Rail 616: The questions about high speed rail line

Call me perverse, but all-party agreements make me smell a king-size rodent. Now that Labour has signed belatedly up to the idea of a north south high speed link after initially rejecting it, all three major parties support the idea of HS2.

The revival of the high speed plan was started by the Tories who announced there support among much fanfare at the party conference in October and the Libdems soon joined in. Without being unduly cynical, it is a low cost popular policy – until the work actually starts. There was a good reason why Labour came last to the table, because it is in power and Alistair Darling – as both Transport Secretary and Chancellor – was extremely wary of making any extra financial commitments. It was not until Lord Adonis arrived as rail minister that the previous policy of opposition was re-examined.

None of this has cost very much money. Sure Labour has created an HS2 organisation but the spending is easily subsumed into the Department’s budget. No real cash will need to be spent before the next election.

So it is great politics for all the parties to support the line, as in the short term there is little cost and lots of kudos, but what exactly do they envisage and, more importantly, why? The precise route is, of course, very far from being decided but the leading contender seems to be a line running between Glasgow and a terminal near Wormwood Scrubs with a link to Heathrow nine miles away, and that suggests a contradiction at the heart of the concept.

As reader Stephen Thwaites, highlighted in a well-argued letter in the previous issue of Rail, connecting the high speed line with Heathrow seems to be pandering to the needs of the aviation industry rather than meeting those of the railways. As Mr Thwaites points out, surely Crossrail as well as an extended Heathrow Express, would serve the airport well without a high speed line. And the notion that people would have to trek out to Wormwood Scrubs – which has no Tube connection – to take a train to Scotland is pure fantasy, and the cost of providing a link to central London would add substantially to the cost.

As I have expressed before, I am worried that the HS2 is being used as a sop to the opponents of Heathrow’s third runway within the government. HS2, as Lord Adonis has admitted, will not replace many flights. There are already excellent train services to Paris, Brussels and Manchester from central London and yet there are still numerous flights to all these destinations, aimed at transfer passengers. The idea that the whole high speed project should be geared to providing services for this small minority of users is fundamentally flawed. Alternatively if HS2 is designed to help people reach the airports, it seems to defeat the purpose. An HS2 predicated on the continued growth of aviation cannot be justified in environmental terms.

As to my wider doubts about the scheme, I was very taken by a comment piece in The Times which raised several of the issues that have made me sceptical about the value of a high speed line. In an his piece published on April 6, Ross Clark makes the telling point that building the line using vast amounts of taxpayers money would only be worthwhile if an ‘unemployed Glaswegian electrician’ could afford to pay the fare to come up to London to seek employment. Otherwise, he suggests, every penny spent would be better invested on improving existing rail services which, he argues, are becoming largely unaffordable to people on low incomes.

It is a good argument, and one I have made before. The subsidy for the railways is not targeted sufficiently – or indeed at all – to people in the lower income brackets and a high speed line might well exacerbate that imbalance. Indeed, it could be argued that support for the railways is of great benefit to the middle classes while the poor suffer on buses which proportionately receive far less state money. Mr Clark argues that ‘if we are going to subsidise rail travel, every penny spent must be subject to a public benefit test’. He points out that Alistair Darling scrapped several worthwhile tram schemes that would have had a great regenerative effect, because of the supposed failings of schemes in Birmingham and Sheffield. Yet, these would have been far more likely to help people on low incomes than a high speed line.

The danger is that less sexy but nevertheless very important projects such as electrification, the Intercity Express Programme, Thameslink and basic improvements will get delayed or cancelled as resources are diverted to HS2. With Lord Adonis, who is genuinely committed to the railways, in charge, that will not happen, but once he goes, as seems pretty certain next year (he has publicly refuted the idea that he could serve under a different government despite spending an hour chatting to David Cameron at a recent launch), it is doubtful that an equally powerful rail minister would emerge to protect these schemes and push through HS2.

The way that the concept is expanding, becoming ever more expensive, increases this risk. There is talk of building in extra capacity, of trains running at 360 km/h rather than 300 and of carrying freight, all of which will add substantially to costs. This is how projects get killed off – they become so enormous that at the first opportunity – or the first hint of the need for economies – they are presented as uneconomic and ditched. Certainly these seems to be massive project creep here.

