Posts Tagged ‘muddle’
Instead of “nonsensical talk about trying to upgrade the existing 175-year-old railway infrastructure”, would it not be better to follow Baroness Kramer’s advice (wrote Railnews’s editorial director Alan Marshall on the Go HS2 weblog).
[Susan Kramer quoted by Alan Marshall]
“Let us protect the Victorian spirit that built our railroads,” she said, “but let us look for an infrastructure that is not Victorian but modern and 21st-century so that we can build the economy of the future.”
London St Pancras, which was ‘upgraded’ for HS1 trains, is 145 years old, and parts of the Midland route from St Pancras to Derby, are older still. But the Midland is being electrified as part of a multi-billion pound upgrade — which Railnews is apparently in favour of. So what point Mr Marshall was making, or why Ms Kramer used the American term ‘railroad’, is not clear. For some reason, Mr Marshall also mentioned former chancellor Norman Lamont, who is apparently opposed to HS2.
Instead of listening to economists like Dr Richard Wellings of the Institute of Economic Affairs — “who forecast HS2 could cost £80 billion by including the price of building another Crossrail in London and a new line to Liverpool that is not even planned — perhaps we should note that HS2 Ltd has actually reduced the expected cost of building the first stage from London to Lichfield, and the branch line into Birmingham”, claimed Mr Marshall.
[...]At the close of the recent House of Lords debate Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said HS2 Ltd “now estimates that, without any contingency, it could bring in phase 1 at £15.6 billion.” However, she added, the Transport Secretary had decided to include “a little contingency” — 10 per cent — so the target budget for the first stage, extending over some 150 miles and including more than half the route in tunnels or deep cuttings, is now £17.16 billion. This could be reduced further after Sir David Higgins takes charge of the project next year and, as Lord Heseltine proposed, there is the opportunity to offset perhaps £5 billion of the cost of stage 1 by negotiating a 30-year concession with a private sector infrastructure manager, as has happened with HS1.
The claim that HS2 Ltd have costs under control is not particularly persuasive.
But the notion that HS2 could involve total expenditures of around £80 billion, is quite plausible. There is bound to be strong pressure for additional mitigation of various sorts, and add-on funding for developments attached to the HS2 project. For example, schemes such as the recently proposed Birmingham — Bickenhill — Coventry Midland Metro (£800 million at the very least) could have no other purpose than attempt to provide local access to the proposed HS2 ‘parkway’ station. And the costs of additional commuter trains for Milton Keynes (so-called-released-capacity) are not in the October 2013 ‘e-Conomic’ case. Of course, the value of “a 30-year concession” to a private sector infrastructure manager is entirely dependent on the levels of guaranteed track access fees over the concession period. A large proportion, possibly a majority, of those track access fees would be from government subsidies.
In HS2 goes megalomanic (25 March 2012), I mentioned the rail industry newspaper Railnews’ coverage of HS2 chief engineer Andrew McNaughton’s speech at Irail 2012.
On April 26, North Warwickshire MP Dan Byles thanked Prof McNaughton for ‘clarifying’ what he had said at Irail.
North Warwickshire MP Welcomes Clarification From HS2 Chief Engineer Following Rail Lecture
The Member of Parliament for North Warwickshire & Bedworth Dan Byles, who is a leading campaigner against High Speed 2 (HS2), has this week welcomed clarification from Professor Andrew McNaughton over press reports following a recent lecture by the Professor.
Local people were alarmed several weeks ago following reported comments by the Chief Engineer of HS2 Ltd Professor Andrew McNaughton at a Rail Industry lecture in Derby. After the lecture, the Professor was reported in the press to have predicted that HS2 might one day run up to 30 trains an hour, that the Birmingham Interchange Station could have additional ‘acceleration lines’ of up to 14 km long, and that a new city of up to 100,000 houses could be built on greenbelt land in the Meridan [sic] Gap.
After reading reports of the lecture local MP Dan Byles was very concerned, and immediately wrote to Professor McNaughton to ask him whether the reports were accurate, and in what capacity the professor was speaking. He has welcomed the professor’s response, who emphasised that he had been speaking in an academic and personal capacity, and not on behalf of HS2 Ltd or the government.
