Rail (UK) - - Hs2 Matters -

Chris­tian Wol­mar’s lat­est of­fer­ing on HS2 is frankly bizarre ( RAIL 823), not so much for what it says as for what it doesn’t say.

Far from just be­ing an at­tempt to keep up with other coun­tries, the rea­son for build­ing HS2 is to add ca­pac­ity to the na­tional rail network, as is ev­i­dent from years of anal­y­sis go­ing back to Network Rail’s New Lines Study of 2008.

What Wol­mar thinks of the pro­posed form of the new ca­pac­ity is im­ma­te­rial. That any se­ri­ous com­men­ta­tor can write a two-page ar­ti­cle with­out men­tion­ing the is­sue is be­yond be­lief.

Equally weird is his idea that there has been no well-funded or or­gan­ised chal­lenge to HS2.

Stop HS2 was al­ways the ego trip of one in­di­vid­ual, but what­ever I think of them, I can’t see how Wol­mar has over­looked HS2AA and 51M - the lat­ter, in par­tic­u­lar, spent large amounts of coun­cil tax­pay­ers’ money on achiev­ing very lit­tle.

And the rea­son these groups failed was (guess what) ca­pac­ity - their so-called “op­ti­mised al­ter­na­tive” ne­glected any­thing other than seats on long-dis­tance trains, fail­ing to ad­dress paths for freight and Lon­don commuters on the West Coast Main Line as well as ser­vice fre­quency on poorly-served in­terur­ban links such as Coven­try-Mil­ton Keynes. These users will, of course, ben­e­fit from re­leased ca­pac­ity on the WCML af­ter HS2 takes the fast through trains, some­thing else that Wol­mar over­looks.

It’s not as if a wide va­ri­ety of routes (and in­deed con­ven­tional rail schemes) wasn’t con­sid­ered dur­ing

de­vel­op­ment of what be­came HS2.

Wol­mar swal­lows the HSUK scheme un­crit­i­cally, but its core route fol­lows the “Re­verse E” con­fig­u­ra­tion that was re­jected at an early stage for HS2 be­cause its jour­ney times to the ma­jor cen­tres of Birm­ing­ham and Manch­ester would have been in­fe­rior to the cho­sen route.

Other as­pects of HSUK that Wol­mar might con­sider are its lack of de­tail on how it will ac­cess Birm­ing­ham New Street and per­suade that sta­tion to take more trains and pas­sen­gers; its fleet size (re­ally not dif­fi­cult to es­ti­mate given any sort of timetable); and its ben­e­fits, which are sim­ply claimed as HS2’s plus 50%.

Wol­mar’s only nod to ca­pac­ity is to snipe at the mis­con­cep­tion that high speed in­creases ca­pac­ity, but I have known many good peo­ple fall into that trap!

He is right that in­creas­ing speed tends to in­crease head­way. But with ETCS Level 2 (not, please note, “mov­ing block”) the re­quired line head­ways at full speed can be shown to be achiev­able, while ca­pac­ity of the HS2 network will be set by ter­mini and low-speed tun­nel sec­tions so that even if the top speed were re­duced, no more trains could be run.

Mean­while, ca­pac­ity ben­e­fits arise not just from adding paths on a new route, but also by us­ing them ef­fi­ciently - first by ded­i­cat­ing the new paths to trains of the same speed, then by de­sign­ing in the ca­pa­bil­ity for trains 400 me­tres long.

Or did Wol­mar re­ally cover these is­sues? Per­haps I blinked... Wil­liam Barter, Towces­ter

In dis­cussing the Dig­i­tal Rail­way ( RAIL 819), the sug­ges­tion is made that with ETCS level 3 ca­pac­ity on rail would be in­creased by 40%, but that cur­rently that de­vel­op­ment is not suf­fi­ciently ad­vanced to be of use. Speed has been re­placed by ca­pac­ity as the rea­son for the need to pro­ceed with HS2.

Bear­ing in mind the dis­rup­tion and de­struc­tion HS2 will bring, would it not make sense to ac­cel­er­ate ETCS level 3 and at least avoid the costs of HS2 be­yond Birm­ing­ham?

The Dig­i­tal so­lu­tion would also ben­e­fit the West Coun­try, East Anglia and Scot­land, where HS2 will have lit­tle ef­fect. Dennis Sumpter, Swan­wick

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