Above all, ministers have to come clean about the purpose and effects of the line. Despite my scepticism, I would like the case for a high speed line to be genuinely assessed along in a very rigorous way. Therefore, here is a list of ten questions that I would like to see answered comprehensively before a decision on its construction is made:

1. What is the precise carbon footprint of the high speed line, taking into account that many of its future travellers may previously have used conventional rail and that the carbon consumption of motoring is likely to improve?

2. What is the thinking behind going to Heathrow – discouraging people from flying or giving better access to the airport?

3. What is the expected reduction in flights as a result of the line?

4. Is the government prepared to use its fiscal powers to encourage people to use rail rather than aviation, and would such measures run into trouble with the European Commission.

5. How will the fares on the line be determined and will there be subject to any government regulation?

6. Will the line be expected to make a return on capital?

7. Will the line be expected to meet all its operating costs and if not will the government guarantee to pay them ad infinitum?

8. Can it be guaranteed that building the line will not detract from investment and improvements for the rest of the network?

9. What percentage of the initial cost will be provided by the private sector, and how will it gain a return on its investment?

10. Will the line be available to open access operators, as required by EU law, and will this push up the costs of providing a comprehensive service?

Security barriers – the real reason emerges

Lord Adonis has endorsed very strongly the concept of barriers at main line stations, despite the widespread opposition to the proposed schemes at York and Sheffield. He uses the argument of revenue protection although, as opponents point out, the barriers only guarantee that people buy a ticket to the nearest station and then can exit from any unprotected station. As it is clear that barriers result in a reduction of on train checks, then the revenue protection argument seems to fall apart.

But the real reason has emerged, and it is that great big gorilla, ‘security’. A document produced by National Express to justify the installation of barriers at York station gives the game away. It says: ‘Once commissioned, the ticket gates become the single point of entry to the rail side of stations. Following the 7/7 attacks, there is a requirement to have CCTV coverage of entry and exit points to stations in order to achieve identification and/or recognition standards, a spread of coverage on both sides of the gate line as gates are bidirectional.’

Therefore, the government is now seeking to be able to identify anyone getting in and out of a station. Of course, this is nonsense as not all 2,500 stations will be covered. Moreover, talking to a security expert who was giving a paper on station security at a recent conference I chaired, it is clear that the technology for identifying people on CCTV is still not available. Identification is, however, helped if people are funnelled through a barrier as they a good picture is more likely to be obtained. So yet again, security is being used both as a barrier to train travel and to our civil liberties.

  • Jack

    The North-South high speed line should serve three purposes. On each it will compete with aviation, but in some it may complement it. It will also compete with car users who currently drive to Heathrow and the continent from the North. It will only work if a strategic view is taken of domestic and near Europe travel over all modes and that aviation fuel taxation is made to equate with the external costs such travel causes but which it does not currently incur.

    HS2 will enable:
    1. Competition with domestic UK flights from provincial airports for connecting long-haul flights from Heathrow (hopefully by A380).
    2. Direct high speed services to central London from the north.
    3. Direct high speed services to key near European destinations, Paris, Brussels, Lyon, Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam, Med coast etc.

    If we really must undertake transatlantic and other global travel, there is simply no alternative to long-haul travel than via aviation, so Heathrow (or its equivalent) is going to exist whether we like it or not. We do have a choice, however, as regards domestic travel. And so, where it is possible to get people out of cars and planes domestically, specifically thinking of Lord Sterns impending climatic tipping point, it is inexcusable that we do not make out very best attempts to do so. I agree that there is no definitive comparison of the CO2 impact of HSR vs car and plane, but surely a train packed with 800 people will, per passenger km, be much of much lower CO2 output than the alternatives (especially if the electricity is sourced renewably)? The carbon costs of constructing HS2 will be high, but at least they will be fixed one-off costs, versus the relentless and increasing per mile emissions from cars and aviation, so once it is in place we can enjoy it forever.

