die belebende Bedenkung

Targeting GB rail irresilience

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'Forget HS2, West wants GW2'

‘Forget HS2, West wants GW2’

This week’s severance of the sole extant railway to Plymouth and Cornwall has raised awareness of how the South West peninsula has lost out to prestige projects favoured by special interests. However, Devon and Cornwall are not the only places afflicted by connectivity irresilience.

A rational national transport policy would require that existing road and rail networks be kept in good order, and diversionary / alternative routes be maintained (to mitigate events such as the severance at Dawlish). As far as the railway is concerned, there is a strong case for transferring funds from HS2 to improving robustness on the principal lines across the country. Enhanced provision of diversionary routes would be particularly helpful in enabling primary lines to be maintained and / or upgraded.

The East Coast Main Line corridor is a good instance of how HS2 funds could be better used. For example, restoring the missing track between March and Spalding would effectively create a parallel route to the ECML. That would be highly effective for maintaining dependable connections during unexpected disruption and planned maintenance.

Vulnerable headspan overhead line electrification on the East Coast Main Line at Otterington (photo by mattbuck)

Vulnerable headspan overhead line electrification on the East Coast Main Line at Otterington (photo by mattbuck).

Restoration of Spalding - March would enable use of GN/GE Joint line as ECML freight and backup routeAnother problem afflicting the East Coast Main Line is the standard of the electrification assets (for example, the use of disruption-prone headspans on multiple-track sections). Replacement of vulnerable sections with more robust wiring would be particularly helpful on the southern parts of the ECML.


Written by beleben

February 8, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2, Politics

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3 Responses

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  1. Some of your readers will be aware of the failures of the overhead line equipment, which are too frequent, on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) and West Coast Main Line (WCML). Contributing factors to this unreliability include lines not being parallel with the track, catenary being cable suspended rather than gantry suspended and poor design of the original installation. The Office of Rail Regulation has acknowledged the issues on both lines by granting a lower Public Performance Measure until 2019.

    My understanding is that work is underway on the WCML south of Rugby to address overhead line equipment issues. I am not aware of any corresponding action on the ECML.

    It is perhaps worth pointing out that if HS2 is built, it will use approximately 500 miles of WCML and ECML route in addition to the dedicated tracks. The 400 metre trains have the ability to carry considerably more passengers that the existing trains run by Virgin Trains and East Coast.

    Andrew Bodman

    February 8, 2014 at 4:59 pm

  2. Your picture shows a vast but substantially disused right of way.

    The East Coast Main Line carries some 19 million passengers per year, equivalent to to some 60,000 per day, or 30,000 in each direction. The 30,000 at 20 per coach would require 1,600 vehicles, sufficient to occupy one lane of a motor road for a couple of hours ……..

    • Directly Operated Railways carries around 19 million passengers per year, but there are other companies using the East Coast Main Line. Though, as you said, capacity utilisation is very low overall. The claim that HS2 is required for ‘capacity’ reasons, is bunkum.


      February 14, 2014 at 11:14 am

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