Archive for January 2014
At present Liverpool is the only major city in the North and Midlands not directly connected to HS2 and it is estimated that a dedicated link would help increase the city region’s Gross Value Added by £8 billion over 20 years. Without a direct link the potential of HS2 would be jeopardized with rapidly increasing passenger and freight traffic having to share an already congested Victorian railway.
That’s according to ‘20 Miles More‘, a new campaign supported by
- Phillip Blond, Director of think-tank ResPublica
- Professor Tom Cannon, Professor of Strategic Development at the University of Liverpool Management School
- Earl of Derby, President of Liverpool, Knowsley and Sefton Chambers of Commerce
- Professor Sir Peter Hall, Professor of Planning and Regeneration at The Bartlett, University College London
- Tom Morris, Founder of Home Bargains
- Jim Teasdale, Chief Executive, Mersey Maritime Group
- Dr Geoff Wainwright, Founder and Executive Director at 2Bio Ltd, a Merseybio Incubator Company
- Guy Wallis, Co-founder of Liverpool-based leading UK law firm DWF; founder of Liverpool in London Business Embassy
- Professor Ian Wray, Department of Geography and Planning and Heseltine Institute for Public Policy, University of Liverpool
who are aiming to get 30+ km of additional HS2 railway into Liverpool.
But aren’t Stoke-on-Trent, Wakefield, Coventry, Bradford and Kingston upon Hull all “major cities in the North and Midlands” too? Some of their citizens might well be offended by 20 Miles More’s claim that “Liverpool is the only major city in the North and Midlands not directly connected to HS2”. Of course, HS2 would not directly connect into Derby, Nottingham, or Sheffield either.
[20 Miles More]
The Port of Liverpool is a national strategic asset being the main port for two of our three largest trading partners (US & Ireland) and in linking Northern Ireland to the UK. It’s the only West Coast port with post-Panamax capacity and is thus vital to the UK’s aim to remain one of the world’s major trading nations.
Liverpool City Region has nationally important strengths in sectors like wealth management, life sciences, creative and digital and is home to leading manufacturing companies like Jaguar Land Rover, Vauxhall and Unilever. Improved business connectivity will help these sectors to grow and enable Liverpool to contribute even more to UK plc.
We estimate that an HS2 link would boost the GVA of Liverpool and the wider region by £400m every year – that’s worth £8 billion over 20 years. If the UK is to renew and rebalance its economy than it needs to harness the potential of cities like Liverpool, For 20 Miles More that potential can be unlocked through a direct link to HS2.
The financial cost of a 20 mile HS2 link to Liverpool is between £1.5 billion and £1.9 billion – about 4% of the £42.6 billion cost of the project. The economic cost of not taking this opportunity now – to the local, regional and national economy – is almost impossible to calculate. There are numerous inventive ways in which this finance could be raised and a Liverpool link funded.
We will investigate these as part the research that we will be carrying out to develop the case for 20 Miles More. We will continue to campaign and argue the case for a Liverpool link based on robust evidence and hard economic logic. We look forward to widening our support and building alliances with people across and beyond the City Region.
In the coalition’s HS2 phase 1, all London to Liverpool fast trains would run 125 km on the existing West Coast Main Line tracks beyond a HS2 junction near Armitage. In phase 2, another junction would be built on HS2’s Western leg just south of Crewe and one of the two Liverpool trains would use that link, continuing 63 km on the “19th century” tracks into Merseyside. The others would continue to use the slower route, via Armitage and Stafford. All Liverpool trains would be 200 metre classic compatibles, with less seating than current Pendolinos.
