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What does HS2 release from the West Coast?

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What does HS2 release from the West Coast?

[ – Andrew McNaughton, uncorrected transcript of the MINUTES OF ORAL EVIDENCE taken before HIGH SPEED RAIL COMMITTEE On the HIGH SPEED RAIL (LONDON – WEST MIDLANDS) BILL, Wednesday, 11 February 2015]

A perfectly good question, but one for which there doesn’t seem to be any coherent answer.

According to Patrick McLoughlin, broadly comparable services would be maintained on the classic line, following the opening of HS2. But what exactly does “broadly comparable” mean? If the WCML post-HS2 service pattern were broadly comparable to the pre-HS2 one, what is the released capacity?

Consider the claimed commuter service benefits from HS2. The following extract from London Midland’s current timetable shows the provision of peak services (weekday mornings into Euston, and evenings out of Euston).

LM timetable extract, Euston lines Monday to Friday peaks), 14 December 2014 to 16 May 2015

LM timetable, extract, Euston lines (Monday to Friday peaks), 14 December 2014 to 16 May 2015

Currently, as can be seen, in the period 8 am to 9 am, thirteen LM trains arrive at Euston. In the period 5 pm to 6 pm, eleven depart.

HS2 Ltd’s PFM v4.3: Assumptions report (October 2013) modelled the West Coast London Midland service post-HS2. Figure 6-7 showed the year_2033 pattern, with HS2 phase two fully implemented.

HS2 Ltd, PFM assumptions report, Oct 2013, WCML London Midland modelled service pattern: Figure 6-7

HS2 Ltd, PFM assumptions report, Oct 2013, WCML London – Rugby modelled service pattern (LM trains): Figure 6-7

PFM Assumptions shows a tidal LM peak hour service of twelve trains.

HS2 Ltd, PFM assumptions report, Oct 2013: Figure 6-7 (extract)

HS2 Ltd, PFM assumptions report, Oct 2013, WCML London – Rugby modelled service pattern (LM trains): Figure 6-7


Year Euston
peak hour
2014 12* London Midland Public Timetable (14 Dec 2014)
2033, with HS2 12 HS2 Ltd PFM Assumptions, Figure 6-7

* = Average of inbound (13) and outbound (11)

Written by beleben

February 17, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Posted in HS2

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7 Responses

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  1. Isn’t the argument mainly about the fast lines since they are the only one used by McNoughton’s supposedly “non-stop” services? Even so I can’t see how there can be much scope for any capacity relief.


    February 17, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    • Being most efficient, you would have 3 independent 2 track lines in 20yrs time:-
      HS2 – VT
      fasts – LM
      slows – freight
      (with the interchange junctions only used for engineering or emergency arrangements)

      A much cheaper alternative would be:-
      fasts – VT
      slows – LM
      great central* – freight

      *or many other options such as hitchen-bedford-northampton, cambridge-lincoln etc


      February 17, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    • One might well expect that the discussion would be mainly about the West Coast Fast lines, but of course there have been a lot of claims about ‘extra railfreight’, etc.

      Goods trains tend to use the Relief lines, but when asked about them, DfT were less than forthcoming. The quantum of unforthcomingness is intriguing.


      February 17, 2015 at 8:41 pm

  2. If the Tring turn-back is converted to running through to BDM, will this unlock a path or two per hour? Capacity-wise you might also post the current London Midland seat predictor web pages for EUS inbound and outbound peak hour services, and check-out how many could be improved if the 4 or 8-car formations were actually full 12-car sets.

    I also note that around 50% of the pax on morning VT services to MKC get off at MKC, and for Glasgow service, most of the rest get off at BHM.

    Grade separation at Ledburn and Hanslope or the provision of new cross-over points – perhaps using options in Roade cutting or Wolverton would also unlock paths.

    Dave H (@BCCletts)

    February 17, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    • If Tring to (say) Cheddington was widened to six tracks, could “express” LM services stay on the slows and overtake “stopping” LM services ? No need for grade separation @ Ledburn and more paths for VT services ?

      Could the same approach of widening between MKC and BLY enable more overtaking (passing)?

      In effect, could the slows become a LM 2 track line with a couple of 4 track passing sections?


      February 17, 2015 at 7:12 pm

  3. Beleben should be applauded (again) for pointing out that rhetoric spoken by HS2 representatives apparently fails to match the likely “reality”. In this case despite the advent of HS2, the planned service pattern for stations such as Milton Keynes will not be improved as a result of HS2.

    There are a number of ways in which the capacity of the WCML can be improved without building HS2 or putting in an extra two lines in places. The DfT chooses to ignore many of these.

    Some of you might not be aware of London Midland’s Project 110 which relates to the speed of their most recently introduced Desiro trains. As the speed differential between these and the Virgin Pendolinos is relatively small, some of these Desiros now run on the fast lines which has allowed more trains in total to be fitted onto the WCML at peak times (from December 2014).

    HS2 staff have yet to explain how the existing peak time services will be maintained on the WCML during Euston construction when the number of classic platforms will be reduced from 18 to 13 and the number of (classic) approach tracks in the throat at Euston from 6 to 4.

    Maybe we will get Crossrail trains to run the K1 diversion to Tring which might help with two or three train paths per hour. They will not be available during the first few years of Euston reconstruction because Crossrail will not be fully open until the end of 2019. However will that lead to Crossrail train seating capacity being fully utilised sooner than expected? Crossrail trains will have fewer seats than an 8 car Desiro train.

    Lastly how many people have bothered to consider how crowded the London – Birmingham section of HS2 will be when phase two comes into operation? 18 trains per hour in each direction with a total of 2 lines rather than 4. In other words it will be full within 6 or 7 years of first opening with no opportunity at all for additional paths, assuming current technology is used.


    February 17, 2015 at 9:58 pm

  4. You should not be comparing HS2 services with London Midland services. HS2 would replace some of the Virgin Pendolino services, not LM’s. “Broadly comparable” is HS2’s euphemism for “vastly reduced”. Their estimates include the £8.3bn that would be saved by CUTTING services. The possibility of these “released paths” being used for “additional services on the classic line” is, like all the other unresolved weaknesses of HS2, someone else’s problem.
    As Andrew Bodman says, HS2’s 2 tracks would soon be full. Yet they have suggested additional services for which there would be no paths available. Some advocate building another high speed railway parallel to HS2. Better still, let’s get it right first time. And the only way to do that is to scrap the ludicrous HS2 and start again. Fortunately the better plan is already here. You can see it at

    Les Fawcett

    March 2, 2015 at 5:54 pm

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