In his reply to the MP, Professor McNaughton addressed the three concerns Mr Byles raised. On the potential for up to 30 trains per hours, the professor wrote:
“During the lecture I discussed the potential of technology in the coming decades. I concluded that, as technology develops, it may be possible to achieve a higher number of trains per hour on a high speed line, where it is designed from first principles to achieve this. I mentioned in theory this could be up to 30 trains per hour (at a maximum capacity), which would translate to a commercial service of around 22 trains per hour. These are theoretical figures for high speed rail lines and not what is proposed for HS2 specifically, which is as per the consultation documents, eventually up to 18 trains per hour.”
In response to Dan Byles’ question about reports of 14 km long ‘acceleration lines’ at Birmingham Interchange Station, Professor McNaughton confirmed that this was an inaccurate report:
“No such figure exists and as such, it was not discussed. I did show a diagram plan of a small station with acceleration/deceleration lanes up to 3 km long, which is consistent with the HS2 consulted proposals.”
Finally, many people were concerned at reports that a potential new city of 100,000 houses could be constructed in the Meridan [sic] Gap. Professor McNaughton confirmed that this too was a mis-report, and that he had merely suggested that the area around a high speed rail station would be an attractive one for economic investment in general:
“In discussing new high speed stations, I spoke of how they could add to the economic attractiveness of an area. I mentioned that any new development would be enhanced by that of new high speed rail stations. At no point did I mention any new development in the Meriden Gap. I did speculate, based on experience from around the world, about the future development attractiveness of he area around the NEC bounded by the Airport and HS2, and at the centre of the motoring network.”
Are acceleration lanes ‘up to 3 km long’ adequate for velocity matching at HS2 speeds, or not? It’s fairly common for the non-specialist press to get mixed up about railway details, but the Irail report was from a trade newspaper. So far as I am aware, Railnews has not issued a correction to it.
While it’s true that Railnews’ coverage of HS2 has lacked balance and authoritativeness, it’s also true that the difference between chief engineer McNaughton’s personal opinions and the ‘vision’ of HS2 Ltd is hard to discern. For most practical purposes, there appears to be no difference.
In 28 May‘s Engineer magazine story, chief engineer Andrew McNaughton stated that HS2 doubles the capacity for inter-city travel, and allows fast trains to intermediate places that currently have a poor stopping service.
McNaughton added: ‘If you stand on Milton Keynes platform during morning peak, you’ll see lots of Pendolino trains but they don’t stop; they’re all full of people going to Manchester. In 2025, when HS2 opens, they’re gone. Trains will stop at Milton Keynes every 10 minutes.’
Pendolinos going *towards* London, and not stopping at Milton Keynes, might be full in the morning peak, but that’s unlikely to be the case in the other direction. And currently, on a weekday morning, in the period 07:00 to 08:00, there are five fast London trains that commuters can board at Milton Keynes Central. So, one every 12 minutes on average, not particularly different from Prof McNaughton’s 2025 aspiration/prediction.
HS2 certainly would create ‘additional capacity’, but it would be capacity mainly confined to its own track. In other words, the *relief* for existing lines is generally quite small. The HS2 documentation includes a cost saving of £2.3 billion from running fewer trains on the legacy network (mainly the West Coast Main Line), but HS2 Ltd will not specify what trains are suppressed to achieve this saving. HS2 would not end the mixed traffic nature of the WCML, and increasing the number of 100 km/h and 120 km/h freight trains is bound to affect passenger services.
On the West Coast corridor, the HS2 Y network new-build track only serves three cities — London, Birmingham, and Manchester — so the capacity effects for everywhere else are difficult to gauge. If it is the government’s intention to maintain classic service levels on West Coast, the £2.3 billion savings from not running them should be struck from the economic analysis of HS2, and the numbers recalculated.
In stage one (‘LWM’), HS2 would reduce path capacity on the West Coast Main Line north of Lichfield, and it’s likely that seating capacity would fall too. Part of the HS2 dogma is the use of 200-metre long trainsets, which would be shorter than existing Pendolinos. On the new-build track only, two 200-metre trains could run coupled together, but it’s not clear how passengers could be found to fill such a huge train. On today’s London to Manchester run, travellers can be picked up or set down at places like Stoke-on-Trent. However, the 400-metre long Y network train would only have Manchester and Bickenhill passengers.