    The HS line ought to fork somewhere near to where it crosses the M25 with HS1 style beneath-London tunnelling to enable high speed running right to the centre of the capital to a St Pancras style revamped station at Euston and the HS1 connection to Europe. The Heathrow spur should then follow a minimum impact alignment parallel to the M25 to a terminus somewhere beneath the airport. A third side to the triangle, forming the connection from Euston to Heathrow should be made in another HS1 style set of tunnels OR by the construction of a high speed spur closing the fork up by the M25. [Substitute Euston for Kings Cross should HS2 be chosen to travel through Newcastle and Leeds]
    The point of all this infrastructure is to ensure that the generalised cost of travel (which includes in-train and interchange time) for travellers from the north is minimised when they use rail. Evidence exists showing that people hate interchanges, especially if with a suitcase, and so will avoid them at all cost. This is why some trains from the north should travel direct to Heathrow and reverse into London while others travel direct to Euston and reverse to Heathrow, forming the direct London – Heathrow HS links. In addition to this, the current WCML, the Midland Mainline and ECML should all be linked to the M25 shadowing HS connection, to enable rail travel from provincial cities not connected to HS2 to be considered a realistic alternative to cars and planes by rational travelling decision makers. Yes, all this will cost a lot of money, but the carbon cost of not doing so will arguably be massively greater in the long run. As someone in my 20’s, I do not want to look back in four decades time to think how it could have been.

    HS2 will free up masses of existing rail capacity on the existing routes, and so the idea of needing to use freight on the line is nonsense and should be ignored.

    Another point is that this piece of infrastructure will be in place for hundreds of years. It is a super-long-term scheme meaning comparisons with proposals that want to add a few extra coaches here and a more frequent service there which, although they may be valid in themselves, should not detract from this transport scheme as they operate on an entirely separate time-scale.

    We’ve already done the really hard bit – by constructing the Channel Tunnel – now its time we made some decent use of it. We’ve shown through the construction of HS1 that we can build a line which tunnels under cities and rivers, bridges rivers and valleys, has seen the construction of three brand new stations and gets right to the heart of the capital on time, to budget and with the precise level of finish quality specified. Conducting such a complex project in such a way should be seen as a remarkable success, and it can be done again.

    We really need a radical vision for the transport system in this country, and not just hot air from our career politicians. They talk about creating legacies for themselves – well how about putting your money where your mouth is? I, my contemporaries and our children are relying it, not just on environmental grounds, but in support of ongoing, sustainable economic development.

    Jack – MA Transport Economics, University of Leeds

  • Keith

    Barriers onto platforms is not so bad, but the current trend seems to be closing off entire stations to non ticket-holders. Frustrating if a non-traveller wants to buy a newspaper or a coffee.

  • RapidAssistant

    The ludicrous situation with barriers can be seen in Glasgow where Queen Street station was equipped with barriers by First. People travelling via the sub-surface lines could quite easily get off at adjacent HIgh Street or Charing Cross which are also in the city centre and have no barrier check at all.

    To boot, overcrowded rush hour trains meant that the conductor (if there was one in the first place…) rarely got through the whole train by the time it reached the centre of the city meaning that there was a pandemonium at the gates with one poor guy with a ticket machine trying to sell tickets to those that had boarded at unmanned stations so they could get out. Invariably there was always some jobsworth who refused to sell off-peak tickets because the poor punter couldn’t prove there was no conductor on the train he’d just got off. The same thing also happens at Central where commuter services are policed by manual checks at the platform ends. Am I glad I moved up north and spared myself this daily rat race. You bet!

  • Dan

    I think one of the unique problems the UK (or at least England) faces is that amongst many people (and this includes ‘respectable’ people) the paying of fares is seen as something to avoid. I have worked in offices with well enough paid people who have cheerfully told me how pleased they were to get to work that day without paying as there was no ticket check etc etc. This is not related to the recent high cost of fares, I think it is pathological and deep seated (I certainly recall it from childhood where school friends would often try to dodge train and bus fares!). Barriers, of course do little to solve this since they don’t prevent over riding or buying a ticket to the next cheapest station.

    Also of course, as for the ne’re do wells who presumably rarely pay, they often travel late at night etc when the barriers are switched out to save staff costs and ticket inspectors are off duty and gaurds can’t be bothered!

