HS2 opposition not just Nimby

THE people of the Chilterns are unlikely rebels yet they are furious about the plan to build a high-speed rail line through their unspoilt bit of Britain, even though the scheme was devised by the Tory Party most of them support.

Last weekend more than 500 protesters gathered to galvanise opposition against the proposal, which goes out to consultation this week. That’s just the start. Celebrities are being rounded up, huge sums are  being raised and people up and down the line are voicing their anger.

Chiltern residents are right to oppose HS2, as it’s called, but they cannot win by relying on Nimby arguments alone.

I am a railway historian who enjoys nothing better than a long train journey, whether for business or pleasure, yet I am opposed to HS2 for many reasons, not least because there is neither an economic nor environmental case for it. I hope common sense will prevail and investment is put into our existing system instead.

Let’s look at the economic argument. This is based on a piece of mumbo-jumbo called a “business case” which actually falls apart as soon as it is examined. The Government says the £17billion cost of the line between London and Birmingham is worth it because it will attract more than twice that amount in  “benefits”.

What are these benefits? They are not for the most part fares income but rather the small savings made by people using the line. These account for nearly £20billion of the supposed £32billion benefits and are calculated on the basis that the value of these travellers’ time is equivalent to a salary of £70,000 a year. So every minute saved is worth about 50p or £30 an hour, which suggests the promoters think the line will be used mostly by fat-cats.

Such “savings” also assume that travel time is wasted. That may be the case in a car, where even making a hands-free call can be unwise, but a train with internet access and laptops can be a wonderful working environment.

The other big flaw in the “business case” is that it is based on ever-increasing demand for rail travel. Incredibly the Government is suggesting that for every two passengers on the West Coast mainline today there will be five in 2026 when the HS2 line opens. That’s an unprecedented level of growth.

Building the line will enable people to commute between England’s main two cities but is that to be encouraged? Far from benefiting the regions it may well concentrate yet more of the economy in the capital. Further, only the rich will be able to use the service regularly as there is bound to be a premium fare. It is amazing that at a time of such austerity the Government is prepared to spend £750million during this parliament on developing the plan for the line.

You could understand it if the idea was to save the planet but the scheme has no environmental benefit. Ministers have suggested that HS2 is an alternative to a third runway at Heathrow but this is bunkum. Even when the line is extended to Manchester and Leeds in the 2030s few airline passengers will be attracted.

High-speed trains are also less environmentally friendly than their slower counterparts. That is why the Government’s own report on HS2 found that the scheme is broadly carbon neutral, which means that billions are being spent on a project with no environmental benefit.

At the last election the main political parties supported the line and even environmental groups seemed  quietly supportive. Now that more details are emerging and the scale of the cost becoming known, cracks are appearing. Labour is already wavering and green groups are beginning to lobby against it.

The best argument for the line is that the West Coast mainline is filling up with passengers and there is a need for extra capacity. However there is a much cheaper alternative. For just over £2billion, spent on longer trains and track improvements, the capacity of that line could be boosted by almost as much as a new line, without damage to the Chilterns.

HS2 will neither take planes out of the sky nor make any significant reduction to traffic levels on the M1. If it did it would have my wholehearted support.

YES, other European countries have successful high-speed trains but the reality is that they are not needed here. There are crucial differences in geography and the pattern of towns and we already have excellent services between London and the towns that would be served by the line.

These arguments are beginning to be deployed effectively by the protesters. The consultation process is  bound to heat up the debate and as the case for the line founders on the twin rocks of environment and economics ministers may well decide it’s best to quietly postpone further spending on this overhyped  project.

They would be wise to do so as the protests against the selling-off of our forests showed that once Middle England gets angry it is a force to reckon with.

Read more: http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/231438Why-super-fast-rail-service-has-to-be-derailed#ixzz1FAt0ohQn

  • Dan

    “For just over £2billion, spent on longer trains and track improvements, the capacity of that line could be boosted by almost as much as a new line, without damage to the Chilterns.”

    I’m sorry – do you not remember the West Coast Route Modernisation? It goes something like this – spend £9billion, decimate weekend services, hand over tens of millions in compensation to Virgin, disrupt the railway for a decade and then find, actually there’s still not enough capacity to run the trains that train operating companies want to run.

