HS2 Questions

Examining the issues around the proposed High Speed 2 route

Is a new railway is needed to solve the rail capacity problem?

with 3 comments

A new railway is NOT needed to solve the rail capacity problem. The Government say there is a major capacity issue that only HS2 can solve. This is not so:

  • The ‘best’ option: DfT didn’t require the ‘best’ option be developed: ie to make incremental changes against demand; do low cost rolling stock and capacity changes first; address pinch-points when demand is strong enough.  Rail experts say the ‘best’ WCML[i]option is:
    • Rebalance first and standard class; add more carriages (ultimately to 12 car except forLiverpool). Just this delivers 67% more capacity (112% in standard class), need not wait to 2026 and may be possible without any subsidy
    • Eliminate the acute crowding problem on the Northampton/Milton Keynes to Euston commuting services by modifying Ledburn Jcn without delay
    • Do other low cost infrastructure changes as needed, with the potential for a total of 177% extra standard class capacity providing an increased train frequency from 9 to 11/hr.  This is against DfT’s forecast background demand increase to 2043 of 102%, and delivered at greatly less cost than HS2

Rail experts also say there are low cost ‘best’ solutions for ECML and Midland Main Line too.

  • DfT’s own option: even the rail options developed for DfT solve WCML’s capacity issue:
    • Rail Package 2 (RP2) involves more rolling stock and removing seven pinch-points. This delivers 151% more capacity[ii] against DfT’s background demand growth of 102%, not the 54% Government misleadingly claim[iii], and RP2 has less crowding[iv]
    • RP2 looks like being over twice the value for money of HS2 for just one sixth the net cost, and this is despite Government latest attempts[v] to distort and bury RP2
    • RP2 won’t be disruption-free but neither is it comparable with the wholesale replacement of WCML under the last upgrade, or the 8-year rebuild of Euston that HS2 requires – described as like ‘open heart surgery on a conscious patient’

The other rail options developed for DfT for other parts of the Y network generally produce huge amounts of additional capacity, which unsurprisingly are not good value for money.

  • Other alternatives: these are not properly considered eg Government’s own initiative to reduce travel (by faster connectivity with broadband, videoconferencing); rail pricing options.


[i] See a summary on HS2AA website ‘Options for increasing passenger capacity on WCML’

[ii] See HS2AA’s ‘More capacity on WCML: an alternative to HS2’, April 2011, where the 151% increase in seats in traffic over 2008 WCML base is calculated solely from published Rail Package 2 provided in DfT/Atkins reports

[iii] The 54% is in Table 3.7 (‘High Speed 2 Strategic Alternatives Study – Strategic Outline Business Case’, March 2010), showing the increase in RP2 seats over the ‘do minimum’ of 54%. This is then stated in the White Paper (page 51, Table 2.4) as about 50%. But analysis shows the figure is based on the capacity over and above the ‘do minimum’ for WCML and Chiltern Line and not over the 2008 base for WCML (which is the basis of DfT’s 102% forecast in background growth).  This is discussed in HS2AA’s ‘More capacity on WCML: an alternative to HS2’

[iv] RP2 has 51% loading (‘HSR Strategic alternatives study: Strategic Alternatives to the proposed Y Network’, Feb 2011, Atkins for DfT, Table 4.2, Scenario B).  In ‘High Speed 2 Strategic Alternatives Study,London toWest Midlands rail alternatives: update of economic appraisal’, Table 4.2, Feb 2011, it is shown as 55% loading (albeit with a higher ‘do minimum’ demand than HS2).  HS2 loading is 58% (‘Economic Case for HS2’, Feb 2011 Page 19,Section 3.3.12)

[v] RP2 was re-assessed by Atkins for DfT in a Feb 2011 report, released late March 2011 (‘High Speed 2 Strategic Alternatives Study,London toWest Midlands rail alternatives: update of economic appraisal’) to bring it in line with HS2. It fails to do this by using a different ‘do minimum’ comparator to HS2, and so deflating the benefits.  It doubles rolling stock costs and increases operating costs by 70% (applying the same 41% optimism bias as HS2, despite obvious knowledge of RP2 operations).  Even using all these changes except the 41% optimism bias, RP2’s Value for Money criteria is over twice HS2 (3.4 NBR compared to 1.6 for HS2) and has one sixth the net cost (£1.7bn compared to £10.3bn for HS2). This is reviewed in the HS2AA report ‘More capacity on WCML: an alternative to HS2’ April 2011

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Written by hs2questions

April 25, 2011 at 3:28 pm

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  1. Surely the various Rail Packages worked up by Atkins were mainly for the purpose of testing HS2 value for money? They haven’t been worked up in the same level of detail – if they were then the true costs of them and the considerable disruption caused by on-line enhancements would be apparent. HS2AA analysis of this glibly glosses over this issue. Also I don’t buy the idea that permanently reducing the number of 1st class seats makes sense. Demand is greatest in the peak which is when 1st class fares are highest – so these are the highest yielding seats. Reducing them to provide a few more cheap seats makes no financial sense. There is nothing (AFAIK) in RP2 that says it could be introduced incrementally. You cannot increase the number of trains on the route without providing additional platforms at Euston, adding additional tracks on the Coventry Corridor and south of Nuneaton, and additional platforms at Manchester. Without doing it ALL you would simply be moving the problem. Finally RP2 relies upon running a peak period service pattern throughout the day. No serious rail professional will give that idea any credence.In other words it provides some degree of extra capacity when you need it least, but stitches you up in the peak period.

    ggrrllaa

    April 25, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    • Lots of scope to improve RP2, definitely. We’re on the case. But on first class carriages, have you seen how empty they are?

      hs2questions

      May 9, 2011 at 5:08 pm

      • First class loadings are poor off-peak, but generally good in the peaks. Train Managers sometimes use discretion to declassify Coach G in any case during heavy loadings. Remember that 1st class peak seats provide the highest margins on the route, so permanently losing them in the face of increased ridership is counter-intuitive.

        ggrrllaa

        May 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm


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