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Posts Tagged ‘capacity

‘Not necessarily borne out’

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Simon Kirby — who became the nation’s highest paid civil servant when he was appointed chief executive of HS2 Ltd last year on a £750,000 a year salary — argues that the “perception that [overseas high speed rail networks] are lower cost” is not necessarily borne out (wrote the FT’s Gill Plimmer).

[“Battle over HS2 ‘gravy’ train intensifies”, Financial Times, 1 Feb 2015, (paywall)]

[…] Nevertheless, he has — at the Treasury’s behest — commissioned a year-long study that will compare the costs of high-speed internationally and look at lessons to be drawn.

“Not necessarily borne out”? Mr Kirby must believe the public were ‘borne’ yesterday. High speed rail cost benchmarking (presented by HS2 chief engineer Andrew McNaughton) HS2 and HS1 costs (David Higgins, from 'HS2 Plus')

The FT story also included a couple of diagrams which surely encapsulate the absurdity of the entire HS2 project (reproduced below).

Rail journeys to and from London, and all-GB rail journeys (Financial Times)

Rail journeys to and from London, and all-GB rail journeys (Financial Times)

As can be seen, Manchester — London accounted for about 0.2% of the total number of journeys made on GB national rail in 2013. For Leeds, Sheffield, etc, the volumes are even smaller. The idea that spending £50,000,000,000 on one very small part of the travel market could ‘rebalance the economy’, or address a so-called ‘capacity crunch’, is too silly for words.

Written by beleben

February 2, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Clearly, nearly, twice

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Written by beleben

November 20, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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HS2 and valuation of additional capacity

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Although ‘additional rail capacity’ was cited as one of the justifications for building HS2 during Gordon Brown’s time as prime minister, it is only recently that the argument has been emphasised by coalition ministers. Evidently, the HS2 Ltd public relations machine realised that talk about getting to Birmingham 30 20 minutes quicker had failed to achieve cut-through outside the world of train enthusiasts.

Although the message has changed, in the October 2013 iteration of the HS2 economic case, speed — in the form of time savings to business users — is more important than ever. The underlying Adonis design of the Y network, which has not changed, sacrifices capacity (and connectivity) for speed between the Four HS2 Cities (London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds).

Increasing national rail capacity could be done without spending £50 billion on a project whose trains would not run until 2026. And in many cases, little more is involved than the purchase of additional rolling stock.

In the West Midlands, transport authority Centro has spread misinformation linking HS2 to local capacity augmentation, but there is no connection. In no way is HS2 relevant to increasing rail capacity between Wolverhampton, Walsall, Stourbridge, Lichfield, Redditch, and Birmingham. The only released capacity from HS2 stage one would be on the Coventry line, and at New Street station itself (platform occupancy). In both cases, the relief is not significant.

Network Rail’s May 2011 West Midlands and Chilterns Route Utilisation Strategy gave some insights into the problem of capacity augmentation. Even where pouring concrete is not involved, the benefits of de-crowding investments are often judged as not being worthwhile, or not implementable for want of rolling stock. Here are a couple of examples.

Example 1

[Network Rail, West Midlands and Chilterns Route Utilisation Strategy]

Option 10 – Train lengthening on long distance services between Nottingham and Birmingham New Street/Cardiff
Concept: Lengthen the busiest morning and evening peak A) Nottingham – Birmingham New Street – Cardiff central and B) Nottingham – Birmingham New Street services by one car each
Conclusion: The results of the analysis indicated that crowding on the Cardiff to Nottingham services is mainly a localised issued between Tamworth and Birmingham New Street in the peak hours, although there are some services that are overcrowded from as far out as Burton-on Trent. Reducing localised crowding by lengthening the long distance Cardiff Central – Birmingham New Street – Nottingham services incurs significant mileage-related cost and lengthening the
Nottingham – Birmingham New Street services is a more cost effective solution. However with the assumption that the lengthening unit is in operation throughout the day, the option would offer poor value for money. Both options 1 and 2 are not recommended as the operating cost is higher than the level of benefits generated by the options.

Example 2

Assessment of Option 15a, Lengthening of Arriva Trains Wales peak services between Shrewsbury and Birmingham International
Concept: Lengthen two morning and two evening peak Arriva Trains Wales services between Shrewsbury
and Birmingham International
Conclusion: A medium value for money business case exists to lengthen two morning and two evening
services by one vehicle each. This option is recommended for implementation as soon as rolling stock becomes available.

