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HS2 and West Coast rail demand

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In November 2015, the Department for Transport updated the ‘strategic case’ for HS2. The Supplement to the Strategic Case claimed that if the new line were not built, standing “will become a major issue” on InterCity West Coast (ICWC) services by 2033 / 2034.

[Supplement to the Strategic Case, DfT, Nov 2015]

This is the case even if:

• All peak Pendolino trains are operated at maximum length of 11-car

• The current Pendolino trains are reconfigured such that they provide eight cars of Standard capacity and three cars of First Class capacity instead of the seven cars of Standard capacity and four cars of First Class capacity provided today

The problem could become particularly acute on Friday evenings where load factors above 100 per cent (i.e. more Standard Class passengers than seats) are already experienced today in the busiest hour between 19:00 – 20:00.

One might well wonder, why would the existing Pendolinos still be operating premier main line services in 2033 / 2034? By then, they would be around 30 years old. Wouldn’t it make sense to have replaced them with higher capacity rolling stock?

Replacing old trains with higher capacity new ones is standard practice on national rail. A 260-metre Hitachi IEP has around a hundred more seats than a 265-metre Pendolino, but new-generation high capacity trains running on the West Coast Main Line would be toxic for the HS2 ‘business case’.

In their so-called assessment of HS2 alternatives (2010), Atkins assumed new trains would be procured, but “have existing Pendolino seating density and operate as 11 carriage sets”. In other words, Atkins ’tilted’ the analysis, to suit the agenda of Andrew Adonis.

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Written by beleben

September 13, 2016 at 8:25 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

One Response

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  1. A rational and planned regime would deliver the following
    1) a direct connection from WCML to the ‘new’ main line (the restoration of the residual single track secondary route to main line status through the low budget Evergreen 2 project) rather contradicting the already incorrect claim by the SoS McGlaughlin that no main line had been built in the UK for over 120 years (when the GC/GW joint line and the Westbury cut-off – the new main line to the West Country had both opened in 1906 less than 110 years earlier, and forgetting the then under construction new Oxford-London main line via Bicester.

    This would deliver a Euston-Coventry journey time via Banbury to match the Euston-Coventry journey time via Milton Keynes, and thus permit longer blockades of the WCML, 2 tracks at a time, to facilitate the construction of key grade separated cross-overs, at Ledburn, Hanslope and also works at Bourne End, and Bletchley.

    2) delivery of a full line speed potential upgrade of the GC/GW route which it was originally designed for – permitting 125mph running with existing trains and technology, and potential 140mph running with existing trains and upgraded signalling. Even with 125mph running, based on current daily timetabled services on ECML and WCML a 60 minute (or potentially faster) London to Birmingham journey could be delivered within 2-4 years, and with a concession to operate at 125mph could be demonstrated now with a Class 221 Voyager or 5 coach HST. (with the current 100mph limit the non-stop London-Birmingham journey can take as little as 87 minutes).

    Delivery of a 125mph GC/GW route from Old Oak Common Junction to Birmingham Moor Street – with the option to connect via the former platform 5/6 to run directly in to Birmingham New Street would offer options to close Euston to long distance services and divert these to Paddington or Marylebone, with a further relatively simple connection at West Hampstead to run in to St Pancras or directly through to Stratford via HS1 or the North London Line this offers the opportunities to have major station closures to carry out work quickly at lower cost. Paddington services could also be diverted to Euston and potentially other stations with a few other connections restored or re-engineered for higher speeds.

    3) with the ability to work with long blockades, the re-gauging of the WCML to take European mainland rolling stock could deliver the option of leasing readily available double deck trains for the claimed lack of capacity

    4) delivery of the Midland Main Line electrification potentially cascading the IC225’s as an interim measure, should be delivered with infills between Wigston & Nuneaton and Bedford & Bletchley with both connections being, if possible delivered with additional chords to permit MML-WCML-MML as well as WCML-MML-WCML diversions

    Dave H (@BCCletts)

    October 2, 2016 at 4:51 pm


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