The Lords Economic Affairs Committee report on HS2 was highly critical of the entire scheme, but suggested that if did go ahead, it might be less silly to terminate the line at Old Oak, rather than Euston.
Needless to say, the cost and disruption savings would be enormous.
The HS2 Ltd design for Old Oak was for a through station, to Euston and HS1. A terminus of the same capacity as Euston HS2, would require more land, for perhaps 12 platforms. But how much more?
Clearly, nothing like as much as this:
For comparison, here is a drawing showing the footprint of the ‘through’ version of the station:
‘HS2 will boost local economies along and beyond the route’, according to the CBI. But surely, there must be a question mark over how much a bunch of HGVs and men in orange trousers could really ‘boost’ towns and villages in Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire, etc.
Sadly, the CBI don’t even seem to be able to distinguish between high speed rail, and a maglev.
Following premature publication of details by Railnews on 24 March, the full House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report on HS2 was officially published just after midnight on the 25th. It suggested that
- HS2’s huge public subsidy conflicted with the declared objective of making rail less dependent on government, and noted that its cost-benefit analysis relied on out-of-date evidence
- applying a BIS Tender Price adjustment to the cost of HS2 would give a Q1 2014 equivalent figure of .
[Comments from press release by Lord Hollick, chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee]
“At £50 bn HS2 will be one of the most expensive infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK but the Government have not yet made a convincing case for why it is necessary.
“The Committee are supportive of investment in rail infrastructure, but are not convinced that HS2 as currently proposed is the best way to deliver that investment. The Government are basing the justification for HS2 on two factors – increased rail capacity and rebalancing the UK economy; we have not seen the evidence that it is the best way to deliver either.
“Overcrowding on the West Coast Main Line is largely a problem on commuter trains and on long-distance trains immediately after peak time on Friday evenings and at some weekends. The Government have not carried out a proper assessment of whether alternative ways of increasing capacity are more cost effective than HS2.
“Full information on railway usage has not been made publicly available by the Government on grounds of commercial sensitivity. The plausibility of the Government’s claim that there are current long distance capacity constraints and also its forecast of future passenger demand are difficult to assess without full access to current railway usage. The investment of £50 bn investment of public money demands nothing less than full transparency.
“In terms of rebalancing, London is likely to be the main beneficiary from HS2. Investment in improving rail links in the North of England might deliver much greater economic benefit at a fraction of the cost of HS2.
“We have set out a number of important questions on HS2 that the Government must now provide detailed answers to. Parliament should not approve the enabling legislation that will allow HS2 work to begin until we have satisfactory answers to these key questions.”
One might also recall that in January 2015, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said they were “sceptical” as to whether HS2 could deliver value for money. But judging by soundbites from the CBI and the Labour party, everything about HS2 is hunky dory.
[HS2: Government has no ‘convincing case’ for £50bn rail line,
Chris Johnston, BBC, 25 Mar 2015]
[…] Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said that Labour supported HS2. […] We have said there will be no blank cheque for the project under Labour.”
[Ben Ruse, HS2 Ltd Rhian Kelly, CBI director for business environment]
“HS2 will better connect eight of our 10 biggest cities, boosting local economies along and beyond the route together with complementary road and rail investment. It’s vital we avoid any further delays to the project.”
Of course, many of the shortcomings of HS2 have been explored in depth, by the Beleben blog.
Sadie Morgan, of dRMM de Rijke Marsh Morgan Architects, has been appointed ‘chair’ of the HS2 Design Panel.
[Sadie Morgan to chair HS2 Design Panel, Enda Mullen, Birmingham Post online, 24 March 2015]
[…] She said: “The fact I am an architect gives me a good oversight – because this role is all-encompassing, from ticketing to toilets.
[…] “We have to make sure everything works intuitively and well for everyone and all elements are fit for purpose but sensitive to context.
“The overriding feature is what good design looks like.
What good design looks like, seems to depend on who is doing the looking. HS2’s Head of Architecture, Laura Kidd, has some strange ideas on the topic. She was involved with the design of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (HS1), which resulted in ‘Tesco value viaducts’, and carbuncles such as Stratford International station.
