HS2 infrastructure abrasion
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.
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.
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.