  • Michael Weinberg

    Christian Wolmar’s list of questions he’d like answered re HS2 is a brilliant example of why nothing gets done in this Country. Once one set of questions gets dealt with someone else comes up with another set.
    It’s meat and drink to the road lobby who of course get in on the act, often subversively.
    Was the motorway network similarly appraised before embarking on, by the AA RAC and British Road Federation?
    Any answers to Wolmar’s questions will contain a large amount of guesswork.
    I wonder if Spain, Germany, France etc went through similar pointless excercises before embarking on their systems?
    Other Countries see what a success Hi-speed lines have been in Japan and France and want to come in on the act.
    But not the Brits, Oh No. We’d rather muddle on with ever more congested roads, airports etc while so-called rail advocates rubbish any sensible scheme that might see the light of day.
    What about hi-speed guided busways? Much cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and quite a tourist attraction to watch the World’s only 200mph bus!!

  • David

    All sensible people recognise Britain’s railways need more capacity; but is high speed right for us?

    Just because it was right for France or Germany or Italy, doesn’t automatically mean we should follow. Their geography is different to ours and there railways were built differently, and this means they have greater distances between towns and cities than we have, and they didn’t have competing routes.

    Our network and the services on it are still generally as determined by Beeching in the 1960s; at that time it seemed a good idea to concentrate as many services as possible on a small number of routes, and we have never really considered any alternatives. But the route still exists between Paddington and Birmingham and between St Pancras and Leeds, and if the railway between Matlock and Peak Forest is restored there is an alternative route from London to Manchester; if these were to be upgraded, what would be the cost and benefits? And just because trains to Norwich have always gone from Liverpool St, should they always go that way? Could the fast London-Norwich timings mentioned by Lord Adonis in ‘Rail’ issue 618 be achieved by extending the fast King’s Cross-Cambridge service to Norwich via Ely and Thetford?

    The vast majority of us live within a 200 mile radius of London; but its only people who live on the very fringes – people like those who live around Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds – who will really benefit from a new high speed railway; but even their potential benefits will be diminished if a route is selected which goes to the northern fringe through Heathrow and Birmingham.

    We know trains can run on “classic” infrastructure at speeds of up to about 155mph if the appropriate signaling is in place; and we also know that curving speeds can be increased if tilting trains are used. Moreover, we should not discount total route modernisation just because of experiences on the WCML; to try to carry it through on Britain’s busiest main line with a new administrative structure, new trains, and unproven signalling was absolute madness.

    So what can be achieved on the existing network through a combination of upgrading existing infrastructure, putting back what has been taken out (like making the MML 4-track again), re-opening some lines (like Matlock-Peak Forest), some four-tracking, extra platforms, new connections, re-routeing of existing services and establishing some completely new ones, grade separation at junctions, longer trains, etc., before we start looking at completely new railways.

    Lets also have a reality check on potential traffic flows for high speed. Is there sufficient traffic to justify a high speed line through to Scotland? Why a high speed line to Leeds when the existing service attracts over 90% of the rail/air market? Is speed necessary to attract people from their cars, or is their choice of personal transport determined by a combination of cost, convenience, or comfort?

    And why even contemplate running train services from provincial Britain to continental destinations such as Frankfurt or Munich as if there were a demand for such destinations, would not Ryanair already be flying there many times a day? Because the reality of the situation is that unless Channel Tunnel security requirements are changed its very unlikely that such trains would be carrying domestic passengers, and would have to rely totally upon international ones.

    Christian’s right to ask questions. At the end of the day high speed may be what is needed; but I’m not convinced; and if Heathrow is so important as a rail destination, why aren’t any services from the provinces running there already? OK, there are currently no suitable trains, but could not something like a Voyager electro-diesel be constructed so that services could operate – if there is a demand – from (as an example) North East England via Birmingham, down through Banbury and High Wycombe and via the Greenford loop to the GW Main Line, and then into Heathrow?

  • Christian

    Very thoughtful contribution, David. It does show why discussing a high speed line in isolation is a mistake. There are a lot of ways of improving the existing system without such a vast project. And crucially, one has to ask the question, will rail demand continue to rise as it has in the past decade or will it plateau out? The key question there is the level of fares compared with driving, and my instinct is that oil prices will soar again in the near future as peak oil is reached, therefore increasing demand for rail travel. But I could be wrong.

  • Dan

    A speech by Lord Adonis that went up yesterday on DFT website is well worth a read on this – some really thought provoking points he makes when comparing geography, city distances etc and how all the existing High Speed models (Japan, France, Spain, Germany etc) are all different. Stuff I was unaware of and it certainly makes you think.


