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Geoff Inskip and HS2 “released capacity”

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According to Centro‘s chief executive, Geoff Inskip, the West Midlands can’t afford to be without HS2.

Critics of HS2 have poured scorn on the time saving between London and Birmingham, but they’re missing the point. While time savings are very important for business, the key benefit for the West Midlands is the huge increase in capacity HS2 would provide.

Demand for rail continues to soar. The number of passengers in the West Midlands is forecast to grow by 32% by 2019. And the West Coast Main line will be full by 2024. Even the most ardent opponent of HS2 cannot contest the fact that our trains are becoming increasingly overcrowded.

If we don’t do something about this we won’t meet demand. This would seriously hamper our ability to do business as a region. How would people get to work? How would companies reach the best talent? How would we attract employers to the West Midlands?

The reality

West Midlands time savings

If time savings are “very important for business”, Midland business people should be pretty disappointed by what HS2 has to offer. According to HS2 Ltd, 80 percent of travel using its central Birmingham (Curzon Street) station would be for journeys starting or ending within the city of Birmingham:

HS2 Ltd: 'central Birmingham station's traffic origin-destination forecast to be 80% within the city'

So HS2 Ltd are forecasting that rail travel to or from the four Black Country boroughs would not be based on usage of a high speed service.

From central Birmingham, HS2 stage one serves just one destination: London. The only other HS2 station in the West Midlands county, ‘Birmingham Interchange’, would be a remote parkway (not even within Birmingham’s city limits, and time consuming to reach).

Transforming the West Midlands

Centro produced brochures purportedly showing ‘How HS2 will transform the West Midlands’ for Birmingham and Solihull and the Black Country. There was also supposed to be a Coventry guide, but Centro seem to have had problems in thinking up any benefits.

The brochures state that Centro has developed a detailed timetable showing exactly how local rail services could be improved by using the capacity freed up by HS2, and by introducing a series of matching infrastructure improvements.

Birmingham and Solihull ‘capacity benefits’

Centro described these as follows:

Key benefits for Birmingham and Solihull include:

• Increased local services between Birmingham, Birmingham International and Coventry including doubling the frequency of services serving key regeneration areas such as the Eastern Growth Corridor (Lea Hall and Stechford) and Bordesley Park (Adderley Park)

• An increase from 3 to 7 trains per hour between Birmingham International and Wolverhampton.

• An increase from 4 to 6 trains per hour between Birmingham and Walsall including improved services at key regeneration areas such as Perry Barr and 4 new services per hour from Birmingham International to Walsall

• Improved services to Milton Keynes, Shrewsbury and Telford

Black Country ‘capacity benefits’

Centro described these as follows:
Centro Black Country claims of extra services with HS2

High Speed Rail is not just about reducing journey times between the West Midlands and London. By transferring the majority of West Coast Main Line inter-city services to the High Speed Rail Network, considerable capacity is released from the existing West Coast Main Line which can be used for new local, regional or national services.

Centro has developed a detailed timetable showing exactly how local rail services could be improved by using the capacity freed up by HS2, and by introducing a series of matching infrastructure improvements. As part of these improvements Centro would be looking to reinstate services between Walsall and Wolverhampton calling at new stations at Darlaston and Willenhall.

The timetable also includes;

• Significant improvements to services at Walsall and Sandwell and Dudley stations

• The ability to deliver new Cross City style local services between Wolverhampton and Birmingham with potentially 4 trains per hour available;

To deliver this future service scenario requires the following infrastructure:

• New High Speed 2 Line to allow Pendolino services to be reduced to half-hourly

• The electrification and upgrading of the Walsall to Rugeley and Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury lines

• Various planned resignalling projects to deliver improved network capacity and capability

The Black Country Benefits from the HS2 Network
The Black Country will receive direct transport benefits from the availability of High Speed Rail services from the proposed Birmingham city centre station and the Interchange station next to the NEC/Airport which will have a direct people-mover link from Birmingham International Station.

Under this full network vision, passengers from the Black Country would be able to change onto High Speed trains at Birmingham Interchange and access:

• Leeds in just over an hour

• Manchester in under an hour

• Glasgow/Edinburgh in just over three hours

• Paris in under three hours

Heathrow Airport in around 40 minutes

• The Stratford, East London and Docklands area in around 45 minutes

This excellent connectivity via both of the proposed HS2 stations puts the Black Country close to the future national hub of the UK High Speed Rail Network and will transform the area’s connections to large parts of the

As the text above shows, the Black Country will become a much more accessible destination if these regional rail enhancements are delivered in conjunction with HS2.

The reality

The only route on which capacity is actually freed up by HS2 is Birmingham – Coventry – Rugby. Centro assumes that the Pendolino service to London using that line is (a) cut from three trains per hour to two, and (b) turned into a ‘semi-fast’, calling at some intermediate stations. By this re-cast, Milton Keynes would get no-change connection with Wolverhampton, at the expense of the Wolverhampton to London timing being slower.

On other lines across the West Midlands, HS2 does not facilitate improved local services. The improved frequencies, and aspirations for new services such as Walsall to Wolverhampton, rely on unfunded regional rail enhancements. But transport secretary Philip Hammond isn’t minded to fund such improvements on the back of high speed rail.

Written by beleben

August 24, 2011 at 8:59 am

9 Responses

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  1. You say “The reality: The only route on which capacity is actually freed up by HS2 is Birmingham – Coventry – Rugby.” Surely under the “Y” HS2 network there would be changes to the Birmingham – Derby – Nottingham, Birmingham – Sheffield – Leeds, Birmingham – Manchester and Birmingham – Scotland services too, and of which would result in released capacity and therefore the ability to run better local services within the Centro area?


    August 24, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    • I suppose that would depend on how many intercity trains on the existing lines to Manchester, Sheffield, etc, would no longer need to be run, with the Y network in place. In the West Midlands, the only boarding points for HS2, even with the Y network in place, would be in Birmingham Curzon Street and Bickenhill. These don’t seem to be attractive to people in the Black Country etc. And that might dictate that intercity trains continue to run through Sandwell and Wolverhampton, at much the same levels as they do now.


      August 25, 2011 at 10:29 pm

  2. […] urban centres like Sandwell and Wolverhampton would get slower connections to London, as trains are decelerated to serve Milton Keynes, and other places on the West Coast Main Line. Alasdair Rae’s blogpost […]

  3. […] Centro‘s vision for HS2, the capacity “freed up” on the West Midlands rail network by high speed rail amounts […]

  4. […] 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 […]

    Cause to pause « beleben

    December 12, 2011 at 3:39 pm

  5. […] leave a comment » Earlier stories: More nonsense from Go HS2 | Boulevard Merde de Taureau | Geoff Inskip and HS2 “released capacity” […]

  6. […] Capacity release would be limited to some paths on the Birmingham – Coventry – (Rugby) line. There is no West Midlands network capacity uplift from […]

  7. […] such as Wolverhampton and Walsall, and Walsall and Rugeley. But service levels on these lines are nothing to do with […]

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