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HS2 and valuation of additional capacity

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Although ‘additional rail capacity’ was cited as one of the justifications for building HS2 during Gordon Brown’s time as prime minister, it is only recently that the argument has been emphasised by coalition ministers. Evidently, the HS2 Ltd public relations machine realised that talk about getting to Birmingham 30 20 minutes quicker had failed to achieve cut-through outside the world of train enthusiasts.

Although the message has changed, in the October 2013 iteration of the HS2 economic case, speed — in the form of time savings to business users — is more important than ever. The underlying Adonis design of the Y network, which has not changed, sacrifices capacity (and connectivity) for speed between the Four HS2 Cities (London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds).

Increasing national rail capacity could be done without spending £50 billion on a project whose trains would not run until 2026. And in many cases, little more is involved than the purchase of additional rolling stock.

In the West Midlands, transport authority Centro has spread misinformation linking HS2 to local capacity augmentation, but there is no connection. In no way is HS2 relevant to increasing rail capacity between Wolverhampton, Walsall, Stourbridge, Lichfield, Redditch, and Birmingham. The only released capacity from HS2 stage one would be on the Coventry line, and at New Street station itself (platform occupancy). In both cases, the relief is not significant.

Network Rail’s May 2011 West Midlands and Chilterns Route Utilisation Strategy gave some insights into the problem of capacity augmentation. Even where pouring concrete is not involved, the benefits of de-crowding investments are often judged as not being worthwhile, or not implementable for want of rolling stock. Here are a couple of examples.

Example 1

[Network Rail, West Midlands and Chilterns Route Utilisation Strategy]

Option 10 – Train lengthening on long distance services between Nottingham and Birmingham New Street/Cardiff
Concept: Lengthen the busiest morning and evening peak A) Nottingham – Birmingham New Street – Cardiff central and B) Nottingham – Birmingham New Street services by one car each
Conclusion: The results of the analysis indicated that crowding on the Cardiff to Nottingham services is mainly a localised issued between Tamworth and Birmingham New Street in the peak hours, although there are some services that are overcrowded from as far out as Burton-on Trent. Reducing localised crowding by lengthening the long distance Cardiff Central – Birmingham New Street – Nottingham services incurs significant mileage-related cost and lengthening the
Nottingham – Birmingham New Street services is a more cost effective solution. However with the assumption that the lengthening unit is in operation throughout the day, the option would offer poor value for money. Both options 1 and 2 are not recommended as the operating cost is higher than the level of benefits generated by the options.

Example 2

Assessment of Option 15a, Lengthening of Arriva Trains Wales peak services between Shrewsbury and Birmingham International
Concept: Lengthen two morning and two evening peak Arriva Trains Wales services between Shrewsbury
and Birmingham International
Conclusion: A medium value for money business case exists to lengthen two morning and two evening
services by one vehicle each. This option is recommended for implementation as soon as rolling stock becomes available.


Written by beleben

December 1, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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One Response

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  1. Section 7 West Midlands Delta Junction in the Systra report “Operational Concept Study – Technical Note: HS2 Capacity and Reliability” produced in October 2011 has been entirely redacted. Presumably this is because it said something that was not very favourable to the operation of HS2. There is a brief reference in 1.6 to a suggested alternative layout. Does anyone know what the issues were, have they been overcome and has anything been published more recently regarding this?

    While the report suggests that 18 trains per hour might just about be feasible if the technology is developed to do this and everything works well, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see that only a very small problem would wreak havoc with the schedules and cause massive delays.

    If a more serious problem arises between Coleshill and Euston then the whole schedule would collapse completely. Although the “classic compatible” trains might be able to use an alternative route, the full size trains could not use any other line and they would then be as much use as a chocolate teapot.


    February 14, 2014 at 3:47 pm

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