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HS2 and classic service cuts

with 25 comments

HS2 Ltd, Jan 2012 appraisal update, Table 8, showing £5.1 billion of savings from reduced classic servicesIn yesterday’s Go HS2 article, rail consultant William Barter stated that ‘Service cut claims from HS2 opponents just don’t stack up‘.

What Mr Barter seems unable to accept, is that Economic Case for HS2 depends on extensive reductions in service levels on the existing rail network.

What does “extensive” mean? Well, in Table 8 of the January 2012 Updated appraisal, the present value of operating fewer classic services is £5,100 million.

Exactly what services would get cut to realise a £5.1 billion saving, has never been explained. The plan for classic-services-post-HS2 appears to vary depending on who is being asked. For example, service levels assumed in the April 2012 Demand and Appraisal Report (London – West Midlands) by MVA Consultancy are different to those in Centro’s ‘World Class Rail Network for the West Midlands’ draft.

Those service patterns also seem to be incompatible with the views of HS2 chief engineer Andrew McNaughton, and Anthony Gueterbock.

Written by beleben

October 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with ,

25 Responses

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  1. In the updated economic case for HS2 released by the DfT in August 2012, it was announced that further opportunities for efficiency improvements had been identified on the classic rail network. These show a saving of £7.7 billion rather than the previous £5.1 billion.

    The Demand and Appraisal Report HS2 London – West Midlands was published in April 2012 and is based on the earlier (smaller) cost savings. With a 51% increase in cost savings, it is inevitable that service patterns on classic rail will be reduced from those published in this report.

    I am presuming that William Barter provided his analysis based on the April 2012 Demand and Appraisal report. If that is the case then his analysis does not reflect the latest position of the DfT.

    I will take Coventry as this was the first service in his analysis. What is being contested is the number of fast trains provided after HS2 is introduced compared to what we have at present. There are currently three fast trains per hour in each direction or 49 per day in each direction between Coventry and Euston.

    According to tables A2 and A3 in the April 2012 Demand and Appraisal report, there will be a service of 16 trains in each direction between Euston and Liverpool once HS2 is running. This will be the only West Coast service listed as stopping at Coventry. This ties in exactly with the Technical Appendix published by HS2 Ltd in December 2009 which indicated that Pendolino trains would be used.

    There are three other services listed in tables A2 and A3 which have stops at Coventry on services on their way between Euston and Birmingham and Walsall. These are listed as London Midland services which is the current franchise holder. London Midland uses rolling stock which does not travel as fast as Virgin Pendolinos. To illustrate this point, the fastest London Midland Service between Euston and Milton Keynes takes 44 minutes while the corresponding Virgin service takes 30 minutes. Extrapolating that time difference between Euston and Coventry (without going via Northampton) would mean that London Midland rolling stock would take 87 minutes rather than the 59 minutes currently provided by Virgin Pendolinos. Not exactly a fast service.

    Perhaps Mr Barter would suggest that this rolling stock would be replaced by faster trains. If you consider these trains are travelling shorter total journeys than Virgin Pendolinos, there is less justification for faster trains than are currently provided. Next there is the fact that TOCs will be trying to save money as indicated in the first paragraph (and as recommended by Sir Roy McNulty) so expenditure on rolling stock will have to be minimised. Lastly the Technical Appendix referred to in the fifth paragraph above indicates that such services would be provided by Class 350 Desiros.

    So while the April Demand and Appraisal Report indicates the route from Coventry to Euston will be more direct for London Midland services than previously, there is nothing to indicate that the journey times will match those provided by Virgin Pendolinos because the rolling stock will have a lower operating speed.

    In conclusion I would not expect more than one fast train per hour in each direction between Euston and Coventry after the introduction of HS2 instead of the three per hour currently available in each direction.

    Andrew Bodman

    October 30, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    • There’s a few things awry in your analysis, Andrew.

      First, the fastest London Midland train between MK and Euston does it in 36 minutes, not 44, and that’s with a stop as Leighton Buzzard as well. The ones that take longer are suffering from pathing time in the schedules, as the LM and Virgin trains are blended together into a timetable. That can be reduced once the pressure is taken off the classic line, so that the LM trains could be accelerated even if nothing at all changed in terms of rolling stock and stopping patterns. And of course the difference between LM and Virgin will be reduced further when 110 mph running comes in. Then, between Rugby and Birmingham the permitted speed is only 100 mph so the speed of the Pendolinos isn’t being used anyway.

