On track to dissemble
Much of the content in the Department for Transport’s latest attempt to justify the HS2 railway, On Track (March 2015), seems to be aimed at obscuring the key issues.
‘HS1 has attracted over £10 billion of private sector investment around station sites.’
Is that true? How much development has there been in Ashford, Ebbsfleet and Stratford, as a result of HS1?
The post-Olympic regeneration underperformance around Stratford led Mayor Boris Johnson to alter the TfL travel zone boundary, to try to boost business interest.
And most of the development at Kings Cross cannot be attributed to HS1; as in other parts of central London, the land would have been redeveloped anyway.
‘Yet it is still quicker to travel from London to the continent than it is to travel from London to Manchester or from Birmingham to Leeds.’
Given that Lille is nearer to London than is Manchester, it might not be too surprising to find that the rail journey takes less time.
But in fact, it doesn’t take less time overall, because most people travelling to Lille have to present themselves at St Pancras at least 30 minutes before the train leaves. Even the expense-account contingent have to be there 10 minutes before. And the Manchester service is much more frequent, further reducing the at-station element of the journey.
‘For example, on the London Midland network we recently invested in 10 additional four-car trains, upgraded the existing fleet to be capable of 110mph running and lengthened peak trains from 8 to 12 carriages where possible.’
The London Midland services still waste capacity, because of their lower top speed (compared to the intercity Pendolinos). And in the peak, most of them are not 12 carriages long.
‘Yet despite a £9 billion upgrade completed less than a decade ago, parts of the [West Coast] line are effectively full in terms of trains, and many are full to overflowing at the busiest times of day.’