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Posts Tagged ‘Great Central

Oxcalo rail connectivity

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The Department for Transport’s Tech Connected prospectus “articulates the Government’s commitment to a national tech community, linked by a modern and growing rail network”.


The triangle of London – Cambridge – Oxford is the kernel in the UK of cutting edge high tech industry developments. Government is determined to support this ongoing focus of economic development within the UK economy. Beyond these central clusters, we are also enhancing and expanding connections to other high tech hubs across the UK, as well as a range of international gateways.

Extract from the Department for Transport 'Tech connected', 2013

Department for Transport ‘Tech connected’, 2013


We have bold and fully funded plans to enhance and expand the rail networks which serve the core tech hubs:

* A £500m scheme will provide western access to Heathrow, facilitating fast and direct access to the UK’s hub airport from the Thames valley, and potentially other key destinations from the early 2020s.

* The western section of East-West Rail will re-instate direct services between Oxford and Milton Keynes/ Bedford via Bletchley. Fast electrified services will serve brand new and redeveloped stations from 2017.

Our ambitions for rail are relentless. Subject to affordability and statutory processes, we aim to expand the network even further:

* We are developing bold plans to complete the tech triangle. The central section of East-West Rail would connect Bedford with Cambridge, likely including an interchange station where it meets the East Coast Main Line.

* As well as a rapidly developing tech destination in its own right, Stratford is an expanding transport hub, with connections to tube lines, High Speed 1 and Crossrail. As soon as 2017, we aim to deliver new infrastructure which will facilitate the introduction of direct connections with Cambridge and the proposed Science Park station.

The prospectus reflects the conflicting messages in the Department for Transport’s PR activity. Having stated that ‘patch and mend is disruptive’ and ‘unable to provide the capacity uplift required’, nearly all the schemes planned for the Oxford — Cambridge — London triangle are based around upgrading existing infrastructure.


Our electrification programme will revolutionise much of the UK’s Victorian rail network. Electric trains offer faster, more comfortable journeys. Oxford will be a key beneficiary, with electrified trains to London from 2016 and to Milton Keynes from 2017.

In the second stage of the HS2 scheme, the fast intercity services from London to West Yorkshire and Scotland would be transferred from the East Coast Main Line to the high speed railway. As a result, there would be connectivity losses for West Anglia, but the scale of these is unknown because no post-HS2 service pattern has been provided.

Oxcalo and RP6

Indicative options for new rail routes in south central England in the RP6 concept

Indicative options for new rail routes in south central England in the RP6 concept, including the Great Central and Varsity lines

In the alternative Rail Package 6 concept, an upgraded East Coast Main Line would retain the intercity service between London, Yorkshire, and Scotland. With fast trains stopping at Peterborough, or Sandy, connectivity into Cambridge and the Oxcalo triangle would be maximised.


Written by beleben

December 7, 2013 at 9:59 am

HS2 rhyme or reason

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The policy on deciding where Britain’s high speed trains should stop is even more confused after the January 28 report on extending the proposed High Speed 2 railway northwards (wrote Private Eye’s ‘Doctor B Ching’, 8 Feb 2013).

Plans for the first section omitted any HS2 stops between London and Birmingham. The area around Oxford and Milton Keynes was deemed too insignificant for an HS2 stop, yet the new proposals shower the northwest with HS2 stops including Runcorn, Chester and Penrith. Meanwhile in the east, even Sheffield and Nottingham apparently don’t justify HS2 services from their central stations, and HS2 will ignore Bradford, Yorkshire’s fastest-growing city.
Last week’s report concedes that not every HS2 train must go to or from London (as the Eye has long argued) and warms to trains from HS2 continuing to the continent via a link in north London between HS2 and HS1 (the London – Channel Tunnel high-speed line). Bristol – Edinburgh, Leicester – Leeds and Liverpool – Paris are given examples of journeys which could use HS2 for part of the way.

But officials still won’t entertain HS2 trains going past London (where they would interchange with Crossrail and other routes) or Heathrow to heavily populated counties such as Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire.

HS1 was designed as an allegedly high speed rail link from London to the Channel Tunnel, with commuter and freight considerations being secondary. As a result, HS1 interchange with classic rail at Ebbsfleet and Stratford was botched, and journey times to east Kent towns like Margate are not very good.

Connectivity to Maidstone is also poor, and the configuration of HS2, HS1, and the HS2 / HS1 link would make viable through passenger services difficult. Switching HS2 services away from Euston to Kent would no doubt push its benefit-cost ratio down further.

HS1 Ltd, infrastructure map showing stations

A better connectivity enhancement for Essex and Kent would be to ‘superlink‘ Crossrail (beyond Shenfield and Abbey Wood).

Great Central connectionsNorth — South domestic connectivity is a more plausible market for intercity rail than is ‘Near Europe’, but the HS2 Y network concept is of negligible value for big towns like Brighton, Southampton, and Portsmouth. Reactivating the Great Central route between Banbury and Leicester would transform North — South freight and passenger rail.

Written by beleben

February 8, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Great Central intercity

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Great Central intercity passenger conceptIn Great Central is the way to go, I discussed some of the advantages of reconnecting the Great Central corridor back into the railway system.

The diagram shows a possible routeing of London-bound Liverpool and Glasgow West Coast intercity passenger trains into the Great Central, via a new connection near Rugby. The route would also be available for cross country intercity service to the south coast.

With a move to a clockface timetable, there could be benefits in stopping crosscountry intercity services to the south coast at Tamworth and Banbury, as shown.

Written by beleben

January 25, 2012 at 1:36 pm

The HS2 bad policy spiral

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HS2 shows how one bad policy can beget multiple undesirable effects. And how – if not left too late – these bad consequences can be avoided, by abandoning the idea that led to them. No-one knows what the demand for North – South travel will be in the future, but the decision to pursue high speed rail magnifies the project risk, because of the very long lead times involved.

If demand were to continue to rise at a high rate, HS2’s politically-led 350 km/h peak speed would rule out adding rail capacity by re-using the existing Great Central formation, even though city-to-city journey times with a 225-250 km/h speed wouldn’t be much different. The prestige HS2 linespeed also

  • pushes up the electricity consumption by around 100% -> which creates an operating cost problem -> which leads to an ongoing affordability and subsidy problem;
  • increases traction carbon by around 100% -> which creates an environment and compliance problem (the Climate Change Act 2008 sets out a year 2050 target for the six ‘Kyoto gases’ at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline);
  • requires the acquisition of more special purpose rolling stock (that cannot be cascaded to other lines), contrary to a policy of ‘standardised design, to reduce costs’.

Whatever the future demand for North – South travel is, setting 250 km/h as the rail design speed dispenses with the need to excavate thousands of tons of spoil, halves the traction energy bill, ticks the ‘carbon-possible’ box, and enables the use of truly interoperable trains.

Written by beleben

September 28, 2011 at 10:00 am