    It’s well worth reading this in the context of the discussion here!

  • David

    Interesting speech from Lord Adonis.

    I think he’s been a bit selective at times to get his message across, though. As examples, the German high speed lines arose very much because of the post-war split of the country (railways didn’t really go where they were needed in the west), and in France it was cheaper to build a high speed line from Paris to Lyon than to upgrade the existing one; moreover, TGVs were cheaper than 125mph locos and coaches, so very high speed was a no brainer.

    But just think for a moment about the discussion he refers to with Iain Coucher in which Shinkansen performance is compared with Chiltern and c2c; how they operate a similar number of trains per day and how their performance is enhanced by the fact that they have “largely exclusive use of a two track railway”. For this is something we can roll-out throughout large areas of Great Britain.

    I apologise for the length of this posting; I’ve been as brief as I can be, but its necessary to go into some detail to get my message across. And no doubt the following examples can be pulled to pieces for various reasons, but just try and think along lines like this (no pun intended!) before jumping to the conclusion that completely new high speed lines are the only way forward.

    Lets look at the Midland Main Line. Now although in some places there are many miles between them (such as between Kettering and Syston, and Chesterfield and Rotherham) the MML is a four track route all the way from London to somewhere near the South Yorkshire/West Yorkshire county boundary. So why not make it into two “independent” routes, one high speed passenger, the other mixed traffic, each of two tracks; but for most of the route they would share the same formation. Then, at some locations, carry out some substantial enhancements; a Wellingborough cut-off, easing of curves at Market Harborough and at Wigston are examples. Then take the passenger lines down the “slow” side into the Leicester station area (opening out the short tunnel to allow tracks to be realigned on the way in), and construct an extension to Leicester station on the east side just for high speed passenger trains; this would need some land to be acquired, but much of the site is already in rail ownership.

    Between Leicester and Syston, the passenger lines would fly-over the other pair and run on the west side, the stone sidings for Mounsorrel should be relocated to the east side of the formation, and then near Kegworth there would be some flying junctions (for Nottingham) and new railway constructed to take the passenger lines west to join the Sheet Stores-Stenson line near where it is crossed by the A50 and M1; this is over open land, and if a triangular junction is created at Kegworth the eastern end of the present line to Sheet Stores junction could be abandoned, and perhaps also the low level line through Long Eaton.

    The Sheet Stores-Stenson line would be four-tracked to a location near junction 3 of the A50, from where a new piece of railway needs to be constructed round the West Chellaston area of Derby (open land at present), and this would then join the formation of the Melbourne branch, part of which is still open to serve the Rolls Royce factory. New grade-separated junctions would be needed near Pear Tree station in Derby, but the formation from just north of Pear Tree through to Duffield has over time been filled with at least four tracks.

    Some more platforms may be needed at Derby (space on the east side of the station), and south of Milford Tunnel there needs to be a fly-over to take bring north-bound “stoppers” for Matlock, etc., onto the down line without conflicting with the up passenger. Then just north of Belper cemetery, the four-track formation would be used to create a grade separated junction for the Matlock branch.; this would be restored to two tracks, and re-constructed through to join up with part of the Midland route through the Peak which is still open near Peak Forest.

    The existing Midland Main Line north of Ambergate would continue up through Clay Cross to Chesterfield as a passenger line, then to Dore from where four tracks would be restored down into Sheffield. North of this city, there aren’t any easy options I can think of, but what about creating some new high speed platforms on a raft above the existing 6-8 island? At the north end, these could continue at a higher level, then swing round on to the ex GC formation to the east. At a suitable location, a new spur would be constructed round to the “old road”, and this would be four-tracked north towards Rotherham (Masboro’).

    Some fly-overs would be necessary in that area, but then the formation was four-track up towards Swinton, etc. Then, there are two options onwards toward Wakefield; one would be to use the ex MR route (with a Barnsley Parkway station en route), but my gut feeling is that the best would be to follow the existing route and join the ex GNR line at Moorthorpe. Some four-tracking would be needed to get to Moorthorpe where the passenger lines would swing round to join the ex GNR route, and these would then be four-tracked towards Wakefield, where we hit problems.

