The United Kingdom’s expertise in high speed rail, should be seen as a ‘potential export sector’, according to the ‘High Speed Rail Leaders’ industry lobby group.
[HSRILG response to the government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, April 2017]
[…] In order to take advantage of these opportunities [in the high value growth sector in the global growth area of high speed rail] we should explore the creation of a “HS2 International” which brings together HSR delivery businesses and the government-owned client body HS2 Ltd to create a public-private partnership to market the UK skill base and experience abroad, offering a whole exportable package to potential customers.
How much credible domestic expertise the UK can present in overseas rail markets, must be open to question. If such expertise existed, then why are large parts of the GB railway network operated by foreign companies, such as Deutsche Bahn, MTR (Hong Kong), and SNCF? And why is virtually all new passenger rolling stock imported?
In 2010 there were around 60,000 Virgin Trains West Coast ‘long distance’ passenger journeys each day on the section of the line south of Rugby, according to the April 2012 HS2 Demand and Appraisal report. There were only around 5,000 VTWC journeys to and from Liverpool, and 10,000 from Manchester.
- is “expected to carry over 300,000 people every day” – with ~250,000 of those journeys involving the trunk between Birmingham interchange (Bickenhill) and London
- ‘would – in the year 2036 – attract
- two thirds of passengers who would otherwise travel on the West Coast Main Line,
- one third of those who would otherwise travel on the Midland Main Line, and
- half of those who would otherwise use the East Coast Main Line.’
How these forecasts were arrived at, has never been explained, and the figures look dubious. It cannot be in the public interest for HS2 Ltd to refuse to provide details about current and forecast travel demand.
In December 2016, HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins told the House of Commons transport committee that high speed rail ‘is a very carbon-efficient way of moving people… If you compare trains with buses they are much more efficient.’
[House of Commons Transport Committee, Oral evidence: High Speed Two, HC 746, 12 December 2016]
Q88. [Chair:] Will High Speed 2 result in a reduction of carbon in the environment?
[Sir David Higgins:] It should, because it is a very carbon-efficient way of moving people. The railway can move 18,000 people an hour so it is very carbon efficient in terms of delivery. I remember seeing the stats. If you compare trains with buses — obviously it depends on the occupancy of the trains themselves — they are much more efficient.
Q89. [Chair:] What is the latest estimate for carbon reduction?
[Sir David Higgins:] I do not know that. I do not want to tell you a figure off the top of my head. I will get my experts behind me to write to you about that.
Q90. [Chair:] We would like to have that information, please.
So has the HS2 chairman provided evidence that High Speed 2 would
- result in a reduction of carbon in the environment
- be much more carbon efficient than buses — such as National Express, and Megabus?
In December 2012, Greengauge 21 stated that claims about trains leaving Euston in the evening peak being only half full were ‘wrong’.
While this is true for Virgin Trains (52% seats occupied),
(So, Greengauge 21 accepted it was true, as far as intercity was concerned.)
Network Rail has pointed out that London Midland – which runs the commuter services – is at 94% capacity, and traffic levels are growing at 4% a year.
If London Midland was at ‘94% capacity’ around 2012, and traffic levels grew at 4% a year, surely that would mean it was at ‘97.7% capacity’ a year later, and ‘101.6% capacity’, a year after that.
But according to London Travel Watch, London Midland’s “passengers in excess of capacity” (PiXC) count in 2014 was lower than in 2013.
The statement that London Midland was ‘at 94% capacity’ looks like misleading nonsense.
There is enormous scope for increasing commuter capacity out of Euston (by running longer trains, intensifying the use of the slow lines, etc).
Setting new standards in customer experience and inclusivity ‘requires HS2 Ltd to deliver a step-free route from street to seat’.
But would that ‘inclusivity’ include stations on the legacy network — such as Newcastle upon Tyne, York, Liverpool Lime Street, Stafford, Carlisle Citadel, and Sheffield Midland?
How double deck HS2 captive trains — as proposed by Alstom — could ever be fully ‘step-free’, is difficult to imagine. Access to seats on the lower deck might be possible without steps, but would probably entail steep ramping from vestibule level.
An explosive leaked document exposes how a national lack of funding has forced Britain’s rail bosses to cancel a vast array of track upgrades in a bid to save millions of pounds, The Independent reported.
[UK rail passengers ‘endangered’ by biggest spending cuts since 2008 financial crash, Joe Watts, Andy Grice, The Independent, 31 March 2017]
The scale of axed projects has led to serious concerns over track safety and also threatens devastating consequences for the rail industry with contractors “hardest hit”.
But it is only the latest blow in a broader darkening picture for Britain’s public services – with the NHS effectively ditching operation waiting time targets, defence chiefs considering downsizing the Royal Marines and schools facing the deepest cuts since the 1980s.
The Independent was passed a letter penned by senior Network Rail official Ben Brooks in which he soberly sets out the “testing times” up to 2019, the remainder of the organisation’s “control period 5”.
Mr Brooks wrote: “Because of significant overspends in some areas, including some enhancement schemes and the fact that the routes are more expensive to run than predicted, there is simply not enough money left in CP5 to continue as we have been.
He adds: “The last time the track renewals industry had a cost challenge of this magnitude, 7-8 years ago, the supply chain suffered massively (we lost a principal contractor and many second tier suppliers)… this is going to be a tough couple of years for the whole industry.”
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’?