‘Much more detail’, ‘Certainly not today’
On 11 February 2015 HS2 chief engineer Andrew McNaughton appeared at the High Speed Rail Bill Committee to talk about HS2 released capacity. But as can be seen from the uncorrected transcript, it remains very difficult to follow his line of reasoning.
(From the uncorrected transcript)
[MINUTES OF ORAL EVIDENCE taken before HIGH SPEED RAIL COMMITTEE On the HIGH SPEED RAIL (LONDON – WEST MIDLANDS) BILL, Wednesday, 11 February 2015 (Afternoon) In Committee Room 5
PRESENT: Mr Robert Syms (Chair), Mr Henry Bellingham, Sir Peter Bottomley, Ian Mearns, Yasmin Qureshi, Mr Michael Thornton
Mr Timothy Mould, QC, Lead Counsel, Department for Transport
Rt. Hon. Jeremy Wright QC, MP for Kenilworth and Southam; Professor Andrew McNaughton, Technical Director, HS2 Ltd; Mr Rupert Thornely-Taylor, acoustics and vibration expert]
153. PROF. MCNAUGHTON: Chair, Committee Members, thank you for affording me a few moments to outline some aspects of the capacity that HS2 will release on the West Coast Main Line to the north. In those few minutes, I’ve no intention of getting deep into the black art of railway planning, which would take probably months, so this is, by definition, something of a canter, but I hope it will pick up some of the points that people have been interested in.
154. What I plan to do is explain a little bit about what is mainline railway capacity, and I have a few quite simple slides that I actually use in schools. Please don’t take that the wrong way; it’s the level that I work it at and I hope it’s useful to you.
155. The second point is, having just explained a few principles, the ‘so what?’ question. What does HS2 release from the west coast? I’ll then go on to explain what we’ve done so far in postulating how that capacity could be used, when it comes to be planned in due course, within the normal industry processes, which run under the Secretary of State for transport.
156. As I’m aware that people have several times talked about the normal industry processes of capacity allocation, the last point would be to seek to explain what that is. It was a process designed by very clever lawyers and I grossly simplified that as well to try to bring out the key points. If we go forward, the first bit is: what is capacity?
157. Here we are. There’s a technical capacity for a railway, which is quite precise. It’s basically a function of the number of tracks, the station platforms, the signalling, the trains. That gives us a theoretical maximum, so it’s a function of the infrastructure that exists and the technology we put on. The practical capacity is an operational capacity and this is not a fixed function for any particular railway; it is a function of how train services are planned on that infrastructure. The next few slides, I give some examples of how the way train services are planned affects the number of trains, the number of seats per hour, the number of stations, whatever, that can be served on a route.
158. For this, I do use a fairly simple example, which is a time and distance graph. Time, as always when you describe a graph, is on the bottom axis going from left to right; and distance is up the side, running from bottom to type. For the purposes of this little explanation, I have four stations, rather unoriginally labelled A, B, C and D. They could just as easily have been called Euston, Watford, Milton Keynes and Rugby, but A, B, C and D is what I’ve got.
159. If you go to the next slide, if all trains were the same and didn’t stop, then they can follow each other very closely and we get a lot of trains on to the network. This is in fact the essence of what we’d be doing with High Speed 2. Those trains, for example, as I’ve got here, Train 1 and Train 2, can be as little on the West Coast Main Line as two minutes apart. You’d be therefore able to see that, if all trains did the same thing, there would be a great number of trains on the network. Life isn’t quite that simple, because we actually have to serve places.
160. The next slide gives an example of what happens when you put a train in the middle of that that stops and serves the intermediate stations, B and C. It provides the function that the public needs, but it uses up capacity. One stopping train uses several technical paths.
161. SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Unless they were all stopping trains.
162. PROF. MCNAUGHTON: Unless they were all stopping trains. In fact, the ultimate expression of that, of course, is something like the London Underground, where all trains stop at every station. A mainline railway is inevitably a blend of the two.
163. Just to give another couple of examples of how the planning of the train service affects the ultimate paths, I put up quite deliberately a pretty poor plan with Trains 5 and 6. Train 5 stops at Station B and then carries on. It gets in the way of Train 6, which therefore uses up more capacity. That in turn then stops at C and gets in the way of Train 7. It’s possible, if there is a commercial imperative about serving certain stations, to end up with an apparently high-capacity railway with not many trains on it. There are examples in this country that are not too dissimilar from that, unfortunately.
