Archive for November 2014
According to the Financial Times cuts calculator, scrapping the HS2 rail project would provide £8.1 billion of savings over the remainder of the 9-year government austerity drive. But it would “leave you with no answers on how to boost capacity on the railway”.
Yet only last week, the government announced that the new East Coast Main Line franchise — awarded to a Stagecoach / Virgin joint venture — would ‘boost capacity by 50%’. And on the West Coast Main Line, capacity could be increased by 40%, with minimal infrastructure expenditure.
The truth is that HS2 provides no answers where capacity is most needed, i.e. on the commuter tracks south and east of London.
The Department for Transport has mandated the use of the Intercity Express Programme train in the Great Western and East Coast franchises at an excess cost which must run into hundreds of millions of pounds.
Rail Magazine contributors Nigel Harris and Paul Clifton were invited to the press launch of the first but incomplete 5-car IEP in Japan (whether Hitachi paid the travel and accommodation costs, is unclear). Judging from the coverage in issue 762 of the magazine, almost no new information was forthcoming (with Hitachi’s Keith Jordan refusing to detail the actual per-vehicle cost). Anyone reading the magazine would have got the impression that Hitachi invented friction stir welding.
Mr Jordan did say that the trains would be “more than 70% British”, but how that could be, was not explained. Even items which are claimed as being sourced from Great Britain, such as the Lucchini wheelsets, turn out to be imported, part-finished, from overseas.
The Chartered Institute of Building organised an event on ‘HS2 and The Benefits It Will Bring’ at Room 105 of the Library of Birmingham on the evening of 27 November. While it was possible to for invitees to attend the event, it turned out that the whole of the main library had been closed down and sealed off for a private business function (Quilter Cheviot) and the general public turfed out at 4.30pm. So much for the Library being a “people’s palace“.
Cost estimates for the London Crossrail 2 railway scheme have increased by more than £6 billion, according to Transport for London.
[“Crossrail 2 cost rises by almost a third, says TfL”, BBC News, 27 Nov 2014]
The 30% increase, of £6.6bn, has been due to the inclusion of costs for new trains and surface works, figures show.
It means the north-south rail scheme is now expected to cost £20bn for the shorter Metro route and £27.5bn for the longer regional option.
A decision is expected in early 2015 between the Metro and regional routes.
[The regional version of] Crossrail 2 would run from Cheshunt in Hertfordshire to Epsom in Surrey, passing through central London via stations at Tottenham Court Road, Victoria, Chelsea and Clapham Junction.
But even the regional version of Crossrail 2 would not be particularly helpful in terms of maximising London rail capacity. The scheme should be redesigned to explicitly address overcrowding on the South West Main Line, and take account of population growth in East Anglia.
The Crossrail_X2 concept (below) combines elements of the 1970s Chelsea – Hackney tube and 1980 British Rail Euston – Victoria proposals, to relieve the South West Main Line, and provide a new route to East Anglia.
It would also be possible to route some Midland Main Line commuter trains into Crossrail_X2, in the event of Thameslink ‘maxing out’.
In the House of Commons on 12 September 2013, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin spoke about HS2 capacity.
[Mr McLoughlin:] If we made the improvement that some people suggest on the present line, it would lead to capacity increases of about 53% between London and Birmingham. HS2 will lead to a capacity increase of 143%.
What “the improvement that some people suggest”, referred to, was not explained. Equally unclear is where the “143%” and “53%” figures came from. The same figures cropped up in the FAQ section of the Greengauge 21 Rail Leaders Group website, but instead of referring to ‘capacity between London and Birmingham’, they referred to ‘seats into Euston’.
Obviously, seats into or out of Euston (Rail Leaders), and ‘capacity between London and Birmingham’ (Patrick McLoughlin) are not the same thing. Most people occupying ‘seats into Euston’ are coming from Milton Keynes, or places between MK and London.
Even ‘intercity seats into Euston’ would be a curious measure, because the HS2 project is based on transferring West and South Yorkshire intercity traffic from Kings Cross and St Pancras into Euston.
Capacity reserved to serve East Coast and East Midlands destinations from Euston would not be additional capacity available to serve West Coast destinations. It would make much more sense to measure capacity between origin-destination pairs, e.g. London to Birmingham, but there are no published figures factoring in actual and potential capacity on the Chiltern line (for example).
The October 2013 Strategic Case for HS2 illustrative service pattern showed 11 HS2 paths serving ‘West Coast’ destinations (Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, etc), 3 classic long distance trains from Euston on the WCML, and 9 WCML Fast Line commuter trains from Euston each hour, allowing the following estimate.
- HS2: 11 * ~1,100 ≈ 12,100 (based on all trains full length, and each 200-metre unit having 550 seats)
- WCML Long Distance: 3 * ~600 ≈ 1,800 (based on 11-car Pendolino)
- WCML Fast Commuter: 9 * ~800 ≈ 7,200 (based on 12-car Desiro)
- Total: 21,100 seats
It might be worth comparing HS2 Ltd’s estimate of 550 seats in a 200-metre high speed train, with recent European orders. The 400-metre Class 374 units ordered by Eurostar are able to seat “up to 900 passengers”, and the 200-metre AGVs operated by NTV in Italy have around 460 seats. Using the Italian AGV figure would give a HS2 ‘West Coast destination’ capacity of ~10,100 seats, and a one way Euston hourly WCML_Fast plus HS2_West_Coast_corridor seating total of ~19,100.
As the HS2 project teeters on the edge of self-destruction, a perhaps unexpected would-be saviour has emerged, in the form of Camden council. It has effectively dropped its opposition to the scheme, and is co-operating with Network Rail and HS2 Ltd. The U-turn appears to be confirmed by news that the council is “pressing ahead quickly” with contract plans to ‘decant’ households from their existing accommodation by the summer of 2017.