    So could we borrow an idea from another transport mode and use it to enable use of a completely different route into Leeds which still serves Wakefield? What if the passenger lines follow the freight line which heads north east (from I think its called Hare Park Junction) towards Kirkgate station, and in the triangle at that station’s east end build a new park-and-ride station for Wakefield. But it shouldn‘t be left isolated; why not link it to Kirkgate station by some form of people mover? We expect to find such equipment at airports, and often they cover long distances; so why not have them at rail stations? This would provide a link into services using Kirkgate, and also provide a direct link for foot passengers to the city centre (Kirkgate is further out than Westgate, but its still within walking distance of the city centre – I’ve done it many times in the past!)

    From Wakefield, the passenger lines would follow the MR line into Leeds; some four-tracking would be necessary, but on the approach to the city’s station some major works would be required. The passenger lines would pass under the ex LNWR exit from Leeds using the eastern arch, and then climb to cross over the existing western approach tracks before terminating in independent platforms on the north side of the station (last time I was at Leeds this area was covered by a car park).

    Back to the Manchester route, it would be possible to take stone from Peak Forest out through Buxton with some infrastructure work, but it isn’t really a realistic option; it has to be a mixed traffic railway as far as Chinley. But to the west of Chinley, there is some scope to use the line through New Mills and Reddish North into Manchester as a passenger only route, perhaps terminating in an independent terminal at Mayfield (more flyovers!)

    Freight would be diverted away from these lines; on the Midland, it would go via Oakham, then up the Erewash Valley and along the “old road“. This has the scope for linking into a re-opened Woodhead, if necessary. Freight from the West Midlands area would cross from Stenson Junction to the Erewash using the new connection described above; diversion of freight in this way, together with the re-routing of passenger traffic as described above, would also ease pressure on the Trent. junctions.

    If you start thinking of separation as described above, there are many places in Great Britain were it is possible. Similar opportunities exist on the East Coast Main Line, and it is possible to extend independent high speed passenger lines south west from Derby towards Bristol and South Wales. And if the Luton to Hitchin route suggested as an option of Oxford-Cambridge is adopted, if a triangular junction is created at the Luton end there is scope for some ECML expresses to be diverted to St Pancras (I know – more platforms are needed for domestic trains!), and this would create more capacity for slower trains on the southern end of the GNR main line.

    Options like this just aren’t available in France or Germany or Italy. Derby/Notingham are roundly the same distance from London as Lille is from Paris, and France spent billions building a new railway which achieves a journey time of about 1 hour between its capital and the northern city; but if the MML was split as described above into passenger and freight lines, if cab-signalling was installed, and if tilting trains were procured for it with acceleration similar to that planned for IEP, how close to that 1 hour could we get if we kept to a maximum speed of 155mph/250kph? And what are the best times achievable for Manchester and Leeds using this route? Is it a realistic option to a completely new railway?

    Further, much of what I’ve suggested for the MML could be carried-out without affecting train services in the way that the route modernisation of the WCML did; even major works like those suggested for Leicester or Sheffield need not interfere with existing services if properly planned and implemented – just look at Derby as an example for what can be done, for at present it only has two of its five through platforms in use whilst the platform canopies are replaced. Moreover, planning issues would be minimised, which should result in a much earlier completion date, and costs should be considerably less for a new railway (if compensation payments are eliminated by suspending franchises, for example).

    I apologise once again for the length of this post; but these are options we need to consider before deciding for certain that we need to build completely new high speed railways for they have the scope to increase capacity and reduce overall journey times. At the end of the day, we might find that new high speed lines are the best option; but – because of the way our railways were built using a “real” free market – they are not the only one available for us to consider in Great Britain.

    Any more alternative ideas, anyone?

  • Dan

    Particulrly in regard to David’s 2 (very interesting posts) – the first thing that comes to my mind is that ‘politicians don’t think like this’ – and that is the key point – whether we like it or not they are paying. Look at recent examples – WCML – total route upgrade: bottom line analysis – over budget, delayed, didn’t deliver on original promise (140mph etc), by all accounts will still be at capacity soon. Versus HS1 – on time, on budget, shiny and new and looks it (WCML looks like pretty much same old railway to the avg punter – just with new trains – that some people will have noticed are not very comfortable). This is what appeals to the decision makers.