The HS2 concept also entails downgrading of the North East to South West cross-country railway between Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, and Bristol. HS2 Ltd’s intention is for Bristolian passengers to travel north via the Great Western, changing onto HS2 at Old Oak Common. However, it’s known that train operators are not keen on stopping fast trains on the London approach (see Stratford International, for example) and it’s likely that selective stopping of Paddington services at Old Oak Common would reduce Great Western capacity.
HS2 reduces West Coast Main Line capacity at its busiest point. Under HS2 Ltd’s plan for Euston, the number of West Coast platforms would be cut, and that would be bound to have an impact on capacity. As with the effects of the HS2 to HS1 link, the reduction in Euston terminal capacity is not documented.
When Jim Steer’s lobbying company Greengauge 21 wanted to produce a report on capturing the benefits of HS2 on existing lines, it turned to Jonathan Tyler for advice. However, Mr Tyler was increasingly unconvinced by the case for HS2, and in June 2011′s ‘Why oh Y‘, he aired doubts about the very fundamentals of the project.
Another interesting read is Mr Tyler’s 2012 paper ‘HS2: Strategic wisdom or grand folly‘. Here’s some extracts.
First then, the context. The capacity justification for high-speed rail had been developing for some years (adroitly driven by Greengauge 21) when the project was seized upon by Theresa Villiers as a substitute for a third runway at Heathrow and by Andrew Adonis as a signal of green modernity. The Heathrow association never had a credible rationale, and ironically the spur to the airport is now justified as strengthening its hub status – the very factor reigniting the runway campaign. As for the Adonis crusade, one can both admire single-mindedness and distrust confident certainty that no other course of action is conceivable.
Disquiet about the political context was compounded when HS2 Ltd was set up to establish the business case for building a new railway. An arm’s-length unit might be the right vehicle for managing construction, but creating a dedicated company at the start precluded properly objective analysis. Moreover the company shows signs of being too excited about building a perfect and technologically-advanced railway to impartially evaluate options.
Another weakness is the preoccupation with protecting property interests. This meant secrecy in the surveying of the route (conducted at great expense), presentation of a fully-formed scheme that pre-empted effective debate about strategic issues and now a reluctance to reconsider routes and station locations. The error is being repeated with the alignment for the ‘Y’ extensions north of Birmingham.
Finally a governance matter has to be raised. Noticeably few doubts have been publicly expressed from within the railway industry. It is difficult to believe that no one shares the public dissent. Could it be that Train Operating Companies are acting in misguided solidarity or dare not cross the Department for Transport [DfT] for fear of being marked down in franchise bids, and that the big consultancies perceive future revenue streams and choose not to rock boats.
I have already suggested deficiencies, and here I address two further issues of substance, namely station location and timetabling. Government and HS2 documents are littered with references to the importance of connecting the high-speed line with the classic network, but the reality is quite different, with awkward links and extended interchange times.
Indeed HS2 is emerging as a railway set apart from the older system and thereby only benefiting areas immediately adjacent to its stations – and those customers easily able to access them by car (at an unmeasured carbon cost). It is telling that attention is being diverted from the Birmingham problem by a focus on regeneration of Eastside, while no one explains how the segregated eastern arm of the ‘Y’ will help the many travellers who now journey through Birmingham on the North East … Yorkshire … South West / South Coast axis. Similar arrogance on the part of HS2 surrounds the planning of routes and stations in London.
We urgently need full and open analysis of the benefits of an alternative network-wide strategy to enhance the classic railway with new sections that would add capacity or reduce journey-times and retain the connectivity advantages of existing nodal stations.
‘Who Says There is no Alternative?’ is a document prepared by John Stewart, then-’chair’ of the Campaign for Better Transport, in 2008, for the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) trade union. It argued that proposals to expand Heathrow Airport with a third runway would be unnecessary if there were serious government-led investment in (high speed) rail as part of a coordinated transport system.
High-speed rail would create tens of thousands of jobs across the country, including new jobs at Heathrow. It would be a win-win solution: an environmentally friendlier option than airport expansion which at the same time boosted the economy, protected employment levels at Heathrow and created jobs across the country.
