HS2 and West Coast rail demand
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.