die belebende Bedenkung

West Coast capacity uncrunched

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According to the Department for Transport, the ‘scale of growth’ on the West Coast Main Line between 2008 and 2015 means that “two thirds of the additional inter-city seat capacity provided by the decade-long upgrade is already being utilised”.

What this statement means is not clear, because the total ‘seat capacity provided by the upgrade’, is difficult to establish. A substantial amount of ‘seat capacity’ has come from increasing the number of carriages, or the number of seats on trains, rather than from infrastructure interventions.

  • In 2008, the DfT contracted with Alstom for four new Pendolino 11-car trains (44 carriages) and extension of 31 existing units from nine to eleven carriages (62 carriages).
  • In 2015, 21 nine-car Pendolinos had one of their 1st class carriages converted to standard class (creating a net increase of 2,100 seats).

What is clear, is that significant capacity potential out of Euston remains untapped (without recourse to ‘old-school’ infrastructure improvements, or ‘Digital Railway’).

Consider Figure 3 of the July 2017 Strategic Case for HS2, which gave the ‘current’ intercity West Coast peak hour (5pm – 6pm) capacity out of Euston as 5,700 seats.

Euston rail capacity, July 2017 Strategic Case for HS2

Apparently, seven out of eleven intercity departures in that hour were ‘short trains’, mostly nine-car Pendolinos. The Department for Transport decided against lengthening all Pendolino trainsets to eleven carriages, which suggests that forecast demand did not support the expenditure.

The cost of adding capacity by lengthening short trains, or using higher capacity rolling stock, is, in general, far cheaper than building new lines.

On the Great Western and East Coast lines, the introduction of more space-optimised rolling stock has supported a capacity increase of 28% to 40%, according to IEP train manufacturer Hitachi.

On intercity West Coast, the use of space-optimised rolling stock would allow a ~36% increase, without platform lengthening, or the need for significant lineside interventions.

‘Long distance’ services in
5pm – 6pm peak hour out of Euston (with 11 of 15 fast paths allocated to intercity)
‘Current’ seats
(HS2 July 2017
Strategic Case)
Seating with
26 metre carriages
using full
platform length
1 Birmingham New Street 470a 715d
2 Birmingham New Street 470a 715d
3 Glasgow 591b 715d
4 Glasgow 591b 715d
5 Holyhead 512c 630e
6 Lancaster 470a 715d
7 Liverpool 591b 715d
8 Liverpool 470a 715d
9 Manchester 591b 715d
10 Manchester 470a 715d
11 Manchester 470a 715d
Total 5696 7780
a = Pendolino 9-car | b = Pendolino 11-car | c = Voyager 2 * 5-car | d = IEP 10-car | e = IEP 2 * 5-car
Figures sourced from the Department for Transport

Written by beleben

May 29, 2018 at 9:50 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

One Response

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  1. You might add the point that if you lengthen 9-car sets to 12 car sets you only have to lengthen the platforms of stations where these 12 car sets stop or are then planned to stop.


    May 29, 2018 at 4:16 pm

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