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European Railroad Discussion > HS2 -- Yea or Nay ?


Date: 08/23/19 13:01
HS2 -- Yea or Nay ?
Author: Steinzeit2

The announcement that HS2 is going to be 'reviewed' coincided with my rereading this extract from a 1991 address* to the Railway Study Association by Dr John Prideaux, then InterCity's Managing Director [ who is also a bonafide railfan and -- opinion -- one the the best high level executives BR ever had ], regarding the HS2 concept:  "Calls to replace the WCML with a TGV-type alignment are in [ his ] view misplaced.  The WCML is relatively direct and, unlike the Florence-Rome direttissima, for instance, there is no great distance saving to be made.  The snags lie in the localized problems leading to [ speed ] restrictions every 20-30 miles [ such as curves, stations, tunnels, some of which he listed ]..."

Also of interest was the market research findings which showed that at that time, four out of five journeys on InterCity were for personal, not business, reasons;  visiting friends and relatives was the largest single reason for journeys.

So, should HS2 be built, or not ?  Your opinion, please, and why ?

Best regards, SZ

*Major excerpts from which appeared in the 6/91 Modern Railways
 



Date: 08/23/19 14:27
Re: HS2 -- Yea or Nay ?
Author: exhaustED

Steinzeit2 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The announcement that HS2 is going to be
> 'reviewed' coincided with my rereading this
> extract from a 1991 address* to the Railway Study
> Association by Dr John Prideaux, then InterCity's
> Managing Director [ who is also a bonafide railfan
> and -- opinion -- one the the best high level
> executives BR ever had ], regarding the HS2
> concept:  "Calls to replace the WCML with a
> TGV-type alignment are in [ his ] view
> misplaced.  The WCML is relatively direct and,
> unlike the Florence-Rome direttissima, for
> instance, there is no great distance saving to be
> made.  The snags lie in the localized problems
> leading to [ speed ] restrictions every 20-30
> miles [ such as curves, stations, tunnels, some of
> which he listed ]..."
>
> Also of interest was the market research findings
> which showed that at that time, four out of five
> journeys on InterCity were for personal, not
> business, reasons;  visiting friends and
> relatives was the largest single reason for
> journeys.
>
> So, should HS2 be built, or not ?  Your opinion,
> please, and why ?
>
> Best regards, SZ
>
> *Major excerpts from which appeared in the 6/91
> Modern Railways
>  

The primary reason for 'why' is not so much the journey time savings, rather the fact that a new line will increase capacity. At the moment the largely 4-track west coast mainline is at capacity, with many freight trains and slower 'local' passenger trains sharing the route with a large number of high speed trains.
The projection is for more trains of all types in the future... therefore a new line that takes the high speed trains onto a separate alignment is the best solution. That's the theory.



Date: 08/25/19 05:00
Re: HS2 -- Yea or Nay ?
Author: 86235

Steinzeit2 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "...The snags lie in the localized problems
> leading to [ speed ] restrictions every 20-30
> miles [ such as curves, stations, tunnels, some of
> which he listed ]..."

But did Dr Prideaux have an answer, because there lies the conundrum? Further improvements to capacity and speed on the WCML could only be achieved at great cost and considerable inconvenience to the travelling public whilst the work was underway. The fixed block signalling system could be replaced, but that was the intention of the post privatisation Virgin / Railtrack modernisation plan and it was quickly junked when the technical complexities became apparant. Maybe today there are moving block solutions fit for a 140 / 110 / 75 / 60 / 45 mph mixed traffic railway but if not then it's difficult to see how capacity could be increased without new construction. By-passing pinch points and junctions, like Rugby or Stafford for instance, could only be achieved at huge cost, the acquisition of land I suspect would be prohibitive, especially near urban centres and what would it achieve in terms of journey time savings at 125 mph? And ultimately how much breathing space would a second WCML upgrade give before capacity is once again at a premium? There's also the question of costs and timescales, Network Rail's ability to deliver projects to budget and on time is questionable, the Great Western electrification being a case in point; it's late, over budget and significantly reduced in scope, not a good omen for a further Network Rail led modernisation scheme. So maybe HS2 is the least worst option if you accept that doing nothing is not a tenable solution.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/25/19 14:00 by 86235.



Date: 08/25/19 08:50
Re: HS2 -- Yea or Nay ?
Author: exhaustED

Agreed, it looks very expensive, but on balance... HS2 is needed.