    So naturally it makes sense to do the whole thing all over again. I’m sure it will be much cheaper and less disruptive this time while engineers are bound to have overlooked lots of easy ways to add hugh amounts of capacity to the route.

  • cynic


    Dan, do you remember the more recent Chiltern Line modernisation? £250 million and very little disruption. Perhaps lessons have been learnt since the WCML?

  • Dan

    @cynic – with respect the Chiltern line is a completely different kettle of fish to the WCML which, I am told, is Europe’s busiest mixed use railway. The money that has been spent recently on Chiltern is relatively small and has delivered correspondingly small improvements to services. For example, the Chiltern Mainline work currently underway will provide two fast services an hour in each direction between London Marylebone and Birmingham – good, but not the step change that is going to be required to ensure our railways can handle demand in the 2020s and 2030s.

    Another point worth making is that longer term the government expects HS2 to run to Leeds and, eventually, to Scotland. If this happens it would take pressure off the East Coast Main Line as well as the West Coast.

  • Dave the modeller.

    The article in the Sunday Express was very good, objective and accurate. One of the most amazing things about HS2 has been the incredible amount of absolute claptrap expounded by both sides. The fors, come out with pie-in-the-sky guestimates of the supposed benefits, based on absolutely nothing other than speculation. The make no allowance for starting the development of, and costing for 250 mile/h trains which no one else in the world currently has – it’s like going from sub-sonic to supersonic in aircraft and the cost will be eye-watering, as it always is when starting from scratch.
    They have made no statement (assuming they ever knew) how much power will be needed to do this speed – power demand goes up with the square of the speed, so 4500 hp for an HST (125 mile/h) rises to 16400 hp for a Eurostar (186 mile/h), with, if this is followed, 36 000 hp for HS2 at the mythical 250…
    Equally pathetic are the antis, who come out with stupid statements like ‘Warwickshire will be covered vast acreages od concrete’ and equally fatuous over-reactions, which have never been taken on board by the Civil Service who advise ministers.
    The real answer is is ask someone for real costs (not guesses) and get everyone in the mainly Tory constituencies to write to david Cameron (don’t waste tiome with our inert Transort Minister) and make it clear that HS2 is his biggest potenetial vote loser at the next election.

  • m wood

    Before any decision is made there should be a detailed study of the effect of spending the same amount of money improving the national road network. I suspect it would show that far more people would benefit and that there would be significant economic advantages in reducing congestion.

  • Ian

    Am I right in thinking that HS2 would be built to European loading gauge? For all the wonderful ideas for how to spend what is a shed load of money coming toward UK rail, there are two things to remember:

    1. The politicians like the idea of a HS2 and are talking about paying for it. They would not pay out this amount of cash for a revamp of the existing system. There are lots of votes in HS2, so the real choice is: money for HS2 or nothing.

    2. The present UK rail system has lots of problems such as small loading gauge; mixed use; and, mixed speed / stopping patterns. Even if we spent this sort of money on it, many of the current problems will still remain.

  • Peter Hooper

    Whilst CW was expressing his personal opinion in one of the downmarket Sunday tabloids, I see that in the Independent on Sunday has a piece from SoS Hammond on the elected government’s view –


    Hopefully Monday’s Consultation paper and supporting documention will dispell some of the myths and misinformation pumped out by the anti-HS2 brigade, and allow the British people a fair say on the future of our national rail network.

  • Ian

    @Dave the modeller.: HS2 is not going to develop anything from new, much of the development is already being done, look at Germany and France. With regard to speed, 200mph is the normal running speed for many of the French TGV lines, and by the time that we have,managed to lay the first 30 miles of HS2, 220+ mph trains are likely to be available to purchase off the shelf.

  • Ian

    @m wood: If we spent this kind of money on the road network we would indeed pave over large chunks of Warwickshire and all the other counties within 80 miles of London. We would also see a massive rise in the number of people killed on the roads (a figure already too high) and then there is the issue of fuel.

    Incidentally most of your economic advantages would be lost when all those cars arrive in the towns and cities, and have to sit in queues and add to the already high congestion. It is well known that the only ways to reduce road congestion is to reduce the number of vehicles travelling. Either you put everyone on buses (which is why councils are so keen on “park and ride” schemes) or by pricing the poor off the roads (which is why having a congestion charge is said to work), Oh and if your thinking London’s congestion charge doesn’t work, that’s because the daily charge is too cheap. Try £30 per day.