20 Miles More doesn’t seem to be a good fit with ‘Crewe Hub and Spoke’, or Stoke city council’s HS2 scheme. And it might be worth considering
- the low demand for long distance rail travel from Liverpool to London or Birmingham
- how much of a path shortage there is on the classic lines into Liverpool, and whether HS2 would be a cost-effective way of addressing it
- if new build track for full size HS2 trains were built into Liverpool, there would also need to be a suitable station to take them; 20 Miles More have not provided any details of a proposed route, nor of any new station
- what the effects would be of moving Liverpool intercity HS2 trains to a dedicated track on places like Runcorn and Stafford
- to what extent the The Port of Liverpool should pay towards improved freight access
- where in Britain the Port of Liverpool’s extra railfreight would actually be headed.
From 31 July 2011, central government funded programmes requiring HM Treasury approval were placed under the scrutiny of the Major Projects Authority (MPA). Creation of the Authority had been announced by the Minister for the Cabinet Office on 9 February 2011.
[Cabinet Office, 31 March 2011]
The MPA is a partnership between the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury. It has an enforceable mandate from the Prime Minister to oversee and direct the effective management of all large-scale projects that are funded and delivered by central government. The MPA will scrutinise projects, ensure accountability and inform the Treasury’s decisions on whether to approve projects.
Welcoming the announcement, Francis Maude said:
Previously government projects have had a poor delivery record. There was no cross-governmental understanding of the size and cost of the government’s Major Project portfolio, and projects often began with no agreed budget, no business case and unrealistic delivery timetables. This government will not allow that costly failure to continue. The MPA will work in collaboration with central government departments to help us get firmer control of our major projects both at an individual and portfolio level. It will look at projects from High Speed Two to the Rural Payments Agency’s ICT system.
“Today’s announcement builds on the work we have already done to put an end to wasteful and unnecessary projects. Last summer we launched the first comprehensive review of its kind of government’s Major Projects. That initial review found common and unacceptable failings in projects. We believe the Major Projects Authority will help further drive substantial improvement in the success rate of all major projects across government.
In 2012 a member of the public attempted to get details of MPA scrutiny of HS2, but the government refused to oblige. On 6 June 2013, the Information Commissioner decided that the Cabinet Office should disclose MPA’s November 2011 Project Assessment Review report.
However, no disclosure was forthcoming, and on 30 January 2014 transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin used the power of ‘executive override’ to block publication. The government insisted the decision was made on the principle that releasing such a document would undermine the MPA’s ability to assess projects, wrote the Financial Times’ Mark Odell.
[‘Transport secretary vetoes HS2 report’, Mark Odell, FT, 30 Jan]
A government spokesman said: “It is important to strike a balance between the benefits of transparency and protecting the ability of officials to speak truth to power. The Major Projects Authority will not be truly effective if officials fear that their frank advice to ministers could be disclosed.”
When the MPA was established, it was said that reports would be made available two years after production, the Lichfield Mercury reported. There have since been a further four HS2 reports by MPA and it was expected that, if the Government was forced to publish the November 2011 report, it would then have to publish the later ones.
The government’s position was that disclosure would ‘undermine the decision-making process’, as MPA interviews were given by officials and employees with assurances of confidentiality in a “safe space”.
[‘Transport secretary blocks HS2 report’, Gwyn Topham, The Guardian, 30 Jan 2014]
McLoughlin said the decision to exercise the power of veto “was not taken lightly” and it was “an exceptional case” but claimed the move was to preserve future policymaking rather than suppress damaging information. He said that interviewees needed to know they could “speak with absolute frankness and candour” and the subsequent reports needed to be “drafted in frank, and if necessary blunt, language” so that “problems are confronted and addressed, and are not avoided or overlooked”.
Intermodality for the UK, it’s coming sometime, maybe. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Integrated Transport Strategy has published a report asking ‘How do we better link up the UK’? The answer, apparently, is to redesign the HS2 railway in accordance with the wishes of Conserve the Chilterns, and Heathrow Hub Ltd.
In other words,
- HS2 should not go through the Chilterns,
- Heathrow should be on the through high speed route, serving land owned by certain people,
- and there should be a ‘full-capacity’ link between HS2 and HS1.
