Rail 661: HS2 is an uncertain bet 60

January 31st, 2011 Rail Magazine

Futurology is a dodgy business, but there is no better time than the beginning of a New Year to try a bit of crystal ball gazing on a rather longer time scale than Mystic Wolmar’s usual efforts. The announcement of the route for High Speed 2 raises the question of what the railway might look like in 20 or 30 years time and clearly the answer depends very much on whether the line is built or not.

How things change in rail policy. Even those with less than elephantine memories will recall that as recently as 2007 a strategy paper looking at the railway 30 years ahead, Delivering a sustainable railway, ruled out a new high speed line on the grounds that ‘it would not be prudent to invest today to address capacity issues that are unlikely to materialise until two decades hence, and may not materialise at all’. It went on to say that ‘just as future growth rates are uncertain, so is the way in which people will use rail.  In future, where people have double today’s income and half today’s carbon footprint, behaviour patterns may change significantly’.

I cite this not to suggest that the Strategy Paper was necessarily correct, but merely to show that predictions are, by their very nature, insubstantial and liable to change. Within a year of the publication of that report, a rethink was already underway with the arrival of Lord Adonis in the Department for Transport and, as we all now know, the Labour Party reversed its policy and decided to strongly support the construction of HS2.

Despite its limitations, a bit of futurology will be handy at this vital time for the railways. A reader who supports the construction of HS2, David Reed, suggests there are three possible scenarios to the shape of the railways in 2030. In the first, the high speed network is abandoned, but demand for domestic travel has continued to grow and the trains are becoming hopelessly overcrowded. Moreover, as he puts  it, ‘A number of expensive and disruptive palliatives have not proved sufficient ( as with the West Coast upgrade) and we still need to build a high speed railway.’ He goes on: ‘There has been a resurgence of domestic air travel and much demand for additional runways. Because train is such a hassle and no faster than today, most leisure journeys are still by car, and the motorways are clogged with freight, leading to constant demands from the motorway lobby to build more. The Daily Mail is full of stories about clogged up Britain, how hopeless we are compared to Europe….

Under scenario two  the line to Birmingham is complete and work is underway on the extensions to Manchester and Leeds. He suggests that the line has proved extremely popular and so fast that ‘so fast that most motorists choose to use it rather than drive’. He suggests that domestic air journeys would become unthinkable and ‘the connectivity between our major centres has boosted the economy so that revenue flows back to the Government through all forms of personal and company tax’. Moreover, on the classic network the extra capacity ‘has enabled substantial improvements in commuter, intermediate and freight traffic’

Or, Mr Reed suggests, there is the third scenario that appears to be the basis of my opposition which is that ‘the high speed network has proved to be an expensive white elephant with usage far below predicted’.

Which of these is the most likely? Or, what has made the Department for Transport change from its view that rather than demand being impossible to predict, it is now convinced that unless a line is built, we would get Mr Reed’s first scenario. I am, as regular readers know, deeply sceptical of the whole business case methodology which, as another contributor, RapidAssistant, to my website put it, ‘The crux of it is that the economic arguments both for and against HS2 aren’t worth the paper they are printed on and can be manipulated to say whatever you want…..the maths are so complex and the assumptions are so ambiguous that whatever number drops out at the bottom is likely to be meaningless’.

There are a couple of general points to make.  First, the roads and airports will continue to be clogged, whatever happens with HS2. The HS2 report, produced by HS2 Ltd for the government, suggests that traffic on the M1 will only be reduced by 2 per cent with the line’s construction. Moreover, there will be virtually no impact on domestic air travel since HS2 does not cover any busy routes. Secondly, the HS2 case is based on heroic demand assumptions, which are very unlikely to be realised.

That gets to the core of my argument. The business case is really just so much mumbo-jumbo and is so dependent on forecasts of demand as to be meaningless. For example, the HS2 report admitted that if there were just a 20 per cent shortfall in their forecast numbers, the benefit cost ratio is reduced from 2.4 to below 1.5, not enough to be given the go-ahead.

So, let’s just forget the business case and see what’s left. Here, somewhat randomly, are half a dozen arguments in favour of the ‘overcrowded’ scenario: :

1. Continued economic growth

2. More demand for rail travel as incomes growth

3. Need for capacity for freight and commuter services

4. Population growth requires extra rail capacity

5. The line is essential to help the regeneration of the North

6. The line would attract people out of their cars

And here’s a few possible arguments against:

1. Transport will become more expensive in future years, damping down demand,

2. New technology, such as teleconferencing, will further reduce transport use

3. Environmental pressures, notably to reduce carbon, will become much more important factors in determining government policy.