164. However, if we carry on at a canter, because this is very much the prologue, a better plan, which is much more like how the West Coast today is operated, seeks to optimise the stopping patterns to get as many trains as possible on to the network and get as many seats as possible. There is, however, another factor, because this is assumed as an all-passenger railway.
165. If we go to the next slide, in the middle of this apparently high-capacity railway, we then have other types of trains, like freight trains, which run more slowly. Running a freight train between two fast passenger trains consumes a lot of the capacity. There are techniques for dealing with that, which are crudely to run them on the slow lines with the stopping trains. For the sake of giving an illustration, my final graph of this introduction illustrates practically how we tend to run freight trains, which is to try to nest them between stopping trains, which means we can introduce slow-moving trains as well as stopping trains, without losing too much capacity.
166. Now all that was really as an introduction. Unless there’s anything in there that you find either alarming or interesting, I should move on to the West Coast. When we translate that to the current West Coast Main Line, it’s basically a four-track railway. One pair is called the fast lines and, to try to separate out those different speed trains and get a maximum number of trains on to the network, the fast lines have extra long-distance outer commuter trains out of London and the slow lines have the more local stopping commuter trains and the freight trains.
167. The West Coast Main Line today has been described by the people who are responsible for it as ‘full’, and it’s full with the trains that you see at the bottom of this particular slide. In the peak, and I’m going to concentrate on the peak, just to keep today to a few minutes, in the peak today, the 2014 timetable, which is now in operation, in the peak hour there are 11 long-distance trains and four outer commuter trains on the fast lines.
168. SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Is this each hour in the peak or in the peak period?
169. PROF. MCNAUGHTON: This is an hour. This is in the peak hour. I’m sorry; I probably should have put that on the chart. This is one hour. If you recall, a few minutes ago, I said, in theory this is all non-stopping trains all going at the same speed, two minutes apart. You could end up with 30 trains an hour or, if they’re all stopping like the Victoria Line in the London Underground, 30 trains an hour. The practical limit on the West Coast today is 11 long-distance trains and four outer commuter trains, and there are trains on the slow lines as well. I’m going to concentrate on the fast lines. 11 plus 4 is 15, if you just hold that in your mind slightly as we continue.
170. Go to the next slide. What does HS2 release? We take off the main line most of the long-distance non-stop services, because the purpose of HS2 is to serve cities on the long-distance network. That means in the peak we see at least 10 totally new services are available in the capacity that we released on the West Coast Main Line. We basically introduce 10 long-distance services, which means all those services come off the main lines. I’m going to show you the graphs in a minute, but I just want to hold that.
171. SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Is that net 10 or is it 10 plus 11?
172. PROF. MCNAUGHTON: That is a net. We had our 11 plus 4 is 15 figure. We replaced most of those 11, which gives us a chance to re-plan the West Coast Main Line with new services around the needs of the communities served by the West Coast Main Line, no longer largely controlled by the need to run non-stop trains from the likes of
Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. There’s a similar effect off-peak, but I did say I was concentrating on peak.
173. The effect for stations on the existing line is that, instead of seeing long-distance trains pass them by, albeit quite regularly, there is the opportunity to introduce new trains that serve those stations. Just in terms of the current quantum of seats I’ve put on the bottom of that, typically a commuter train is around 700 seats. I’ve not included for anybody standing, because this is long-distance commuting, but 700 seats. If you introduced the new long-distance train to serve maybe a place that’s not served today, then that tends to be 500 to 600 seats. In each hour in the peak, because of HS2, there is the opportunity for the stations served by the West Coast Main Line to have around 6,000 to 7,000 extra seats. That is what released capacity equates to.
174. Now I’m going to put up a couple of very involved diagrams and please don’t dive straight in. These are lifted directly from the HS2 economic case and they are service assumptions. To be very clear, the one on the left, which I’m going to describe very shortly, is today’s service.
175. MR MOULD QC (DfT): I’m just trying to blow up one side a little bit.
176. PROF. MCNAUGHTON: Okay, I don’t want us to get into huge detail, because I’m going to go on to the next slide. On the left is today’s railway. On the right, is an indicative specification of 2026. We have been clear and the Secretary of State has been clear, through all consultation, that the actual use of that released capacity would be planned in due course and that will be the last part of my explanation today. For the purposes of understanding the economic impact of HS2, an indicative service specification, which basically takes the current demand projected forward from all the different places on the route, matches at least a first shot of what an indicative service to it gives, as the sort of indication of how the West Coast could be used when High Speed 2 comes along.