[‘HS2 and Intermodality for the UK’, Jan 2014]
The Group was formed in response to increasing concern at the lack of joined up thinking in the UK’s transport strategy. This is highlighted most clearly in the disconnect between HS2 and airports policy, where Government deposited a Hybrid Bill for phase 1 of a new railway between London and the West Midlands just a few weeks before publication of the Government ‘s Airports Commission interim report on the UK’s future hub airport capacity. HS2 is also excluded from the draft National Networks Policy Statement, issued for consultation in December 2013.
This contrasts with the integrated approach to the strategic planning of air and rail infrastructure in many other countries, and which has proved so successful in meeting a wide range of economic and environmental objectives.
This paper, the first of what we envisage to be a number of studies, considers air/rail integration, and whether HS2 as currently designed represents international best practice.
The APPG is calling for:
* Decisions on Heathrow and HS2 to be made together in the national interest, rather than in isolation;
* A fully functional rail link between HS1 and HS2;
* A ‘fresh look’ at transport planning in the UK – based on integration, across all modes of transport.
The UK has a unique opportunity to consider an integrated approach to its air and rail strategies. This is particularly important in view of the UK’s peripheral offshore location in Europe, and the country’s dependence on global access for its future competitiveness in an increasingly connected world.
By coming relatively late to such decisions, the UK has the opportunity to learn from the success – and failure – of transport strategies elsewhere in Europe. These lessons are reflected in European legislation, which requires an intermodal approach to transport planning.
UK Governments have however consistently failed to consider an integrated approach, or to draw on European experience. HS2 and the UK’s hub airport strategy are being developed in isolation, resulting in HS2, the UK’s biggest ever peacetime investment of public monies in a single project, bypassing, by just a few miles, Heathrow, the UK’s only hub and world’s busiest international airport, directly contributing around 1% of GDP.
Despite capacity constraints, Heathrow retains the highest business connectivity score amongst major European hubs, and is at the end of seven of the top 10 business routes in the world. Some see the airport as being as important to the UK economy as the competitive advantage afforded by the English language, legal system and time zone.
HS2 was designed on the specific assumption that Heathrow would not be expanded. As the Airports Commission have now concluded that only Heathrow or Gatwick are candidates for new runway capacity, there is a clear need to revisit the assumptions that were fundamental in HS2’s development.
Importantly in these economically challenging times, HS2 Ltd’s own estimates confirm an alternative HS2 route via Heathrow would be less expensive. The only disbenefit of a route via Heathrow would be slightly longer journey times – by just three or four minutes. This seems insignificant, particularly as Government have now confirmed that HS2’s early focus on speed alone was wrong, and that connectivity is instead more important.
An alternative route could also follow the principles established by the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, now HS1 – for example, adopting a design speed to allow the line to follow motorway corridors, tunneling through urban areas below existing railways and tunneling too through the narrowest part of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This would significantly reduce the environmental impacts that have contributed to such widespread opposition to HS2.
European experience is clear. Major airports should be directly served by rail lines, carrying a mix of local, regional, long distance and high speed services via airport interchanges located on through lines, not branches or loops. This enables trains to carry both airport and non-airport passengers, allowing increased frequencies and a wider range of destinations at commercially sustainable loadings.
Integrating air and rail in this way has numerous benefits including modal shift from road to rail, potential air/rail substitution of short haul flights to release scarce airport capacity, wider airport catchments and customer choice, easier regional access to global markets, and a transformation of inward investment perceptions of the attractiveness of regional economies.
In addition to Heathrow, the Airports Commission has shortlisted Gatwick for additional runway development. Although Gatwick, unlike Heathrow, is already located on a main line railway, its peripheral location, on the far side of London from the majority of the UK’s regions and principal markets, makes it more difficult to envisage the step change in surface access that would be essential to support a potential doubling of traffic.
There is therefore a unique opportunity to develop an integrated approach to the UK’s air and rail strategies before the Airports Commission issues its final report in Summer 2015.