4. Rail technology – moving block signalling for example – could greatly increase capacity on existing railways.

5. Cars will become ‘greener’ reducing the environmental advantages of rail.

6. Pressure on government spending will result in delays and possibly cancellation.

7. The usual cost overruns on megaprojects will make HS2 unaffordable.

8. Transport demand overall has increased only at the rate of population growth in recent years rather than, as in the past, faster than the rate of income growth.

9. HS2 would not help large swathes of rail travellers, such as users of the Great Western and London commuters.

My snapshot of the network in 2030 without HS2 is that it will be full of modern trains, travelling faster than those of today and the quadrupling or sextupling of sections of track to relieve capacity, along with measures such as longer trains, a better second to first class ratio and improved technology to increase the number of train paths. Secondary routes will be upgraded and large swathes of the network will be electrified. Overall transport demand will be damped down by cost and new technology. Cars will, indeed, be much greener.

OK, that is not as exciting as a new line and my bit of futurology might be wrong, but so could the counter arguments. The point is, and I have said this before, the case for HS2 is not based on a solid business model, but rather on the desire to have a prestige line to match those in Europe. The case has weak foundations based more on emotion than rational argument and carries with it enormous risk, not just the third scenario above but also the fact that so much rail investment would be sucked away from the existing network. You do not have to be anti-rail, as many of my critics have suggested, to oppose HS2 and there are a surprisingly large number of people within the industry who privately are deeply sceptical of the plan.

Mystic Wolmar’s half dozen for 2011

Okay, Mystic has been accused of playing too safe in recent years, so here’s a few to stick my neck out:

1. Network Rail will not survive in its current form, but proposals will be put forward to break its monopoly, though these will not materialise until 2012 at the earliest.

2. There will be growing dissent over the HS2 and some ministers will resign over the issue

3. The Libdems will suffer huge losses at the May local elections, as well as losing the poll on electoral reform and will withdraw from the formal coalition, instead supporting the government on a case by case basis possibly under a new leader.

4. Philip Hammond will have gone on to other – in his view better – things.

5. I hate to suggest this, and hope I am wrong, but some sloppiness seems to be creeping into the industry on the basis of complacency, and I suspect that the long run of years in which no passengers have been killed in rail-caused accidents will come to an end.

6. The old Eurostar platforms at Waterloo will still not find a railway use.

Oh, and one just for me, QPR will be promoted as champions.

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  • Dave Holladay

    First I’d refer you to the World Streets debate kicjed off by John Whitelegg (not only a transport professor but well acquainted with the WCML) and Eric Britton (an economist with strong interest in transport)

    John points out that our European neighbours have delivered capacity through introducing double deck trains, and perhaps a gauge enhancement programme expanded on the current limited efforts directed to get freight to and (rather more sadly) from Southampton, and Felixstowe, a programme which might be quietly written in to run of the mill maintenance and renewals, a practice commonly seen in BR days, delivering the East Coast electrification faster and cheaper than a standing start big project, because work done in previous years had left access and clearances and even basic foundations, plus of course a standing electrification design team who, when their current project work was ahead of schedule, turned their time to outline survey and design for the prospective projects, and through this ensured no recent maintenance or renewals had to be reworked. We need such a core team to be established and working nationally (and covering some costs by contracting overseas.

    As an aside, one such project should be the use of 3rd rail sleepers on all track renewals on the North Downs route, to deliver track which is ready for rails and juice – probably at a very modest cost to deliver electric traction between Reading and Reigate, releasing diesel units and using some of the electric units which have extends lay-over periods at Guildford, and Reigate. In the interim the diesel units could be released if a Type 2 diesel or modern equivalent was equipped to work electric units in push-pull mode until the lines are fully electrified. Such locomotive would also provide a means to mitigate the disruption that occurs when an third rail electric service fails (Virgin may even have some rather overpowered Class 57′s appropriately kitted with Deliner couplings in need of warm storage – or use)

    But returning to the wonder of figures for HS2 – I checked out the claimed time savings – and was especially gobsmacked by the claimed 350 minute Paris to Manchester current time – even taking a casual stroll along Brill Place and Eversholt Street isn’t going to take 90 minutes, and even allowing that I just miss a departure from Euston that still leaves 70 minutes to walk barely 1 Km – for which my best times (Euston – Kings Cross/St Pancras) are in the region of 4 minutes – platform to platform. The process of inflation goes right down to the Edinburgh-Glasgow service – Greengauge quote 50 minutes, the timetabled 3-intermediate stop service (including recovery time and a 6 minute allowance for the 3-4 minute journey between Haymarket and Waverley. When the service is running sweetly I can be relatively certain of Haymarket – a convenient station for many Central Edinburgh destinations in 40 minutes, without any sense of undue haste nor the superior acceleration possible from electric trains – and the Greengauge indication… 35 minutes.

