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The Right Lines Charter, part three

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It's complicated

High Speed Rail, Next steps for the new Secretary of State‘ has been published by The Right Lines Charter on its website

Imminent decision on HS2 needs to be part of wider transport strategy

Posted on 25 November, 2011 by Karen Gardham

A broad coalition of campaigning groups is launching a new report on High Speed Rail, setting out what still needs to be done by the Government to meet its commitment to local communities and the environment.

When the Right Lines Charter, supported by environmental, transport, heritage and legal charities with over 600 combined years of involvement in the planning of major infrastructure, was launched in April 2011, then Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond said that ‘[these] respected organisations…should be assured that the Government is already acting on their points of concern.’ Over half a year later, on the verge of the Government announcing its decision on High Speed 2 (HS2), these organisations are launching a report to set out for the benefit of the new Secretary of State, Justine Greening, what still needs to be done.

Karen Gardham, Campaign Manager for the Right Lines Charter, says: “The two transport policies the Government is clear about are that they want High Speed Rail, but they do not want a third runway at Heathrow. We strongly support the commitment to shifting intercity transport from air and road to rail, but so far HS2 has been developed in a vacuum. If HS2 is to meet its environmental or economic potential, it needs to be planned properly within a long-term national transport strategy that cuts carbon.”

Besides setting out the need for such a strategy by 2014, before phase two of HS2 is formally consulted on, the report outlines how changes are needed to the way the future is forecasted and how communities are engaged in consultation on major infrastructure proposals. It also calls for better recognition and protection of the value of the natural and historic environment. The groups are calling for the lessons from previous schemes, such as High Speed 1, to be learned from.

Karen Gardham added: “Justine Greening has shown her environmental credentials and eye for detail during the successful challenge to the third runway at Heathrow. Now she has been promoted to run the Department for Transport, we’re hoping she will once again secure the best outcome for communities and the country by improving the planning of High Speed Rail.”

and high speed rail lobbying company Greengauge 21 has announced that three of the Right Lines Charter signatories have commissioned it to look at high speed rail and carbon emissions.

Carbon impacts of HS2: Interim Report

2 December, 2011

A research study into the potential full carbon impacts of HS2 has been commissioned from Greengauge 21 by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). This report sets out the interim findings, highlighting the issues that we have identified as likely to be significant in the carbon case for HS2.

The report is an interim document ahead of the full results of the research, which will be published in 2012. In the next phase of the study will examine the knock-on effects on other modes of transport, examining for the first time the carbon impacts of freeing up capacity on existing railways for more rail freight or local passenger services, and identify the policy measures that will have the most impact on the carbon emissions for high speed rail.

Notes to Editors

1. The research study, The Carbon Impacts of HS2, is being carried out by Greengauge 21, a not-for-profit research organisation on high-speed rail. Greengauge 21 has in turn commissioned various experts in the environmental and transport fields and coördinated the research programme.

2. The Carbon Impacts of HS2 was commissioned by Campaign for Better Transport, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The groups are all signatories of The Right Lines Charter, which was launched in April 2011 and which ten other organisations have now signed up to. It sets out four principles for ‘doing High Speed Rail well’, including highlighting the need for high-speed rail to be planned and justified as a strategic element of a sustainable, near zero carbon transport system.

3. The Carbon Impacts of HS2 is sponsored by Siemens, Systra and the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC).

However, the ‘interim’ report doesn’t seem to be consistent with the Right Lines charter itself:

A new strategic and transparent approach is needed for High Speed Rail in an increasingly uncertain future. Assumptions about future transport policy and trends need to be exposed to scrutiny, taking account of possible technological changes as well as changes to the cost of different forms of travel.


Written by beleben

December 2, 2011 at 11:47 am

Geoff Inskip and HS2 “released capacity” (short version)

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Full version

Centro‘s Geoff Inskip claims that HS2 would release “huge capacity” on the West Midlands rail network, for more and better local services.

But the sum total of its capacity relief is: removing *one* Pendolino path per hour from the Birmingham – Coventry line.

Written by beleben

August 24, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Economy, capacity, scalability, and resilience

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Evergreen++ | Coventry | Milton Keynes

Chiltern intercity to the West Midlands, West Coast Main Line, Varsity Line


In previous blogposts, I discussed the transfer of London – West Midlands intercity rail traffic to the Chiltern Main Line. The diagram above shows the reconfiguration of services supporting this ‘Evergreen++’ concept – which is scalable, resilient, environment-friendly, and less expensive than HS2.