177. On the left-hand side is today, as I said. The different colours of yellow, blue and red actually relate pretty much to the different franchises. It’s easy enough to say, for the purposes of today, yellow is long-distance and blue is commuting. The point there is that, on the left of all, the largely blue is the slow lines. I’m not going to worry about those too much for today. In the middle is the fast lines. It perhaps makes the point that, on the fast lines, there are lots of trains but they don’t stop. They’re going to Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Preston, whatever.
178. What happens when High Speed 2 Phase One comes in? Then I’d ask you to look towards the right. The colours aren’t exactly the same, because we didn’t want to suggest franchises at this stage. It would be premature. Red is the slow lines, which I’d like to discount, for the purposes of this discussion. The yellow – perhaps we shouldn’t have used yellow, because it’s the same yellow – starts to show what different services could be once we’ve taken the long-distance services on to High Speed 2. The long-distance services on to High Speed 2 are the blue ones on the right-hand side.
179. We’ve effectively stripped the long-distance non-stopping services off the West Coast Main Line fast lines and into that now virtually empty railway started to show the types of services that could operate, particularly to pick up the commuter growth areas, which are part of the Government’s central strategy, out at Milton Keynes, Northampton, Rugby and so forth. Perhaps we could go to the last slide, slide 14. All I’ve done here is to blow up that area. On the left, I pick up perhaps Milton Keynes as an illustration.
180. SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Which is the best example.
181. PROF. MCNAUGHTON: Alright, I’ll pick another.
182. SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: No, I’m not criticising it. It is a very good example.
183. PROF. MCNAUGHTON: Milton Keynes certainly is a good example, partly because of the amount of suppressed capacity growth at Milton Keynes today. Milton Keynes today sees basically four, five, a number of trains stopping, but sees many more going straight through. When those long-distance trains are taken on to High Speed 2,
then we predict that pretty much every train stops there. That is why part of the consultation we had included people affected on the West Coast Main Line. That’s made the point that the number of seats on trains serving Milton Keynes, after HS2 comes into being, pretty much doubles.
184. There are examples, such as Northampton and Rugby, which are two other areas where people would like to run more trains, but the West Coast Main Line is today full of long-distance trains.
185. Now, what we haven’t done – it would have been very easy, but it would have been very naughty, to show the best possible world with the new line or with the West Coast Main Line totally full of new services, which sounds like a promissory note to everybody. We’ve shown an indication and we’ve not tried to put in every possible train. That’s why I said around 10 new services, but probably with careful timetabling could be more.
186. Now, the Secretary of State has set out some principles for how the West Coast Main Line ought to be reused and we worked within those, in doing this illustration. They’re things like, broadly, where people have a train service to London, after HS2 comes in, there ought to be broadly a comparable-type service but, balanced against
that, the opportunity to improve commuting to the places that most need improved commuting. So, to focus particularly on new commuting capacity particularly from those areas where there is suppressed demand, like Rugby, Northampton and Kings.
Also, to consider certain new places that don’t get a train service today because the line is fuller. I won’t to give a whole list of places that desire a train service. Recently, there’s been applications for train services from Huddersfield, a train service from Blackpool, and so on. The line is totally full up, but in the future of that opportunity will be there.
187. SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: West coast equivalence of the Hull trains being full?
188. PROF. MCNAUGHTON: Yes, absolutely. And then, finally, it is the country’s biggest rail freight corridor, so we shouldn’t make an assumption that every iota of release capacity should be reserved for passengers, because carrying more freight by rail is another government priority. Now, today we do that because otherwise we’d be
showing a west coast main line with no trains on it and that would lead to a great deal of concern, ‘what on earth was going on’. So, at least it is an indication. It’s an indication put together on a reasonably sensible, logical basis, we think. Or we would purport. So, last couple of slides is: How does the government go about capacity allocation? Some key points that the Department of Transport will always make is that they would not, when the time comes, do anything that is different to normal process. Normal process is timetables change, patterns of travel change, demand grows in some places, lessens in others. So, the train service is never set in stone over many decades. It is a moving thing. How does it move? I’ll come to my last slide.
189. There are four big processes that go on. One that is already starting for life after HS2 comes into being is the long-term planning process, which, for once, in the railway industry, pretty much says what it is. Long-term planning process. It is run by Network Rail under their licence and it basically, out of a consultative process that will include not just the railway industry, not just local authorities, LEPs and so forth, and indeed the travelling public. It ends up with an outcome that proposes to government what should be done on a particular route or routes. The government then opines on that and the Secretary of State opines basically through something called the High Level Output Specification. We set out basically what the government wishes to buy on the route from the rail industry. And the regulator puts a price on that, as a regulated operation. And that is set out in five year control periods. And I suspect you’ll be aware of that, so I won’t detain you on that. The government at the same time aligns what the capability of the network will be and how we want it to be used with the franchising process for the train services themselves, which is box C.
