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Misinformation from the top

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In March 2016 the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee said HS2 Ltd’s culture of “defensive communication and misinformation” was “not acceptable”.

HS2 Ltd's claims about integrity and transparency

The chief executive of HS2 Ltd, Simon Kirby, seems to be a key enabler of the ‘culture of misinformation’. In an article published by The Rail Engineer on 29 April, Mr Kirby claimed that

  • a twin-track high speed railway like HS2 would provide more line capacity than a twin-track conventional one
  • HS2 would take 500,000 lorries a year off the roads, ‘with the freight capacity we create on the West Coast line because we’ve got high-speed trains on the high speed network’.

[Taking HS2 to completion, Nigel Wordsworth’s interview with HS2 Ltd chief executive Simon Kirby, The Rail Engineer, 29 April 2016]

[…] Despite its name, High Speed 2 isn’t just about high speed – it’s about capacity. Pulling long-distance passenger traffic off the West Coast main line and onto a new railway will leave more room on the ‘old’ lines for stopping trains, commuters and freight.

[…] Some people have questioned whether a high-speed railway is strictly necessary. If a conventional railway, with a speed of, say, 140mph, were to be built instead. Wouldn’t that do just as well?

“Most of the characteristics are the same for any type of new railway, the aesthetics of bridges and the substructure are the same,” Simon replied. “One of the challenges we all have as an industry is taking people into the world of three or four per cent passenger growth and imagining what the industry looks like in 10 or 20 years’ time. Half of the trains out of Euston by the end of this decade will be full, and that’s with standing provisions as well. So we’d need a four track railway from Euston to Birmingham, not a two track one, because the speeds are slower and the capacity is less.

When asked about line capacity of high speed and conventional railways in freedom of information requests, HS2 Ltd has been unable to provide any evidence to support Mr Kirby’s claim, or a similar one by the chairman, David Higgins.

Line capacity misinformation given by HS2 chairman David Higgins

According to a diagram produced by HS2 Ltd’s technical director Andrew McNaughton, long distance trains would not be removed from the West Coast Main Line when HS2 became operational.

Andrew McNaughton, 'HS2 released capacity' slide, 2015

In October 2013, Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that the government would “aim to ensure” that all towns or cities which currently have a direct service to London will retain broadly comparable or better services once HS2 is completed, and intended to launch “a study to recommend how this can be done”. How could it be done, without retaining long distance services on the existing line?

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Written by beleben

May 9, 2016 at 10:50 am

2 Responses

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  1. […] seems significantly lacking and levels of understanding exceptionally poor. One example of this was when Sir David Higgins appeared in front of the Transport Select Committee and stated that the faste…. This is not the case, and whether or not 18tph has ever been feasible has never been evidenced. A […]

  2. “In October 2013, Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that the government would “aim to ensure” that all towns or cities which currently have a direct service to London will retain broadly comparable or better services once HS2 is completed, and intended to launch “a study to recommend how this can be done”. How could it be done, without retaining long distance services on the existing line?”

    It’s quite clear – and is shown on the diagrams you have referenced.
    A certain number of long-distance trains have to be retained on the classic railway in order to serve the major intermediate stations that are not directly served by HS2. So its not a binary choice. The existing railway doesn’t close down or fall into disuse when HS2 comes along. Far from it, it thrives with a different pattern of services. For example, of the 3 London to Manchester services run by Virgin each hour, one runs non-stop to Crewe and a second runs non-stop to Stoke. There will be no detrimental impact on Milton Keynes by diverting those two services onto HS2 – but that does free up capacity on the WCML for other services to call there instead.

    As for Sir David Higgins comments on capacity, you are right to hold him to account. He has clearly misunderstood the nature of the problem.

    Jeff Hawken

    May 18, 2016 at 8:22 pm


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