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A lack of systematic thinking

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Current plans for the HS2 high speed railway may not deliver maximum benefit because of a lack of systematic thinking. That was the view expressed by Professor Felix Schmid in his British Science Festival talk ‘High speed rail: An engineer’s perspective’ given at The University of Birmingham’s Poynting Building today (6 September 2014).

Like HS2 chief engineer Prof Andrew McNaughton, Prof Schmid is interested in what can be learned from the design and operation of Japan’s Shinkansen network. However, the two professors seem to have come to different conclusions about how high speed rail should be designed. For example, Prof Schmid suggested that the complex trackwork of European high speed (and favoured by HS2 Ltd) was inefficient and not cost-effective.

According to Railnews, in his iRail lecture in 2012, Prof McNaughton discussed the use of ‘acceleration lines’ up to 14 km long to permit high speed trains to be approaching linespeed, before being slotted back onto the main track. Although the design of HS2 has not gone forward with such acceleration lines, its track design appears to follow European, rather than Japanese, practice.

Felix Schmid's perspective on HS2 (6 Sep 2014)

In the Q&A session following Prof Schmid’s presentation, it emerged that certain members of the audience were, to put it mildly, less than enamoured with the HS2 scheme. Prof Schmid thought that there were real opportunities for the HS2 design to be changed. His personal view was that a linespeed of 250 km/h would do “nicely” for London — Manchester and London — Birmingham, the two biggest flows on the West Coast corridor (HS2 design linespeed is 400 km/h, with normal operating speed being 330 km/h).

Prof Schmid also suggested there ought to be a station in the Chilterns, and that HS2’s London terminus should be at Old Oak Common. In other words, the extremely expensive tunnel to, and contentious rebuild of, Euston station was not necessary.

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Written by beleben

September 6, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

2 Responses

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  1. For high-speed rail round the world average trip speed (end to end) is about 218km/hr.
    This compares with nominal design speed of 327km/hr for associated tracks.
    I find the operating ratio (or margin) is 66.7%
    Please quote 5 specific installations where operating ratio is greater than 80%

    Neil Mathers

    September 7, 2014 at 10:39 am

  2. […] Current plans for the HS2 high speed railway may not deliver maximum benefit because of a lack of systematic thinking. That was the view expressed by Professor Felix Schmid in his British Science F…  […]


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