The cost and the distance
The August 2007 edition of Transport Economist reported on the proceedings of a High Speed Rail Seminar held on 2 March of that year, attended by, inter alios, Richard Brown (chief executive of Eurostar), and Jim Steer (director of SDG and Greengauge 21).
According to Mr Brown, at that time Eurostar’s track access on HS1 cost £70 per train-kilometre, as ‘charges were expected to cover all the capital costs’.
(The Eurostar operation was never able to cover the capital costs, which led to a massive bout of restructuring and UK state aid, which was deemed complete on 1 September 2010.)
HS2 was expected to cost about 15% more per kilometre, in real terms, than HS1. But to get some insight into HS2’s underlying costs, one could just use the £70-per-train-km HS1 figure from 2007.
Since the London Euston – Bickenhill – Manchester Piccadilly HS2 route is around 300 km, the unsubsidised track access for one train journey would be £21,000.
With a 400-metre train carrying 1,100 passengers (100% occupancy), the cost per traveller would be ~£19 for the track access.
In practice, occupancy would be much lower than 100%, and most trains outside the peak hour would be 200-metre (550-seat maximum). So the modal track access cost per traveller would be at least £38 each way.
HS2 is planned to operate as a high frequency, regular-interval service, which would make 60% occupancy a serious challenge. If 70% occupancy were achieved, track access cost per traveller would be about £54.
What about the other costs? Mr Brown stated that track access accounted for just under a third of the cost of operating the TGV high speed service.
No wonder the Department for Transport has refused to discuss the opex and revenue projections for HS2.