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The capacity case for not building HS2

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Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has delayed a decision on whether the government will go ahead with the HS2 rail line by stressing the problem was about capacity rather than speed and making clear he was examining alternatives (the Guardian reported).

To see how capacity uplifts are not dependent on spending £100 bn (?) on HS2, one might consider the example of the commuter services into Euston operated by London Northwestern Railway (previously London Midland).

The November 2015 West Coast Main Line ‘Demand and Capacity Pressures’ (DaCP) report (produced to promote the case for HS2), claimed that the high speed line would enable morning peak (Standard class) commuter capacity into Euston to be increased from 20,234 passengers (in December 2014) to 41,103.

DfT, Demand and Capacity Pressures, Nov 2015, WM franchise, am peak capacity into Euston

But the breakdown of the December 2014 morning peak train service (not given in DaCP) showed how much capacity went unused, apparently for want of rolling stock.

Euston, LM am peak commuter weekday train capacities, Dec 2014
 
As can be seen, in the high peak (8 am – 9 am), there were thirteen commuter trains into Euston, but in the hour before that, only seven. This suggests six peak paths went unused.

And in the 9 am – 10 am period, five paths appear to have gone unused.

Another obvious feature of the December 2014 timetable is the extensive use of short trains.

By operating more ‘full length’ trains, and taking up unused paths in the shoulder peak, Euston commuter capacity could be more than doubled. The “41,103 with-HS2′ figure from DaCP could be matched, without building one yard of HS2.
 
The Euston commuter service is to be re-equipped from ~2021 with Bombardier 5-car Class 730 trains with increased capacity. A 10-car dense pack Class 730 train should provide around 852 seats, and accommodate ~430 standees (1282 total).

West Midlands Franchise,
Class 730 5-car capacity (tbc)
Seats Standing Total
Dense pack version 426 215 641
Standard version 368 201 569
2018-12-21

 
While the stations south of Northampton are already mostly set up for 10-car Class 730 trains, that is not the case elsewhere, such as on the Birmingham – Birmingham International – Coventry section.

In the view of the Beleben blog, platform lengthening north of Northampton is a much lower cost and more attractive capacity proposition than HS2.

Other relatively low-cost capacity options would entail constructing diveunder crossovers between the fast and slow tracks to the south (and perhaps the north) of Milton Keynes, and equipping commuter fast services using these diveunders with 200 km/h rolling stock.

Written by beleben

January 22, 2020 at 11:57 am

Posted in HS2

One Response

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  1. Completion of the E-W rail link PLUS the designed, costed, and funded (but blocked by TfL) Croxley link can deliver a parallel route between Watford Junction & Bletchley, enabling long blockades of WCML which enable passenger transfer via this as ONE option.

    A further option will also be available via Bedford and MML, which can be made more accessible by restoring 2Km of railway between How Wood and London Colney on MML, to run the St Albans-Watford services in to St Albans City. This move can eliminate 2 contentious level crossings (with 10mph PSR) relocate Park Gate Station to a location with 2 bus routes, and proper access to a public road, close How Wood (no road access, no car park!) and open a long promised station at Knapsbury – connected to the A414 London orbital road, serving London Colney, and at the opposite end of Cottonmill Lane to St Albans Abbey Station. This should enable faster trains, and better track layouts between St Albans and Watford, sufficient to deliver a 30 minute frequency service that connects with services at St Albans City and Watford Junction.

    North of Bletchley, with the electrification of MML to Leicester, plus the link to Nuneaton, the facility to by pass the WCML between Bletchley and Nuneaton drops in to place – electrify Nuneaton-Birmingham* as part of a rolling package of work for a smaller team taking up smaller packages of work, and you get a steady delivery of a resilient network that enables long blockades, whilst maintaining a rail service with minimal extended journey times. *Further packages could include Coventry-Nuneaton (enabling 2 routes Rugby-Nuneaton, and the ability to run around a blockade at Birmingham International via Coleshill) – then Lichfield TV-Burton for an extended Cross-City service which offers resilience on the Derby-Birmingham corridor. All building up a flexible network that enables long blockades to deliver work and available paths.

    d9015

    January 22, 2020 at 4:50 pm


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