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Patrick’s standing ovation

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Tring railway station, by Jack Hill (

Tring railway station, by Jack Hill – From (Creative Commons)

In a move smacking of desperation, on 7 August 2014 transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced a study into extending London’s Crossrail 1 to Hertfordshire on the West Coast Main Line, to make it easier to ‘improve Euston’ for HS2. Instead of turning back at Paddington, “short run” Crossrail services would continue westwards over a new connection in the vicinity of Old Oak to reach the WCML Slow lines.

The Beleben blog analysis noted that

  • as Crossrail has been designed as an inner-suburban regional metro rather than a regional express, there would be problems with adaptation, capacity, and passenger experience
  • more people would likely end up standing on WCML outer suburban services
  • worthwhile disruption relief for Euston HS2 could only happen if services stopping at Milton Keynes (i.e. Buckinghamshire not Hertfordshire) were included in the Crossrail diversion.

In an 21 August 2014 blogpost called ‘Buckinghamshire is to be an HS2 beneficiary’, Greengauge 21 (a.k.a. Jim Steer) seemed to suggest that extension of Crossrail 1 was a more of a done deal than a ‘study’, and that services beyond Tring would indeed be involved. The blogpost also referenced some mumbo-jumbo from Network Rail’s 2011 London and South East Route Utilisation Strategy and a Greengauge 21 workshop in 2010.

[‘Buckinghamshire is to be an HS2 beneficiary‘, Greengauge 21, 21 August 2014]

In a case of better late than never, the announcement of a DfT study into a connection between Crossrail and the West Coast Main Line is most welcome. […]

The importance of this scheme to HS2 is that it will allow a substantial reduction in the rail passenger throughput at Euston station that can be sustained into the longer term. This will ease pressure on the access transport system at Euston – a major concern for the London Mayor and for TfL – and provided it can be implemented promptly, will permit a much better programme for redevelopment of Euston to incorporate HS2. The hyperbole still being used to describe post-HS2 travel conditions in the Euston area will no longer apply. […]

In DfT’s press release, the headline is all about benefits to Hertfordshire commuters. In fact the West Coast Main Line over which we can now expect Crossrail services to run follows the Hertfordshire / Buckinghamshire border and many of the benefits will accrue in Buckinghamshire. This is worthy of emphasis because it is Buckinghamshire that has been a major focus of local authority and action group opposition to HS2. This is now an area for which it will no longer be possible to claim in relation to HS2 that ‘we get no benefit’. […]

It is only happening because of HS2

In earlier stages of the development of the Crossrail project in 2003, the idea of a Crossrail connection to the ‘DC lines’ that parallel the West Coast Main Line from Watford Junction to Euston was considered but ruled out on cost and value for money grounds. Now, assuming HS2 proceeds, Network Rail has established a good business case exists, and around 8 trains an hour that operate over the WCML slow lines would join the Crossrail network, delivering full value from the 24 train paths/hour across Crossrail’s central section.

[…] The fundamental reason why it would not be built without HS2 is that the business case depends on HS2. Referring again to the Network Rail report that examined this option both with and without HS2:

“The appraisal in a post – HS2 scenario shows greater rail user benefits and additional revenue, such that the [benefit cost ratio] BCR range is 2.2 – 2.6. The scheme is therefore high value for money.”

In contrast, the BCRs for the no-HS2 case were in the range 1.6 – 1.8. In short: with HS2, high value for money; without it, medium value for money. The difference arises because in the with-HS2 case there are additional crowding relief benefits in the environs of Euston station.

Of course, the ‘benefits’, such as they are, to Buckinghamshire would arise from the Crossrail extension, rather than HS2 itself. However, congestion problems at Euston from HS2 would not just occur during the construction phase, because there would be a permanent reduction in classic platforming capacity.

In effect, the Y network is a halfbaked attempt to stuff long distance traffic from three separate north-of-London main lines, onto a single pair of tracks ending at Euston. The problems created by dumping passengers — currently handled by St Pancras and Kings Cross — at Euston HS2, then trigger the need for bizarre and extremely expensive alleviatory measures of the type applauded by Mr Steer.

Network Rail: possible Crossrail 1 extensions, 2011

Network Rail: possible Crossrail 1 extensions, 2011


Written by beleben

August 21, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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