Empty seats as a strategic objective
In the November 2015 Supplement to the October 2013 Strategic Case for HS2, the Department for Transport stated that research showed that “passengers start to perceive negative impacts” from crowding at 80 per cent load factors”.
But in his letter to Lord Hollick dated 25 September 2015, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport Lord Ahmad stated, “Behavioural research shows that on long distance services passengers begin to feel negative effects from crowding at between 60% and 70% loading”.
So, do passengers start to feel ‘negative effects’ at 60% loading, or at 80% loading? But isn’t this whole line of reasoning a bit odd? Do clients in a restaurant start to feel ‘negative effects’ if the adjacent tables also have customers? What about the length of waits in hospital accident and emergency? After how many minutes in A&E triage do ‘negative effects’ set in?
Obviously, £50-billion-spent-on-HS2 must mean £50-billion-not-spent-on-other-things (like metropolitan transport, hospital A&E, medical research, etc).
The ‘shadow objective’ of avoiding “passengers starting to feel negative effects” by running intercity trains 40% empty — in the peak — must be one of the oddest features of the HS2 project.