  • Robin Hay

    I share your suspicion of ‘business cases’ with their success measures based on some very dodgy assumptions – in my working days I wrote some of them! But….

    “The other big flaw in the “business case” is that it is based on ever-increasing demand for rail travel. Incredibly the Government is suggesting that for every two passengers on the West Coast mainline today there will be five in 2026 when the HS2 line opens. That’s an unprecedented level of growth.”

    Sounds fanciful, but does it sound so unreasonable in, say, 2050. I don’t know either but one of the huge issues in implementing infrastructure projects of the HS2 kind is that they are around for a long time after they are built. And they then influence behaviour. And they would not influence behaviour if they were not built!

    So the ‘cheaper’ alternatives – e.g. upgrade the WCML – might make sense using a ‘proper’ business case (apologies for all the ”s) but equally might look very foolish looking back from 2035. (“Why did the idiots not realise what would happen back in 2012 when they made the stupid decision not to build HS2?”)

    Not sure that a 50 year business plan is the answer but equally the anti criticisms of the existing HS2 business seem to very narrow and lacking in vision. After all there would not be a railway going through the Chilterns at all if the Victorians had relied on a business case before building the very first railways.

  • Ian Raymond

    Please, no more extensive upgrades of the existing WCML; the disruption caused last time round was horrendous, and particularly harmed the tourism industry in the NW. Whatever else, don’t use that as an alternative to HS2. Or at least (IMHO) not until operators can demonstrate:
    No continual over-runs (a few hours is fine, days is another….)
    The ability to divert via alternate routes – especially vital for freight
    Bus replacement services that *can* take bikes and bulky items of luggage (have they never heard of hiring white vans)
    A reduced ticket price to reflect the poorer journey experience

  • RapidAssistant

    Put it this way – £30bn could be better spent paying off Network Rail’s ‘credit card’, buying back the ROSCOs and getting a completely debt-free, vertically integrated, publicly owned railway which would stand a sporting chance of delivering a lot more bang for the buck than it currently does.

    I don’t agree with the notion that more WCML upgrades would cause another debacle like the one we had – put it back into context – the reason why the upgrade went tits-up is because it was devised by ignorant (and idealistic) individuals who only had a laymans’ knowledge of the railway – resulting in a project that was poorly scoped and over-ambitious, was done against the backdrop of the industry adjusting to privatisation – then of course there was Hatfield and its aftermath. This time around the industry has re-learnt a lot of the skills that were lost in terms of project management – if not cost control, and it boils down to lengthening what is now a mature and proven design of train and lengthening the platforms of certain stations.

    Robin – sure the Victorians never analysed the business case – but they didn’t have roads, aeroplanes or lets face it – the Internet – to compete with like today’s planners do. The only transport available at the time was a horse and cart and few people travelled any more than 15 miles from where they were born in their entire lifetime. So it isn’t a valid comparison.

  • Ben

    The West Coast Main Line is not “filling up with passengers” and there is not “a need for extra capacity”. Whilst the standard class sections of trains are always full (any time of day), the 40% of the train given over to first class cars is always, without exception, completely empty. I’m not sure how the Stagecoach-Virgin business model calculates that this is a worthwhile use of resources, but converting 2 or 3 of the first class business cars over for standard class use would immediately ease the overcrowding problems AND allow Virgin to sell more tickets and thus make more money.

  • Ian Raymond

    Rapid, I admire your optimism in terms of the industry’s project management ability, even if I don’t agree with it!

  • RapidAssistant

    Ben – I thought that when Virgin introduced the VHF timetable we’d enter an era of pile it high, sell it cheap….quite the opposite happened. Don’t want to retrench the discussion on 1st Class as it’s on the “Railway Service Culture” thread, but I’ve made my views clear….

    East Coast only have two and a half 1st Class coaches on their HSTs – compare that to how many Virgin have on a Pendolino…madness as you say. A lot of these decisions were made in times of plenty when it seemed that the good times would never end.

  • Chris

    I fear Wolmar’s endorsement of HS2AA’s “£2bn to achieve HS2 level’s of capacity” has just destroyed any credibility he had as a railway ‘expert’….