Business trends at sea mean the HS2 rail plan is essential, according to HS2 Chief Information Officer James Findlay.
[HS2 CIO James Findlay interview – Boats, trains and CIO reveals, Mark Chillingworth, CIO, 19 Mar 2015]
[…] Speaking at his Canary Wharf office, James Findlay told CIO UK that “95% of our trade is by sea, so transport is critical to our ability to compete.”
When a ship such as Globe unloads (it takes 24 hours), its load would form a single line measuring 72 miles, Birmingham to Manchester as it happens, and the next phase of HS2.
“The ports at London and Southampton are being dredged for the new mega ships, so the challenge is the ability to distribute the loads. The ability to interface are critical to our survival and that requires a lot of strategic thinking about the hub cities in the UK.” While politicians try and sell HS2 to the public with everything but the truth; Findlay deals in facts and he knows the facts. Not just because he’s a well aligned CIO, but because he has a heritage on the seas, having been IT and projects leader at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for close to a decade and before that a career in ports and defence. To this day, the coast plays a major part in his life, and he sees what’s happening on our waves and to our demands of our economy.
“Over the next 10 years we will be at peak capacity on the existing rail network,” he says returning to dry land. “HS2 provides a relief to primary freight traffic. We won’t build more roads,” he says with knowledge, as Findlay doubles up as Technology Leader for the Department for Transport. “Network Rail has been re-engineering some of the lines through a process of dropping the lines,” but as he explains, because the UK was the first adopter of rail networks, the nation is lumbered with a legacy of Victorian lines that can’t take the growing capacity of local, intercity and freight rail. A new rail infrastructure is required.
So what is the relief which would be provided by HS2 to primary freight traffic? Careful scrutiny of the evidence suggests the uplift in railfreight capacity would be, at best, minimal.
And there may not be any uplift at all. When the Department for Transport were asked about HS2 released capacity for railfreight, the answer was
[…] there is good reason to believe that 3 additional freight paths per off-peak hour on the WCML corridor would be compatible with the HS2 Phase Two service set out in the PFM assumptions report.
3 additional freight paths per off-peak hour on the WCML corridor would be compatible with the HS2 Phase Two service set out in the PFM assumptions report. And 3 additional freight paths per off-peak hour on the WCML corridor would be compatible with no HS2 service at all.
Because 3 is the hourly two-way number of freight paths currently allocated on the WCML, but not used.
In 2012, HS2 chief engineer Prof Andrew McNaughton explained to a trade magazine how his new railway would allow the existing West Coast tracks to run a much better commuter service.
[Andrew McNaughton, quoted in The Engineer, 28 May 2012]
‘If you stand on Milton Keynes platform during morning peak [now], 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.’
And on 11 February 2015, he offered a few comments at the High Speed Rail Bill Committee.
[Andrew McNaughton at the High Speed Rail Bill Committee, 11 Feb]
When HS2 is in operation, then the long distance services, the HS2 Services, run off their platforms, there will be less of the [Euston] classic platforms left. But, they are now being used for these new services, which don’t take so long to turn around. A train from Glasgow spends 40 minutes being cleaned, victualled, watered, before it disappears off north again. So, it uses a platform for a very long time. A commuter train from Milton Keynes comes in, decants everybody, puts more people on, disappears off in five or six minutes. So, the mix of train services does affect the number of platforms you need, as well.
But the Professor’s presentation did not show Fast-commuter trains starting from Milton Keynes, and running into London; it showed them starting at places like Birmingham and Glasgow, and calling at Milton Keynes, en route. Because travel-to-London demand from points north of Milton Keynes is much lower, that service pattern is unlikely to be very efficient. A more cost-effective approach would be to run pure commuter services, perhaps by connecting Milton Keynes into the Midland Main Line.
HS2 Ltd want classic services to occupy less Euston platform space by replacing current long distance trains with pseudo-commuter ones serving the ‘long-distance’ market, running beyond the normal commuter threshold (Northants). Are Class 350 trains really suitable for journeys of 300 km or more?
In a further bizarre twist, the Department for Transport seem to want some commuter services to switch from Desiro to Pendolino, and then back again [see table above].