Nothing like a metro
In a January 2014 article for the Rail Engineer magazine, HS2 chief engineer Professor Andrew McNaughton stated that, “The first phase of HS2 will be most useful in releasing capacity to recast the south end of the WCML and the corridor through Coventry into Birmingham. The former will then accommodate the growth into London and the latter high frequency metro style services that Centro envisages“.
As can be seen from SLC Rail’s diagram of the passenger rail timetable structure on Coventry – Birmingham corridor, the year 2013 local (stopping) train service did not resemble that of a metro.
But in the late 2020s, with HS2 in operation, could a “metro style service” be provided on the Birmingham to Coventry line?
According to SLC Rail, the 20-minute Intercity West Coast (Virgin) frequency limits the realisable capacity on the Coventry – Birmingham corridor to 8 trains per hour overall. Apparently, HS2 Ltd envisage that the Intercity West Coast frequency would fall from 20 to 30 minutes.
As can be seen, SLC Rail’s diagrams suggest that changing the ICWC frequency to half-hourly would allow just one extra train to run each hour, and the local service would still be nothing like a metro. (Consider how one would make a journey from Stechford to Tile Hill, for example.)
Plainly, HS2 would be of very little value for improving local capacity or connectivity in the West Midlands — or Yorkshire, or Greater Manchester. But rail capacity is perhaps too complex a subject for the mainstream media (or Rail magazine), and government ministers.