When the government’s HS2 scheme was published in 2010, the Campaign for Better Transport took a noncommittal position. Perhaps they cottoned onto the fact that the HS2–Heathrow connection was targeted at drawing in travellers from the North, and would make a third runway more (not less) likely. However, the RMT recently dusted off ‘Who Says’, and presented it to the All Party Parliamentary Group for High Speed Rail. The paper claimed that the journey time tipping point (for passengers switching from air to rail) had recently changed from three hours to between four and four-and-a-half hours for business travel,
The French railway, SNCF, has found that on journeys of less than four-and-a-half hours, where their trains compete with airlines, their share of the market is over 50%. This is backed up by other European rail companies, which are capturing more than 60% of the business market from airlines on four hour journeys.”
and many of the most-flown destinations served from Heathrow were short-haul and potentially substitutable by high speed rail.
Replacing Short-Haul Flights at Heathrow
Well over a third of all flights using Heathrow are short-haul. A study carried out by the campaign group HACAN showed that of a total of 473,000 flights which used the airport in 2006, 100,000 served 12 destinations where there was already a viable rail alternative and a further 100,000 flights went to places where an improved rail service could provide an alternative. If a lot of these flights were replaced by rail, that would free up the space at Heathrow to bring in more long-distance flights without any need to expand the airport.
The figures in the HACAN report make for startling reading
Paris 50/60 flights a day to and from Heathrow
Durham/Tees Valley 6
* the figures are those of a fairly typical day but will vary throughout the year
** Amsterdam and Rotterdam have been included because the high-speed line from Brussels to Amsterdam is imminent
Both Edinburgh and Glasgow are reachable by train from London in four and a half hours, and according to the CBT paper, travel duration by air has higher variability. So following the reasoning used by Mr Stewart, 350 km/h high speed rail is not required between London and Scotland’s central belt; classic rail is fast enough.
The survival of ‘residual’ flights between London and places like Manchester and Tees Valley suggests that business travel isn’t purely dimensioned by time. It’s known that businesspeople’s travel is a component of Ryanair’s business, even though its services tend to make use of lesser connected and more remote airports.
During the consultation phase, I asked Mark Weiner of HS2 Ltd if I could do some sensitivity analysis using their model. The request was refused. In previous posts, I have outlined some of the bizarre, irrational and dishonest assumptions used in the computation of the HS2 Economic Case. On April 11, the Guardian reported that the official forecast of HS2 benefits had been further downgraded.
The latest figures issued by the HS2 high-speed rail scheme have revised down the economic benefits for the fourth time – suggesting the scheme will barely, if ever, break even. Originally the scheme was forecast to bring £2.40 of benefit for every pound invested. The revised benefit-cost ratio (BCR) is 1.2 : 1.
A government paper in March 2010 projected the economic benefits at 2.4 : 1 for the London – Birmingham route ['LWM']. This was adjusted downwards by February 2011 at the beginning of the consultation, and again this January when transport secretary Justine Greening gave the green light to HS2, which is planned to be operational in 2026 and completed by 2033.
The full route ['Y network'], going north to Leeds and Manchester, now has an estimated BCR of between 1.5 : 1 and 1.9 : 1.
In the 6 August 2011 blogpost, I observed that the public notes of HS2 challenge panels provided no clue as to who said what, and even the names of people attending were replaced by ‘XXXX’. Lo and behold, in the note of the strategic challenge panel held on 21 September 2011, there are some attributed comments, though overall transparency remains poor, as can be seen. The challenge panels were dominated by high speed rail proponents and lobbyists such as David Begg of Biz4HS2, and Jim Steer of Greengauge 21.
High Speed Two (HS2) Limited, registered in England.
Registration number 06791686. Registered office Eland House, Bressenden Place, London, SW1E 5DU
Note of HS2 Ltd Strategic Challenge Group 21.09.11
Sir Brian Briscoe (BB), Chairman (Chair)
Alison Munro (AM), Chief Executive
Professor Andrew McNaughton (AMcN), Chief Engineer
Miranda Carter (MC), Head of Consultation and Communications
XXXX (Note taker)
Stephen Joseph OBE
BB welcomed the panel and thanked them for attending. He introduced the agenda:
1. Update on the Public Consultation
2. HS2 Ltd work towards Secretary of State announcement
3. Progress update – Manchester, Leeds and Heathrow
4. Next steps and organisational changes
5. Update on Passenger Focus work with Network Rail on released capacity
1. Update on the Public Consultation
MC presented an update on the completed consultation, including an overview of events held and an approximate figure of responses received. She noted that as well as the HS2 Ltd members of staff that appeared on the panel, a number of panel members had also provided evidence to the recent Transport Select Committee hearings for its inquiry into High Speed Rail. The report on the enquiry is expected at some point in November, but no date had been confirmed by the Committee.
