die belebende Bedenkung

Steering into fantasy, part 2

with 3 comments


Previous posts have explored some of the problems and contradictions in the HS2 concept. One such problem was the time savings and connectivity benefits that HS2 is purported to deliver.

In the documents produced by High Speed Two Limited (HS2 Ltd), door to door journey times are not detailed for West Midlands, London, or anywhere else.  But it’s evident that HS2 would provide no time saving or connectivity benefits for most journeys starting or finishing in the West Midlands county.

Given that the High Speed Two Limited reports from 2010 also had no detail on speeds or service levels on the West Coast Main Line ‘post-HS2’, attacking the project has been like shooting at an open goal. It’s been left to Greengauge 21 lobbyists to attempt to post-rationalise the project. In ‘Capturing the benefits of HS2 on existing lines‘, Greengauge 21 listed various rail improvements which it presented as being dependent on – or enabled by – HS2, including a through service from Walsall to London, a through service from Coventry to Heathrow Airport, and East West Rail to Milton Keynes.

It’s worth pointing out that the Greengauge list

  • isn’t part of the government HS2 project,
  • comes with no demand data,
  • and isn’t costed.

Here’s some of the ‘highlights’ from ‘Capturing the benefits’:

“A regular interval timetable for the West Coast Main Line (south)”

“The current pattern of service on the West Coast Main Line is extremely variable. Some destinations (largely those served by inter-city Pendolino trains) have an excellent frequent and fast service; other stations have irregular and patchy services throughout the day. HS2 allows the removal of many of the inter-city services from the southern end of the WCML, freeing up capacity for very different use of the route and providing benefits for passengers at smaller intermediate stations.

The Taktfahrplan approach is based on the concept of a standard hour timetable for the WCML: a basic pattern of services is operated in each hour from start to close of service, with additional peak services overlaid. Services are planned to be hourly, half-hourly, quarter-hourly – or very frequent.

So a £17,000,000,000 investment “de-stresses” the West Coast Main Line. Or more accurately, the southern third of it. HS2 phase one wouldn’t provide any relief of the WCML beyond Staffordshire.

There’s no evidence that HS2 is cost effective, or necessary, in capacity or service terms:

  • existing WCML capacity is not fully used, and can be increased
  • it’s possible to divert freight trains from the WCML. For example, Birmingham to Felixstowe goods traffic can be routed via Leicester
  • with increased use of the Chiltern main line for services between the West Midlands and London, additional capacity – and timetable recasting – is enabled on the WCML south of Rugby.

Greengauge 21 has invented a “connection from HS2 to the Birmingham – Derby line”:

Services are shown to Derby, Sheffield and beyond, taking advantage of Greengauge 21’s proposed connection from HS2 to the Birmingham – Derby line as well as the West Coast Main Line at its northern limit near Lichfield.

HS2 is weird. But the idea of routeing London to Derby trains via Birmingham – and existing track north of Birmingham – is überweird.


Little freight-specific detail. But a claim that

The East West Rail link between Oxford and Bletchley, if reopened, could play an important part in expanding railfreight. It offers a better route for container flows between Southampton and North West England than the current route through the West Midlands conurbation.

There are several options for optimising freight movements, including using the East – West Rail project. But none of them depend on implementing HS2. East West Rail is not part of HS2, and predates HS2.

Warwickshire and Coventry

Greengauge 21 claimed “there are some important implications arising from the potential local service improvements identified by Centro“:

“The proposal that both of the two hourly Cross Country service should be routed via Coventry rather than one via Solihull becomes feasible with the removal of the 20 minute-interval Pendolino services from the WCML into Birmingham. However, the Cross Country train path can only be reliably introduced on this new routing if the route between Coventry and Leamington is restored to a double track formation. It also then becomes possible to open a station at Kenilworth (for which planning permission has been applied). With these infrastructure improvements, it would become possible to introduce a local service for Kenilworth (as an extension of the service from Birmingham to Coventry). But it would also become possible to introduce a Coventry – Kenilworth – Leamington – London Marylebone service as part of the Chiltern franchise.”