Whilst the HS2 Hybrid Bill has now been placed before Parliament, it is not too late for Government to consider amending the scheme, as the Secretary of State has already indicated may be necessary, to provide proper intermodal integration and secure the UK’s future connectivity and competitiveness.
However, there is increasing urgency, as over £0.3bn of public money has already been spent on HS2 from a budget, in this Parliament before May 2015, of more than £1bn.
If, as this paper proposes, HS2 needs to be adapted to reflect the Airports Commission’s recommendations, this should be considered as soon as possible to minimise the abortive costs to the public purse and enable the Commission to bring forward the best possible option for the UK’s future hub airport.
The report’s contributors included David Stewart, Head of Airport Development at the International Air Transport Association, and Jacques Gounon, Chairman and Chief Executive of Eurotunnel. Whether IATA or Eurotunnel have financial interests in Conserve the Chilterns and Countryside or Heathrow Hub, is not known. What is known, is that PR company Cavendish Communications “has been paid to act as APPGITS’s secretariat by its clients Heathrow Hub Ltd and Conserve the Chilterns and Countryside”.
The report scores plenty of direct hits on the coalition’s HS2 project, which of course is as easy as shooting fish in a proverbial barrel. However, a lot of the material is surprisingly unhelpful to Heathrow Hub’s own case, which was presumably not the intention.
Even “where new high speed rail services have eroded air market share, airlines have continued to operate on routes in direct competition with high speed rail, albeit at reduced frequencies – for example Paris-Lyons and Paris-Amsterdam”. And “only 2.8% of Heathrow passengers come from the major conurbations of Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff and Bristol combined” (unaccountably seen as a problem by the APPG).
The report also noted that Deutsche Bahn had reduced services to Frankfurt Flughafen — which is probably just a reflection of the reality that airports tend not to be particularly important destinations for long distance rail traffic.
Like coalition_HS2, the APPGITS_HS2 proposal is needlessly environmentally damaging, poor value for public money, and shaped by the demands of special interests.
Transport minister Stephen Hammond said the government ‘cannot guarantee’ recovery of Britain’s domestic rail industry as he unveiled a German-built train ‘mockup’ commissioned for London’s Thameslink, the Guardian reported (28 January 2013). The Class 700 mockups were displayed for ‘stakeholders’ and the press at the ExCel conference centre in east London yesterday, and for public viewing today (29 Jan).
[‘Rail minister casts doubt on future of UK manufacturing’, Sean Farrell, The Guardian, 28 Jan]
Siemens is building the energy-efficient Class 700 train for the government’s £6.5bn upgrade to the Thameslink network, which runs through London from Brighton to Bedford and is being extended to Cambridge and Peterborough.
Surely the time to display ‘mockups’ would have been at the project definition stage, rather than after design freeze. After jigs have been created and metal has been cut, there is very little scope to incorporate public feedback, or optimise anything. No engineering or layout drawings, and few technical details, appear to be available, so it’s difficult to assess provision for airport passengers’ luggage, etc.
Previous builds of Siemens trains for the GB market have been so energy hungry that hundreds of millions of pounds had to be spent on upgrading power supplies. The Class 700 features a new lighter-weight bogie called the SF-7000, but how energy efficient the trains really are, is open to question. The decision has been taken to acquire a fleet of fixed formation 8-car and 12-car trains, which probably isn’t a particularly good fit with demand (or energy efficiency) over the course of the day.
There is a minor passenger space advantage in not having so many driving cabs, but it still looks like barmy planning. If there is a fault with just one carriage, an entire 8-car or 12-car unit would have to be taken out of service. Like Boris Johnson’s New Bus for London, the Class 700 appears to have no openable windows or backup ventilation, so in the event of airconditioning problems, things could quickly get unpleasant.
The current Class 319 Thameslink stock has standard class 2 + 3 seating, but in the Class 700 it is 2 + 2. Much of the bigged-up ‘capacity increase’ in the Class 700 comes simply from having a larger fleet of trains, and more standing room.
