‘Virtually every tunnel, viaduct, bridge and embankment’
On 16 September, there was a House of Lords debate about the economics of HS2. In her ‘six minute’ contribution, Baroness Kramer claimed that “the alternatives [to HS2] offer only about one-third of the capacity that HS2 offers. Consider the impact of delivering those alternatives. They require virtually every tunnel, viaduct, bridge and embankment to be rebuilt, taking virtually every weekend, year in, year out, causing the most extraordinary disruption“.
Her claims, of course, are utter nonsense. Capacity enhancement on the north to south rail corridors would not require lineside interventions along the entire line of route. So far, neither the Department for Transport nor Network Rail have been able to come up with an explanation for the so-called ’14 years of weekend closures to upgrade existing lines’.
Building HS2 would be far more disruptive than well-planned incremental enhancements. On the West Coast Main Line, long distance capacity could be increased by around 30%, without any lineside interventions at all. Larger capacity increases would require a handful of interventions (mainly, lengthening platforms).
On the Midland Main Line, capacity enhancement could be carried out simultaneously with the (currently paused) electrification. The net increase in disruption over electrification_alone, would be minimal.
In the longer term, it would make sense to fix the East Coast Main Line Welwyn / Digswell bottleneck, but a cost-effective way of increasing capacity in the short term would simply involve suspending weekday stops at Welwyn North station.