Unlike Atkins’ Scenario C, Evergreen++

  • maximises the use of the Chiltern Main Line through the use of long trains – longer, in fact, than those currently operating between Euston, Birmingham, and Wolverhampton
  • uses Snow Hill, not Moor Street, as the Birmingham stopping point
  • uses Paddington, not Marylebone, as the London stopping point
  • allows for a very high capacity future London to Birmingham service (using a station at Old Oak Common as an alternative to reconstruction of Paddington)
  • does not include cruft – such as a £3.44 billion tunnel between Seer Green and Saunderton
  • provides the potential for through (no-change-of-train) service between London and Black Country towns such as Walsall and West Bromwich.

The Black Country accounts for around half of the population of the West Midlands Urban Area. Because there is no change of train needed for Black Country towns, Evergreen++ is able to compete with HS2 on journey times to London.


The Evergreen++ concept is about providing versatile, resilient, and interoperable infrastructure. The upgrade and electrification of the Coventry to Leamington Spa railway maximises realisation of these objectives.

However, it’s likely that the West Coast Main Line could continue to be used for Coventry services, by splitting a future interregio-type service on the WCML, at Rugby. Intercity trains would not run from London to Birmingham on the WCML, however; their paths would be freed for other use.

Milton Keynes

On the West Coast Main Line, upgrade works (e.g. junction grade separation) could robustify capacity between Euston and Milton Keynes.

But it’s also possible to provide a second access to southern Milton Keynes, by extending passenger services from Marylebone beyond Aylesbury, using part of the Oxford – Cambridge Varsity Line.

Opportunity costs of HS2

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Economics students will mostly be familiar with the idea of opportunity cost: ‘The cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action, or the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action.’

Given the scale of the funding required, it’s apparent that High Speed Two (£17+ billion for phase one alone – just between London and the West Midlands) would crowd out other public transport schemes. Unlike HS2, these schemes would benefit the whole of the country.

Put another way, the opportunity costs of HS2 are immense.

What could be funded with £17,000,000,000?

Although HS2 wouldn’t go anywhere near south Wales, Jim Steer, of high speed rail lobbyists Greengauge 21, claimed

“When you hear about the debate about Heathrow and its connection to High Speed 2, then if there is a station at Heathrow that is a fantastic opportunity to give you a lower cost network to Bristol and South Wales.”

The £17 billion for HS2 phase one doesn’t even include the cost of a station at Heathrow; in 2010, the cost of routeing HS2 into Heathrow was estimated at £2 to £4 billion extra – which is more than the estimated cost of electrification all the way from Swansea to London.

Mr Steer also claimed that for north Wales,

“There is no reason why you couldn’t operate trains on a route to the north-west on the North Wales coast,” he said. “It is not going to be the best return, but it is worth putting your hands up for it.”

and for central Wales

“It is perfectly feasible to look at operating trains on the West Coast mainline and onwards to say Wrexham, or even Aberystwyth. Those are not ludicrous propositions and they can be facilitated through HS2.”

All of which, of course, is absolute drivel. Big fixed-formation HS2 ‘classic compatible’ trains are not going to be a viable proposition on Crewe to Holyhead, or the Midlands to Aberystwyth. If HS2 is funded, there’d be precious little money left for any transport improvements within Wales.

Building high speed rail lines cannot itself alter the economic competitiveness of a particular area. For example:

  • Naples has a high speed rail line to Rome, and northern Italy. But it hasn’t turned the Mezzogiorno into Europe’s boom region.
  • Thanet, in Kent, remains one of the most depressed areas in England, although it’s served by direct High Speed One services to London.

West Midlands connectivity bingo

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A favourite buzzword of Centro, the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive, is ‘connectivity’. So it’s unfortunate that it has spent £70,000 of public cash on myopic lobbying for High Speed Two, whose two West Midlands stations would be poorly connected to existing transport links and urban centres, providing no benefits to most of the populace.

High Speed Two and West Midlands boroughs

High Speed Two and West Midlands boroughs

For a London to West Midlands journey, the headline time benefit provided by High Speed Two would be (at most) just over 30 minutes. But its dead end Birmingham station at Curzon Street would be for high speed trains only, and the HS2 plan does not provide for through trains to other West Midlands boroughs. Curzon Street is on the southern periphery of the city centre, and not particularly well located with respect to the central business district.

Depending on the locale, HS2’s West Midlands time advantage over the situation as-is, would be a lot less than 30 minutes, zero, or negative (e.g. for Coventry). On inspecting the population distribution and transport links, it turns out that HS2 would provide no measurable time advantage for most West Midlands residents; as the additional (transfer-to and waiting-)time at Curzon Street exceeds half an hour, HS2’s higher speed is nullified.

The site of the HS2 ‘Birmingham interchange’ at Bickenhill, is in Solihull borough, but difficult to reach from Solihull town centre.