      The developing specification is a minimum at worst. Two further key drivers of service levels still stand between this early specification and an eventual timetable:

      • What stakeholders such as local authorities who engage constructively will be able to obtain or alter, depending on how they see the balance of needs for their constituents between long-distance and local or interurban services;

      • What opportunities a commercial train operator will find to enhance whatever the DfT eventually specifies – and TOCs with a regional focus like London Midland and First Transpennine have done extremely well in that respect during their current tenures.

      But you miss my point that the labels WC and LM have no meaning when you look 14 years ahead, other than to give HS2AA a technicality with which to deny two-thirds of Coventry’s suggested service. What rolling stock will operate which train is simply a sterile argument at this distance – there will be more Pendolinos available than would be needed to operate the residual WC services, so I don’t see why they shouldn’t be used on services that are now labelled “LM”.

      William Barter

      November 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm

  2. I disagree (surprise) with Mr Bodman.

    With Coventry, the issue of capacity is that when the train arrives, It has already picked up a load of passengers from Bhm new st and International. this means that Coventry will need less trains as the demand won’t be there as the majority will be getting HS2 trains (I assume)

    People in Cov are just focussing on the amount of trains they have when in fact, the majority of people that make up the service they get, are from Bham, which will be on HS2. So they will need fewer trains anyway, but the capacity will be there when the demand increases again. Also each Pendo will be 11 coaches


    October 31, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    • It strikes me “commuter rant” that you seem to be agreeing with Mr Bodman.
      If you refer to the section “Demand growth and modal shift” on pages 91 and 92 of the “Command Paper High Speed Rail (Cm 7827)” you will see that the DfT forecast then was that “the current 45,000 long-distance journeys taken each day on the London to the West Midlands section of the West Coast Main Line will more than double by 2033 to around 105,000”. It is also forecast there that “of the 105,000 long-distance passenger journeys predicted in 2033 without a new line, HS2 Ltd’s modelling predicts that around 85,000 would switch to High Speed Two, with about 20,000 continuing to use the current network (to travel to intermediate destinations not served by high speed trains)”.
      So you are right to say that “Coventry will need less trains as the demand won’t be there as the majority will be getting HS2 trains”. The DfT predicts that overall demand on WCML long-distance will be less than half of what it is now. It is obvious that the excellent service to London that Coventry currently enjoys will not be economically viable if HS2 is built. Andrew Bodman, you and I all seem to agree that Coventry is, therefore, bound to get a worse service post HS2.

      Peter Delow

      November 5, 2012 at 11:51 am

      • Definitely agreed. My point is that it won’t need 3 trains an hour, people will just need to get the earlier or later train.
        It certainly means a capacity increase for the 1 town in question. I think it all depends on whether people are using demand based on singular towns, or the WCML as a whole.

        Personally, I think all towns will gain from HS2, whether they are on the route or not. Yes people will seemingly get less trains, however these trains will have less people on them due to the advent of HS2.


        November 5, 2012 at 12:07 pm

  3. What you (whoever you really are, why don’t you reveal your name and credentials?) seem unable to accept is that train mileage and service levels are not the same thing. It is train mileage that costs the money, but service levels at any given station are more to do with the number of trains that stop there. It is perfectly possible to have higher service levels within a reduced train mileage

    The pattern we can expect is of less train-mileage being run on classic lines, but stations en route getting more services as trains actually stop at places instead of flying through. And if you live at one of those places, such as Rugby, Milton Keynes or Watford, that’s not any sort of “cut”. Yes that does mean that end to end times of some classic journeys will be slower, but the end to end passengers are largely the ones that would be served by HS2. Meanwhile, the intermediate journey opportunities that are so restricted now will be radically increased, once the focus of the WCML moves away from fast, through trains.

    In any timetable change, someone will be able to find something negative. It’s happened before, not least in the last WCML upgrade, when Milton Keynes lost virtually all its Glasgow and Liverpool services (they are restored in this specification). But what’s important is that each place gets a service appropriate to its primary needs, whether they be local, regional or long-distance.

    As for differing views of what the services will be on classic lines post-HS2, good! It’s a subject that’s up for debate and open to contributions, and debate and contributions will lead to the best solution in due course.