Written by beleben

December 1, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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HS2 energy waste and load factor

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As well as precluding cost-effective freight operation, the severe gradients of Britain’s proposed HS2 high speed railway would exacerbate the energy inefficiency of its trains. Some proponents of HS2 have argued that the effects of high energy consumption could be offset by increasing the load factor. In other words, if a high speed train consumed 50% more energy but carried 50% more passengers, the passenger-km energy metric would be the same as a conventional train.

In practice, it is difficult to see how HS2 could compensate for higher energy consumption by increasing the load factor. Because of the large size of HS2 trains, and the limited number of places served, even matching the load factor of the legacy system trains would pose substantial difficulties.

As well as wasting path capacity north of the Midlands, the HS2 Y network configuration would present further difficulties for load factor efficiency. In the hourly service pattern proposed in January 2013, three of the six ‘Birmingham to London’ services would actually run from the north of England, with their “Birmingham” calling point being Bickenhill parkway (called ‘Birmingham Interchange’ by HS2 Ltd).

On such trains, there would bound to be a mismatch between the number of people wishing to travel between northern England and the Midlands, and between Bickenhill and London. So, at best, seat capacity would be unused one side of Bickenhill, or the other.

Each empty HS2 train seat would represent a weight of 0.85 tonnes or thereabouts. In the classic network, the ‘carting air long distances’ problem does not really arise, because the West Midlands intercity trains originate in the area itself. Furthermore, the lower speeds of classic trains means that the energy waste associated with empty seats is much less of an issue.

Written by beleben

April 5, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Observations on HS2 load factor, part two

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Part one

According to HS2 Ltd

in 2043 approximately 136,000 passengers would travel on HS2 each day (46.2 million each year) on the section between Birmingham Interchange and Old Oak Common

and the company says eighteen 1,100-passenger trains could run in each direction in an hour. So, on the busiest section of the Y network, quotidian (14-hours) seat utilisation would be (136000 / 2) / (1100 * 18 * 14) = 25%.

On the spurs, and legs north of Birmingham, the figure would be even lower.

Written by beleben

February 10, 2013 at 11:20 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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An illustrative Chiltern RP6 service pattern

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HS2 Ltd’s plans for a high speed line would only provide two embarkation points in the West Midlands, with one of those being a parkway. By contrast, the RP6 concept would enable travel to London by fast train from all seven West Midlands boroughs.

An illustrative RP6 service pattern with Coventry served from Chiltern

In the illustrative RP6 standard hour service pattern above, 3 West Midlands intercity trains would be routed via the Chiltern Main Line, with Black Country boroughs being directly served.


1. To reach Walsall and Wolverhampton, trains would be routed over the Soho loop, via a connection at Benson Road.
2. The Midland Metro tramway between Birmingham and West Bromwich would be reconverted to heavy rail, allowing regional and intercity trains to access the heart of the area.
3. ‘Birmingham Airport’ station is currently named ‘Birmingham International’.
4. Chiltern intercity trains would not serve Moor Street.
5. If trains terminated at Old Oak Common instead of Paddington, there would be no effect on Great Western Main Line pathing.
6. Interregio London Midland trains routed via Northampton would be unaffected.

Switching West Midlands intercity trains to Chiltern would enable a step change in efficiency on the West Coast route from Euston to North West England, with London Midland commuter capacity benefiting immediately.

Written by beleben

February 3, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Y HS2 capacity utilisation would be inefficient

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HS2 Y network concept, 2012According to HS2 Ltd, the high speed Y network would transform capacity on Britain’s railway, with up to 18 trains per hour per direction running north of London. (However, travel volume between the capital and the three Y network provincial cities might be fairly described as moderate. The vast majority of rail journeys happen well away from HS2, on the London lines of former Eastern and Southern Regions.)

In the HS2 scheme, central Birmingham would be served by a dead-end spur from the main line, with the Y network legs to northern England diverging in open country outside the city. That configuration is inefficient, because demand for rail travel from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds is much lower than demand for travel from London to Manchester and Leeds. The result is that substantial amounts of capacity on HS2’s Birmingham spur, Manchester leg, and Leeds leg, are unusable at any time of day.