  • Zoe

    The real “business case” for HS2 and more is of course Peak Oil – but of course even though Govt knows this it doesn’t want to upset people by saying this. Imagine the outcry in the Chilterns if you can’t afford to drive!
    Hence the nonsense form the business case sausage machine about time savings, economic benefit etc.

  • NickKingsley

    @Zoe: the lack of discussion about Peak Oil really is incredible, especially when we are supposed to accept the utterly evidence-free notion that some kind of ‘comms revolution’ will suppress demand for travel. Oil price spikes might also cause that too, but it’s just not mentioned!

    I am afraid I cannot share the naive belief that another WCML upgrade won’t go just as badly wrong as the last one. Indeed, we just spent £10bn virtually to revamp the line, you’d expect it to work positively Swiss-style. It does work OK most of the time (I travel every 4-6 weeks between Ldn-Mcr roughly) but ORR and Network Rail have recently exchanged views on issues such as faulty axle counters and general access to the line to maintain it.

    Can anyone suggest another main line anywhere in Europe that would cost as much to operate and maintain as the southern section of WCML today? Also it is highly likely that the sheer scale of the maintenance task could lead NR to gradually slacken the headways and pad out the timetable (this is not speculation — it has happened on the East Coast since its last upgrade in the late 80s).

    @dave themodeller: Chinese Railways operates its Wuhan – Guangzhou high speed line at 380 km/h on a daily basis. The DfT consultation statement today pointed out that operating speed of HS2 at opening would be 360 km/h, which is in keeping with the upper ceiling of the designs of high speed trainsets being introduced today, such as Alstom’s AGV or the Bombardier Zefiro.

  • Simon

    Thought you’d like to know that a new site has just been set up, to enable the discussion of different rail projects – and why they might be better (or worse) for the country than HS2. The site is a wiki – meaning that anyone can add, edit and contribute to the pages.

    The site has only just gone live, so as yet, there’s relatively little content. However, you can change that!


  • @Christian Wolmar:

    HS2 may only be “carbon neutral”—and let’s ignore the whole “carbon emissions are the only environmental factor that matters in climate change” rubbish—but the same cannot be said about its rivals. The electric car is still being held up by problems with range. HGVs are unlikely to go electric any time soon. And good luck finding a “carbon neutral” air route.

    HS2 will also be around for a very long time. Not even the billions being thrown at the new “Queen Elizabeth” Class aircraft carriers—one of which isn’t even going to be used—and Eurofighter Typhoons will buy something as long-lived as a railway. And HS2’s formation, whether there’s a steel-wheel railway on it or not, can always be used for other purposes. (As, for example, sections of the closed GCR’s formation are to be reused by HS2.)

    Judging by the Liverpool-Manchester Railway, the Surrey Iron Railway, and the London-Greenwich Railway infrastructure which is still in use today—in the Surrey Iron Railway’s case, that’s over two centuries!—HS2 will have a lot longer than 20 or 30 years to pay for itself.

    The short-termism endemic in politics today is depressing. It’s even more depressing to see it from the self-styled “Britain’s Leading Transport Commentator”. Railways last multiple generations. Even the ill-fated GCR lasted over 60 years. Assuming the line opens as scheduled in 2025, it’ll still be around until *at least* 2085, not just 2030.

    Furthermore, there are only so many more motorways and similar road improvement schemes you can build before you hit the law of diminishing returns: all those cars will simply hit the city ring roads and grind to a halt as, short of wiping out great swathes of our town and city centres, there simply isn’t any way to get that many cars *into* the cities. (Whether those vehicles run on diesel, petrol, electricity or peeled kittens, the only thing that changes is the air quality; the congestion will remain. And probably get worse.)

    Given that the UK’s population has never stopped increasing, how will your £2bn. “alternative” plan keep the WCML from flying apart at the seams all the way to 2085?

    You know it won’t. It’s a short-term sticking plaster, not a solution to solving long-term capacity and network resilience problems. Eventually, *some* new infrastructure will have to be built, so we’ll have to spend an inflation-adjusted figure some distance north of today’s builders’ quote of £30 bn. (for the full HS2 package), AND your £2 billion—or whatever the final figure for that turns out to be.

    And this is what you consider better “value for money” than just building HS2 *now* and getting it over with?

  • Peter Hooper

    I see that Lord Adonis has a letter in the FT today in support of HS2; in my opinion worth a read and no subscription required :-


  • Peter Hooper

    Sorry about this, but the link above comes up as subscription.

