die belebende Bedenkung

The look of HS2

with 2 comments

One of many inaccurate visualisations produced by HS2 Ltd shows high speed trains running to within a few yards of the front wall of the station building at Manchester

For Felix Schmid, a professor of engineering at Birmingham University and member of the ‘HS2 Leaders Group’, the main challenge in the HS2 rail project is not only to create a ‘truly integrated network’, but also one that is ‘attractive to look at’ (wrote Jamie Merrill in The Independent, 1 Dec 2013).

[…] Professor Schmid believes the Government has “rolled over” and allowed many local campaigners to convince designers to build tunnels to reduce the line’s visual impact […] “if much of your journey is in a tunnel or below ground level you might as well have trains without windows.”

[…] To the engineering community one of the biggest decisions has been whether to use a concrete slab track or the traditional ballasted track, familiar to British train passengers for its rhythmic clunkity clunk. It might sound arcane, but according to Professor Schmid it’s crucial.

“They need to make is sustainable,” he said. “The British are traditionally more keen on ballasted track, but at 200mph you’ve got to get it right and don’t want ballast thrown up damaging the trains and damaging the rails.”

There is an amenity benefit in high speed rail users being able to see countryside they pass through, but a noise and visual disamenity for people in its vicinity. In the HS2 project, everything seems to revolve around the users of the high speed railway.

Prof Schmid’s views on fenestration seem out of step with current practice, because even on entirely-underground rail systems in cities such as Montreal, trains are fitted with windows.

Despite the problems caused by flying ballast, most high speed rail constructors have eschewed slab track, because that comes with its own set of problems.

The article quoted HS2 technical director Andrew McNaughton on the demand for HS2.

“Are people suddenly going to stop travelling? The answer to that is clearly no,” [Andrew McNaughton] says.

A more pertinent question might be: ‘Are people suddenly going to start travelling long distances, by rail, to London?’.

On a per capita basis, the number of long distance journeys made by people in Great Britain is low. London is the key market in the HS2 project, with more than 80% of journeys starting or finishing there.

The number of long distance journeys made by rail between London and the HS2 provincial cities (Leeds, Birmingham, and Manchester), is very low. And the number of long distance journeys made by people between Birmingham and Leeds, and Birmingham and Manchester, is minuscule.

Written by beleben

December 3, 2013 at 5:59 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Only 3% of the nation’s passenger journeys are by rail. 90% of them are less than 80 miles long. If half of the remaining 10 percent are potential High speed rail fodder we have 0.15%, or one out of every 670, passenger journey by high speed rail. Why on earth that should be thought of as transformational is difficult to understand.


    December 3, 2013 at 7:54 pm

  2. The pics of the Network Rail’s proposed upgrade to Manchester Victoria station look better than this:

    A few steps from the Arndale Centre and Harvey Nic’s, Manchester Victoria station would be HS2 Plan B’s Manchester destination and one of the key interchanges on its Northern Crossrail:



    December 5, 2013 at 9:26 am

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