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‘Rail’ readers kept in the dark by fake ‘tweet check’ service

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failogoThe Beleben blog claim that ‘capacity out of Euston on the West Coast Main Line could be increased by simply introducing new rolling stock’ was ‘featured’ in ‘Rail’ magazine’s ‘tweet check service’ on 31 July.

[Tweet Check, Rail magazine, 31 July 2019]

Tweet Check
RAIL’s new service aims to answer your questions, debunk the myths, and get to the unvarnished truth behind some of the most common claims and queries we spot on social media.

‘Rail’ magazine picked on a tweet by Dr Richard Wellings of the Institute of Economic Affairs, which had linked to the claim on the Beleben blog.

Despite the origin of the claim being clearly identifiable, ‘Rail’ misattributed it to Dr Wellings, thereby suggesting that the magazine doesn’t quite understand how twitter works.

(On twitter, people can link to external content which they may or may not have written, and with which they may or may not agree.)

twitter, @Clinnick1, 'Absolutely one for @paul_rail and @RAIL's TweetCheck column. What bilge. #HS2'

[Tweet Check, Rail magazine, 31 July 2019]

Tweet Check

RAIL’s verdict: Richard Wellings, Deputy Director, Academic and Research at the Institute of Economic Affairs, and long-time HS2 sceptic, caused a storm on Twitter on July 21 with his assertion that capacity out of Euston on the West Coast Main Line can be increased by simply introducing new rolling stock, with no need to build HS2. With the WCML by most measures deemed to be the busiest mixed-use railway in Europe, Twitter users responded by telling Wellings to “come back when you’ve done your homework”, while pointing out that even if you could run longer or higher-capacity passenger trains, it would do nothing to release much-needed freight paths.

It would seem that when ‘Rail’ magazine do a ‘tweet check’, that may not mean they are ‘checking facts’, or ‘debunking myths’.

In this case, they were plainly not interested in trying to establish whether the tweet was factually accurate or not. The content of their ‘tweet check’ kept readers in the dark, and amounted to nothing more than excerpts from twitter reactions which happened to align with the magazine’s editorial viewpoint.

Nigel Harris on BBC Inside Out West Midlands, broadcast 6 March 2017

‘Rail magazine’ editor Nigel Harris helped instigate the astroturf ‘Campaign for High Speed Rail’ ran by London PR company Westbourne (now Cicero Communications)

The Beleben blog has certainly done its homework, and on 21 July, republished a table showing that intercity capacity out of Euston could be increased by 36%, without significant infrastructure changes.

[Beleben blog, 21 July 2019]

On the Great Western and East Coast railways, the introduction of more space-optimised rolling stock has supported an intercity 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 in seated capacity in the peak, without the need for platform lengthening, or significant lineside interventions.

It’s no secret that a 260-metre (10-car) IEP train, or Stadler ‘Flirt 200’, could seat around 715 passengers. So, such trains would be compatible with existing platform lengths on West Coast, and the resulting increase in seats in the high pm peak would be around 36%, compared to the ‘current’ seats in the July 2017 HS2 strategic case.

‘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

Obviously, much the same reasoning can be applied to increasing commuter capacity out of Euston, comparing ’12-car Class 350′ against ’10-car Class 730′, or variants of the ’12-car Class 700′ with different seating configurations.

As for the ‘much-needed freight paths’ – mentioned in the ‘verdict’ – the last time the Beleben blog checked, it turned out that half of those on the West Coast route were not used.

Of course, there would be no ‘released capacity’ from HS2 on the cross-London tracks (such as the North London line) traversed by West Coast railfreight. The development of capacity on more suitable through routes — such as Felixstowe to Nuneaton — would cost less than 5% of HS2, yet allow far bigger goods volumes to be transported overall.

Other [curious and contradictory] responses to the original tweet came from @WilliamBarter1 and @WickendenGraham.

@WilliamBarter1 queried how Thameslink-style rolling stock would increase capacity, when it ‘has fewer seats per train than existing’ [?].

twitter, @WilliamBarter1, 'How do you work that one out, Richard, when the new Thameslink-style rolling stock suggested would fewer seats per train than existing?'

While @WickendenGraham thought you would get extra seats, but there’d be no toilets [?].

twitter, @WickendenGraham, 'This is the same person who has previously suggested that the trains used on Thameslink services (class 700) should be used instead of the current WCML trains. A big problem with that is that although your get an extra 67 seats there'd be no loos.'

Needless to say,

  • the distance from Bedford to London (served by Thameslink trains) is not all that different from Milton Keynes to London (served by West Coast commuter trains). So why would Thameslink-style trains not be suitable for Euston commuters?
  • Thameslink trains do have toilets
  • 12-car Thameslink trains have more usable interior space than 12-car Class 350 ones used on West Coast
  • different versions of the same new train can have different internal layouts and amenities
  • the exact seated and overall capacity of a Thameslink-style train would depend on the selected internal layout.

Written by beleben

August 2, 2019 at 11:18 am

Posted in gibberish, HS2

2 Responses

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  1. I have to say that if I had done a hard day’s work creating wealth and value for my company and contributing to the taxable revenue streams I would like to get home by relaxing in a comfortable train especially if doing it five days a week for 30 years or more.The Thameslink class 700 being rather Spartan in appearance with no armrests and lack of elbow room does not work for me.

    David Gaule

    August 4, 2019 at 5:17 pm

  2. Meanwhile no one really appreciates the strategic value of largely under used capacity of the North Downs Line, both as resilience, and a diversionary route for a seriously vulnerable part of the main London-Brighton main line, and delivering freight paths which avoid disrupting South London commuter service paths with long, and slow to accelerate freight trains. The 1924 proposal to connect between Dorking North (now Main) & North Downs would also recognise that 30% of passengers at Deepdene are interchanging with services to Main, and this link could eliminate the need to build a third platform, and other upheavals at Reigate, to accommodate 12 coach trains.

    The major congestion spot would be at Guildford, where a second tunnel would be needed, possibly providing for a grade-separated cross-over.

    At Redhill a connection for direct running to Gatwick, with a fly-over to run through to Tonbridge would be required. With this in place the South London-South Coast area would than have a route to maintain strategic East-West connectivity between the Coast line and lines through Brixton – a vital detail if the Coast line gets blocked, and a useful one to allow for engineering blockades on this route.


    August 5, 2019 at 9:43 pm

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