    William Barter

    November 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    • HS2 Ltd estimates of the present value of classic cuts seem to be getting bigger as time goes by. As Mr Bodman mentioned, the August 2012 one — buried in a spreadsheet — was £7.7 billion.

      What HS2 Ltd hasn’t done, is spell out what ~£7,700 million of classic cuts would look like, in terms of timetables and train mileage. Could cuts that big happen without reducing service levels for places off the HS2 network? I’m inclined to think ‘no’. As far as changing the stopping patterns is concerned, one person’s better_service at town B, is another person’s slower_service from town A to town C.

      The HS2 project was developed in a silo, and it is not part of the national transport plan. Because there isn’t a national transport plan. The management of national rail capacity, and the stopping pattern of ‘intercity’ services on classic lines, are both outside HS2 Ltd’s remit. If it’s the government’s intention is to insert extra stops into ‘intercity’ classic services, that concept should be set out properly, and with a corresponding monetised disbenefit for longer journey times entered in the HS2 calculus.


      November 12, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    • Yours are very soothing words Mr Barter, but what you have to explain is how it will be possible to offer an improved service on WCML with less than half the number of fare-paying passengers and a target saving of £7.7 billion. Am I being naïve in thinking that this doesn’t make sense?

      Peter Delow

      November 14, 2012 at 8:19 am

      • I would hesitate to call anyone I don’t know naive, but haven’t I just explained precisely that?

        1) The end to end business between London and major cities (A to C in Beleben’s example above, whoever he is) will be carried by HS2. Their service will improve because it is faster, as well as having better access to the City and Docklands given its integration with Crossrail at Old Oak Common.

        2) There will then be less train mileage on the WCML so the cost of the WCML train service will reduce.

        3) But as the trains that remain will be able to stop at stations between the major cities (Such as B in Beleben’s example above, whoever he is), the service at those intermediate stations will improve as they will have a higher frequency of service. Such as the increase from 1 fast London per hour to 4 at Rugby, and 3 to 7 at Milton Keynes, presaged in the April 2012 report. Not to mention 2 instead of 1 fast trains per hour between Milton Keynes and Birmingham, and 3 instead of 1 between Coventry and Milton Keynes. These flows are very badly served now, and I would expect these improvements to see a major increase in patronage

        William Barter

        November 14, 2012 at 9:10 am

      • 1) How much of the end to end business between London and major cities would be carried by HS2, would surely depend on the customer proposition. What if it were advance reservation only, for example? Reservation or not, HS2 running costs would be higher (through increased traction energy, etc). So fares would be too, unless the government provided ongoing extra subsidy. So, given a choice, many passengers might well choose not to use HS2.

        2) Certainly, if there were less mileage on the WCML, that would reduce train service cost (and revenue), but fixed costs are a big part of the total. HS2 Ltd expects West Coast load factors to fall. I’d have thought the government should be looking for ways to improve capacity utilisation, not reduce it. Even the official documentation shows capacity-inefficient outcomes.

        3) I think it’s naïve to suggest taking £7.7 billion out of classic services would improve connectivity for non-HS2 towns — in the case of West Coast, places that aren’t London, Birmingham, or Manchester. If the remaining West Coast trains stopped more often, journey times would get longer, on average. Which is not an outcome one might expect from the introduction of ‘high speed rail’. In any event, future train patterns on West Coast aren’t part of HS2 Ltd’s portfolio. There is no national transport plan, and no process for efficient rail capacity management.


        November 14, 2012 at 2:19 pm

  4. 1) I don’t think that’s much of an argument! If the passenger proposition deters passengers, change the passenger proposition. It’s a choice, not a law of nature. Even if HS2 were to be exclusive to advance reservations (and why should it be anyway?) in 2026 we’ll probably be able to make reservations by smiling slightly at our mobile phones. Last week I was travelling in Italy on Frecchia services, booking tickets and seats simultaneously just a few minutes before departure of the train from an intermediate station. Cross Country, according to a poster at Banbury today, are just implementing their equivalent system here. Far from being a deterrent, this assurance of a seat is a positive benefit.

    As for costs you mention fuel but that’s only part of it. Because of the reduced running times of a high speed railway, crew and fleet costs per train mile are both lower than conventional rail. There is no reason why fares must be higher than for conventional rail – if they are it is a choice, made to maximise fares yield. And if that deters anyone, then by definition it will deter those who place the lowest value on their time, so that the economic benefits are preserved.