    I googled “hs2 news” and read the FT / Adonis letter for free.

  • Dan

    Couple of things that have not been part of the debate so far – wondwered what other people think.

    I’m a keen supporter of HS2, and it’s good to see the govt making some progress. I too have concerns about drained investment elsewhere (I just don’t belive that investment would have ever happened anyway) – however, I’m far from convinced that govt will ever build HS2 – I think all this is simply about showing they are doing somethign because of the manifesto commitment. The time frame for construction is so far over the political horizon that today’s politicians don’t have to worry too much about the real costs. They will all be long gone by then.

    Do others think it will ever happen?

    Second question is – re political impact – most of the seats it goes through are very safe Tory seats (in fact many protestors will have voted Tory I suspect) – despite it looking like much opposition, that is because of the linear nature – surely – they are spread across large areas, and those areas are thinly populated. Beyond 1 or 2 km ‘buffer each side of the line’ I doubt people have strong NIMBY views. The opposition will have little impact on parliamentary majorities.

    In fact it’s not like Forest privatisation at all – which taps into a deeper sense of ‘all our land being flogged off to fat cats’ that people can identify with.

    Am I worng about the impact on parliamentary majorities?

    Different Dan to posts 1&2

  • Uncle Bob

    @Sean Baggaley:

    So precisely which bit of the Surrey Iron Railway is still in service today? Or perhaps Christian can enlighten us with his railway historian hat on.

  • Rhydgaled

    You could design viaducts that look like Glenfynum (sorry, can’t spell) and weather the ballast which would reduce, or even negate, the visual impact. However unless you spend another many £billions on rewnawable engery you still won’t make a 250mph line more energy effcient than all those cars on the motorways.

    HSR only makes enviromental sence if you are competing almost solely against aviation, as Eurostar does thanks to there being, thankfully, no cross-channel roads. 140mph electric trains, even on our current dirty electricity mix, are better for the climate than the car alternative but increasing rail speeds to 250mph would put an end to that.

    A 202mph line from Reading to Preston (via Euston, Birmigham and Manchester) and line speed improvments to the existing line from Reading to Taunton/Plymouth/Exeter is closer to what is needed to take on domestic aviation in the UK, but still might not kill off enough flights to justify it.

  • Chris Packham

    Dan, many seats at the top of HS2 are marginals-they went Lab in 97 and back to Tory in 2010. They’ll stay Tory until there’s a change in the political weather, I don’t think HS2 will have much impact. The govt seems to have done a thorough job of responding to nimby worries and I can’t see that many people getting so worked up about the plans that it’ll swing any election. The line stays well away from towns like Leamington and Tamworth where serious opposition would have worried the MPs.
    Interesting that CTRL (as it was) plans caused huge fuss in Kent but it died down very quickly when plans were approved and building started. I’ve seen nothing in the media comparing people’s experiences living near HS1 with what’s in store for people affected by HS2 despite this seeming to me an obvious thing to look at with the HS2 issue.

  • Dan

    Chris – I agree with you (esp re the comparison with Kent – as I said I’m sure many of the Chilterns campaigners are veterans of helping their Kentish cousins oppose HS1 back inthe day….(not!)

    Do you know any of the seats you mean?

    I looked at DfT HS2 maps and you can’t get a grip on the seats concerned without local knowledge. But ATOC have recently published a very good map of rail lines (inc freight only) and parliamentary constituences. Don’t think it shows HS2 but if I study it it might be possible to get an idea and then look up the majorities.

  • Chris Packham

    Lichfield, Tamworth, N Warwickshire, Meriden, Kenilworth & Southam, Warwick and Leamington (?), S Northants, Banbury (?), Buckingham ….

  • Peter Hooper

    @ Dan,

    Most Parliamentary business goes through on the nod ie without division and will apply to HS2 so long as the present consensus between the main parties continues. HS2 is well recognised as a mega project to be spread over several parliaments; all that is being decided before the 2015 General Election is the principle and the first part of the route.

    The NIMBYs directly affected by the plans only make up a very small part of the anti-HS2 movement; the main opposition being people opposed on idealogical grounds (like CW). Whilst a few disaffected Tories may switch to UKIP, this is far more likely to be because of their hatred of the EU rather than HS2.

