Failure while it’s cheap
HS2 Ltd cannot tell what “rail passengers will want and need in 2026”. So it ‘needs help‘ from the rolling stock industry to collaborate in a design process “that presents ideas early, allows time for failure while its cheap [sic] and delivers a great end product for people to enjoy.”
[HS2 Ltd, Rolling Stock Industry Event, 27 March 2017]
[Iain Smith:] Obviously trains – we will be looking for a minimum of 54 trains to deliver the initial services. Once we’ve finalised the service patterns for Phases 1 and 2a, some more of the same may be needed. Options will not include the full Phase 2 fleets, which will be the subject of a second procurement.
We may introduce private finance at any time after contract award but until that time, HS2 will remain the owner of the trains. We will also be looking for the manufacturer and their suppliers to maintain the fleet for at least the first 12 years, but with a promise to cover the whole life of the train.
This could be the start of a contract which will last until 2060!
This maintenance will include everything apart from daily servicing and cleaning, delivery of which will be a decision for the Operator. As you would expect, we will want major spares and tools to help keep the fleet in service for our passengers. We will also be looking for the necessary driving simulators and training so the Operator will be able to make full use of the trains.
And, last but certainly not least, we need a delivery partner for the new high speed Depot, ensuring it is fit to support the trains in service. The Washwood Heath Depot site is key to the construction of the main HS2 route. We will therefore be building the Washwood Heath maintenance depot in close co-operation with the Rolling Stock manufacturer. We do expect the manufacturer to fit out the Depot to their needs.
[Tom Williamson:] Robust and precise operation is essential to delivering the capacity and customer experience we’ve promised. That means we’re going to have to automate our railway in a way that hasn’t been done before, certainly on high speed railways. For example, trains will need to split and join on route, a process which currently takes several minutes and is confusing for passengers as trains stop and move multiple times. Technology could allow safe and seamless automation of this process, saving valuable minutes and making the service more intuitive for our customers. Dispatching trains from platforms is another area we are seeking to improve, supporting both the safety and resilience of our railway. The system must be simple and intuitive to all users, including staff.
The fleet is likely to be in operation until the late 2050s. User needs will change during that time, as will the use of the trains. Even on day one, the trains will need to be suited for journeys of anything from 45 minutes London to Birmingham to over 3.5 hours to Scotland. And the design would ideally be adaptable to support changes in use during the week or even during a single day. Spaces that can adapt to different user needs would contribute to delivering an exceptional user-focused service. So how do we deliver spaces for business travellers in the week and for families and groups of leisure travellers at weekends or holidays? How do we deliver the right capacity for bulky luggage on a Sunday evening without sacrificing seats on Monday morning? These are the type of challenges we need you to find solutions to.
How realistic, or sensible, is all this? There seems to be plenty of scope for egg on face.
To give one example: most stations served by HS2 trains would be on the existing (legacy) network.
Their platforms are of varying height, and curvature.
So, how achievable, or cost-effective, is HS2’s ‘requirement’ for ‘level boarding’?