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Posts Tagged ‘overcapacity

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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Adonis/Steer unusable capacity

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Maintaining rail assets is expensive, and maintaining high speed rail assets, even more expensive. So unusable capacity is a big problem with Adonis/Steer pattern high speed rail. The scale of the capacity over-dimensioning embedded in the HS2 scheme can be seen from a diagram in Chapter 4 of HS2 Ltd’s 2009 Business Case document.

HS2 trunk and West Coast 2033 long distance forecast daily load factors, according to HS2 Ltd

In the diagram, the straight red line from London to near Birmingham is the planned HS2 trunk, and the green line to the right of it is the existing West Coast Main Line. The numbers alongside the lines represent the percentage load factors for long distance services, as forecast by HS2 Ltd for the year 2033. (It’s worth bearing in mind that HS2 planning is based on very large sustained growth in long distance rail travel, for years into the future.)

Written by beleben

August 23, 2011 at 1:52 pm