    MML is my main line, so I know it well – and if the politicans were prepared to spend the money David’s ideas seem good – but the East Mids cities are too small for them to bother with – that is why west mids starts to become the key objective for HS2. David takes the line through to Yorks, which is critical, but decision makers will want an earlier target that can be reached for quick wins – that is Brum. I juts can’t see the decision being taken on ‘railway logic’ alone.

  • RapidAssistant

    Historically though, the MML has always been the poor relation to the WCML and ECML. Even though, for example you could recreate the entire Midland route to Scotland by reopening the Waverley in its entirety and using the S&C it would still be completely uncompetitive on journey time. And that is the rub for most people. At today’s timings air vs rail on London-Scotland are about neck and neck – it basically boils down to whether you can get a sensibly priced ticket and/or if you are prepared to put up with overcrowding or engineering works at the times you want to travel.

    Using the MML as described above would displace a few Anglo-Scottish trains from the West Coast and East Coast routes therefore creating more paths in the South, but the increase of journey times would send a lot of London-Scotland passengers back into the air – thus defeating some of the purpose.

  • David

    If you haven’t already seen it, have a look at ‘Railnews’ on line and read what Prof Andrew McNaughton said to the Derby & Derbyshire Rail Forum about HS2.

  • Dan

    Going back to the issues about HS1 I came across an interesting matter last week when catching an evening Cannon Street – Kent service. A chap was handing out flyers for this campaign:


    Clearly they are reacting to proposed recast timetables from SE Trains that will come on stream when domestic HS1 services start – and altering their journey to the City is leaving these passengers unhappy (a matter Christian has raised questions about some time back).

    As a result it looks like various commuter user groups have set up as a result of concerns about the planned changes.

  • Michael Weinberg

    David’s ccomments remind me very much of the ‘we could’ syndrome which was very prevalent in organisations such as ‘Railfuture’ up to a few years ago but thankfully has been replaced by a somewhat more realistic attitude.
    David’s ‘we could’,s just for the MML involve a ‘cut off’ at Wellinborough, whatever that may mean!, ‘easing of curves’ at Market Harborough and Wigston: extra tracks and the extension of Leicester Station; a flyover between Leicester and Syston: ‘flying’ junctions near Kegworth: a new bit of railway (that’s a novel suggestion) somewhere between Derby and Nottingham as far as I can make out; Sheet Stores to Stenson to be 4 tracked: grade separated junctions near Pear Tree and from there four tracked to Duffield: more platforms at Derby Station and ANOTHER flyover south of Milford Tunnel: four tracks at Belper, reopen the Peak Forest line: four tracks from Dore into Sheffield then some incredible scheme at Sheffield Station where they’re still having an argument about putting in a few barriers! It just goes on and on with one more daft scheme after another!
    Can you just imagine trying just to get the various local authorities to examine such schemes, let alone persuading the DfT you havn’t gone completely insane.
    And as ‘ RapidAssistant’ has said, what have you got at the end of it. Something which wouldn’t do the job as well as a dedicated Hi-speed line.
    When you consider how long it’s taken to get even a vital scheme like the flyover at Hitchin
    Approved and financed can you imagine the reaction if David’s proposal was put to the DfT?
    The questions to be answered would make Christian’s little lot vis a vis HS2 pale into insignificance.
    By all means let’s have a debate but let’s at least be realistic and not indulge in crazy ‘we coulds’ which only make us laughing stocks.

  • Dan

    I caught the tail end of Newsnight last night – Paul Mason’s excellent report from China (mostly about their economic position and the things they are doing about it) – plenty of info about their high speed rail building programme (key plank of their economic stimulus it would seem). Sounded like a multi billion dollar programme. No wonder Pres Obama decided to go for a bit of High Speed. Still with it not being a democracy I don’t suppose they need to worry about planning debates!

  • peter smaill

    Interlining via Heathrow to a UK provincial destination usually means checked through luggage and only a marginal incremental fare. Switching to rail at Heathrow runs the risk of a connection prone to immigration delays and baggage handling hassle, and being much more expensive.

    I wonder what the practical answer to that may be, if there is one.

    Small incremental changes to ECML such as WiFi make the journey productive and I sense as a frequent rail traveller and analyst that better and sooner cost:benefit solutions are yet available enhancing our existing network, not building anew at vast cost for a marginal end to end advantage.