die belebende Bedenkung

HS2 and Milton Keynes commuting

with 3 comments

According to its spin machine, HS2 is supposed to ‘deliver a step change’ in rail capacity, that could not be matched by any other means. But, as discussed in previous blogposts on the October 2013 Strategic and Economic Cases, the ‘step’ is not particularly impressive. Over the 2009 baseline

  1. the ‘hourly’ capacity provided on the Euston West Coast Fast lines by HS2 seems to amount to seven commuter, three long distance high speed (LDHS) and one intermodal freight path (there appears to be no mention of any effect on the utilisation of the Relief lines).
  2. for East Midlands, Yorkshire, and North East destinations currently served by the Midland and East Coast Main Lines, there is a gross uplift of five paths from the Y network (little to no information appears to be available on post-HS2 capacity utilisation on the MML or ECML).

It is not clear why there would be a need to run seven additional commuter trains per hour on the Euston Fast lines:

  • a Class 350/1 trainset has a seating capacity of about 233 (24 first and 200 standard [plus 9 tip-up seats])
  • a dense-pack Class 350/2 trainset has a seating capacity of about 276 (24 first and 243 standard [plus 9 tip-up seats]).
  • three Class 350 sets can form one train (in theory, anyway, as far as 177 km/h running in concerned).

So going from two trains in 2009 to nine commuter trains in 2033 would mean ~5,796 extra seats in a hour; probably overkill. But suppose that scale of uplift were needed, is HS2 the only way?

According to London Midland, its Project 110 scheme creates an additional ‘Fast line’ path in each direction between Milton Keynes and Euston in the standard off-peak hour and ‘up to’ two extra Fast line paths in the am and pm peak hours. (For the purposes of this analysis, the effect of Project 110 shall be considered as being just one extra path over the 2009 quantum.)

In the base Rail Package 6 concept, West Midlands intercity trains would run from Paddington (or Old Oak) via the Chiltern Main Line, freeing three paths on the West Coast Fast lines. A second level development of RP6 would leverage the Chiltern advantage by transferring Manchester trains from Euston in the same way, freeing another three paths on West Coast.

Mancunian trains would leave Old Oak on the Chiltern Main Line, reaching a reactivated Great Central via Ashendon / Grendon; they would only use the West Coast Main Line north of Rugby. GC reactivation to Rugby, and the creation of a fast interconnector to the WCML is a project which could be implemented more quickly than HS2, and at a fraction of the cost.

Et voilà, the (probably gratuitous) commuter capacity uplift of HS2 is matched, without even touching unused capacity on the Midland Main Line (the St Pancras — Sundon — Ridgmont — Bletchley proposition).


Written by beleben

November 13, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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3 Responses

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  1. Hi

    You don’t mention the slow track in this – used by commuter trains, which is where the capacity issues are, able to take speeds of up to 100mph and currently there are a max of 8 trains an hour each way during the rush hour and an average of 6 at other times. Grade separation at Ledburn Junction would significantly increase the paths available and allow a doubling of commuter capacity at peak times in 5 years for a mere £500,000. Sorted!

    Shirley Judges

    November 14, 2013 at 10:33 am

    • The slow track is very inefficiently used. Of the 6-9tph (off-peak vs peak) London-Midland services leaving Euston, 2 use the fast track leaving only 4-8tph on the slow lines. This compares to 29tph (peak) using Charing Cross at peak (which has a 2-track approach around Southwalk Cathedral) .

      I’m not convinced that the slow line problem is due to the 2 fast LM trains re-joining the slow lines at Ledburn.

      Beleben – do you know of any analysis re. the slow lines ?

      Richie S

      November 14, 2013 at 11:52 am

  2. The other issue that everyone seem to miss is the Govt plans to reopen the East West line from Oxford to at least Bedford.

    When this happens, before HS2, they will have created a brand new path from Milton Keynes (or at least Brackley) into Marylebone via Great Central. Although CG passenger services currently terminate at Aylesbury, the track is still in use for freight (landfill) all the way to a remnant of East-West where trains turn round, going back to Ruislip after dumping their cargo at Calvert.

    Joe Rukin

    November 14, 2013 at 2:18 pm

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