die belebende Bedenkung

May the farce be with you

with 2 comments


Prime minister Theresa May wanted to cancel the HS2 project, but was told it was ‘too late’ to do so, claimed Lord Framlingham in a House of Lords debate on 31 January.

[House of Lords, HS2 LWM Bill, 2017-01-31]

[Lord Framlingham:] I have followed this issue [HS2] carefully since it arrived in this House. I spoke against it at Second Reading, during the Queen’s Speech debate and in Committee. During all those stages I heard nothing but criticism of the project from every corner of the House, but noble Lords were still, for some reason, reluctant to speak against it in principle. So we arrive at the situation we face today — all the scheme’s credibility has long since gone, yet it is still bowling along with a momentum all of its own. It has been compared to Alice in Wonderland or the emperor’s new clothes. One journalist described it as the “zombie railway” that refuses to die. How has it got so far?

[…] I have it on good authority that the Prime Minister, when she assumed office, wanted to abandon the scheme but was told that she could not because it was too late. It is never too late. There is an old adage about throwing good money after bad and although it may well be necessary to write off considerable moneys already spent, these sums have to be compared with the billions of pounds that would be spent in the future, not to mention the 10 years it is going to take to build, the massive disruption to Euston station and the surrounding area in London and, of course, the devastating effect it will have on our countryside.

In the debate, the Baron of Camden Town took the opportunity to repeat his stock wibble about ‘open heart surgery’, ‘upgrading the West Coast main line cost £10 billion’, and so forth.

[Andrew Adonis:] Upgrading a pre-Victorian railway is a very difficult task. It has been described to me as like performing open-heart surgery on a moving patient. It is also very expensive and complex. The completion of the last upgrade of the west coast main line, which produced only a fraction of the additional capacity that HS2 will produce, cost, in pre-2010 prices, £10 billion — in post-2010 prices that figure would be significantly higher. Of that £10 billion, £1 billion alone was for paying the railway company not to operate services at all in compensation for the disruption. For HS2, with the scale of the work that would be required, the proportionate figure would be larger still.

'AJNTSA'If an alternative scenario to HS2 were to be carried out — upgrading the existing railway — the estimate that was made for me by officials in 2010, and which has been done again since, is that you would have to spend half as much as on HS2 for a quarter of the capacity, and of course the sum is a moving target because of construction costs and inflation.

I should add that the alternative scheme involved the complete rebuilding of Euston station, which will need to be done anyway. The great monstrosity that is Euston station was built for half its current capacity in the 1960s. I am glad to say, for those with a sense of history, that the Euston arch will come back when the station is rebuilt. The scheme also required hugely difficult and expensive work that would involve weeks on end of closures to realign tracks and signalling, extend platforms at all the main stations going north from Euston and so on. 'That's so informative, Andrewzzz'Those of your Lordships who used the west coast main line when the last work was being conducted will know that the disruption was chronic for the best part of a decade. We would be looking at something significantly worse than that if we were to seek to modernise the west coast main line on the scale required for the additional capacity.

It is not just the west coast main line that would be affected. In order to provide that 25% extra capacity, the Chiltern line would need to be substantially four-tracked throughout.


According to the Department for Transport, the ‘£9 billion WCML renewal and modernisation programme’ included £2.5 billion of investment on upgrades and £6.5 billion on renewals. But Andrew Adonis claims £10 billion was spent on upgrades

On intercity West Coast, it would be possible to increase Standard class capacity by a lot more than “25%”, without doing any ‘disruptive infrastructure work’ at all (e.g. by replacing each 9-car and 11-car Pendolino with a 10-car Class 800 variant).

On Chiltern, the “quick ‘n easy” no-disruption capacity uplift would also be a great deal more than 25%, if short loco-hauled trains and suchlike were replaced by full-length multiple units.

Judging from photographs, the Euston “arch” (propylaeum) was one of the least attractive parts of the old station. And when asked about claims like ‘the 1960s Euston was built for half its current capacity’, HS2 Ltd stated they held no information. If anyone can give a reference to an official 1960s British Railways statement about the design capacity of the station, the Beleben blog would be interested to see it.

In spite of Lord Framlingham’s efforts, the HS2 LWM Bill passed its Third Reading in the Lords. So HS2 continues to run on empty.

