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HS2 ‘released capacity’ claims are mostly bunkum

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West Coast Main Line Coventry corridor (photo: Beleben archive)

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has claimed that by “providing new routes for intercity services, HS2 will free-up space on our existing railways for new commuter, regional and freight services”.

But the available evidence suggests that

  • HS2 would create new passenger capacity – on its own track – between a handful of cities, but most of that capacity would go unused
  • HS2 would release very little capacity on the existing railway
  • there are far more cost-effective ways to increase freight and passenger capacity.

Consider, for example, the existing railway between Birmingham New Street, Hampton-in-Arden, and Coventry. The December 2009 HS2 London – West Midlands technical appendix stated that “the Coventry Corridor [the railway between Birmingham and Coventry] is constrained by being only 2-track, and having a number of intermediate stations. Removing some of the fastest services from this route enables a better use of overall capacity to be made, particularly benefitting the local passengers.”

[Proposal from the London – West Midlands technical appendix, HS2 Ltd, 2009]

[4.3] Services on the Coventry Corridor are re-cast into a more-logical pattern, with Birmingham International and Coventry both being used as turn-back locations. (The current timetable is reliant upon a skip-stop pattern on a number of different services in order to minimize the capacity usage whilst serving the required locations at the desired frequencies. This results in a sub-optimal service pattern for local customers).

The Department for Transport has proposed reducing the existing 3-trains-per-hour New Street to London Euston intercity service to 2 trains per hour, to ‘free up regional capacity’. But those trains serve both Birmingham International (the airport station) and Coventry, and as such, provide a ‘regional service’ in the West Midlands county. (In the same way, Euston to Manchester intercity trains make stops on the Manchester approach, thereby functioning as a ‘regional service’.)

On page 61 of the June 2016 draft West Midlands and Chiltern route study, Network Rail provided a ‘Potential post HS2 service structure on [the] Coventry corridor’, based on

  1. running 2 intercity trains per hour between New Street and Euston, with
  2. four tracking between Stechford and Birmingham International.

This showed that even with HS2, plus four-tracking at a cost of “£175 – 375 million”, the Birmingham to Coventry timetable would still rely on a skip-stop pattern, and still provide a ‘sub-optimal service for local customers’.

If 1 intercity West Coast service per hour between Coventry and Birmingham were reduced by 1 regional train, what would be the actual gain?

If 1 intercity West Coast service per hour between Coventry and Birmingham were replaced by 1 regional train, what would be the actual gain? The stopping pattern in the West Midlands would be the same

On page 38 of the draft study, Network Rail showed an ‘unconstrained’ year-2043 service of three intercity trains per hour between New Street and Euston. Which of course, is the year-2016 frequency.

Written by beleben

November 22, 2016 at 11:39 am

Posted in HS2

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