The train operating company on the existing Chiltern Line has progressed various upgrades under the names ‘Evergreen 1’, ‘Evergreen 2’ and ‘Evergreen 3’. A further development to ‘Evergreen++’, with express electric trains, would provide Black Country, Solihull, and most Birmingham residents, with a quicker service than HS2, without the latter’s outsize carbon footprint.

  • London to Birmingham journey about 80-90 minutes
  • Principal Birmingham station: Snow Hill
  • Principal London station: Paddington (reconfigured, following diversion of services into Crossrail)
  • Through services (no change of train)
    • London to Walsall
    • London to West Bromwich and Wolverhampton
    • London to Stourbridge
Possible Chiltern Line service to West Midlands boroughs
Borough Station Note
Dudley Stourbridge Junction Is close to Brierley Hill
Sandwell West Bromwich By converting Midland Metro trackbed
back to railway use
Wolverhampton Wolverhampton By reclaiming the Great Western
route into Wolverhampton
Walsall Walsall By constructing the Benson Road curve
between the Great Western line and the Soho loop

The populous (western) part of Solihull borough would also get a quicker-than-HS2 service, negating need for a road journey to Bickenhill, or a train into Birmingham.

Evergreen++ in the West Midlands

Evergreen++ in the West Midlands


HS2 Ltd has given a time of 49 minutes for a Birmingham to London journey. But, by leveraging through trains and better distributed stopping points, Evergreen++ could outperform HS2 for most people and destinations in the West Midlands. The only locations where HS2 has an advantage are the localities adjacent to Curzon Street and Bickenhill, but the isochrones are remarkably close to these stations.

The Snow Hill site is unencumbered by platform length or curvature issues, and its location, within the traditional city centre, is nearer the central business district. In principle, it would be possible to expand the station, as and when necessary. The principal obstacle is Centro, which wants to run its ill-starred Midland Metro tramway along a ramp built right against the east side of the station. This tramway is the principal impediment to improving transport links in the wider region. About five kilometres to the north, Midland Metro blocks construction of a chord to the Soho loop railway. This chord – the Benson Road curve – would unlock part of the potential of the Great Western route through Snow Hill, for northbound traffic.

Chiltern Line 'Evergreen++' concept

Chiltern Line 'Evergreen++' concept

In avoiding use of any part of the West Coast Main Line trunk from Euston to Staffordshire via Nuneaton, this upgrade would preserve options such as running some trains from London/Leamington to Birmingham, via Coventry.

Great Western Big Spark

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Compared with its counterparts in France  and Germany, Britain’s railway has a very limited degree of network electrification. Only two domestic true main lines – the West Coast Main Line and the East Coast Main Line – have electric traction. Otherwise, electrification is restricted to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (“High Speed One”), and some commuter routes, mainly in East Anglia, Greater Glasgow, and south of the river Thames.

In France, electric trains reach every region, including branch lines to small towns, such as Les Sables d’Olonne (population about 16,000).

Electrification was pursued vigorously in West and East Germany, with the latter producing more than four times as many electric locomotives as Britain.

Modest plans for extending electrification to the parts of the Great Western system (London to Swansea, Newbury, and Oxford) were announced by the Labour government in 2009, but scaled back by the coalition government.

Labour’s Great Western electrification proposal did not include the main line to Devon and Cornwall, or anywhere north of Oxford. So their rolling stock strategy entailed buying Intercity Express Project (IEP) trains from Hitachi in Japan. These tragically misnamed “Super Express” units were to operate off the electric wires where available, but carry diesel engines and battery packs for the rest of the journey. The diesel engines would also have to run on electrified sections, providing “hotel” power, and extra traction.

As well as being complex and energy inefficient, the IEP would also offer poor value for money. Despite this, there appeared to be no analysis of other options, such as a ‘Big Spark’ electrification of the principal lines to south west England and south Wales encompassing the lines in the 2009 scheme, and also

  • the London to West Midlands Chiltern line, via High Wycombe
  • Newbury to Penzance
  • Bristol to Taunton
  • the East West line (Oxford to Bedford, and the connection with the Chiltern line at Bicester)
  • Reading to Basingstoke

Compared with IEP, this approach would allow more economy in rolling stock procurement, with the use of essentially off-the shelf electric locomotives and carriages. The carbon footprint of accelerating tons of IEP deadweight (batteries and diesel engines) tens of thousands of times over a thirty or forty year lifespan would be avoided. An added bonus would be all-electric haulage of freight for many flows, such as Southampton to Birmingham.

Great Western expanded electrification concept

Written by beleben

January 24, 2011 at 1:01 am