MC explained the challenges that HS2 Ltd are working through in relation to the consultation responses. Producing a report on the responses that is readable and not extremely long whilst capturing the detail and the breadth of comments is quite challenging. Some responses are very difficult to code, as the arguments presented are not always clear statements and can be cryptic in places. However; the majority of responses reflect the verbal feedback received at the consultation events which is what would have been expected.
HS2 Ltd has sought advice from the Consultation Institute, asking it to peer review the process in place for analysing consultation responses, which it did. HS2 Ltd staff have also conducted validation of the coding of responses.
asked whether any organisations did not respond to the consultation that HS2 Ltd would have expected to. MC responded that at this stage of (not yet completed) analysis, it appears that most organisations that were expected to respond, have.
2. HS2 Ltd work towards Secretary of State’s announcement
AM summarised the critical responses that relate mainly to HS2 Ltd’s work and the nature of the main points being made, as set out in the presentation. Relating to criticism that DfT and HS2 Ltd should have held a consultation on the strategy for High Speed Rail first followed later by a consultation on the route, and other criticisms around the legal process of the consultation; the panel commented that such criticisms are similar to those made of the roads consultations in the 1960’s and 1970’s. These appear to be standard objections about how Government consults and hence are not specific to HS2. AM confirmed that HS2 Ltd is seeking legal advice on how to respond to such objections around the legal process.
The panel were interested in more detail on the alternatives to the preferred route that were proposed, including if any alternatives had been suggested for the London section. AM summarised the main suggestions. She was not aware of any specific alternative routes that had been proposed in the London area; instead, suggestions focussed on additional tunnelled sections of the preferred route.. The group’s alternative route includes a slower design speed which means that a larger number of sensitive sites could be avoided and hence it would have less impact.
In relation to consultation responses overall, the panel noted that there had also been positive responses, some stating that HS2 Ltd had not gone far enough with proposals. It enquired as to the overall mix of positive and negative responses. HS2 Ltd explained that it is not possible to classify some individual responses as either positive or negative because people have responded positively to some questions and negatively to others, within one response. Very approximately the split was approximately 25‐30% positive, the rest negative. It was noted that the response analysis firm has found the responses unusual compared to other consultations it has analysed; in that . Submissions to the Transport Select Committee hearing from stakeholders are a good representation of the mix of positive and negative responses received.
In relation to routes proposed as alternatives, the panel acknowledged that these should be treated with caution from a sustainability perspective because a full Appraisal of Sustainability will not have been carried out as it has for the HS2 Ltd proposed route.
AM set out the work programme for London to West Midlands team leading up to the announcement in December. This includes a re‐run of the Economic Case which will include a more detailed assessment for the Y network. A report on the route selection and alternatives in light of the consultation will be produced; if the Secretary of State were to decide that a significantly different alternative route should be preferred, the currently proposed timetable would not work.
HS2 Ltd is looking into a number of issues raised at consultation and reconsidering aspects of the proposed route. Based on issues raised at the consultation and further work on these areas, it is likely that it will present options for alterations to the proposed route to the Secretary of State ahead of the December 2011 announcement. The panel asked whether it has been clarified whether any re‐consultation would be required as a result of this and whether this has been scheduled in. HS2 Ltd explained that each individual change would be checked with lawyers. There is no current plan to re‐consult; however it would do so if required. The aim would be to run this alongside the existing work programme.
The panel raised the question of the overall financing of a project of this size, and how fare revenue, revenue from the sale and rent of commercial space at station developments and investment private developers might balance the cost of financing. HS2 Ltd clarified that these are all questions that DfT would be responsible for dealing with in the future. HS2 Ltd continues to look at ways of reducing costs, currently through the ongoing Infrastructure UK work.