Written by beleben

February 2, 2017 at 11:07 am

Posted in HS2, Politics

2 Responses

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  1. I’d note that a massive cost reduction to deliver a 4 track high speed railway would be delivered by using the planned for (in 1906 -110 years ago) high speed route with Berne Gauge clearances and (until recently?) the Parliamentary Powers, and most of the land required to do this.

    In 1962 the main and fastest route to Birmingham from London was from Paddington, and a concession permitted the trials of the Class 47 prototype to run flat-out with the heavier trailing loads of the day over the jointed, semaphore signalled route. Notably on one run the train passed through Bicester at 105mph, and ran for several miles averaging 100mph.

    Translating the regular timetabled performance of current trains with current signalling on ECML and WCML to the GC/GW joint line, a 55-60 minute London-Birmingham journey would be possible, via Banbury, the demonstrate now, if concessions were – as in 1962 (and later for bogie testing at up to 150mph on ECML) permitted. Two routes can be ‘proved’ – Marylebone-Birmingham (noting that a Paddington or Euston-Birmingham service would be slightly faster, and a St Pancras -Birmingham service would be deliverable by making a very short connection at West Hampstead through (or under) an area currently used as a car park.

    The GC/GW route has a mothballed grade separated Y junction in a near ideal place (Ashenden) where a restored route (most of the wayleave remains as land form) would deliver a joint corridor route between London and the Midlands with 12 tracks, and these would be linked Buckingham-Bletchley-Bedford..(Cambridge-Felixstowe)/Wigston-Nuneaton and Buckingham-Rugby-Nuneaton. Reclaiming a link route on the St Albans Abbey Line, would provide a connection even further South, and a new 2-way connection at Wembley would deliver a flexibility to facilitate major works by diverting Euston services to Marylebone and potentially St Pancras. Restoring a high speed line South of Northolt would also put Paddington in the frame so that a major shut-down of Paddington or Euston can be managed by diverting some services appropriately.

    A key factor to improve Euston would be to remove the ‘churn’ of commuter traffic transfers between Mainline and Tube and the matching conflicts between DC Watfords and local LM services with long distance trains on the station approaches. Crossrail 2 needs to be Euston-Tottenham Court Road-Charing Cross-Waterloo, (4Km of tunnel and connection through redevelopment of Elizabeth House) with LOROL services taking over the local stops Waterloo-Clapham Junction, and extending via E Putney to Wimbledon*. The current services operated by Class 350 which are ex Class 450 could also run through to deliver say Milton Keynes to Reading or Bedford to Basingstoke with the further options of ‘Dover Line’ destinations, and the increased capacity from having a through platform route in Central London. The DC’s and locals could use some of the existing grade-separation at Primrose Hill (Camden Junction) and track the main corridor until diverging West to deliver a full interchange connection with Euston Square (at last) and possibly Gower Street as well. Charing Cross might be vacated at the current platform level, to convert into a valuable public/commercial space a la Gare d’Orsay. Not forgetting that we already have some part completed tunnels on the right alignment from the 1930’s Underground improvement works. *4 active plus 2 tracks/trackbeds Clapham Junction-Wandsworth Town, and requires 2 added platforms on ‘flyover’ at station to connect with viaduct to E Putney – there are often passengers left behind Putney-Waterloo in both directions at peak times, additional LOROL trains would be useful here. This link would also provide a valuable parallel core connection to the current Thameslink when engineering works/disruption closes the one of them – Wimbledon, Blackfriars-Charing Cross, Euston-St Pancras St Albans-Watford and Bedford-Bletchley as transfer points.


    February 2, 2017 at 12:32 pm

  2. A British Rail document concerning Euston station from 1968 has been located. However it does not provide specific data on the numbers of passengers for which it was designed. Instead it says: “Inside is the spacious main concourse ……………….. It was planned to accommodate, without crowding or congestion, the maximum number of passengers likely to use the station at peak periods”. see PDF attachment

    On 8th September 2015, Simon Kirby (at the time CEO of HS2 Ltd) said: “It [Euston] now caters for around 42 million passengers a year – more than double the design capacity of the current station which was built in 1968”.


    February 3, 2017 at 12:06 pm

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