HS2 and level boarding
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, gov.uk, 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.
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‘.