die belebende Bedenkung

HS2 and London Midland commuting, part four

with 6 comments

Figure 9 of the October 2013 HS2 Strategic Case

Figure 9 (above left) of the October 2013 HS2 Strategic Case compared one-hour-one-way passenger throughput on the West Coast Main Line (at that time) with a situation ‘after HS2’. The simplified diagram (above right) just shows the ac lines commuter capacity in October 2013, and a DfT impression of the situation after the implementation of HS2 phase two.

However, with the further implementation of London Midland ‘Project 110’, in the December 2014 timetable, capacity on the ac lines increased – as shown in column B in the diagram below.

West Coast Euston ac lines commuter scenarios (Beleben)

West Coast Euston ac lines commuter scenarios (Beleben)

In the evening peak, only a third of London Midland Euston trains run at ‘full length’ (12 carriages). Even in the high peak (5 till 6 pm), most are not full length. If all current peak trains did run at full length, the capacity would be as shown in column C.

The West Coast Slow lines are only signalled for one train every four minutes, but not all available paths are used. If an additional 12-car train ran on the relief tracks, capacity would be as shown in column E.

The October 2013 HS2 Strategic Case sought to associate increased future West Coast commuter capacity with HS2, but the fact is that most Euston commuters do not use the WCML Fast lines in the course of their journey. HS2 would really only be of potential benefit to those commuters travelling to Leighton Buzzard, and beyond.

The number of commuters travelling from Coventry and Northampton into London is small compared to the volumes from Milton Keynes, and points south thereof. But if it were necessary, would it be possible to accommodate a large increase in commuting from Milton Keynes into London, without spending £20+ billion on HS2 phase one?

The answer is yes. One of the most cost-effective approaches would be to run fast trains from St Pancras, reaching Bletchley via a new connection from the Midland Main Line (diagram below). Four Thameslink trains extended to Bletchley would bring the capacity to the level shown in column F above.

Bletchley MML / Varsity connection concept (Beleben)


Written by beleben

March 16, 2015 at 3:25 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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6 Responses

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  1. The link above measures about 12km from Woburn Sands (west of M1 J13) to Harlington on the MML. At this point the MML is less than 16km (10 miles) from the ECML near Hitchin. A new line joining MML to ECML in this vicinity, together with the proposal outlined above and the existing line between Hitchin and Cambridge, could complete the East West (Oxford – Cambridge) route. The current proposal for the East West line is to join Bedford to Cambridge and upgrade the Marston Vale line. The crow fly distance between Bedford and Cambridge is 42km. The original route via Sandy is about 47km and large sections of it have been built over or lost. It would be much cheaper to complete the East West link via Hitchin rather than via Sandy as it would require only 30km of new line instead of around 45 to 50km.

    Having a link further south would enable passengers (and trains?) from Milton Keynes, Oxford and Bicester and routes passing through those stations to get to Hertford and points south thereof. This could allow many passengers to reach their destinations without having to travel via London.

    Applying the principles outlined in Network Rail’s consultation document “Improving Connectivity” shows how journey times, capacity and frequency could be increased dramatically over a large fairly modest cost.

    Surely it is not unreasonable to assume that signalling will have improved sufficiently over the next 10 to 15 years to permit considerably reduced headways on most lines providing substantially more capacity.


    March 16, 2015 at 7:35 pm

  2. Beleben

    I believe that you may be chasing some “false” targets as Figure 9 is misleading. An FOI was raised in 2014 which requested a breakdown of the figures used to construct that chart. An answer was duly provided.

    I will confine myself to commuter fast and commuter slow which I believe equates to the existing London Midland service. I believe London Overground services from Euston were not included. The service in 2013 would have provided 6183 seats in total (fast and slow combined) at the peak departure hour, assuming all London Midland trains were 12 carriage Desiros. I acknowledge many of them were not 12 carriage, but I have used that assumption throughout to be consistent. As you have already acknowledged, more trains were added as part of Project 110 which increases the capacity to 7557 seats in the peak hour. That compares with the HS2 Ltd figure of 5500. In other words the current position has been understated.

    The post HS2 official figures appear overstated for several reasons. Firstly three Pendolino services have been included as “commuter fast” (discrepancy 1917 seats). Pendolinos generally provide intercity services. Next, each Desiro train is assumed by HS2 Ltd to have 810 seats. A current Desiro 12 carriage train has a seating capacity of 687 seats as far as I am aware. Then 14 Desiro services have been listed as departing in the peak hour whereas the Assumptions Report (October 2013) for HS2 Phase 2 shows only 12 services departing. Discrepancy for these two points is 3096 seats. HS2’s combined commuter fast and slow seating capacity post HS2 is 13,300 officially. The corrected figure is 8244 (total discrepancy is 5013).

    The likely reality from the corrected HS2 figures is that there will be a gain of 687 seats on “London Midland” services as a result of the introduction of HS2 compared to the current (December 2014) position.

    Therefore to match what HS2 are more likely to provide, requires only a small number of extra seats. As you have also indicated previously, this could be achieved through extending existing four or eight carriage trains to 12 carriage trains.


    March 17, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    • Thank you for getting in touch by e-mail. What Figure 9 of the October 2013 Strategic Case wrongly appears to suggest, is that HS2-at-full-capability would enable Commuter Fast peak-hour seats on the London Midland Franchise out of Euston to increase from 1,600 (October 2013) to 6,800. For Commuter Slow peak hour seats, the capacity would go from 3,900 to 6,500.

      But there are pitfalls awaiting anyone attempting to establish what the real ‘released capacity’ effects are. For example, the seating capacity of a Desiro train depends on its length (4, 8, or 12 cars) and the internal layout. Members of the Class 350/1 type (with 2+2 seating), were modified for 110 mph (177 km/h) operation, allowing more services to operate on the Fast lines. However, DfT’s capacity modelling table, which they sent to you, was based on the use of Class 350/2 trains (3+2 seating), and they declined to provide details of actual consists on grounds of ‘commercial confidentiality’.

      Another gotcha is the circulation of at least two different versions of diagram 6-6 in the ‘same’ PFM Assumptions report. DfT provided an URL, [note: v3.0] but at the time of writing that points to a document titled ‘The Economic Case For HS2, PFM v4.3: Assumptions report’.

      DfT PFM Assumptions report 'clarification', March 2015


      March 18, 2015 at 12:23 pm

  3. There are probably at least two conclusions that can be drawn from this discussion:

    1. Be wary of taking HS2 data at face value.

    2. Increased commuter rail capacity can be provided to Milton Keynes without building the exorbitantly expensive HS2.


    March 18, 2015 at 2:31 pm

  4. […] WCML RUS confirms that the planning headway on the slow line out of Euston is four minutes. Beleben attributes this constraint on the line’s capacity to the signalling system, so this would be an obvious area […]

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