway’s atrium (which is supposed to “flood the station with light”, despite the skylight illuminating only a fraction of the station area).
['New Street station architects resign from project', BM, 6 March 2014]
It is understood that the project’s delivery team, led by contractor MACE in conjunction with Network Rail, has forced through a new design featuring tensioned fabric instead of the original plans for continuous white plaster curves.
Having given the task of drafting its HS2 phase two consultation response to a PR company at a cost of over £100,000, Stoke on Trent city council now appears ready to commit further funds towards its plan to re-route the proposed Y network via Stoke-on-Trent and build a high speed station in the city. Up to £800,000 could be ring-fenced from the council’s Corporate Contingency “to provide the resources to procure the necessary expertise and analysis, to back up the business case to Government”.
In the first phase “up to £150k expenditure” could be incurred on a basis of “exemptions from an open procurement process, necessarily because of the time constraints, and the need to maintain the momentum with suitable technical expertise in respect of the business case”.
Given the shortcomings of the HS2 phase 2 consultation response provided by the Big Partnership, this should be a matter of some concern.
Ashford International to St Pancras is about 90 kilometres, i.e. a round trip of 180 km. Folkestone Central is another 22 km from Ashford, so a round trip of 224 km from London.
In 2012 – 2013, Southeastern received government subsidies worth 8 pence per passenger-kilometre. So each user’s weekly commute from Folkestone Central to St Pancras comes at a cost of about £90 a week to the public purse.
It’s curious how the government is happy to provide large non-means-tested benefits to commute long distance by rail into London, while cutting means-tested accommodation benefits for people living in London. The policy doesn’t have an iota of rationality.