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Atkins “HS2 alternative” P1 (October 2013)

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Private Eye reveals the facts behind Atkins enthusiasm for HS2

According to Atkins’ October 2013 reworked ‘HS2 alternatives‘, its Package P1 was drawn up “as a strategic alternative to providing the HS2 Phase One London-Birmingham route”.


4.2. Upgrade Package P1

Package P1 is a strategic alternative to HS2 Phase One, comprising only the refined West Coast package previously described. It assumes that the train service frequency on the WCML ‘fast’ lines is increased to 16 tph (an incremental increase of 3tph on the ‘fast’ lines frequency of 13tph in the Do Minimum) over the section of the WCML between Euston and Ledburn Junction (between Cheddington and Leighton Buzzard).

The package assumes a standard hour timetable based on the service specification shown below and displayed graphically in Figure 4-1. Note that the number of services listed below totals 17 services. However, the number of services departing London Euston would be 16tph, as one train per hour would split at Warrington with the two portions travelling on to Glasgow and Liverpool respectively (more details are provided on this below).

* Euston – Birmingham: 2 trains per hour (tph)

* Euston – Wolverhampton via Birmingham: 2tph

* Euston – Manchester: 4tph

* Euston – Liverpool: 2tph

* Euston – Carlisle/Glasgow via Preston: 2tph

* Euston – Chester/North Wales 1tph calling stations on the Trent Valley;

* Euston – Milton Keynes – Northampton – Rugby: 4tph commuter “fasts”:

* 2 tph extended to Birmingham New Street;

* 1 tph terminating at Rugby; and

* 1 tph extended to Crewe to serve stations along the Trent Valley route.

This service pattern was based on work undertaken to support the earlier strategic alternatives studies which included 3 “fast” trains every 2 hours to Liverpool and Glasgow. The frequency of 2tph to Liverpool and Glasgow in P1 is achieved by operating a double 6 car Class 390 as far as Warrington, whereupon the train is assumed to split with one 6 car set continuing to Liverpool and the other half continuing to Glasgow. It should be noted that no specific revenue assessment has been made of this service option to compare with the provision of an alternating service to Liverpool and Glasgow (as per RP2).

All Class 390 Pendolinos are assumed to be extended to 11 car operation, though with the conversion of one first class carriage to standard class, an increase in capacity of 30 seats per train. The outer suburban fast line services are assumed to be operated by 11 car Pendolinos with 2 first class carriages converted to standard class. This assumption is consistent with the previous RP2 specification; however, it is worth noting that they could be operated by 110 mph 12 car class 350s.

The slow line service specification under earlier work was the same as in the Do-minimum; in P1 all slow-line services to/from London Euston have been extended to 12 car operation all-day.

Table 4-1 and Figures 4-2 and 4-3 present a summary of the upgrade projects that have been included in Package P1.

Table 4-1 Package P1 Intervention Components

Route Components

West Coast Main Line

* 4-tracking Attleborough to Brinklow (RP2 scheme)

* 4-tracking Beechwood Tunnel (Berkswell) to Stechford, including stations (RP2 scheme)

* 4-tracking Chat Moss Line, approx 3 miles

* Dynamic passing loops at Shap and Beattock for freight

* Extend Warrington slow line platforms to enable splitting / joining

* Grade separated Colwich Junction (RP2 scheme)

* Grade separated junction between Cheddington and Leighton Buzzard (RP2 scheme)

* North of Preston, Dynamic passing loops & 75mph turnouts between Preston and Lancaster (and up-speed existing Garstang crossovers to 75mph)

* Power supply upgrade

* Northampton area speed improvements (RP2 scheme)

The HS2 scheme does not provide any additional capacity into Liverpool, so the inclusion of “4-tracking Chat Moss Line, approx 3 miles” in the Atkins P1 scheme seems to be designed to inflate the headline cost of an upgrade-based alternative.

In the same way, the HS2 scheme does not provide any freight capacity uplift north of Lancashire. So the inclusion of “Dynamic passing loops at Shap and Beattock for freight” in Atkins P1 seems to be designed to inflate the headline cost of an upgrade-based alternative.

Four-tracking Beechwood Tunnel to Stechford would increase capacity on the Coventry — Birmingham International — Birmingham corridor, at a cost approaching £1 billion. However, on the evidence available, the HS2 project would release, at best, just one fast path per hour between Coventry and Birmingham. So Berkswell to Stechford 4-tracking in Atkins P1 provides a capacity benefit not present in HS2. Its inclusion in P1 seems to be designed to inflate the headline cost of an upgrade-based alternative.

It should be clear that Atkins P1 is not an “alternative” to HS2 phase one, as the company has claimed. When Atkins’ cruft is stripped out, upgrade-based alternatives trample all over HS2, achieving benefit-cost ratios in excess of 6 to 1. A further advantage is the much lower capital outlay, which would release resources for other high-BCR projects.


Written by beleben

April 2, 2014 at 10:54 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

2 Responses

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  1. This still ignores the opportunities to effectively have a 8-track corridor between Wembley and Rugby and bypass the constraining section between Roade and Rugby.

    Restoring 4 tracks where these were removed, and adding 2 tracks where the land was purchased for a 4 track line but never built of has the potential to accommodate this would deliver the extra fast train paths via Solihull and Warwick, avoiding over provision at Coventry & Rugby, and rail-heading which would generate unwelcome ‘local’ road traffic.

    The opportunities presented by offering a stranded routes corridor would provide a wide number of significant towns with faster journey times to London across a broad swathe of the NW home counties and West Midlands.

    A strategic approach would see the outer ring of Bedford-Milton Keynes-Brackley/Buckingham-Oxford, and the next ring in (Luton)-Hemel Hempstead-Aylesbury-High Wycombe with more than a single option for commuting in to London, and the fragility that can bring.

    Dave H (@BCCletts)

    April 2, 2014 at 11:39 am

  2. I suspect the Chat Moss padding is connected to the splitting of the combined Liverpool/Glasgow train at Warrington Bank Quay rather than Crewe. WBQ platform extensions are also padding as Crewe already has long enough platforms.

    One good point is that the Atkins report did include the concept of trains splitting.

    The other point of false comparision is that the Atkins analysis keeps closely to the current service pattern, whereas HS2 totally changes it. For example, if Northampton services were kept on the slow lines, many extra paths would be created on the fast tracks.


    April 3, 2014 at 8:30 am

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