    @ Rhydgaled

    As SoS Hammond has already pointed out, the existing Eurostar HS1 trains are already 20 years old and a purchase order for HS2 trains is still some time in the distant future.

    However the the HS2 Traction Energy Modelling Report by Imperial College shows projected energy consumption at :-
    0.043 kWh/seat-km when travelling at 186mph (300kph)
    0.053 kWh/seat-km when travelling at 220mph (360kph)

    There is no figure provided for 250mph as it is unlikely that the first HS2 trains will run at this speed; the HS2 track design is to future proof it – for later development.

    In comparison the existing 9 car Pendolinos travelling at 125mph use 0.04kWh/seat-km; though this figure may increase if the WCML was upgraded to 140mph.

    One figure (in kWh/seat-km) I have not so far been able to find is for the new Siemens Valero D and e320 trainsets just ordered by DB and Eurostar for HS1. These will operate at 200mph (320kph) and future developments of this type of train may operate on HS2 when it eventually opens.

    However in the publicity when the Siemens orders were published, the blurb said they were 20% more energy efficient than existing (Eurostar?) trains which use 0.05kWh/seat-km. This suggests the latest 200mph Siemens trains have a similar power usage as the 10 year old Pendilino trains.

  • Dan

    Thanks Chris

    Interesting that you draw attention to the situation at the northern end of HS2 – whereas most of the press comment is about the southern (Chiltern) section opposition. That might be simply because the hacks can’t be bothered to go that far out of London of course!

    Just to do the analysis (for what it is worth) I checked the 2010 election figs for those seats

    All Tory majorities as below

    Lichfield – Tory Majority 17,700
    Tamworth – 6,000
    N Warwicks – 54
    Meriden – 16,200
    Kenilworth – 12,500
    Warwick and Leamington – 3,513
    S Northants – 20,500
    Banbury – 18,227
    Buckingham – Speaker so not ‘proper’ result

    I’d only really consider under 5,000 as marginal – but we could stretch that to include Tamworth maybe. But we only really have Warwick and N Warwicks – where the 54 majority is so slender it could turn on such issues as people not being able to see the ballot paper clearly and making a mark in the wrong place (statistically – this is plausible!)

    @ Peter – I agree with you, but if the govt gets panicked about losing seats plans get ditched before they get that far – so there is no issue about going through ‘on the nod’. I think my list above indicates there will be close to no electoral consequence of significance (unless the MPs are really jittery and put Cameron over a barrel).

    Other oponents are spread about and would mostly not vote in a Gen Elec purely on the basis of HS2 opposition anyway.

    Of course the coalition want to redraw all the boundaries anyway – so these results will have little relevance to newly drawn up seats, but there we are.

  • Quainton

    As a ‘trainspotter’, shiny new HS2 trains for me to phot in beautiful landscapes are a dream. They’re even going to build me a new depot with freight trains to drool over within cycling distance. Uhh – can’t wait! But I know there’s capacity on the West Coast and having spent many times waiting for a train to phot on Banbury station even more for the next millenium on the old GW route. Then reopening Matlock – Peak Forest and upgrade/electrify the Midland not only gives Manchester/North West with fast new route to London but Bedford, Leicester get great new deals too. etc.etc.etc. Then there’s … one can go on and on. So better spend the taxpayers’ money on the ‘on and on’ … not my trainspotting fantasies. At least I’m in a win win situation! But ‘secretly’ I know what’s good for the country and the less exciting needs of day to day train services.

  • Percy

    I agree with Quainton, especially regarding reopening of the Midland route to Manchester and its benefits as a secondary route to Manchester and also connecting Manchester to other large citys that it currently isnt directly connected to.

    I’m particularily drawn to the arguement in this thread and the previous one that we cant suffer another WCML upgrade and all the disturbance so we need a new line. What happens in 20 – 40 years when the new HS2 line needs its own Passenger Upgrade, Do we built another line to bypass that and call it HS3 or do we fall back on the WCML while the work is undertaken and if so will it have the capacity and speeds it once had?

    History tells us that a state funded railway industry sees having two fully functioning mainlines to a region as a luxury. When the WCML was fully electrified in 1966 BR set about closure the Midland route to Manchester and the GWR route to Liverpool ( Birkenhead ) plus lots of other freight routes that took Manchester bound freight trains trains through Mkt Bosworth – Burton-On-Trent – Uttoxeter – Rocester – Leek – North Rode, because we now had the super fast, electrified west coast mainline and there was no need for duplication, hence the core route took a hammering and engineers struggled to keep it open and maintained at the same time until eventually we had the recent upgrade closures.