    Table 51 reveals that the Newcastle-Bristol trains, take 15 minutes less than the claimed time including a 15 minute wait in Birmingham and 2 time consuming diversions to serve Doncaster and Birmingham New Street – a service on a direct route, still constrained by current line speeds would be a more appropriate comparison – at perhaps 40-45 minutes, better than the claimed current journey time.

    I also happened to trawl up a record of the run by Lion (a development prototype for the Class 47, which logged a running time of 81 minutes for the 87.5 miles in to Paddington on the Leamington-Bicester-Northolt route – with jointed track, semaphore signals, and slacks down to 35 mph through some stations, the train apparently AVERAGED 100mph for a considerable distance after Bicester, and the work being quietly done by Chiltern and Network Rail is delivering a high(er) speed benefit to ALL the stopping points along the route. Spending a little more on track and signalling would get the speed up from their 100mph target to 125mph (and they have the trains capable of running at that speed)

    Turning to the Kent High Speed services, one might draw some means to speculate how the use of HS2 might develop, and it does not look promising. Southeastern has beern allowed a fare increase 2 percentage points higher than other TOC’s to make-up or the underperformance of the Kent High speed network, with an interesting commentary from http://wp.me/p1j38b-3N Namely that the Javelins are not EU spec High Speed trains (225Kph vice 250Kph) and neither is HS1 to the defined standard for a High Speed route.

    Of the 29 trains purchased only 22 are currently required for services, and many routes run only as 6 coaches, Many travellers now have longer journeys from doorstep to desk, either as those in Deal and Sandwich (campaigning as hsdeal) – not served by the high speed services and a diminished service to their original London destinations, or, faced with a worsened standard service they drive 20-30 miles to Ashford or Ebbsfleet (but of course fail to include the traffic congestion and driving time penalties. Examples also exist of the old services still delivering faster and cheaper journeys for those in Kent who will still be working in the City or at Canary Wharf – Gravesend to London Bridge – direct, cheaper and on a ‘slow’ train gets you to the heart of the City around 10 minutes faster than going via St Pancras and the misery (and added cost) of the Northern Line Bank Branch. Many predicted these results back when the proposals were being promoted.

    Even at 18.00 a visit to Ebbsfleet hardly sees great crowds heading home from their work in London, and those passengers delivering the informal and generally better train running updates on @_Southeastern wryly refer to an unscheduled stop on an inbound trains as a call at Phantom International.

  • Dave Holladay

    Sorry – timetabled GLQ-EDB = 47 min (Haymarket 41 min) plus World Streets URL

    http://worldstreets.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/uk-high-speed-rail-going-very-fast-in-the-wrong-direction/

  • RapidAssistant

    Pat – theory presumably is that removing the Birmingham trains from the WCML frees up more paths for Glasgow/Liverpool/Manchester services – although this wouldn’t necessarily make those services any faster (there aren’t any real bottlenecks as the line is mostly quadruple tracked to Rugby), just more frequent.

    The main problem is speed and getting the Glasgow-Euston time well below the psychological 4 hour mark which would be the swinger for a lot of folk – it can be done if you run non-stop and fiddle with the timetable a bit to get local stoppers and coal trains out of the way on the double tracked sections – the APT and the Pendolino have proved this.

    Dave – interesting points. If Glasgow-Edinburgh main line gets electrified by 2016 as they are saying, they are talking about a reduction of journey time into 35-40 min (going into Waverley) territory; based on improved acceleration over 170s used on the route at present.

  • Christian Schmidt

    Christian,

    > 2. New technology, such as teleconferencing, will further reduce transport use

    This is sooo easy to debunk. Thorugh decades of growth and occasional recessions, through motorway building and traffic jams, transport use has stayed at roughly one hour per day and 1000 trips per year per person. There is no indication that this should change.