    2) It’s an odd thing, but generally things that are good for capacity ultilisation are bad for passengers. Running through uses less capacity than stopping at stations, but isn’t a right lot of good if you want to catch a train. The current WCML is probably highly efficient in terms of capacity utilisation, but only by virtually ignoring intermediate and secondary markets. They will have their day when HS2 takes the fast through trains, and there is sufficient suppressed demand to support the service levels indicated by the April report, I have no doubt.

    3) You really can’t get your head round this one, can you? How long it takes to get from say Birmingham to London via the WCML effectively ceases to matter once HS2 takes the through traffic. And the fact that intermediate stations get a more frequent service vastly outweighs the possibility that any one train may take a few minutes longer than now. The service offered is a function of both frequency and journey time, and a couple of GJT calculations will clearly show that, say, two trains per hour taking 45 minutes is a more attractive service than one that takes 40 minutes.

    Why do you not tell us your name and your credentials?

    William Barter

    November 14, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    • 1) HS2 planning seems to be largely based on airline industry thinking from the previous century. At HS2 Ltd, there seems to be a lot of interest in advance reservation, as a means of increasing the load factor. But there’s little evidence that the British public would prefer option (i), Prebooked seat on a particular high speed service, over an option (ii), “Walk-on access to a raft of conventional services”, at the same price point. [I would certainly prefer choice (ii). The very low modal shift to high speed rail from cars in HS2 Ltd’s modelling, is doubtless partly a result of the company’s previous-century thinking.]

      In many industries, ‘changing the proposition’ can be a very painful process. And in the railway industry, it often seems to turn out to mean ‘terminating the proposition’. A couple of examples:

      (a) As part of its 1955 Modernisation Plan, British Railways embarked on a massive investment in new freight yards. They were not attuned to demand, and were largely abandoned a few years later.

      (b) As part of the Channel Tunnel rail services, BR ordered Nightstar carriages to provide overnight trains from British provincial cities to Europe. But there was no viable market proposition.

      2) Is the West Coast Main Line efficiently operated? I’d have thought the Euston Fast Lines should be aiming at 15 trains an hour in and out, as a minimum. There is too much mixed traffic, and too many bottlenecks. I would favour progressive de-bottlenecking, diverting railfreight via other routes (e.g. F2N, MML, GN/NE Joint), and switching West Midlands intercity to Chiltern.

      3) Centro’s West Coast post_HS2 aspiration is for two “fast intercity” trains per hour from Wolverhampton, Sandwell, and Coventry to London. So Coventry, the largest city between Birmingham and London, would see a less frequent intercity service. As it wouldn’t go beyond Curzon Street, HS2 LWM would not relieve paths on the Birmingham New Street — Dudley Port — Wolverhampton line. So HS2 is not an enabler of more fast trains from the Black Country to London. But it is potentially a begetter of slower trains from the Black Country to London.


      November 15, 2012 at 9:59 pm

      • 1) What guff! This debate is becoming surreal if you think there’s any link between marshalling yards in 1955 and HS2 in 2026. As I demonstrated with my examples, allocation of seats at the time of booking a walk-on ticket is current technology, and can only improve by 2026, even if (and it’s still “if”) HS2 trains do require reservations. I think it’s you who are stuck in the last century, not HS2L.

        2) 15 tph on the fast lines is precisely what the WCML will have with 110 mph running by LM trains, leaving virtually nothing to be added by “de-bottlenecking” such as the Stafford bypass. That’s because after years of evolution of the timetable in parallel with the infrastructure, pretty well all the constraints are in balance. The remaining gap between actual usage and theoretical capacity based only on headway is accounted for by station stops, so yet again intensifying the service further would cut services at intermediate stations.

        3) What you describe is not what is presaged by the April 2012 specification, into which I am sure Centro had an input, and which shows three fast direct trains per hour between Coventry and London. HS2AA choose to label just one of these as InterCity and ignore the other two, one of which actually makes fewer stops than their supposed InterCIty train. The aim seems to have been to introduce a Walsall train instead of a possible second Wolverhampton, so you could equally say that HS2 begets through trains to London from locations that don’t currently have them.

        I do not understand your reluctance to say who you are and what your credentials in rail planning and management are. Please do so. While you’re at it, and since you choose to raise marshalling yards, can you use a shunter’s pole?