    That said was it necessary for the ugrade to involve the disturbance it did? if you look East to Kings X and the East Coast, they pursued a policy of gradual mainline upgrades both in terms of speed, junction layouts, signalling, electrification etc that started with the Deltics and went on through the HST revolution and into the Electric era without any of the massive chaos that happened on the West Coast. The East Coast did until about 20 years ago have a good series of secondary routes that shadowed it to Newcastle, unfortunately some of these closed when the wires were switched on, repeating the mistake made by the LMR when it plugged its own trainset into the National Grid in 1966.

  • Peter Hooper

    In the Commons yesterday (1.3.11) SoS Hammond made his long awaited statement on Intercity Express and Rail Electrification; the statement and follow on questions is recorded in Hansard.


    I see a number of MPs asked about the Midland Main Line, and Hammond’s responses are a matter of public record.

  • Rich

    ” For just over £2billion, spent on longer trains and track improvements, the capacity of that line could be boosted by almost as much as a new line, ”

    This sounds like quite a claim. HS2 would be what, 14 trains an hour each way I seem to recall? And the WCML could deliver it’s current service plus the equivalent of 14 HSR trains an hour, and for 2 billion quid? Is this correct? How is this costed out exactly?

  • Yes Rich, you are right – that got a bit truncated from my original. Essentially, rail package two would offer the improvements that would be needed to cope with extra demand, apart from the additional journeys stimulated by the high speed line itself according to the model used by HS2 ltd.

  • Peter Hooper

    In various local papers MPs on the HS2 route have been claiming that the Commons Transport Committee (TransCom) will be holding an Inquiry into HS2.
    However, despite the publication yesterday of their report “Transport and the Economy”, there has been no follow up press release from TransCom.

    So I contacted the Committe and have been sent the minutes of a meeting on 15th February when it was Resolved that future work would include “the Committee Inquire into HS2”.

    Also “the terms of reference for this (new) inquiry will be issued later this month and at that time we will release a press statement announcing the full inquiry”.

  • Dan

    The parl cttees are always a good laugh Peter – where poorly briefed MPs tend to miss asking the right questions of the experts they summon in front of them. I recall a very good column to the affect by Christian some years back (probably when Ms Dunwoody was chair – media liked her but I’m not sure how much she really knew about transport – she just knew a lot about stopping people giving evasive answers…..a good start of course)

  • Rich

    @Christian – ok, so in other words, Rail Package 2 is in no way a replacement for HS2. Not sure how that important fact got truncated from the lines about RP2 – it’s in the middle of the text and all the punctuation survived intact. I’ll assume the parts about how the WCML will cope 50-100 years down the road with the anticipated population growth have also been truncated.

  • Chris Stokes

    Note lots of comments about the disruption if the existing West Coast route is upgraded, but has anyone saying this studied the HS2 plans for Euston and its approaches? It involves massive reconstruction of the station and its approaches over a seven/eight year period, which will almost certainly require some blockades and long periods of reduced services. DfT themselves acknowledge this disruption both in the HS2 consultation documents and the consultation paper for the West Coast franchise.

    This may be only one location on the route, but it’s by far the most critical. And the work suggested in the alternative (“Rail Package 2”) is a lot less disruptive than digging up the London terminus for seven years

    And the long suffering commuters from Milton keynes and Northampton, who increasingly have to travel in cattle truck conditions, will get no benefit from HS2 until 2026 at best. But if DfT stirred itself, extra capacity could be delivered ten years earlier!

