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HS2 and classic capacity, part six

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Part five | Part four | Part three | Part two | Part one

The Department for Transport’s October 2013 Strategic Case for HS2 included a diagram showing ‘expert judgement’ of post-2019 capacity pressure on [some] North — South railways. (The Chiltern  and GN/GE Joint lines were not included.)

Post-2019 'capacity pressure' in Yorkshire (SDG for Department for Transport)

Post-2019 ‘capacity pressure’ in Yorkshire (SDG for Department for Transport)

As can be seen, the ‘expert judgement’ was that the Leeds to York, Leeds to Wakefield, and Sheffield to Chesterfield lines would face “High” capacity pressure, along with Leeds station.

Post-2019 'capacity pressure' in the West Midlands

For the West Midlands, SDG’s judgement was that the Birmingham — Coventry — Rugby and Birmingham — Wolverhampton lines would face High capacity pressure, along with New Street station.

How HS2 might improve capacity pressure ‘post-2019’ is hard to see, because no part of it would open before 2026, and Leeds would not be reached until 2032 or thereabouts. But even if the complete Y network were available, in the case of Leeds, HS2 captive track would only be used for southbound travel (to Meadowhall and beyond). The prospects for capacity relief on the York / Selby (Cross Gates) line would be minimal.

The Department for Transport put forward the idea of a Dore to Meadowhall ‘shuttle’ to improve local access to the South Yorkshire HS2 station, which would presumably take up (rather than free up) capacity on the Chesterfield to Sheffield line.

Another puzzle is that only one pair of rail tracks is shown between Wakefield and Leeds (two separate routes are currently available).

The West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive allowed the former Great Western route from Birmingham to Wolverhampton to be closed in 1972, effectively cutting capacity in half. Capacity shortage on the LMS Stour Valley route via Dudley Port is largely a consequence of that closure.

The prospects of HS2 providing classic capacity uplift west or east of Birmingham New Street look quite limited, and it is interesting that no straight comparisons of ‘before HS2’ and ‘after HS2’ service patterns have been published.

One left-field threat to capacity between Birmingham, Coventry and Rugby is the half-baked ‘Electric Spine‘ proposal to route freight trains via Leamington Spa and Nuneaton. Such trains would traverse two flat junctions at Coventry, blocking the main line for several minutes at a time. Unlike HS2, the Spine concept has some potential, but is largely unworkable in its present form.

Written by beleben

February 24, 2014 at 11:27 am

Posted in Centro, HS2, West Yorkshire

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Working the spine

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Network Rail W10 gauge priorities map (March 2007)According to the government’s Railways Act 2005 statement on investment for Control Period 5 (2014 – 2019), its strategy is built around four priorities.

[…][6.] The first of these [priorities] is the creation of the “Electric Spine”, a high capacity passenger and freight electric corridor running from the South Coast through Oxford, Bedford and via the Midland Main Line to the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, with a link from Oxford to the West Midlands and the North-West. The Electric Spine investment is expected to deliver cost savings to the railway in the medium term, because electric rolling stock has lower purchase, maintenance and fuel costs. It also leads to choices for further efficient route electrification in Control Period 6 (CP6).

[7.] The creation of an electrified route linking the core centres of population and economic activity in the Midlands and North with the major container port of Southampton is a crucial step in creating the right conditions for significant private sector investment in electric freight locomotives, which offer more efficient, capable and sustainable freight haulage. The rolling programme of electrification is expected to help make rail freight commercially more attractive across England, supporting our growing international trade and the transfer of container traffic from road.

[8.] The Government’s second strategic priority is to increase capacity and accelerate journey times between our key cities, investing in faster trains (Intercity Express Programme) and route improvements. Major new investment is focussed on the Great Western, East Coast and Midland Main Lines, complementing recent investment in routes such as the West Coast Main Line and trans-Pennine routes.

[9.] The third strategic priority is to facilitate commuter travel into major urban areas, helping to expand the effective labour market, and helping people to access a wider range of jobs. A significant investment project is the electrification of the Welsh ‘Valleys’ lines. This is a transformational scheme supporting the long-term economic renewal of the Welsh economy. The HLOS sets out peak city demand to be met; designed to support economic growth in the North East, Yorkshire, North West, Midlands, West, and London and the South East. By boosting rail capacity and capability in west and south Yorkshire, enhancing North-Eastern connectivity and completing the Northern Hub, this investment is expected to unlock major economic benefits in the economies of the northern cities and conurbations.

[10.] Our fourth strategic priority is to improve railway links to major ports and airports. The Government wishes to see a new railway link to give western rail access to Heathrow Airport. This will be subject to a satisfactory business case and the agreement of acceptable terms with the Heathrow aviation industry. It will provide a major boost to the airport’s accessibility, substantially reducing Heathrow airport journey times from Wales and western England, supporting the extension of the vibrant Thames Valley economy westwards, and complementing the proposed high speed rail access. Other airports will also benefit from enhanced rail links. Port links will be improved, notably from Southampton with the initiation of the ‘Electric Spine’ and from Felixstowe with the provision of capacity to cross increasingly busy routes radiating from London.

Currently roughly half of national railfreight involves the use of the W10-gauge and electrified West Coast Main Line ‘at some point’ of transit. However, only about 5% of goods traffic is electrically hauled, and shortage of work has led to electric locomotives being put into store, or sold to foreign operators.

As can be seen from the map in Network Rail’s 2007 Freight Route Utilisation Strategy, the Midland Main Line was not listed as a priority for freight-oriented investment, so the new ‘electric spine’ suggests that strategy is in a state of difficult flux.

In the post-war period, there have been many cases of public capital being wasted on poorly planned rail schemes, so it is important that future investment and utilisation strategy is planned carefully. The electric spine is largely dependent on continued intensive use of West Coast Main Line for North – South freight, as the northern limit of Midland Main Line electrification appears to be Sheffield Midland station. With such a configuration, it will be a challenge to realise the objectives of maximising freight by rail, or creating “the right conditions for significant private sector investment in electric locomotives”.

Written by beleben

July 25, 2012 at 8:30 am