Date: 08/26/19 19:48
Re: HS2 -- Yea or Nay ?
Author: eminence_grise

One of the HS2 issues is the amount of reidential property that would have to be demolished in the approaches to London.

 



Date: 08/28/19 19:35
Re: HS2 -- Yea or Nay ?
Author: Steinzeit2

86235 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Steinzeit2 Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > "...The snags lie in the localized problems
> > leading to [ speed ] restrictions every 20-30
> > miles [ such as curves, stations, tunnels, some
> of
> > which he listed ]..."
>
> But did Dr Prideaux have an answer, because there
> lies the conundrum? Further improvements to
> capacity and speed on the WCML could only be
> achieved at great cost and considerable
> inconvenience to the travelling public whilst the
> work was underway. ......

Yes he did -- but at the time of the address.  That "horribly inefficient" British Rail at that time still had the management expertise to cut in incremental improvements with relatively -- by today's standard -- minimal service disruption, as on the East Coast;  further, since Intercity was the primary user, the infrastructure came under his domain rather than a different profit center.  I do agree that Network Rail seems, despite what their regional manager says about being responsive to the public, unable to do even straightforward jobs without complete closure -- a good case in point is the recent Acton Grange Jct work, where the WCML was closed for 13* days, but what was accomplished in terms of improvement as opposed to renewal ?   Clearly a different management / ownership / cost solution has to be found;  is Network Rail overly dependent on non-specialized, non-rail contractors, for example ?

After reading some of the official documents supporting HS2 because of "capacity issues", I am now convinced HS2 is unnecessary;  I'll explain in a future post ( or two...).

Best, SZ

*Edited to add:  I was in error, it was 16 days -- over two weeks !!
 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/31/19 19:27 by Steinzeit2.



Date: 08/31/19 18:34
Re: HS2 -- Yea or Nay ?
Author: Steinzeit2

1.  The two documents that I found found informative regarding the 'need' for HS2 were both prepared for the DfT [ HM Dept of Transport ] and are both readily available on the i'net:
   a)  The Strategic Case for HS2: Demand and Capacity Pressures on the WCML
   b)  High Speed 2 Strategic Alternatives Study  [ which was prepared by Atkins, the same firm that has a sizeable contract for HS2 .....]

   The first of these is 108 pages, but has so much repetition you'll think your computer screen page keeps going backwards; there's only about 20 or so pages of real information.   The second is much longer at 185 pages, but if you skip over the non-WCML portion, eg looking at Chiltern, Paddington-Oxford, etc, there is about another 20-25 pages of good information.

 2.  The following is my interpretation of the "capacity problem":  There are two elements of capacity, train density and train length. 

   a)  The train density problem is primarily due to the growth in outer suburban traffic, which is defined as > 40 miles.   [  For reference, Leighton Buzzard is 40.5 miles from Euston, but Bletchley at 46.75 has traditionally been a commuter terminus for years, so we can say that the inner suburban district ends there, I think.]  These outer suburban trains use the fast lines out of Euston, effectively depriving Virgin, the present InterCity operator, of using them for LD trains.  The problem is made worse by the pairing by Fast / Slow instead of direction, so that crossing from, say, Down Fast to Down Slow also blocks the Up Fast.   The trains density problem is really apparent only during the commuter rush hours, 7 to 10 am and 4 to 7 pm..

   b)  Train length seems to primarily be a factor of platform length, although all 'suburban' platforms to Northampton, the end of the outer suburban service, have been lengthened to take 12 car trains.   Euston, despite the rebuilding in the early 1960''s, has very few long platforms -- in part due to the Watford DC, now Overground tracks, in the center of the station*.  This will be partially solved by the new 400m long HS2 platforms now under construction on the west side, and which were [ are ? ] planned to be equally accessible from the WCML.   [ For reference, a Pendolino or Mk 4 coach can be thought of as 25m long.]
     [* I've seen a reference to these trains being diverted to elsewhere, by new construction presumably, but I've been unable to find a reference on this;  can anyone help ? ]
[[ Edited to answer own question:  A TfL map of what the Overground ( of which the Watford DC is now part ) will look like in 2026 shows no change, so perhaps the thought of diversion was not very solid, or "overtaken by events".]]

So it would appear that if these two issues were solved, there would be no need for HS2.