The amount of unusable capacity could be mitigated (but not eliminated), by splitting and joining half-trains at the fork point. However, that strategy would require extremely good timekeeping, especially in the Up (London) direction.

Written by beleben

October 25, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Rolling stock is cheaper than infrastructure

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In his observations on cost-effective upgrading of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, Alon Levy noted that, in general, rolling stock is cheaper than infrastructure, and that planners should worry about track capacity when all other capacity factors have been optimized.

An intercity railroad that runs 8-car trains is definitionally not at capacity.

These remarks are equally true for the rail network in Great Britain. Despite what Andrew Adonis (and perhaps Sebastian Coe) might think, Britain’s trains are generally not “stuffed to the gunwales”. Most seats are empty, most of the time, so addressing instances of peak crowding by building HS2 makes no sense. HS2 makes the overcapacity problem much worse, by expanding it from a rolling stock issue, to an infrastructure one.

London rail passenger arrivals by time of day, 2011

London rail passenger arrivals by time of day, 2011. The area coloured orange represents unused seating capacity. The green arrowed line shows the difference between circulating seats and occupied seats. The blue arrowed line shows the difference between total seats and occupied seats. Seat utilisation of departures has a similar distribution, but with the hump occurring in the evening. Total seats includes those of trains returned to sidings out-of-peak.

Intercity trains on the Chiltern Main Line (CML) are not even eight carriages long, so to use Mr Levy’s phrase, it is “definitionally not at capacity”. It is massively cheaper to create additional capacity by lengthening Birmingham trains (and increasing frequency) on CML, than it is to build HS2. The resulting freed paths on the West Coast line could then be reallocated for additional trains to north-west England.

Written by beleben

August 1, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2, London

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Knott in gley public interest

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On June 22, The Guardian Northerner Blog’s political commentator Ed Jacobs asked how the HS2 project could be made more ‘relevant’ to people.

Talking in generalisations about economic growth may sound good, but it doesn’t address the day-to-day transport problems that we have to endure in the north. So, for those advocating the route, here are four questions that could do with being answered:

1. What would High Speed Rail to northern England do to ease the UK’s unenviable position of having the most expensive rail fares in Europe?

2. How would the project address the problem of trains persistently running late?

3. Will HS2 do anything to relieve frequently overcrowded trains?

4. Would HS2 do anything about the train fare system which so many people cite as being too confusing?

I don’t think HS2 could help much with these issues. Fares are high because the railway is inefficient and less subsidised than its Continental cohorts. The fare structure could probably be rationalised in a couple of years, if the government pushed for it. Trains run late because the railway is inefficient and less modern than its Continental cohorts. And crowding is ultimately tied up with tidal peaks, and willingness to pay.

The government’s timescale is for HS2 track to reach northern England around the year 2032, so its short term relevance for Mancunian and Leodensian commuters is minimal. And over the medium to long term, HS2 would play the role of attention thief and competitor for funds against the classic network.

Rail writer Nick Kingsley’s response to Mr Jacobs’ article (Northerner Blog, 26 June) alluded to commuter benefits for Northwich

The Cheshire town of Northwich might seem an odd place to start a discussion about the case for High Speed 2, the government’s proposed fast rail link between London and (eventually) Manchester and Leeds. Between 7am and 8.30am each weekday, three trains leave Northwich to carry commuters the 30 miles or so to Manchester. Trouble is… only one actually gets there, the others unhelpfully decanting their passengers at Stockport.

[…]The Northwich case is just one of many examples of too many trains being squeezed on to too little railway; and the railways around Leeds and Manchester remain a somewhat haphazard web of routes that have developed only piecemeal since the mid-19th century.

and Knottingley (the ‘Pontefract Line’).

As one senior transport official in West Yorkshire told me in April:

‘Pontefract and Knottingley won’t get a proper service into Leeds until we sort out the East Coast bottlenecks using HS2.’

I’d venture that rail capacity and connectivity in northern cities is better addressed by scalable, smaller schemes that can be implemented in shorter timescales.


Northwich - Manchester rail diagram

Northwich – Manchester rail diagram showing ‘Metrolink Max’ direct access via MSJ&A

Only the mad world of British planning would produce a situation where rail travel from Northwich to Manchester entailed a change of train in Stockport. And detouring trains via Stockport reduces capacity on the approach to Manchester Piccadilly, used by expresses from London.