The panel asked how HS2 Ltd communicates proposed changes to the classic network to Network Rail. AMcN explained that several workshops have been held to date and all involved believe that there is a solution that can be worked with. The panel enquired about the Government’s handling of any implications on the classic network as a result of HS2, including whether anything would be made public at the time of the December announcement. All agreed that it would be necessary for DfT to include information on proposals for the classic rail network in its next command paper so that this can be factored into Network Rail’s planning for Control Periods 4 and 5.
3. Progress update – Manchester, Leeds and Heathrow
AMcN provided an update of HS2 Ltd’s work on the Manchester and Leeds legs of the Y network and a connection to Heathrow. He explained the options developed to date, the choices that HS2 Ltd will need to make prior to reporting to the Secretary of State in March 2012 and the choices that the report will present to him.
4. Next steps and organisational changes
AM explained the plans for HS2 Ltd’s structure if the Secretary of State gives the go‐ahead in December 2011. This includes the appointment of a Development Partner to develop the London to West Midlands route and the set of statutory processes HS2 Ltd would need to work through ahead of a Hybrid Bill for Phase 1.
5. Update on Passenger Focus work with Network Rail on released capacity
Anthony Smith, Chief Executive of Passenger Focus gave a brief update on the work that his organisation is doing in conjunction with Network Rail. It is engaging with passengers on future capacity issues to feed into work on how the WCML will best be utilised in the future. The work is progressing well and Anthony offered to provide a fuller briefing on further progress to HS2 Ltd ahead of the Secretary of State’s announcement in December. HS2 Ltd accepted the offer. Panel members hoped that this work would help engage with those passengers who might currently believe they would lose out from HS2 due to reduced services at their stations.
6. Closing points
It was agreed that the next meeting would be held in December ahead of the Secretary of State’s announcement. The meeting following that would be in February ahead of the final report on the Y network in March.
At the time of writing, the HS2 Ltd website has no notes for the ‘December 2011′ or ‘February 2012′ meetings mentioned in item 6.
Equally unclear is how many meetings of the London West Midlands consultation peer review group have taken place. Notes for meetings of two dates are listed on the website, but the note of the meeting of 2 March 2011 states “next meeting: 1 May”. Anyway, the March 2011 meeting was attended by Alison Munro, Miranda Carter, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, and XXXX. Its notes show that HS2′s Ltd mission was to propagandise high speed rail, not ‘evaluate’ it.
XXXX– Agreed that it would be a good idea to branch out to councillors and make them take a standpoint on HS2. Under our current government, councillors appear to be a lot more powerful and having them in favour of HS2 should definitely be in our agenda.
[...] XXXX – Large Businesses would be perfect ambassadors to promote HS2. If key organisations could commit to giving a public statement to the media in favour of high speed rail then it would be very beneficial.
One of the most patronising comments came from (of course) Mr or Ms XXXX:
XXXX – Empowering a spokesperson for the individual action groups. Inviting them to attend a meeting/seminar every three months to discuss their particular views and listen to the other action groups’ views. It would be a means to relax their firmly-set objections on high speed rail. It would also help to build and maintain a relationship with the action groups and provide a chance for the action groups to negotiate.
From its inception, the cost estimates for the HS2 high speed rail project have been murky, and the updated figures, announced by the government in January 2012, raise a lot of questions. Channel 4 News Fact Check attempted to probe why the numbers don’t add up, and Full Fact noted that the headline “£32.7 billion” figure for the Y network does not include items such as rolling stock.
Rolling stock issues are also pertinent to some of HS2′s under- and over-capacity problems. Inside the HS2 Ltd silo, the penny may have finally dropped in respect of the lower capacity of 200-metre trains. (Or perhaps they just read this blog.) Anyway, the January 2012 official documents included fifteen 260-metre classic compatible trainsets in the proposed fleet.
|Captive (GC loading gauge) 200-metre||105|
In essence, leaving aside joke stations such as ‘Sheffield Outskirts’ (or whatever it would be called), one hundred and five captive trainsets would only serve four cities — London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds. To support French factories, SNCF used to buy excess numbers of TGV trains, which languished in sidings all day. But Britain doesn’t really have a train-building industry as such, so it’s not clear what the idea behind “105 captive trains” is.