Best regards, SZ
 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/01/19 07:45 by Steinzeit2.



Date: 09/01/19 22:48
Re: HS2 -- Yea or Nay ?
Author: darkcloud

Steinzeit2 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> So it would appear that if these two issues were
> solved, there would be no need for HS2.
>
> Best regards, SZ


Disagree.  It's important for cutting times to Scotland, and to a lesser extent to much of the central UK pop.  But the large pop. of the latter increases that importance, too.



Date: 09/02/19 18:14
Re: HS2 -- Yea or Nay ?
Author: Steinzeit2

I wholeheartedly agree that cutting time to Scotland is important;  indeed, that should be perhaps the main directive of a British high speed line -- after all, the greater the distances, the greater the time benefit.  The problem is, HS2 in this form doesn't really do that, it's more of a regional railway -- a sort of London Midland Region 1955 Modernization Plan on steroids.  But HS2 Ltd purportedly said there is "no business case" for a high speed line to Scotland;  I haven't researched that, so I don't know if that is what they said, what it means, or "how" they arrived at that conclusion.  [ Perhaps they just told their consultants what conclusion to come to .....].  Britain talks about a zero-carbon footprint, but whether they really mean it or not no one knows, not even the political types that propound it -- but wouldn't that make such a line desirable if air traffic must shrink ?

So instead of going to Edinburgh via Birmingham, take your official Tsar Nicholas I Ruler and draw a line from London to Newcastle [ well, just west of central Newcastle;  lets call it Shin-Newcastle ] and another one from there to Edinburgh Waverly.  Add stops for Sheffield and Leeds, and add better Transpennine connections to Manchester and you'd have a real HS line -- in my opinion, of course.......

Best regards, SZ




 



Date: 09/02/19 23:34
Re: HS2 -- Yea or Nay ?
Author: exhaustED

Steinzeit2 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> So it would appear that if these two issues were
> solved, there would be no need for HS2.
>
> Best regards, SZ
>  

Easily said... but how would you solve those issues? You say 'only during the rush hours' but that's 25% of the day! A lot of freight runs at night but the main roads/motorways are chock full of trucks still... to get more of those off the roads and onto rail, there needs to be more capacity on the railway.



Date: 09/03/19 19:49
Re: HS2 -- Yea or Nay ?
Author: Steinzeit2

A.  Train length:   Those nice folks at HS2 Ltd are building new 400 m, 16 car platforms on the west side of Euston, which appear to be directly connected to the fast lines.  Once they are in service, I would initiate a rolling program of lengthening the existing platforms, starting on the east and working west.  I would make these at least 450 m long;  to do this the frontage of Euston would be extended south*, to facilitate Underground connections.  It would be nice if the Overground lines were diverted elsewhere -- perhaps Old Oak -- but that's not a necessity.

B.  Line occupancy:
  a)  The longer platforms give the opportunity to run two trainsets -- say, two 9 car Pendos -- in MU to Milton Keynes, where they would divide to two different destinations;  the leading portion would not take passengers for there.  An additional platform would be built there on the west side.  If it were a single TOC, the trailing set could be an outer suburban if their top speed matched.
      I don't know if this would work in the Up direction, given the lack of operating discipline in Britain -- but I can think of solutions.
  b)  I would reverse signal the two inside lines [ Up Fast, Down Slow ] and ultimately change them over to operate by direction, probably with the Fast lines on the inside, to eliminate the weave conflicts.  Except for the DC lines at Euston and the North London line at Camden, this could easily be done right from Euston, where the lines are arranged by direction, though with the Slow in the center.   Clearly a flyover is needed north of M.K..
  c)  What BR should have installed at the time of electrification:  Real cab signals, not AWS or AWS+, with speed enforcement.

C.  Freight:  Where are all those freights going to be going -- not to Willesden Container Terminal, that's for sure.  All of the ones I see are going to the docks on the east or south coasts or the Chunnel.  The North London line is more of a capacity restraint, hence the upgrading of 'The Goblin' -- a sort of mini-HS2 debacle.   Even Atkins says there is no freight capacity problem south of Rugby.  Getting the traffic off the roads is a much bigger problem than the resultant increased traffic.

With best regards, SZ

*It is interesting to recall that the Euston Arch was demolished because BR said they wished to extend the buffers farther south in the 60's rebuilding -- but they didn't.........



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