die belebende Bedenkung

HS2 and level boarding

with 4 comments

Transport secretary Chris Grayling MP has launched “the hunt” for a company to design, build and maintain a fleet of up to 60 state-of-the-art ‘225mph’ classic compatible trains for Britain’s “HS2 network”.

[‘Search underway for company to build HS2 trains in £2.75 billion government rail investment’, Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd,, 20 January 2017]

[…] Providing a world class passenger experience is at the heart of the requirements for companies interested in bidding for the £2.75 billion contract.

Hundreds of jobs will be created by the government’s investment, boosting Britain’s skills and expertise in this sector.

[…] Today sees the publication of the Periodic Indicative Notice (PIN), pre-advising the formal start of the process in spring this year. There will be an industry event on 27 March where interested companies can find out more about the bidding requirements and process. This will be followed by the launch of the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) pack which will provide further details of the specifications for the trains.

Bidders will be shortlisted following the PQQ, and the formal invitations to tender issued in 2018. The contract award will be announced at the end of 2019.

HS2 LWM jobs forecast by Leo Eyles, used by the government

One might expect a £2.75 billion spend to produce more than just ‘hundreds of jobs’, but there is no domestic supply chain for intercity rolling stock. At present, only the assembly of passenger carriages from imported parts is carried out within Great Britain (at Newton Aycliffe and Derby), and large quantities of rolling stock are imported completely built up. For the sake of appearances, potential HS2 train bidders such as Alstom and CRRC might have to offer GB assembly, even though they have plenty of spare capacity at home.

HS2 Ltd has talked up the prospect of ‘level boarding’ from platform to train, but how feasible is this ‘state of the art’ aspiration? In the view of the Beleben blog, the likelihood of true level boarding is fairly low. How a step from ‘classic’ platforms to HS2 trains could be avoided, is yet to be explained. But even with absolutely no height difference, seemingly small horizontal gaps are enough to bring pushchairs, wheelchairs and wheeled luggage to a halt.

The ‘level boarding’ conundrum might end up being offloaded onto rolling stock bidders, in much the same way that the HS2 timetabling problem is being dumped on a future ‘West Coast Partnership‘.

Written by beleben

January 20, 2017 at 11:30 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

4 Responses

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  1. Very high speed trains, such as those being sought for HS2, will need to have high floors as they need very large brakes and wheels. The step up from a classic platform will be a serious impediment or a barrier for some users but it is made far worse by HS2’s decision to adopt European standards which require an even lower platform. HS2 has not yet got EU approval to build its new platforms to a height which would achieve level boarding although it has been trying for four years.

    HS2 state that level boarding is essential to enable the predicted number of passengers to board and alight within the short dwell times needed to achieve its proposed, but not proved, aspiration for 18 trains per hour. Even with level boarding there may be circumstances where the dwell time may be exceeded. SYSTRA recommended that 5 minutes should be allowed for station stops at airports and 3 minutes elsewhere. HS2 have opted for 2 minute stops with the doors open for only 95 seconds. If a group of passengers with bags or wheelchairs attempts to board a Euston bound train at Birmingham Interchange it could easily miss its allocated slot and this would wreck HS2’s aspirations for a reliable railway.

    HS2 has been using an Alstom AGV as a reference train throughout the design process. Only 25 lower powered versions are in service and these are running at speeds below 300km/h. The Italian operator has decided not to take up an option for more, preferring to buy 250km/h Pendolinos instead. The acceleration tracks at Birmingham Interchange are only 1926m long. This might just be sufficient to allow the higher powered reference train to reach a speed of 145km/h before joining the 360km/h main line. It therefore seems rather wasteful to spend over £1.5 million on points designed for 230km/h. There is no evidence that HS2 has considered how the effect of such a relatively low merge speed will be workable or how it would constrain any dwell time flexibility.

    HS2 has not announced how it envisages that passengers using wheelchairs or mobility scooters will be able to board the trains if level boarding is not achieved at all stations.

    HS2 and DfT seem to have placed their faith in the ability of train manufacturers to produce a train which will meet whatever specifications they deem necessary. Unfortunately many factors are determined by the laws of physics and constraints imposed by the proposed electrical supply system.


    January 20, 2017 at 8:32 pm

  2. How many people at present travel from London to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester? Chris Grayling, in announcing this ‘hunt’, emphasised the new railway would ‘carry over 300,000 people a day’. Do that many really travel every day?


    January 21, 2017 at 2:30 am

    • Various official sources appear to provide wildly different figures. I have looked at the Route Utilisation Studies (RUS) and some published data of modelled flows produced by MVA for HS2. Some RUS figures are poorly defined so may represent flows in only one direction and may exclude interchanging passengers. The HS2 offering is only likely to attract some of the existing demand. None of the data appears to be robust enough to build a case for spending upwards of £60,000 million on HS2.

      Birmingham – London, the demand is shared between the WCML and the Chiltern Line.

      7,500 weekday two-way, 2012 MVA-Atkins HS2 Demand and Appraisal Report
      2,300 WCML RUS July 2011 (New Street – Euston)
      2,315 Chiltern RUS May 2011 (New Street – Euston)

      MVA 2013 note that
      “In 2010 there were approximately 62,000 long distance passengers per day using inter-city trains on the southern section of the WCML.” (3.2.11) cf. HS2’s statement that it will carry 300,000!

      Manchester – London 8,400 weekday total two-way 2013 MVA Phase Two Demand and Appraisal model
      Manchester – London 2,700 WCML RUS July 2011 2009/10 data (to/from)

      MVA note that
      “Many of Manchester’s long-distance services are on the West Coast Main Line, with all of these services calling at Stockport to the south of Manchester and continuing to principal destinations. Services to London consist of three trains per hour (tph), with Macclesfield, Stoke, Milton Keynes, Crewe and Wilmslow varyingly served as intermediate stations.”

      HS2 would only link Piccadilly with London (Euston / Old Oak Common) and Birmingham (Interchange or Curzon Street). All passengers have to interchange.

      Leeds – London 4,700 weekday total two-way, 2013 MVA Phase Two Demand and Appraisal model
      Leeds – London 4,300 weekday total two-way, 2012 MVA Phase Two Demand and Appraisal model
      Leeds – London 4,700 ECML RUS 2008
      Unlike the others these are broadly consistent.

      MVA note that
      “The vast majority of Leeds passengers access the station by public transport (15,900 passengers), with those accessing by car (2,500 passengers) generally originating very close to Leeds city centre. Those accessing by public transport originate from a much wider area in all directions of the city centre, as far away as Harrogate and Skipton. The areas of high demand follow metropolitan railway lines into Leeds, for example, from Ilkley and Harrogate. It is worth noting that Wakefield has much easier road access and parking than Leeds so most passengers who use car to access rail prefer it.”

      HS2 only serves Leeds directly. All passengers have to interchange.

      The 2011 Chiltern RUS notes
      “With the nation’s finances severely constrained, any investment in transport infrastructure must deliver real
      benefits for the economy, quality of life and the environment.”


      January 21, 2017 at 7:57 pm

  3. The garden bridge, that other “transport” initiative (modest but equally barmy) is about to fail having sucked up £40m Plus of public money on a vanity project. How much further will HS2 go spending public money on an unnecessary and equally ludicrous scheme? I fear on the day the new “industrial strategy” is launched there’s still a long way to go.

    Simon Carne

    January 23, 2017 at 8:59 am

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