The Class 700 mockup interiors look quite cold, plasticky, and just not thought through properly. The seats don’t look particularly comfortable, but who knows, they might be better than they appear. The provision for standees to hold on looks inadequate, and the ridges on the awkwardly-sited seat handgrabs are likely to be bacteria traps.
The heavy-set front ends of the Class 700 have a full width cab formed from what looks like large plastic or fibreglass mouldings, rather than environmentally-friendlier contoured sheet metal. It’s difficult to tell how much of the driver’s windscreen is swept by the centrally-situated wiper blade.
Other readily-apparent shortcomings can be seen in the toilet design. The excuse for a washbasin is likely to result in water going all over the floor.
Reproduced below is an interesting account of the Greengauge 21 event ‘High Speed Two: the wider network, the wider benefits‘ held at Birmingham Think Tank on September 19, 2013. Speakers included Lord Deighton (HS2 Growth Task Force); Sir David Higgins (now chairman of HS2 Ltd); Paul Ormerod (Volterra), and Laura Webster (HS2 Ltd).
HS2 STRATEGY MEETING HELD AT THE THINK TANK, BIRMINGHAM ON 19TH SEPTEMBER 2013 TO DISCUSS HS2: THE WIDER NETWORK, THE WIDER BENEFITS
I attended this event with Bhanu Dhir from the Black Country Chamber of Commerce and attach a copy of the agenda showing the items for discussion and those presenting. Clearly it was intended to be a highly publicised “Showcase” event to help increase support for the project. There was no opportunity for any serious debate or questioning and it was managed in a way which discouraged anything seen as contentious. No new information beyond that which we already have was made available.
Reference was made to the supportive conclusions assumed from the KPMG Report “HS2 (Phase 2) Regional Economic Impacts”. I have read this report as well as I can. I believe that the Black Country has the right to hold the highest expectations for significant benefit from the HS2 Project in both direct local terms and indirectly from national advantages. Our support should be dependent upon clear expectations in both of these. I continue to be concerned at the poor standard of work done by HS2 and Greengauge 21 in producing reliable and verifiable information to absolutely support the business case.
Continually, they avoid direct questions or give answers of a quality which is very disappointing. Sir David Higgins, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, confirmed the view that as much as possible has been done to improve and increase the capacity of West Coast Main Line. He stated that continuing costs of maintaining it are so high that the money might as well be spent on building HS2. However, he failed to address the point that the proposed continuing high level of utilisation of West Coast Main Line for improved local services and freight utilisation means that there will always be high maintenance costs associated with it even if HS2 is built, so that argument does not appear to make much sense. I tried to ask a question on this but did not get any response.
A particular interest for UK manufacturing, of which the Black Country is an important element, is that the greatest possible proportion of the total manufacturing and building work associated with HS2 should be placed in the UK and the money not significantly spent overseas as we are currently seeing with Wind Energy. Therefore, the presentation by Steve Scrimshaw, the Managing Director of Siemens Rail Systems UK and North West Europe was very important. He spoke about the spread of jobs through the supply chain, the importance of manufacturing capability and skills development within the UK, particularly including the mention of apprenticeships.
This was a good presentation, with much said that we would agree with. Clearly Siemens stand to benefit massively if HS2 goes ahead. Even the publicity photographs prominent on the day showed all of the HS2 locomotives with Siemens logos. This is a German owned company but Mr Scrimshaw described the position of Siemens here going back to the 19th century and its strong commitment to the UK. When he finished, I congratulated him on an excellent presentation and asked him directly what proportion of Siemens’ contribution to HS2 would be manufactured in the UK? I was surprised that he tried to avoid the question and said shortly that “they were aware of it and thinking about it”. I was asked by the Chair if I was happy with the answer and I said no, not really. I asked Mr Scrimshaw the same question again and added would it be 50%, 75%? He did not want to answer and gave the same response as before, then left the stage. Personally, I was not happy with the response.