        William Barter

        November 16, 2012 at 6:17 pm

  5. Dear Mr Barter,

    You appear to be sliding into personal abuse which merely indicates a lack of faith in your argument. Also It matters not who Beleben is or what his/her credentials are – only his arguments matter.

    There has been a common theme in the HS2 debate of people in the Rail industry believing they – and only they – should be able to comment on HS2. For example one rail expert on Twitter insultingly referred to people questioning the signalling behind HS2’s 18 trains per hour aspiration as “whiners”. We all saw what happened when the rail experts designed and managed signalling at Paddington.

    So I would respectfully suggest you stick to the argument rather than use what appears to be poor-disguised personal attacks dressed up as faux-humour. You know it makes sense.

    Fred Dagg

    November 16, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    • Forgive me for disagreeing. “Guff” refers precisely to his argument, not to him, and “last century thinking” actually refers back to his own comment about someone else.

      I believe it does matter who people are and what their credentials are, as it is not realistic to put a fully-referenced and detailed argument within the space available, so that this is an area where judgement is important and thus so is trust in the writer. That is why I blog and tweet under my own name and put my full experience on my website, so that anyone can make what they like of it. Perhaps Beleben has a reason for not doing so, but so far he has simply ignored my question. At root, I do like to know who I am debating with!.

      Do not hold me responsible for what others say. By being transparent about my experience, I have opened myself to the old jibes about “trainspotter” and “vested interest”, but I don’t expect you to be held responsible for that, and nor would I have it any other way.

      William Barter

      November 16, 2012 at 8:14 pm

      • Thank you for confirming my point that “rail experts” are fond of believing that they, and only they, have the right “credentials” to comment on rail matters.

        Fred Dagg

        November 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm

      • Thank you for calling me an expert but I would never make that claim for myself, simply present my credentials openly and let you decide. How else would you have it?

        William Barter

        November 20, 2012 at 8:24 pm

  6. One of the “selling” points for HS2 is that it will free up capacity on classis rail. The capacity is being freed up but the classic services will be worse in several cases not better.

    To clarify the number of fast services per hour between London and Coventry (in each direction) post HS2 let us go back to the Technical Appendix published by HS2 Ltd In December 2009. The London – Liverpool service (1 tph) stopping at Coventry will use Pendolino rolling stock which is described as semi-fast to distinguish it from HS2, described as high speed. The other trains stopping at Coventry will use Class 350 Desiros, which are neither described as high speed nor semi fast.

    The Demand and Appraisal Report distinguishes WC (West Coast) from LM (London Midland) services. The WC designated services will travel significantly longer distances than the LM routes with the exception of the London – Crewe services. So the WC routes are long distance (intercity) and the LM routes are for more local/regional services. I would expect a difference in rolling stock as provided in the previous paragraph. There is no evidence provided by HS2 Ltd to suggest that there will be more than 1 fast train per hour to and from Coventry for most of the day, unlike the current service which is 3 tph. If you want a fast train there will be less flexibility in travelling times (i.e. a longer interval between such trains).

    Will significant numbers of Coventry – London travellers switch to using HS2? For reasons of time the answer is there is no advantage. You would have a journey of 10 minutes from Coventry to Birmingham International, you would then need to travel just over one mile to Birmingham Interchange station and fit in with HS2 trains stopping 4 or 5 times per hour. Let us allow at least 12 minutes for this. 38 minutes on HS2 brings your total journey time to at least 60 minutes which is very close to the current journey time provided by Virgin from Coventry to Euston.

    But the cost of the tickets will make this option a non starter for many people. Using current prices, a day return from Coventry to Euston at peak times costs £138. A day return from Birmingham International is currently £158. HS2 tickets are likely to carry at least a 20% premium (I will return to this point later) making the HS2 ticket £189.60. Onto which you must add £3 for your return between Coventry and Birmingham International. Total price from Coventry to London (return) via HS2 is likely to be £192.60 (at current prices) which is approximately 40% more expensive than the direct service. Most regular travellers are unlikely to choose this. The picture on annual season tickets to London is similar (at today’s prices): Coventry – £7960, Birmingham International with 20% premium added – £10449 to which you must add the Coventry – Birmingham International cost as well. Who will want to pay an extra £2500+ for a journey involving a change and having no time saving?

