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‘Clean sheet’ capacity

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The pseudo-privatisation of GB railways in the mid 1990s necessitated the establishment of a myriad of legal agreements between the new entities in the industry. Organisation and regulation of the railway has chopped and changed several times since then, but dysfunctional contracts still lie at the root of efficiency and capacity problems. One need only compare the progress of the 1980s electrification of Hitchin — Edinburgh / Leeds with the post-privatisation (Railtrack / Virgin) modernisation of the West Coast Main Line to see the consequences of broken restructuring.

Another legacy of misorganisation is the waste of capacity on main lines, from suboptimal path usage. A ‘clean sheet’ recast of all services on the West and East Coast Main Lines would provide a ‘free’ capacity uplift worth the equivalent of billions of pounds of HS2 infrastructure expenditure. On the West Coast fast lines it should be possible to reliably run 16 trains per hour using the existing signalling.

The advantages of timetable rebuilds from the ground up were discussed in an April 2011 article about the East Coast ‘Eureka’ changes.

[‘Eureka moment’, Katie Silvester, Rail Professional, April 26, 2011]

May [2011] will see the launch of the new East Coast timetable – nicknamed Eureka during its planning – which will see the number of Monday to Thursday services jump from 136 to 155 per day, with Fridays getting 156 services.
[…]
The timetable – which has to work around other operators using the East Coast Main Line, including CrossCountry, Scotrail, Grand Central, Hull Trains and First Capital Connect, was developed by Network Rail, in consultation with East Coast. But the changes, which will begin on 22 May, also have their disadvantages and passengers in some locations will have fewer services, or longer journey times, then they do currently.
[…]
Jonathan Tyler, a consultant specialising in the strategic development of integrated timetables, is a strong supporter of ‘clock face’ timetables, where service patterns repeat each hour. However, it has not been possible to do this across the board with the new timetable.

‘Of course there are some good points,’ he says, ‘but taken as a whole this timetable totally lacks vision and coherence, wastes resources and seems unlikely to deliver much net revenue gain to the railway.’

He adds: ‘We could have had a radical change, but planners were stifled by the regulatory and administrative process, and particularly by the way in which sequential franchising on a multi-operator railway inhibits good pathing, because of the legal force of prior access rights. This has resulted in erratic intervals for many London services, and in connections that are shortened or lengthened entirely serendipitously.’

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Written by beleben

April 9, 2014 at 10:00 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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