No mention that

  • track doubling around Kenilworth is neither part of the HS2 project, nor dependent on it,
  • “Removal of the 20 minute-interval Pendolino services from the WCML into Birmingham” isn’t dependent on HS2,
  • “a Coventry – Kenilworth – Leamington – London” service isn’t dependent on HS2.

Black Country, Shropshire, Mid and North Wales

Having argued that HS2 would allow fast trains to be removed from the WCML, Greengauge 21 contradict their own argument:

“With HS2 in operation, there would be a continuing need to operate ‘fast’ services between the West Midlands and London over the West Coast Main Line. To improve connectivity, such services are likely to make an extra station call en route, as shown in the service plan in Chapter 2. But demand would be lower than today, with most of the traffic to/from the West Midlands expected to switch to HS2 services. The value of these retained services could be enhanced by their extension westwards from Birmingham. In today’s service plans, two out of every three trains terminate at Birmingham New Street. Since the capacity requirements on such services will be reduced following the opening of HS2, it would be feasible to operate such trains with lower capacity Class 221 units (which are approximately half the length of Pendolino trains) or other suitable 200 km/hour trains, and extend their operation to locations such as Shrewsbury, Aberystwyth and Wrexham.”

Chiltern electrification

A recurring idea in Greengauge 21 advocacy is that building new high speed track avoids the need to disrupt or upgrade existing lines.

Having argued against upgrading existing lines, Greengauge 21 now advocates electrification of existing tracks such as the route through Leamington Spa (to provide Coventry with the connectivity benefits that HS2 would fail to deliver).

Timetabling principles

The document lays down some general timetabling principles.

For example, if an express arrives at xx:58 and departs at xx:02 in both directions, then a connecting service arriving at xx:56 and departing at xx:04 will secure 6-minute interchange times for travellers in every direction.

But no mention that neither of the West Midlands HS2 stations would facilitate a six-minute interchange with connecting services. In fact, the connection couldn’t even happen within the same station.

At Bickenhill, passengers would have to catch a ‘people mover’ train to another station, over a kilometre away. In Birmingham city centre, the HS2 station would be around 10 minutes by foot from New Street, by the quickest route (using the sinister St Martin’s Queensway tunnel).


In their document ‘Capturing the benefits of HS2 on existing lines‘, Greengauge 21

  • stress the importance of good transport connections – yet changing train in Birmingham between HS2 and ‘classic’ rail couldn’t even happen in the same station
  • say that Pendolino services can be removed from WCML Coventry to Birmingham section, providing extra capacity – but then state that such trains would have to remain
  • imply that various transport improvement projects, such as East West Rail, are dependent on HS2 – when they actually are nothing to do with it
  • say that HS2 is better than rail upgrades – but it is not an alternative to such upgrades.

3 Responses

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  1. Perhaps we can compare notes on the claimed existing journey times – I reckon that with a good connection and my sub 5 minute STP-EUS interchange I’d be making a Paris Manchester trip around 80 minutes faster than the claimed current time and even if I had to wait 20 minutes fro the next Manchester service I’d still be an hour faster.

    Even the short Glasgow-Edinburgh is claimed to be 50 minutes – it is a 47 minute timetabled service with around 5 minutes of slack/recovery time. Bringing it mighty close the the 35 minute High Speed offer, and if the High Speed ststion is out of town you’ll be around 20-30 minutes faster on the old line at peak times.

    Dave Holladay

    February 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    • In many cases, the ‘adroitness’ of a journey at connection points, can be more important than brute speed – as well illustrated by your examples. I will be looking to do some comparisons on London links (St Pancras – Euston, etc) when more data becomes available on the HS2-HS1 single track connection.


      February 19, 2011 at 6:06 pm

  2. Just to revise your 10 minute walk between Curzon Street and New Street. Leaving the Woodman pub, a convenient point to ‘clock in’ it took 8 minutes to reach Moor Street, by the most direct route. It took a further 8 minutes to reach the circulation ‘street-side’ concourse. Now that was a steady walk at ‘transport speeds, by someone who can hit nearly 6 mph at a brisk walking pace and not at a peak time. So, making allowance for crowd churn, delays crossing roads etc 20 minutes could easily be the walking time.

    Dave H (@BCCletts)

    March 9, 2014 at 11:18 am

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