    Why would there be a price premium for HS2 tickets? HS1 train tickets from Ashford to London are 20% more expensive than classic train tickets for the same journey. A brief survey of high speed train ticket prices in five European countries showed price premiums of 13% to 206% over classic train ticket prices. It is clear from the low occupancy rates of high speed trains in a number of countries that prices are not set to maximise the number of people travelling.

    In its 2010 Command Paper, the DfT expected 80% of existing long distance WCML passengers from the West Midlands to switch to HS2 by 2033. Will passengers switch from classic rail to HS2 as much as forecast? The DfT made the mistake of not using premium pricing in the passenger modelling as they admitted to the Public Accounts Committee in April. As we can expect premium pricing, then actual passenger numbers will be lower than forecast. Actual passenger numbers on the Eurostar have only reached one third of those originally forecast by the DfT. Bent Flyvbjerg who has analysed 258 major infrastructure projects in 20 countries found the average over-estimation of passenger demand was 105% for rail projects.

    So if passengers do not switch to HS2 as much as anticipated then will one fast train per hour from Coventry to London be sufficient? Will HS2 trains have lower occupancy than anticipated?

    Mr Barter says that “The developing specification is a minimum at worst.” I fail to see how that will be the case. The Demand and Appraisal Report which we have been discussing was produced in April 2012 when the “efficiency improvements” amounted to £5.1 billion. These efficiency improvements now amount to £7.7 billion which can only lead to further cuts.

    He goes on to say “Two further key drivers of service levels still stand between this early specification and an eventual timetable:
    • What stakeholders such as local authorities who engage constructively will be able to obtain or alter ………”
    Let us take Northampton station currently served by London Midland. This station which handles 2.5 million passengers annually currently has 54 services per day (each way) to Euston. According to the Development and Appraisal Report this will be reduced to 42 per day once HS2 is introduced. The councillor responsible for transport at Northamptonshire County Council recently made the following comments on this subject: “I am well aware that the service level for Northampton contained in the published proposals for HS2 falls short of both the reasonable aspirations of the town and the importance which ministers have attached to serving the area post-HS2……. I have made this point myself to ministers on several occasions, and along with my officers have repeatedly made the point to officials from both the Department for Transport and HS2 Limited. While they have acknowledged that their published proposals are not really fit for purpose, I have been disappointed that no better proposals have been forthcoming.” It does not appear that local authorities are able to positively influence these poorer services.

    Mr Barter advises that the fastest London Midland train between Euston and Milton Keynes takes 36 minutes. I can find two during the whole day which take 39 minutes and the rest as far as I can see take longer. He also indicates that there is currently only 1 fast train per hour between London and Rugby. My observation of timetables indicate that during peak hours in the morning there are three per hour from Rugby and two per hour in the evening to Rugby. I reflect on another comment he made: “…….so that this is an area where judgement is important and thus so is trust in the writer”.

    If, as suggested, fewer rail travellers switch to HS2 than forecast, then we could have more crowded as well as less frequent classic services, which is not what has been promised. This would be in addition to the government wasting £40 billion of our money on an underused white elephant.

    Andrew Bodman

    November 18, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    • Most of the points you are trying to make have been answered previously, so we are largely going over old ground.

      You say “There is no evidence provided by HS2 Ltd to suggest that there will be more than 1 fast train per hour to and from Coventry for most of the day”. That is simply wrong, and you know full well why. The Demand and Appraisal report shows three trains per hour from Coventry to London via the direct routewith two or three stops only. Even if it made any sense to speculate about what rolling stock will operate them in 14 years time on the basis of a link to two franchises which will both have expired by then and almost certainly remapped into something quite different, the difference between Pendolino and 350 over a distance such as Coventry to London is really not significant – Desiro types operate longer distances than that, and frankly so long as it is not the ones with 2+3 seating (not likely) I would prefer a 350, it is far less cramped than a Pendolino with its tombstone seats.

      As to the comparative running times, the difference would be small, and offset by the 350s having shorter dwell times and better acceleration. Yes, you’ve got me on the LM Euston to MK running time – the best is 38 minutes (the 1713 from Euston, and the xx46 pattern of departures with its stop at Watford), not the 36 minutes I said earlier, but not the 39 minutes you claim either (you may be looking at the Euston start to MK start times, not Euston start to MK stop). And if one train can do it so could the others if it weren’t for the pathing time which will reduce if not be eliminated completely once capacity is freed. The point, which you pass over completely, is that your extrapolation to estimate running times does not hold for the reasons I stated – the Leighton Buzzard stop that would not fall to these trains, pathing time removed, 110 mph running between Euston and Rugby, and limited line speed North of Rugby for all trains.