So why not incorporate Northwich into a ‘Metrolink Max’, and route its Manchester services over the Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway (MSJ&A, now part of the Metrolink tramway)? That would shorten the journey, and decongest the Piccadilly approach.


Leeds, Castleford, Knottingley rail diagram

Knottingley and ECML Leeds trains: potential conflict only in vicinity of City station

At present, through trains between Knottingley and Leeds take about 40 minutes, calling at Pontefract Monkhill, Glasshoughton, Castleford and Woodlesford. They do not approach Leeds using the East Coast electrified line from Kings Cross, so it’s unclear to me how HS2 would help with decongestion.

Like Centro in the West Midlands, West Yorkshire ITA misrepresents HS2 as freeing up significant capacity on its local rail network. However, its draft Railplan 7 did include some good development options for the Pontefract line, including platform lengthening. As the site for the HS2 station in Leeds has not been revealed, it’s not possible to discuss the capacity and connectivity implications.

Written by beleben

June 28, 2012 at 8:34 am

Posted in HS2, Leeds, Manchester

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The ups and downs of HS2 capacity

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Milton Keynes to London fast trains, scheduled for morning of 14 June 2012

In 28 May‘s Engineer magazine story, chief engineer Andrew McNaughton stated that HS2 doubles the capacity for inter-city travel, and allows fast trains to intermediate places that currently have a poor stopping service.

McNaughton added: ‘If you stand on Milton Keynes platform during morning peak, you’ll see lots of Pendolino trains but they don’t stop; they’re all full of people going to Manchester. In 2025, when HS2 opens, they’re gone. Trains will stop at Milton Keynes every 10 minutes.’

Pendolinos going *towards* London, and not stopping at Milton Keynes, might be full in the morning peak, but that’s unlikely to be the case in the other direction. And currently, on a weekday morning, in the period 07:00 to 08:00, there are five fast London trains that commuters can board at Milton Keynes Central. So, one every 12 minutes on average, not particularly different from Prof McNaughton’s 2025 aspiration/prediction.

HS2 certainly would create ‘additional capacity’, but it would be capacity mainly confined to its own track. In other words, the *relief* for existing lines is generally quite small. The HS2 documentation includes a cost saving of £2.3 billion from running fewer trains on the legacy network (mainly the West Coast Main Line), but HS2 Ltd will not specify what trains are suppressed to achieve this saving. HS2 would not end the mixed traffic nature of the WCML, and increasing the number of 100 km/h and 120 km/h freight trains is bound to affect passenger services.

On the West Coast corridor, the HS2 Y network new-build track only serves three cities — London, Birmingham, and Manchester — so the capacity effects for everywhere else are difficult to gauge. If it is the government’s intention to maintain classic service levels on West Coast, the £2.3 billion savings from not running them should be struck from the economic analysis of HS2, and the numbers recalculated.

In stage one (‘LWM’), HS2 would reduce path capacity on the West Coast Main Line north of Lichfield, and it’s likely that seating capacity would fall too. Part of the HS2 dogma is the use of 200-metre long trainsets, which would be shorter than existing Pendolinos. On the new-build track only, two 200-metre trains could run coupled together, but it’s not clear how passengers could be found to fill such a huge train. On today’s London to Manchester run, travellers can be picked up or set down at places like Stoke-on-Trent. However, the 400-metre long Y network train would only have Manchester and Bickenhill passengers.

The HS2 concept also entails downgrading of the North East to South West cross-country railway between Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, and Bristol. HS2 Ltd’s intention is for Bristolian passengers to travel north via the Great Western, changing onto HS2 at Old Oak Common. However, it’s known that train operators are not keen on stopping fast trains on the London approach (see Stratford International, for example) and it’s likely that selective stopping of Paddington services at Old Oak Common would reduce Great Western capacity.

HS2 reduces West Coast Main Line capacity at its busiest point. Under HS2 Ltd’s plan for Euston, the number of West Coast platforms would be cut, and that would be bound to have an impact on capacity. As with the effects of the HS2 to HS1 link, the reduction in Euston terminal capacity is not documented.

Written by beleben

June 15, 2012 at 3:21 pm