190. Generally speaking, the Secretary of State sets out minimum requirements, particularly things like last trains, first trains, Sunday services, small stations, places which, if it was a purely commercial operation, might lose out. The operators themselves bid in the franchise process and part of their bidding is to develop the
market, which means satisfying demand. The final stage, stage D, is when the people who earn their living doing the sort of graphs which I showed rather simplistic leave a few minutes ago, get down to, with those stations, with that service pattern, how do we run the best timetable? And it’s at that point, about three years out, that people are making decisions about whether the 7.42 stops at Milton Keynes or whether it’s 7.44 or whether it goes through. That is the detailed train service specification which is then subject to approval by the Office of Rail Regulation. I’m always reminded, no train runs in this country unless the ORR has approved it. Now, I don’t know if that’s been any way enlightening to you or at least vaguely useful. I hope it has been. And if you seek more detail, I have much more detail, certainly not today. But, the intention was just introduce that is kind of the quantum of release capacity that in reality the West Coast will be able to offer to stations along the line as a result of HS2 taking the long distance trains off that network.
191. CHAIR: Right. Thank you. Good. We’ve got quite a lot to get through. So, I think we’ll crack on. I think that is useful.
192. MR BELLINGHAM: A very good question to you, Professor. What about cost? If HS2 is too expensive, people are not going to use it, are they? So, you have something about relative cost between, you know, if I’m a punter and I want to go to Birmingham, I’d obviously like to get there a bit quicker, but, if it’s going to cost me a lot more, I’m going to go on the West Coast main line, aren’t I, or even the Chelsea railway?
193. PROF. MCNAUGHTON: You introduce a very important point. All the work that HS2 has done for government has been on the basis of fares levels on the new line being broadly comparable. That means flexible fares, etc., etc. to the existing long distance train service network. That obviously will be a matter for the government at the time. But that’s the basis on which the scheme has been developed and demand calculated. What I might reflect back to you, if I may, is that creating a system where people didn’t want to use the new services but wanted to use the old services would rather defeat the object of giving better services to the stations which are passed by today. And part of the industry planning process and the train service franchising process, which the Secretary of State drives, is to get that right balance so that it is to the benefit of all the users, where they be long distance or short distance or commuter or freight or whatever. And clearly, fares policy is part of the drivers or the levers you can turn to do that. But, a high speed service that priced itself off the market would be a bit of a pointless exercise.
What Mr McNaughton is saying (yet again): by building HS2, the long distance trains could be taken off the West Coast fast lines.
But between the London and the Mersey, HS2 would only serve one city — Birmingham.
So to maintain connections for the places in-between, using the “released” capacity, you would put back onto the WCML, the long distance trains you had just taken off.
But there’s an extra twist.
225. SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: There’s one question I meant to put to the professor, if I could just have his attention for a second. One witness raised the question of station platforms at Euston being reduced in number and would that muck everything up. Sorry to interrupt.
226. CHAIR: Musical chairs.
227. PROF. MCNAUGHTON: This is after HS2 begins operation?
228. SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: I forget precisely what the man said. I think it was a man. The person said. That the number of platforms at Euston is going to be reduced, I think, by the building of HS2. And would this cause chaos or significant reductions in existing services to Euston?
229. PROF. MCNAUGHTON: No. The plan we’ve always developed and continued to work hand in hand with the current rail industry with, maintains sufficient number of platforms at Euston that the full service can operate throughout the building of HS2. I probably shouldn’t go into lots of detail. When we come forward with New Euston, that will be very, very apparent.
230. When HS2 is in operation, then the long distance services, the HS2 Services, run off their platforms, there will be less of the classic platforms left. But, they are now being used for these new services, which don’t take so long to turn around. A train from Glasgow spends 40 minutes being cleaned, victualled, watered, before it disappears off north again. So, it uses a platform for a very long time. A commuter train from Milton Keynes comes in, decants everybody, puts more people on, disappears off in five or six minutes. So, the mix of train services does affect the number of platforms you need, as well.
231. SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Thank you very much.
232. PROF. MCNAUGHTON: There is absolutely no intention to restrict the current train services at Euston. In fact, it’s, again, totally in the interest of developing HS2 that demand continues and the use of trains continues to grow, not choking off.
The ‘new’ post-HS2 classic WCML trains would require less time in-platform at Euston, because they would “take less time to clean”. In other words, the new ‘long distance’ classic services would be dense-seat commuter trains.