    In the same way that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion, travel has changed, but still fills the hour that people are apparantly happy to spend travel. So yes, teleconferencing will reduce trips to conferences, in the same way that home working reduces commuting, but people will simply made different trips instead (home workers, for example, tend to do more escort trips).

  • John Killip

    @Chris Packham:
    Scrapping HS2 now would allow 200 Million a year for those projects you mention to progress and in the ten years after the 2000 million a year the government proposes to spend building HS2 would be available enabling the much more affordable Rail Package 2 to be implemented

  • John Killip

    @Me: There would be no seamless transfer you get off at Euston and then have to get to St Pancras ok crossrail may be built but it is still a change of trains. Plane flight will still be quicker and probably cheaper.

  • Offa

    Would it be helpful to raise your eyes from the detailed discussion of types of train, and look at the bigger issues that lie behind HS2 as a policy? Isambard Brunel (post 9): “there is no precedent I can think of in recent times for the UK government cancelling major infrastructure projects once construction work has started on site”. The concern, particularly of the Scottish Government supporters and of course of Manchester and Leeds, is that HS2 will be cancelled NORTH of Birmingham. The Government has not agreed to include the northwards expansion in the Hybrid Bill. It clearly looks as if, no matter what the political rhetoric, the central concern is for the London to Birmingham stretch (even if the rest of it might be ‘nice’ sometime in the future). It is Scottish politics that will determine the northwards expansion of HS2, not types of train.

    Simon (post 14) “Interchange station near Birmingham International. I would guess that very few trains will stop there”. On the contrary, it is increasingly clear that the stop at Birmingham International is the primary station. Why? Well that’s the issue that I haven’t seen discussed by any of you in this long exchange. Listen to Hammond saying it himself – a/the prime purpose of HS2 is to turn Birmingham into a new ‘London’ airport since the stop was put to the expansion of Heathrow. As Hammond said, it is crucial to make travel from Birmingham airport to London faster than Heathrow to London. It seems as if one of the real drivers for HS2 has more to do with airport capacity than rail capacity. It is only if you understand HS2 as part of AIRPORT policy that you can make sense of why it is pushing ahead using such widely questioned arguments.

    And please listen to the rest of Hammond’s speeches, particularly during December. He wants HS2 to facilitate London’s access to cheaper labour markets – that’s what he means by his enthusiasm for HS2 ‘encouraging more commuting’. For this purpose too, a stop at Birmingham International will be vital to tap into areas of cheap housing/ cheap labour. Dealing with the low end housing market in London is critical and expanding the hinterland for commuting is one way to address this. Cheaper labour is a key issue for the economic revival of the London economy, which Hammond emphasizes is the driver of the UK economy. So, so long as HS2 delivers a stimulus to the London economy through accessing cheaper labour markets, it will have been worth it to him and whilst he thinks wider regional economic stimulus would be ‘nice’ it is not essential in order for him to justify going to Birmingham. HS2 is about the LONDON economy not ‘the national interest’ unless (like many Londoners) you can’t see the difference between the two!

    I understand why, on this website, you are mostly engaged with the technical aspects of running trains. Fair enough – but when looking at HS2 as a policy, you need to see some wider issues too. Independent UK and European research simply does not stack up behind the rhetoric – what HS2+Y is SUPPOSED to be trying to deliver. Take just one of the issues that are supposed to be driving HS2+Y – breaking down the north/south divide: there are 2 issues. 1. Would one rail improvement solve that problem? Over 60 years of research delivers an emphatic ‘no’. 2. Even if one rail scheme would help a bit, is this the best/ most efficient/ value for money way to achieve this? Again, the research delivers an emphatic ‘no’. I expect my Government to deal in facts, not fantasies or a wish for a ‘truly modern solution to galvanize the nation’ or similar gaff. £34 Billion is an INCREDIBLY LARGE AMOUNT OF PUBLIC MONEY. Even the £17+ Billion for the bit up to Birmingham is pretty big particularly given other demands on public money. I (and others e.g. see the material on HS2 on the Tax Payers Alliance web site) want real assurance that not only will this scheme achieve its stated aims/objectives, but that that is the most efficient way to meet those objectives. We have not had this independent assessment from this Government. Key aspects of the argument it puts forward – the environmental case and the business case – have been dismantled. Yet it persists. Does that mean that there is a ‘hidden’ agenda for HS2 (so Hammond is not really bothered to defend the overt objectives)? Or that there really is a vanity project here – Hammond wants HS2 because it will be good for his career as a politician? Or that this Government isn’t politically astute enough to get itself off the hook? ALL of us want faster and better trains but there are real doubts that the HS2 scheme is the best way to achieve this. The Government should recognise the extent to which they were ‘sold a pup’ taking on the previous Government’s immature scheme, and should announce that they recognise the serious doubts about technical aspects of the existing scheme and call for an independent assessment of ways to address the different problems.

