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HS2 infrastructure abrasion

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The Centro Go HS2 blog seems to have been abandoned by its creators, but at the time of writing, at least some of its content remains accessible. The blogpost of 13 December 2013 mentioned the “pounding” of the West Coast Main Line as a reason to build HS2.

[The challenge of maintaining the West Coast Main Line, Alan Marshall, Go HS2, 2013-12-13]

David Higgins has already talked to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee about how the WCML south of Rugby is being “pounded” and has also said the route will be “trashed” by the time the first stage of HS2 is due to open in 2026.

But would the building of HS2 mean the West Coast Main Line would no longer be “pounded”?

According to Network Rail, “HS2 frees up space for faster, more frequent trains on the WCML”.

Obviously, “faster, more frequent trains on the WCML” would mean more “pounding”, not less.

Network Rail: 'HS2 frees up space for faster, more frequent trains on the WCML'

The reality is

  • large parts of the West Coast Main Line, even south of Rugby, are not particularly heavily used
  • HS2 track would take a far bigger “pounding” than anything seen on the West Coast Main Line.

Andrew McNaughton slide (2015) showing use of West Coast Main Line tracks

The busiest WCML tracks are the fast lines, south of Ledburn. According to HS2 Ltd’s Professor Andrew McNaughton, for most of the day, they carry about 12 trains per hour in each direction, which run at speeds up to 200 km/h.

How does this compare with the proposed HS2 trunk from Euston to Bickenhill?

According to HS2 Ltd, in full operation, it would carry 18 trains per hour in each direction, at speeds of 360 km/h or more, even outside the peak hours.

A 400-metre Siemens Velaro D high speed train, of the type used in continental Europe, has a weight of ~908 tonnes, or around 56.75 tonnes per carriage. The Velaro has been used in official illustrations of future HS2 trains.

The longest (265-metre Class 390/1) Pendolino trains currently used on the West Coast Main Line have a reported weight of 567 tonnes, giving an average vehicular weight of around 51.54 tonnes.

HS2 would see more and heavier trains, operating at speeds ~80% faster than the West Coast Main Line. This suggests that the track, pantograph, and overhead line “pounding” on HS2 would be far higher than anything seen on the West Coast Main Line, or anywhere else. The enormous maintenance costs must be one of the reasons that HS2 could never compete on a ‘level playing field’ with a separate West Coast intercity operator.



Written by beleben

November 7, 2016 at 12:57 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

One Response

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  1. In the parallel universe that is HS2 :-

    HS2 Cost and Risk Model December 2009
    5.2 Derivation of operating costs
    “Infrastructure Operations and Maintenance
    5.2.1 The annual figure of £180k per route kilometre reflects HS1 actual Operations and Maintenance
    (O&M) costs. It is recognised that the relatively small size of HS1 results in a higher than average
    overhead add on within O&M costs, however HS1 is the most representative cost comparator for the
    potential HS2 O&M costs. (Typical annual O&M costs for UK classic mainlines range up to £160k per
    route kilometre.)”

    HS2 Cost and Risk Model March 2012

    “5.2.1 The costs we have used are a direct reflection of the HS1 costs. This is the most representative cost comparator, although we recognise that it includes a relatively large overhead due to the shorter length of HS1. At 2011 prices, we have used an annual figure of £191,000 per route kilometre.”

    HS1 carries 25 Eurostars each way (1st Nov 2016). 18 of these run the 108km non-stop to the tunnel boundary in around 31 minutes giving an average speed of 209km/h.

    HS2’s proposed service pattern shows 16 trains per hour each way on the south end of Phase One after Phase Two opens. The operating hours are 0500 to 2359 Mon-Sat, (0800 to 2359 Sunday.) Assuming 12 hours at 16tph and 7 hours at 10tph gives 262 trains per day scheduled to run at 330 to 360 km/h. A single 200m train weighs about 450 tonnes but many will run in pairs.

    So HS2 WILL HAVE TEN TIMES AS MANY HIGH SPEED TRAINS AS HS2 going considerably faster.
    It appears that the fact that maintenance costs might not be comarable was not considerd to be a risk!

    But what about the domestic “high speed” services on HS1?
    39 6-coach 265 tonne Javelins only go as far as Ebbsfleet (37km) before turning off. 43 Javelins make it as far as Ashford (90km) before turning off. 7 of these run non stop to Ashford in 34 minutes, at an average speed of 159km/h. However, twenty one diesel trains do the 159km fom St Pancras to Leicester non stop in 62 minutes (154km/h) or 63 minutes (152km/h). Even fourty year old HSTs can do the journey in 69 minutes, including one stop, and the line limit is 110mph. I don’t think Javelins should be called high speed trains; they spend most of their lives crawling around Kent.


    November 7, 2016 at 3:13 pm

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