  • RichardG

    @Dave the modeller.:
    There is an power demand approximation of 0.5 kwh/seat Km included with the original documents. This is against the figures from tests for a 9 coach Pendolino of around 0.3 that could be down to around 0.28 for a 12 carriage per Rail Package 1 & 2 allowing for 33% extra energy for the 3 extra “Coach E” and adding another 226 standard seats

  • RichardG

    North Warwickshire gets 3 lines to everybody else’s 1 in that it gets the chords into Birmingham as well. There is also the prospect of having the “Y” junction as well. To compond the problem of the extra lines they are likely to be upto 20m in the air where they have to pass over all the existing transport infrastructure that just passes us by

  • RichardG

    @Peter Hooper:
    There are just as many statements in the consultation doccument without sufficient proof and explanation and several of the explanations are far too simplistic

    As you see I do wish to know the full reasoning as if this will ever actually achieve delivery time, projected cost and expected passengers

  • RichardG

    @Christian Wolmar:
    and if I read it right most of RP2 would be without the train lengthening that was RP1

  • RichardG

    @Peter Hooper:
    I had mail direct from Dan Byles

  • Peter Hooper

    @ RichardG

    I’m not sure where you are getting your energy use figures from, as 0.5kWh/seat-km is 10x greater than the 0.05kWh/seat-km I quoted in Post 29; one of us clearly has the decimal point in the wrong place ! Would you like to check your source material ??

    The figures I’ve seen published for Pendolino trains are

    Class 373 Eurostar 0.05kWh/seat-km
    Class 390 Pendolino 9-car 0.04kWh/seat-km
    Class 390 Pendolino 11-car 0.035kWh/seat-km

    These are figures presented to the Cambridge Energy Forum on 8th February 2007.
    I presume they are based on the Eurostar at 186mph (300kph) and the Pendelinos at 125mph (200kph) though the latter figure may need updating if the WCML was improved for 140mph (225kph) running.

    Finally, I think there is a difference in Test figures for Pendolino power usage and the average power usage in normal working conditions.
    Variations in working conditions are known to include driving techniques, congestion management and traffic regulation, none of which are perfectly replicated in day to day operation.

  • Aaron Walters

    I think your opposition to the line is flawed for many reasons Christian.

    As mentioned by other people the investment is either this or nothing, along with HS2 we should be campaigning for more money for the rest of the rail network and rolling electrification.

    As someone who lives in London you obviously do not see the need for this. I live in Sheffield and I do. I takes 2hrs 30mins on most trains to London from here and makes business in Sheffield less attractive and the Eurostar less attractive to people here.

    Also as mentioned before this will allow european gauge trains to access the UK surely a huge benefit, is the MML going to be regauged, I very much doubt it.

    Finally this is an investment in the future, in more capacity and faster services to the European network. The alternative is more cars, more lorries and more planes.

    I really hope you change your mind.

  • RichardG

    @Peter Hooper:

    Apology’s, As you say .05, a slip of the decimal point. The figures for the test on the Pendolino were reported in I think it was Rail International but I can’t just find the link. They were conducted in service over several various diagrams that the trainset ran.

  • Peter Hooper

    @ RichardG

    Thanks Richard; after your last post I did a google/trawl and found a .doc titled “Pendolino pioneers real time monitoring” on http://www.railbusinessawards.com/uploads but it doesn’t state any figures.
    My interest in energy usage in kWh/seat-km stems from comments in January on Rail-News.com that HS2 would use 3x or even 5x more electricity than existing trains.

    Also at the recent Green Party conference they changed policy over HS2 and now claim it will use considerably more electricity than present trains :-
    Transport expert and Green Party spokesperson on sustainable development Professor John Whitelegg said: “The proposed HS2 trains would burn 50% more energy mile-for-mile than the Eurostar; HS2 would produce more than twice the emissions of an intercity train”.

    Now I am very suspicious about some of these claims, particularly when they are not comparing like with like; I think energy use comparrisons should be a standardised kWh/seat-km.

    And if we are agreed that the Class 373 Eurostar uses 0.05kWh/seat-km, this should compared with the HS2 Traction Energy Modelling Report by Imperial College showing projected energy consumption of :-

    0.043 kWh/seat-km when travelling at 186mph (300kph)
    0.053 kWh/seat-km when travelling at 220mph (360kph)

    Now in my book there is no way that 0.53 is 50% greater than .05kWh/seat-km; furthermore there are no present proposals for the HS2 to initially operate at 250mph, rather 220mph would be the initial optimum speed with the line being future proofed for later development.

  • Peter Hooper
  • D Lucas


    “Everyone says we should fly less and use our cars less. Everyone says our trains are overcrowded. Everyone says France, Japan, Germany and Italy have terrific high-speed railways. Yet the government’s proposal to build a new fast line, HS2, to connect our major cities is described as “controversial””
    David Mitchell