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Nailing HS2 falsehoods, part two

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Part one

In May 2012, Biz4HS2‘s PR company Westbourne Communications announced that Adrian Shooter, former chairman of Deutsche Bahn-owned Chiltern Railways, had been made chairman of Westbourne’s “infrastructure practice”. That same year, Chiltern Railways and sister freight company DB Schenker UK submitted contradictory evidence to a cod inquiry into rail capacity held by the All Party Parliamentary Group for High Speed Rail, a cross-party group of around 70 MPs set up with a secretariat provided by Westbourne.

Extract from Chiltern Railways evidence to APPGHSR, 2012

Extract from Chiltern Railways evidence to APPGHSR, 2012

In its evidence, the Chiltern Railways company claimed that the Chiltern Main Line could not be upgraded as an alternative to HS2.

  • “Due to the amount of lineside housing, upgrading and additional tracks is least practical where it is most needed – again, the first 30 miles out of London”.
  • The Chiltern line is now very busy, and in parts working at capacity. Claims that there is significant spare capacity are incorrect.  Extra capacity could only be added by building additional tracks.
  • Claims that Chiltern trains could be “looped” onto side lines to enable intercity/high- speed trains to pass are not practicable. Not only would the looped trains be excessively delayed, but the overall gain in line capacity would be slight.
  • Claims that the line was built with enough land to add additional tracks throughout (i.e. quadrupling) are largely incorrect. Whilst there are stretches of the line where 4-tracking was originally possible, these are not contiguous, and the width is often insufficient for earthworks and between-track clearances to modern standards.

Chiltern Claim 1. “Due to the amount of lineside housing, upgrading and additional tracks is least practical where it is most needed – again, the first 30 miles out of London”.

Fact 1. It is possible to completely separate Chiltern stopping and intercity trains on the London approach, with minimal landtake. Intercity trains could be routed via the New North Main Line from Old Oak, and then on a restored four-track section beyond Northolt. Stopping trains would continue to use the Wembley route into Marylebone.

Chiltern Main Line, New North Main Line and Marylebone

Chiltern Main Line, New North Main Line and Marylebone


Chiltern Claim 2. “The Chiltern line is now very busy, and in parts working at capacity. Claims that there is significant spare capacity are incorrect. Extra capacity could only be added by building additional tracks.”

Fact 2. Platform lengthening, re-signalling, more efficient operating practices, and better rolling stock are all tried and tested ways of improving capacity. Chiltern is one of the least used main lines in Britain and there is significant spare capacity. The claim that extra capacity ‘could only be added by building additional tracks’ is undermined by Chiltern’s own press release.
8 May 2014 Chiltern Railways press release contradicts Chiltern Railways submission to APPGHSR

8 May 2014 Chiltern Railways press release contradicts Chiltern Railways submission to APPGHSR


Chiltern Claim 3. “Claims that Chiltern trains could be “looped” onto side lines to enable intercity/high- speed trains to pass are not practicable. Not only would the looped trains be excessively delayed, but the overall gain in line capacity would be slight.”

Fact 3. The Bicester cutoff, built by the Great Western Railway, was built with separate platform and through tracks to allow fast trains to pass stopping ones, for the very purpose of increasing line capacity. Such arrangements are also commonplace on high speed railways, including the TGV and Shinkansen.

Separate through and platform tracks in high speed rail (Felix Schmid)

Separate through and platform tracks in high speed rail (Felix Schmid)


Chiltern Claim 4. “Claims that the line was built with enough land to add additional tracks throughout (i.e. quadrupling) are largely incorrect. Whilst there are stretches of the line where 4-tracking was originally possible, these are not contiguous, and the width is often insufficient for earthworks and between-track clearances to modern standards.”

Fact 4. There is no requirement for contiguous four-tracking over the entire length of the Chiltern Line. With the exception of Kings Sutton, all minor stations on the central section of the line were closed in the 1960s. What is required for the central section, is regional trains to have the same performance (maximum speed) as intercity ones.

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Written by beleben

October 10, 2014 at 9:45 pm

One Response

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  1. The land exists and parliamentary powers were obtained for a 4-track railway on the original route – opened as a main line railway in 1906 (another ‘fact that Patrick McGloughlin was wrongly informed about “No main line railway built for over 120 years”)

    Chiltern as part of Evergreen 3 has added a third track on many places on the generous space between platforms, and built a depot largely within the original wayleave at Wembley Stadium. The 4-track trackbed remains to reach the WCML and a grade separated junction can be provided just North of Wembley Central. With minmal additional land, a connection which allowed trains from Euston or Brent Yard to run via Banbury or Milton Keynes, and a more ambitious project could have WCML trains running directly to Wembley Stadium and freight with options to connect on to the North London Line and/or HS1 via connections at West Hampstead, where the main land ‘borrowing’ would be to build ‘under’ the London Underground lines and a B&Q car park.

    Through Paris-Birmingham trains could then be considered, using Stratford International as the ‘London’ Station with its excellent (3 routes of intensive metro services to Canary Wharf, 7 minutes to both the City (Liverpool Street – as it has been for at least 80 years) and 7 minutes to the STP-KGX-EUS ‘hub’ plus 2 ‘other’ metro services heading West (Central Line and LOROL))

    Opening up this diversity of routes enables the operation of an intensive high speed service with the robust ability to cut out one route for planned and emergency activity, and the ability to have a greater flexibility in pathing stopping and fast services – just see how the 3 formal (6 options) route choices between Colwich/Rugby and Manchester are available. throw up wires COV-NUN NUN-BHM and WSL-RGL and even more options are available, with the greater ability to divert around any problems.

    The mothballed High Speed flying junction at Ashenden and large amount of the route still available to Rugby, puts the Y in a far better place enabling a connection at Rugby for WCML and cut-across to Leicester, where the options of using the Midland with large sections reduced from 4 track that can be restored, and/or the Great Central with substantial sections still retaining track & trains, or alignments preserved by cycle routes and built with the expection of taking Berne Gauge trains from London to Manchester.

    Work in Scotland has shown how lines like Airdrie-Bathgate, and now Millerhill-Tweedbank can be restored rapidly and economically without the massive political fight, and legal turmoil that HS2 has generated. It is almost as if HS2 is being promoted to keep lawyers busy.

    Dave H

    October 11, 2014 at 8:04 am


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