      Whatever you say about the Coventry – London journey, these factors are what the models model. But I think you are not making a valid assessment, as you focus simply on a journey from Coventry station to Euston. No I wouldn’t expect anyone on such a journey to travel by train from Coventry to London via Birmingham International/Interchange and HS2, they would almost certainly be better off using one of the three trains per hour that will run direct. The factors you overlook include:

      * a portion of travellers from any station are railheading; for many Birmingham Interchange becomes at least as good a railhead as Coventry;

      * few people end their journey at Euston – with its interchange to Crossrail at Old Oak, HS2 allows for far better access to most ultimate destinations in London, particularly Docklands, and use of the HS2 option will reflect this.

      Again, a premium fare for HS2 is a choice, not a law of nature. There may be sound arguments for having a premium fare (we just know that the HS2 business case does not depend on it), but the level at which it is set would surely be the point at which fares revenue is maximised and effect on patronage minimised. What else would anyone do?

      It seems pretty clear from the April specification that Centro have had a fruitful input, and if Northants engages constructively so it will too. Northants’ problem is that its engagement is hamstrung by the opposition from South of the County where the HS2 route passes, but there is no logical reason why services from Northampton should be reduced; there is no HS2 effect that leads to that. And even if the April specification pattern were to be implented without change, you should note that the fast peak service (which is particularly restricted now by pathing between Virgin trains, especially in the evening) is both increased and features trains that would be significantly faster, with 2 tph calling only at MK and Watford, and probably running fast line all the way from Hanslope, as well as not incurring that pathing time. And off-peak, bear in mind that the xx05 from Northampton makes 7 stops and arrives only 10 minutes before the xx25 and 28 minutes after the xx50, so it’s not a particularly attractive part of the current service.

      As to the current service at Rugby, I’m sure your timetable reading showed you that the standard service at Rugby is one fast London per hour as I said. The standard service presaged by the April specification improves on even the peak service that you mention, as well as catering for further journey opportunities that are badly provided-for today.

      Now as I said, if you explore any timetable change you will find something to label as negative, but can you seriously argue that the combination of HS2 and the freed classic line is going to be anything other than overwhelmingly positive for the vast majority?

      William Barter

      November 18, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      • You seem to be saying that the West Coast service would be more or less the same as today, but with more stops.

        But HS2’s August 2012 update upped the present value of classic savings to £7,700 million. So, something big doesn’t add up here.

        That something, is the HS2 Economic Case. How do you make nearly £8 billion of classic savings, yet keep the current service level? And how do you ‘free up capacity for more freight’ or whatever, if you maintain approximately the current service level?


        November 19, 2012 at 6:41 pm

      • You are making the mistake of confusing train mileage and service levels.

        There will indeed be less train mileage on the classic routes after HS2. That is apparent from the April specification, where for instance what are now separate Liverpool and Birmingham trains are combined into one, and whereas there are now three Euston – Manchesters per hour there will be one. So that’s three released paths just for those two instances. And the reduction in classic train mileage does indeed mean a saving for costs such as crew, fuel, train maintenance and train leasing for the classic services. This partly offsets the additional mileage that will be run by HS2 services, some of it on the classic lines.

        But the remaining trains can make more stops as HS2 will be there to take the end to end business, so the service levels at the intermediate stations will be maintained or in many cases dramatically improved. Currently 9 trains leave Euston on the fast lines each hour for WCML destinations, but only 3 call an Milton Keynes. After HS2 there might be fewer, but all would call at MK. So the service level there to and from London improves, as of course does the servive level between MK and places like Coventry, Birmingham, Rugby. That’s just the clearest example, but the same applies at e.g. Watford, Rugby. These flows get a bad service now and need a better one, but it can’t be provided so long as the WCML is full of fast through trains.

        William Barter

        November 20, 2012 at 7:27 am

      • HS2 Ltd’s August 2012 hidden-in-spreadsheet classic savings amounted to £7,700 million. But Table 6.5 of MVA’s Demand and Appraisal Report (April 2012) gave a Y network “Classic line cost savings from released capacity” of £5,100 million (year 2011 present value). For phase one (LWM), the figure was £1,900 million (in Table 5.4).

