HS2 – The Wait Goes On

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The leaking of the draft report to the Financial Times newspaper about the recommendation for a “pause” after HS2 reaches Birmingham, is cold comfort to the businesses and passengers who depend on rail services from Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.  Of course it was bound to stir up controversy – but really, where is the demand for 1,000s of passengers from London to Bimingham to arrive 29 minutes earlier?

It is suggested that the trains will provide over 1,000 seats, and operate at 14 per hour in both Birmingham and London Bound directions.  Imagine that, and assume a 50% occupancy, then you have 7,000 passengers per hour across the peak to peak periods, in either direction.  Or – let’s be generous and say over a 6-hour day – that’s 42,000 passengers between London and Birmingham, who then either go home, or travel on, northwards.  Really??

What then?  A 2-hour wait for an onward service to Crewe, then change trains again, and wait another hour for a service to Liverpool or Leeds.

In Phase 2b, Leeds is set to be reached from Birmingham – is there more dmand for passenger services between Bimingham and Leeds than say Manchester and Leeds.

HS2 is, and always has been an idea with no economic or strategic objective.  Compared with the electrification of the 1960s and 1990s, when the West and East Coast Main lines were electrified, or even HS1 – completed long after the Channel Tunnel opened.

HS2 is the rail to nowhere.  The people of Birmingham deserve better, as do the travellers and businesses of the North of England – invest in improvements to the existing routes.

Has anyone involved in HS2 ever asked the question – “do you get from London to Glasgow by travelling through Birmingham?”.  Probably not.

Newspapers today are full of coverage on costs spiralling – as t hey should be – but has anyone looked at the logic, or strategy of the plan overall?

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If this is all about populations, in 2011, the population of the North West (Lancashire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester), added to that of West and North Yorkshire was over 8 million people.

In contrast, the West Midlands Region boasts a population of 5 3/4 million

Today, HS2’s own website claims:

“HS2 trains will serve over 25 stations connecting around 30 million people. That’s almost half the population.”

So if there is a need to meet the needs of millions of people – surely the North is the place to start – a) because of the massive rail network problems, and b) the sheer size of the regional population.  The North is where the investment in rail is needed as the highest priority – surely??!!

It seems then we either get a high-speed rail link from London Euston to Birmingham, or we may get later extensions to Crewe (Phase 2a), and Manchester (Plhase 2b), at some time in the future – or nothing.  The initial line into Birmingham is to a terminus, where the trains will ‘turn round’ to restart a journey northwards to Crewe and Manchester, and in each case will bypass centres of population.

Overall this project has successfully conflated the need for additional rail capacity, with the wish to have a high-speed line on the UK’s main rail network.   Whilst I have no argument at all about separation of traffic types (slow versus fast trains) on broadly the same route – ignoring alignment for the moment – since in a perfect world this would improve capacity.  These graphs show that really well.

But does that mean you just move the bottleneck further along, at an ever increasing price.

There is clearly no doubt that extra capacity is needed, but HS2, Phase 1 does nothing much to deliver that at these costs.

-oOo-

One thought on “HS2 – The Wait Goes On

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