Equally baffling is the revised classic-compatible fleet, which would be dominated by sixty-eight 200-metre trains having a lower capacity than Pendolinos. The HS2 project does not seem to involve providing 400-metre long platforms on the legacy network. So, apart from conserving paths on the HS2 trunk between London and Bickenhill, there doesn’t seem to be a rationale for coupled (2 x 200-metre) classic-compatible trains.
With the construction of the second stage Y network, ‘HS2 halves journey times between West Midlands and Leeds/Manchester’. Or at least that was the headline of today’s Go-HS2 blogpost. Which also stated that,
The West Midlands is keen to work with the East Midlands, North and Scotland, as well as enjoying faster links with London and Europe.
Shortly after the announcement of the Yes decision the Transport Secretary confirmed HS2 will connect with HS1 and also revealed improved journey times.
‘Birmingham’ and ‘the West Midlands’ are not synonymous, and most people in the West Midlands county live in boroughs which would not be served by HS2. So it’s disingenuous to claim that HS2 would halve ‘journey times between the West Midlands and Leeds/Manchester’.
According to HS2 Ltd, around 40% of West Midlands high speed rail travel is expected to involve the Middle Bickenhill parkway station in rural Solihull — which would be heavily dependent on road access. The road network around Bickenhill, and Birmingham Airport, can be subject to heavy congestion in peak hours, and HS2 Ltd has never given details of expected journey times to the parkway from district centres, such as Walsall or Coventry.
The East Midlands is another area affected by parkway palaver. Although the location of the ‘East Midlands’ high speed station has not been disclosed, it’s unlikely to be close enough to the centre of Nottingham or Derby to make journeys any quicker. And since business travellers are said by Passenger Focus to prefer no-change (through) services, HS2 is not going to be especially appealing, or quick, for travel to towns supposedly served by the South Yorkshire parkway (e.g. Sheffield, Rotherham, and Barnsley).
It would certainly be possible to build a connection between HS2 and HS1. Far more difficult is the operation of a viable train service on it from Leeds, Manchester, and Birmingham, to continental Europe. The current Y proposal provides for no domestic use of the connection, and no international services on HS2.
is one of the most commercially successful in the world. Critics say high speed rail needs long distances, but Frankfurt-Cologne is an almost identical mileage to Birmingham-London.
GoHS2 tends to get its ‘facts’ from David Begg, which isn’t ideal from an accuracy standpoint, but I don’t suppose veracity matters much to them. Anyway, the journey between Frankfurt and Cologne’s main stations using the Neubaustrecke (NBS, i.e. the high speed line) is 173.6 km, and according to Deutsche Bahn Reiseauskunft, typical transit times are 77 or 78 minutes. A second class walk-up journey using the high speed line generally costs 67 euro, compared with 48 euro on the legacy route via Mainz.
What conclusions can be reached? Firstly, there is a premium for travel using the Frankfurt to Cologne NBS – around 39%, on the random journeys examined. The on-train time saving (over the Rhine bank legacy route) is 62 minutes, giving a substitutional value of hourly time of about (67 – 48) = 19 euro. Since MSN Money currently quotes GBP 1 = EUR 1.1792, one might postulate that anyone whose after-tax hourly income was below £16 sterling might have cause to pause before buying a ticket.
Secondly, at 82 to 84 minutes, the Virgin West Coast intercity train between Birmingham New Street and London (181.8 km) achieves *much the same* speed and journey time as a Frankfurt – Cologne high speed InterCity Express (173.6 km). However, Virgin’s generalised journey time is actually better, because of the frequency of service (every 20 minutes).
Thirdly, there’s no evidence to support GoHS2′s statement that the Frankfurt – Cologne NBS is “commercially successful”. What is known, is that load factors on German Intercity Express lines in general aren’t particularly high. And on the Frankfurt – Cologne high speed line,
- path utilisation and frequency of service is low (see schedule above)
- centre-to-centre intercity journeys often require a change of train (at Frankfurt Flughafen)
- because of its gradients, unused paths cannot be reallocated to freight services.
The lesson from the Frankfurt – Cologne NBS is: ‘Railway infrastructure is expensive. So it’s important to get the details right’.