        But there’s no indication of how these figures were arrived at, why they are so different, or how they are numerically related to train mileage or frequency. Or even how detailed service specifications would be fed into the economic model.

        My understanding is the model is too complicated to sanity check, and incapable of providing answers to simple questions. For example, I asked HS2 Ltd what the individual benefit-cost ratios for the Manchester and Leeds legs of the Y network were. The answer was: they had no idea. The only figure available was for both legs, taken together. They refuse to create information that isn’t “held”, on grounds of cost.

        The model appears to be straight from the 1960s, as it apparently costs £4,000+ to run a simple query. So HS2 Ltd have spent hundreds of millions of pounds, but their (or their contractors’) computer capability is at the level of punched cards and Robotron 1715s.

        The idea of HS2 taking ‘end to end business’ is a chimera, because a great deal of long distance travel wouldn’t originate from “the end” of HS2 tracks. In the West Midlands, the Black Country alone is more populous than Birmingham, yet is not served in the HS2 scheme. Inserting additional stops into the Wolverhampton Inter City service post-HS2 would generate negative benefits; they should be monetised and entered into the economic case. Arguing that journey time disbenefits would be offset by a more frequent service is untenable, because the maximum intercity frequency between Wolves and Birmingham is independent of whether HS2 is built.


        November 20, 2012 at 4:47 pm

  7. The reason that individual cost : benefit ratios for the Leeds and Manchester arms aren’t available is that they are not independent – some of the work for one would be required for the other and vice versa. So to develop a CBR for each would require identification of infrastructure schemes applicable to each, with new timetable modelling and demand forecasting for each. I’m not at all surprised they didn’t do that; after all is anyone seriously suggesting that one arm should be built and not the other?

    Jerry Marshall doesn’t want to discuss the CBR of the Stafford bypass, despite claiming that the 51M scheme is “incremental”, so that it should (and would) be possible to identify incremental costs, incremental benefits and a CBR for the increment.

    I am willing to acknowledge that there are negative effects, such as Wolverhampton experiencing a longer journey time to London, albeit gaining connectivity to other locations, so that the picture is mixed. You in turn should acknowledge the major gains on other classic flows that follow from HS2, and the opportunity to serve flows not served now, such as Walsall – Rugby – MK – London.

    Frequency is truly relevant in determining the attractiveness of different cases – GJT analysis is fundamental to transport planning and service interval is a component in GJT that in the range we are talking about (broadly hourly versus half hourly) vastly outweighs conceivable changes in the IVT component.

    William Barter

    November 20, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    • I suppose one could make a case for building only one arm. Because the Y network configuration provides more capacity between the Midlands and the North, than between the Midlands and the South. Yet the most-intensively used part of the West Coast corridor is its first ~130 km out of London. So HS2 ‘capacity augmentation’ is upside down, as it were.

      Given the scale of expenditure proposed, I’d have expected HS2 Ltd’s economic model to be able to allow comparison of a range of options, including additional stations, junctions, and routeings. Presumably a stop in Staffordshire / Cheshire was tested and discarded on NPV grounds, but there doesn’t seem to be any mention of that in HS2 Ltd’s documentation.

      A Walsall — Birmingham — Coventry — Euston service could probably run today (if Centro funded Virgin to extend a Birmingham train). It seems to me that most arguments about HS2 costs and benefits, turn on magnitude and probability. ‘If HS2 took over Birmingham-to-London through traffic, a Walsall – Birmingham — Coventry — Rugby — MK — Euston could run’ (etc). But what is the value of such a service, in cost benefit terms?


      November 22, 2012 at 6:44 pm

  8. I’m glad, Mr Barter, that you identify Milton Keynes as a station that will benefit from the post-HS2 service changes on the WCML. According to the West Coast Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy, published by Network Rail in July 2011, Milton Keynes caters for the highest number of travellers to and from London of all the WCML stations. It exceeds Birmingham New Street, for example, by 30% (tables 3.9 and 3.10).
    Would it not have made more sense to include a stop at MK in the HS2 design and allow even more passengers to be tempted away from WCML?

    Peter Delow

    November 22, 2012 at 9:48 am

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