    By the way Davidson (post 40), Deutsche Bundesbahn does not deserve your polite view of their capabilities as “hard headed businessmen”. The scathing critique by the independent arbitrator of both their financial and technical assessments behind the Stuttgart 21 project, is pretty devastating!
    And Rhydgaled (post 41), have you looked at how much money would be spent on getting HS2 across north London just to service ‘one or two trains a day’??? Could you really stand up and justify that given all the myriad of other urgent transport schemes that will not be funded around the UK because of investment going in that direction? We would all love a fast and easy train service from Scotland to Europe – HS2 just isn’t the way to get that.

  • nigel mapstone

    if the new station at Birmingham is to be at Cuzon street, it will take another 10 mins or so to reach the city centre, whats the point of saving on journey times only to lose it at the end.

  • Bernard Haigh

    Rail Magazine is generally supportive of HS2 and seems rather dismissive of those who think that is it not a good idea, using the words hysteria and vanity in a generally disparaging manner. Well, as a long-term rail user who is not hysterical (nor, for that matter, particularly vain) I would like to lay out a number of very good reasons why HS2 is indeed the wrong option for Britain.

    First of all, HS2 is not bold enough. In order to make really worthwhile reductions of journey time it is necessary to cover longer distances at high speed than are proposed. London to Leeds is only the same distance as Paris to Dijon, which was nothing more than the starter section of French TGV infrastructure. The HS2 route would need to go all the way to Glasgow and Edinburgh to make any really worthwhile time savings, or to seriously compete with internal flights.

    It could be argued, of course, that HS2 would connect cities other than London to the European network and thus be part of longer distance journeys. This, of course, is true, but we in Britain could cut rail journey times from Midland and Northern cities to the continent by between one and two hours tomorrow, for trivial expenditure, if we wanted to. We could do this simply by running through trains to Europe instead of requiring everybody to waste time changing stations and, worse still, train operators, in London. We could have done this at any time since the Channel Tunnel opened but we haven’t, so we obviously don’t value linking the Midlands and the North to the continent by rail very highly.

    The claims made for the HS2 link are disingenuous to say the least. London to Birmingham in 49 minutes sounds impressive but it is, of course, just a salesman’s headline. We can already go from London to Birmingham three times an hour in about 80 minutes, but that includes three stops. The trains make these stops because we are no longer the city-centric nation that we once were. Better transport has allowed us to spread out and has created the need for trains to stop at such places as Watford, Milton Keynes and Birmingham International in order to be useful. So, if we compare like with like, we would be comparing 49 minutes with perhaps 65 for a non-stop train on existing tracks, or, conversely, comparing say 65 minutes for trains on HS2 which stopped a few times against 80 at present. Either way round the time savings are too small to really be significant.

    But of course, the real weakness in the whole scheme is that HS2 does very little for rail journeys anywhere else in the country. In other words it does very little for the majority of rail journeys made. People talk about HS2 benefitting other cities such as Newcastle but, unless frequent through services are run, most journeys would continue to be quicker or more convenient by existing routes. As someone who has lived through the period in which BR broke down artificial boundaries between pre-nationalisation companies, and also through the current one in which the privatised companies are building them back up again, if I lived in Newcastle I wouldn’t be holding my breath. After all, people trying to go from Birmingham to Paris have been holding theirs for the last 17 years! You wouldn’t need to miss a 10 minute connection between two different rail companies at Leeds very often before you would switch back to the ECML, and if you were forced to allow longer connection times than that for reliability reasons, you would probably never even bother to try!

    If the vast amount of money which might be spent on HS2 was to be re-directed to improving the railway as a whole, just think of what might be achieved:-

    • Grade separated junctions built all over the place.
    • Removal of artificial chicanes created by penny-pinching managements over the years – e.g. single lead junctions, platforms out of use unnecessarily (e.g. Salisbury, Westbury), cheap restrictive signalling, artificially singled track sections, etc.
    • Removal of historical constrictions such as Welwyn Viaduct and Tunnel and the two-track sections of the WCML.
    • More electrification, particularly of the fill-in and linking sections which create anomalies all over the network
    • Banning of the practice of running nasty diesel trains all the way from Birmingham to Scotland under wires which my taxes helped to put up!
    • Capacity increase by the simple expedient of stopping the widespread practice of deliberately running trains containing fewer carriages than the fixed infrastructure can support, even when traffic loads demand more capacity.
    • Increase of comfort back to civilised levels by providing each standard class passenger with the amount of onboard space that he used to enjoy in BR days, instead of cramming people into the minimum possible space, thereby creating the need for longer station stops to allow us all to get in and out!