One of the best quality presentations was that given by Keith Brown MSP, Minister for Transport and Veterans in the Scottish Parliament. Understandably the Scottish Government strongly supports the development of High Speed Rail and clearly, it is on long distance journeys that benefits become most apparent. He said that development of High Speed Rail north of the border would be expensive and that Scotland would be prepared to contribute financially.
Geoff Inskip from Centro made a good presentation which described his organisations’ support for HS2. He emphasised the opinion that the most important characteristic of HS2 should be connectivity and that its success will be a function of that. I agree with this point and it emphasises that it can only contribute significantly to the economy if it is part of a fully integrated wider transport network which will include significantly up rated road and other local transport networks.
The final presentation and one of the most important because of the limited understanding of the way freight services will operate on West Coast Main Line was the last one on the “Wider Benefits: Integration and Freight”. I was not able to stay through this because of another appointment but Bhanu Dhir has briefed me. It does not appear that much new light was thrown on the subject beyond describing the benefits of increasing the amount of freight travelling by rail instead of by road. Clearly there are concerns about just how much capacity will be available because a number of questions were asked about whether any freight could be carried on the new HS2 line. Bhanu advises me that this question was not answered.
I think my experience of this event as well as those already reported to you confirms that we must sustain clearly stated high expectations and also significantly question those points which remain unclear or misleading.
I have read the KPMG Report and this, alongside the Network Rail Report on “Better Connections” includes significant detail on anticipated improvements to local services. However, as became apparent from my previous meeting with the HS2 Taskforce, no significant investigation has yet been carried out into what the increased freight utilisation on West Coast Main Line will actually be. As the major case for HS2 currently being made is the lack of capacity on West Coast Main Line; there must be a clear understanding of what that capacity is. Therefore, how can there be a detailed analysis of improved local services without any understanding of how much capacity in terms of track length and time will be taken up by slow moving long freight trains? Jerry Blackett and I will shortly be meeting Geoff Inskip from Centro and representatives from HS2. I will raise this question during that meeting.
One critical point that requires clarification is the relationship between ticket prices and passenger numbers. I think it is disturbing that even the KPMG Report makes no reference to this and the subject was completely avoided at the Millennium Point event. To whatever degree in the future a fully developed High Speed Rail network can be self sustaining, there is no doubt that in the early years its very high fixed and operating costs can only be covered in two ways:
1. High ticket prices which will limit utilisation and certainly minimise commuting opportunities.
2. Considerable public subsidy of ticket prices which will reduce funding elsewhere.
This is a critical question and I believe that we should be expecting to see some evidence of constructive and properly evaluated strategies in this context. At present, I do not believe that we do. Another point from the KPMG Report that will need further consideration is that, in order to realise the potential forecast impacts on business location across Britain, there may be a need for complementary changes to create an environment in which business can develop. Although the predicted GDP impact is 15 billion pounds, this is described as optimum. There are two sensitivities which affect this:
1. The productivity calculations include Dft estimates of work done by businessmen while travelling on the train. If this is adjusted for the reduced time spent on the train, the GDP impact is reduced to 12 billion pounds.
2. There are assumptions about connectivity to labour. A scenario is described in which connectivity to labour, by either road or rail, is not a driver of business productivity. This assumption reduces the GDP impact to 8 billion pounds per year.
We need further clarification on these points and particularly it seems to me that if considerations of labour connectivity are crucial to calculation of impact on GDP, then some clarification about the position of ticket pricing is essential.
A final observation reflects my concern at the apparent lack of understanding and “joined-up thinking” at even the highest political levels. Recently George Osborne said that he is “passionate” about HS2 and thinks it will be a major factor in achieving a more even balance of the economy across the UK and help reduce the excessive concentration in the South East of England. This of course in itself makes a strong case for HS2. However, if that passion is true and represents laudable Government perspective, why are we not seeing a similar approach to a future airport strategy?.
