die belebende Bedenkung

HS2 and construction inflation

with 5 comments

In 1894 Royal permission was obtained for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway company’s London Extension (which was envisioned as part of a passenger and freight route between Manchester and Paris). In anticipation of the completion of the London Extension, the MSLR was renamed the ‘Great Central Railway’ in 1897.

The Extension — which involved building one hundred and fifty kilometres of double track between Annesley (Nottinghamshire) and Quainton Road (Buckinghamshire), via Nottingham, Loughborough, Leicester, Rugby, and Aylesbury, and twenty-odd intermediate stations — was opened to passenger traffic in 1899.

Great Central Railway, map of connections

Great Central Railway, map of connections

The GCR intended that its trains would access London by means of the Metropolitan Railway between Quainton Road and Canfield Place (near Finchley Road), and then run three kilometres on new track into a terminus at Marylebone. Including its depots and sidings, the 153 km of the London Extension was estimated to have cost at around £11,500,000, i.e. around £72,000, in nineteenth century money, per route kilometre.

The 531 km proposed HS2 high speed railway from London to Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds is currently costed at £42.6 billion (without trains). So on a yard-for-yard basis, HS2 costs roughly 1,000 times as much as the GCR London Extension.


Written by beleben

May 22, 2014 at 8:26 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

5 Responses

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  1. The cost of, £42.6bn divided by its route length, 531 km, provides £80 million per km or £40 million per track-km. The cost of a dual three lane motorway is circa £20 million per km or £3.3 million per lane; 12 times less than HS2 per track. Meanwhile a single motorway lane dedicated to 75-seat express coaches has four times the capacity of HS2’s supposed eighteen 1,000-seat trains per hour…….

    Of course an urban motorway would cost more than the value cited here, but the way to create such facilities at vanishingly small cost is to pave the railways and to manage the resultant network to avoid congestion. In central London, and at peak times, the replacement express coaches would occupy only one seventh of the capacity available, see topic 15 at where there is a map and some pictures to enjoy. Alternatively peg through the following.

    250,000 crushed surface rail passengers enter the centre of London in the morning peak hour. There are at least 25 pairs of tracks. Hence we have 10,000 passengers per inbound track. The 10,000 would all find seats in 150 75-seat coaches, sufficient to occupy one seventh of the 1,000 per hour capacity of one lane of a motor road the same width as required by a train. (At a speed of 100 kph the 1,000 per hour would have average headways of 100 metres).


    May 22, 2014 at 9:12 am

  2. For reference:

    Beleben’s £11.5 million for the GCL’s 153 route-km provides £75,000 per km at end of 19th Century prices. A multiplier of 110 converts to current prices yielding £8.25 million per km or nearly ten times less than HS2’s £80 million.


    May 22, 2014 at 9:40 am

  3. Surely the irony cannot be lost that in 1906 the GC, in partnership with the GW found it necessary to build a high speed direct route avoiding the Metropolitan Railway because the latter was congested and slow…..

    Dave H (@BCCletts)

    May 22, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    • And later Beeching (I believe) closed it for lack of use. Anyway its been shut for decades.


      May 23, 2014 at 2:07 pm

      • Beeching closed the section between Leicester and Verney Junction/Ashendon Junction and reduced the high speed route (built in 1906) to Birmingham to a single line in the second tranche of closures, ostensibly to close the duplicated capacity which existed on the LNWR (WCML) between Euston and Birmingham/NW.

        This also conveniently meant that the Blue Pullman services between Paddington and Birmingham, and other fast and slow services used to get to Buckinghamshire towns also moved over to Euston – to reach Daventry meant going to Rugby and using a bus or driving, Buckingham/Brackley – Milton Keynes or Wolverton. As a result some of that rail traffic went on to the WCML just as the electric services started, and so very conveniently gave a huge boost to passenger numbers which could either be claimed as a success for the electrification, or used quite openly as a way to increase the traffic on the line to justify the expenditure.

        Similar moves took place for the Derby-Manchester services (sending that traffic remaining with rail to boost the electrification passenger numbers via Stoke, for the Borders (in 1979), when the faster Class 50-hauled trains began running to Edinburgh via Carstairs, and so very nearly for the ECML electrification to Edinburgh, by closing the Settle & Carlisle route to Leeds and forcing all the passenger traffic to go via York and make the numbers look good.

        The inconvenient and extended journey times for towns such as Daventry, Brackley and Buckingham (and Bicester), were a great benefit in boosting the use of the new M1 and justifying the development of the M40 and A34 roads.

        Well it would seem that the wheel has come full circle and now that very capacity the Beeching wanted to close and force up the traffic on the lines now claimed to have capacity problems, are pretty much on the right places to deliver the capacity needed. For the GC London Extension and the high speed route shared with the GW through the Chilterns, a lot of the trackbed still has trains running on it, or survives as a cycle route with the wayleave largely intact. Going through the Chilterns much of the corridor retains the land purchased for the intended 4-track high speed main line, with a route to Birmingham almost 30 miles shorter than the one proposed for HS2, which could be covered from one of 3 London termini (potentially 4) with a journey time of 60-65 minutes using current trains and technology, and running to one of two Birmingham destinations. The Y is also perhaps better placed, and the grade separated junction earthworks remain from when Dr B had the lines dismantled ready for almost immediate re-use.

        With the flip-flop diversity of route choice the neat way that the Manchester fast services split over 3 routes around the 3 trains per hour provides the space to fit slower trains in to the hour gaps and serve a wider selection of intermediate stops at a lower frequency than the premium Manchester services. we might see Euston to Birmingham via Solihull or Coventry and Kenilworth or Rugby, and the options of operating from Paddington, Marylebone or Euston (without the current 46 minute time penalty of crawling through West London at 25mph or less) will permit total closure of a major station or length of the main line to work on the track during quieter periods.

        Dave H (@BCCletts)

        May 28, 2014 at 11:03 am

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