A case of too little demand
The government has “suggested cutting the number of fast trains between Coventry and London – just to speed up journey times between the capital and Birmingham”, the Coventry Telegraph reported on 12 May.
[Coventry’s fast trains to London could be cut to improve journey times from Birmingham, Jonathan Walker and Simon Gilbert, Coventry Telegraph 12 May 2016]
Department for Transport is suggesting fewer trains should stop at “intermediate” stations to speed up journeys and cut overcrowding
Plans to chop the number of long-distance services that stop at “intermediate” stations such as Coventry and Rugby are revealed in a government consultation on the future of the West Coast Main Line.
It is another potential blow to the city which is already set to be bypassed by the controversial multi-billion pound HS2 project which will build a new high-speed line through Warwickshire to link London to Birmingham and the north of England.
[…] The document makes it clear that the focus of the service is long distance services “between London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, North Wales, Glasgow and Edinburgh.”
The recommendations have been described as ‘very worrying’ by one transport organisation which says the government should be encouraging increased services to smaller stations.
So are the recommendations to cut the number of fast trains between Coventry and London (a) “just to speed up journey times between the capital and Birmingham”, or (b) “to speed up journeys and cut overcrowding”? Are there recommendations to cut the number of fast trains between Coventry and London?
Control effing the consultation document produced zero mentions for “recommend”, and just one for “overcrowd” (in the phrase “dealing with overcrowding of the concourse and train boarding issues at Euston Station”).
[DfT consultation, May 2016]
[3.17] Whilst some services are highly used in the peak (the times in the morning and evening when most people travel), or just outside of peak hours, there are times of the day where the level of service might not reflect the level of demand at stations. In these cases we are interested in understanding whether there may be opportunities to adjust the level of service at stations which might enable wider benefits to be delivered elsewhere. For example reducing the number of stops required at intermediate stations (each stop could increase the overall journey time by several minutes) could enable reductions in the overall journey time to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool or Glasgow or for potential new journeys to be offered.
[3.18] Whilst providing a large number of end to end journeys, ICWC services also serve a number of highly used and important connections to local services at major stations such as Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly. We know that changing trains can make travelling by rail feel complicated and increase uncertainty for some passengers; discouraging people from using the railway.
At the start of the West Coast modernisation process, the intention was to run four 8-car Pendolino services each hour from London to Birmingham, and four from London to Manchester. Today, the service is generally three 11-car trains each hour to each city.
Why is there no appetite at Virgin to request a re-cast of the route timetable to allow four trains an hour to run? The likeliest explanation is that there is insufficient demand to justify a more intensive service, so costs would increase faster than revenue.