It is already clear that the Davies Report will continue to focus on the South East and yet, it seems clear to me that a coordination of HS2 development with an airport strategy which distributes strategic hubs further North would be a very strong driver of economic development in parts of the UK other than the South East. I have described this thought to John Morris at Birmingham Airport.
Local communities being able to take the decision on fracking is a good thing, according to the Centre for Cities’ Nada Nohrová.
[Nada Nohrová, CfC blog]
Notwithstanding the difference in perspectives, fracking is an example of how the pursuit of the national interest requires action at the local level which is likely to have mainly negative impacts on local areas and communities
Centre for Cities’ thinly disguised support for fracking seems to be based on it being in the ‘national interest’. But there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that it is. Nor is it clear what ‘local communities being able to take the decision’, actually means. The ‘interests’ of local politicians in office are often not the same as those of local communities.
Oddly enough, Ms Nohrová’s blogpost appeared alongside a Centre for Cities tweet about the musician Little Boots appearing on Channel 4 to discuss the Centre’s latest cities research. Little Boots is from Blackpool, where fracking company Cuadrilla admitted that its activities were responsible for “little earthquakes“.
Judging by business group London First’s diagram of anticipated London rail passenger growth to 2031 (below), one might wonder why Network Rail’s 2009 New Lines Study did not consider the case for a new railway in the Great Eastern corridor, rather than HS2.
The southern section of the West Coast Main Line has substantial unused capacity, as both Network Rail and Department for Transport have, on occasion, conceded. Even the Department’s October 2013 HS2 Strategic Case noted that adding an extra two Euston commuter train paths (in the peak hours) on the West Coast Main Line as soon as 2014, was “under active consideration”.
[DfT HS2 Strategic Case, Oct 2013]
[2.6.4] This would require multiple unit operation at higher speeds which causes certain technical challenges. But if they can be introduced successfully, they would help to alleviate commuter congestion over the next 10-12 years. But it will be for the ORR to decide if this is possible and consistent with achieving the required level of performance reliability. At 15 trains/hour in peak periods on the fast pair of tracks out of the capital, this is at the highest end of levels achieved on main line railways elsewhere in Europe – even those such as high speed lines with purpose-built train control systems, let alone a railway with a mix of diesel and electric traction, commuter, freight and intercity services. Once this level of throughput has been achieved, it would be very difficult to add further commuter trains to the route.
The Department subsequently issued a list of Strategic Case ‘Clarifications‘ (date unknown), one of which stated that the text should have read “At 15 trains/hour in peak periods on the fast pair of tracks out of the capital, this is at the highest end of levels achieved on main line railways elsewhere in Europe…” and “Once this level of throughput has been achieved, it would be very difficult to add further commuter trains to the route”.
Contrary to the impression given by DfT, 15 trains per hour in peak hours on Euston’s Fast Lines would not really be an ambitious target; Network Rail’s 2009 Great Western Route Plan set out a frequency of 18 on the Fast Lines out of Paddington (with a mix of Heathrow electric and InterCity 125 diesel). So there is no reason to believe that 17 per hour could not be reliably operated on the Euston Fast Lines.
Narrowing of the performance disparity between commuter and intercity trains on West Coast should allow some capacity uplift. So far as can be ascertained, Class 350 commuter trains operating out of Euston are now able to operate in multiple at 177 km/h. In the medium term, it might be worth homogenising performance by
- replacing Class 350s with higher performance trainsets, and
- undertaking electrification of routes such Crewe — Holyhead / Wrexham, Wolverhampton — Shrewsbury, Stockport — Stalybridge (for Huddersfield), Manchester — Rochdale, etc.
With all-electric operation would come the possibility of direct ‘half-train’ services to Blackpool, Rochdale, Bolton, and Wrexham (two half-trains sharing one path). Other cost-effective methods of capacity augmentation, such as moving West Midlands intercity trains to the Chiltern route, and Haven Ports railfreight to F2N, have been described in earlier Beleben blogposts.