    The list of easy, immediate and (relative to HS2) very cheap possible improvements is almost endless, and the benefits would apply to the entire country, not just to a few of us. If we made all these improvements we would probably find that we could run the trains so punctually that people would be able rely confidently on short and efficient connections between long distance trains at junctions – in just the way that the Dutch do at Amersfoort, the Swiss do at Lausanne, and the Germans do pretty well everywhere. Achieve that at Birmingham New Street and you could chop 30 minutes off the journey times of most people who change trains there – a bigger saving than HS2 promises even if you actually believe the salesman’s talk!

    Of course, we would have to convince the accountants to allow all this, but that is nothing more than selecting what factors to put inside the accounting boundary and what to leave out. Cost-benefit analyses are quite magnificently flexible and can generally be tuned according to what you want the outcome to be.

    As an Englishman, I find it depressing that we are willing to spend very large sums on capital projects, but we are never willing to spend sufficient money to actually make what we already have work properly. We even let the favoured capital projects sag back once the initial blaze of glory has passed – witness the fact that you can get a train from Lille to Koln, but not from Lille to Birmingham. Even more depressingly, with the fragmented railway we now possess, I can see no reason whatsoever to expect any improvement. On every side the individual managements and staff concentrate more and more on keeping their own little patches in order, and less and less on trying to create and maintain a modern nationwide rail system. If you doubt this assertion just try buying a ticket from the railway station at Heathrow Airport, which is, after all Britain’s No.1 gateway to the world, to any destination not on the line to Paddington! Come to think of it, stopping that nonsense m ight just be something that HS2 could achieve!

  • exile

    I do feel somewhat schizoid about this issue.

    Every other advanced country (apart from the US) has high speed rail – why not us? Well – we are a small country, and more than 50% of the population live within 2 hours train journey of London using the current infrastructure. So – a high speed route only makes real sense on the London-Scotland routes, which are currently dominated by airlines. In effect – a high speed route is more likely to displace air passengers than car drivers and passengers. And the only route where there is sufficient air passenger traffic to make this worthwhile is London-Scotland. Unfortunately this means that we’d have to build 500 km of route, enough to knock over an hour off the London-Scotland time before we noticed real benefits.

    Is there any chance of rail making serious inroads on the car driver/passenger market? It seems unlikely in the short term, given that the cost of driving, once you have paid fixed costs, is in the 20p a mile region, which means that a family of 4 can travel for 5p a mile each, an amount that trains will find it very hard to match. And a train can’t pick you up at your door and drop you at your destination, nor can it easily transport the vast amounts of paraphernalia required when a family goes on holiday.

    Experience of train travel in Europe suggests that high speed trains have sucked some of the investment out of the rest of the network and once you leave, for example, your TGV train in a provincial French city your onward travel may be by a slow and ancient DMU or more likely by bus – and once you get into the country there may not even be a bus.

    Germany and Italy have managed to maintain a decent service on local lines so it’s not necessarily so – but given this is Britain…….

    So, how else should we spend the £34 billion?

    - connect the current ECML and WCML routes to the Channel Tunnel so we can travel from Manchester to Paris or Leeds to Brussels without changing
    - replace the horrible 1980s-era DMUs that operate many provincial services
    - use technology to reduce fare dodging 
    - buy loco-haulable trains to replace HSTs on no-electrified routes (not the currently proposed hybrid trains)
    - electrify London-S Wales, London-Sheffield-Leeds, Bristol-Birmingham-Leeds-York, Edinburgh-Glasgow, the Trans Pennine routes.
    - improve commuter rail networks around provincial cities

    That all sounds great – but would that really be what the money would be spent on? If I was chancellor the money would probably go straight into deficit reduction….

  • @Exauditor77 @pollytoynbee Really - I thought she would be giving a sermon!!

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  • Head to @wolmarforlondon now for my regular Q+A session

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  • @Willowrpe Funnily enough just writing my piece for Rail magazine arguing that it will defo not be RPI + 1 in Jan, and may even be a freeze

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