Degrading practices, part 10

(… continued from Degrading practices, part 9, posted on 20 Apr 2015).

I have finally reached the point in my treatise where I feel that we have achieved sufficient enlightenment to return to the issue raised before the HS2 Select Committee by prominent Coventry resident Joe Elliott and Stop HS2 campaigner Joe Rukin in January this year, and which I reported in part 1 of this series. Both of these gentlemen expressed fears that direct services between Coventry and London on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) would be degraded once HS2 Phase 1 becomes operational.

Details of the current peak-hour services from Euston to Coventry are given in the table that I introduced in part 4 of this blog series. What Mr Elliott called a “fantastic service” is provided by Virgin Pendolinos that run, with the exception of early morning and late evening, three times an hour in each direction, mostly with a single intermediate stop at either Rugby, Milton Keynes Central or Watford Junction, and achieving a scheduled journey time that is one minute less than an hour (see footnote 1). In addition, Coventry passengers are protected from overcrowding by commuters on the London-Milton Keynes section of the route by the peak-time boarding and disembarking restrictions that I have already mentioned (see part 8 and part 9 of this blog series).

It is also currently possible to travel between Euston and Coventry on services provided by London Midland – three trains operate in each direction for the greater part of the day. However, this is not the service of choice for Coventry passengers, as the scheduled journey time varies from 100 to 107 minutes, forty minutes, or more, longer than by Virgin. So if you just miss your Virgin train, you are likely to get to your destination faster by waiting for the next one rather than hopping on a London Midland train that is ready to depart. This accounts for Joe Elliott referring to there being three services an hour, an excusable inexactitude; Joe Rukin was more correct in saying that there are currently three fast services an hour (see footnote 2).

However, I think that one other claim made by Joe Rukin, although not incorrect, requires some qualification. Joe said that the original plans for HS2 reduced the fast train service “down to one an hour”, a claim that was also made by Mr Elliott. In fact, from the very first published report on HS2 the peak-hour long-distance service through Coventry has been proposed to be two an hour, reduced to one only in off-peak periods (see footnote 3). Nevertheless, Joe Rukin was right that there appear to have been second thoughts about resorting to only one hourly service off-peak.

We also need to be aware that HS2 will offer an alternative route to and from London for some current users of Coventry station. The proposed Birmingham Interchange parkway station will be approximately 14 km (9 miles), as the crow flies, from Coventry Station. Since the best journey time to London from the new station will be 32 minutes less than from the existing WCML Birmingham International we can expect the capture area for car travellers using the new station to extend further than applies to the current Birmingham International station. Although perhaps not in the best interests of greenhouse gas emission reductions, it will become feasible for some Coventry travellers to spend some of the half-hour saved on their train journey in a longer car journey to the station and switch from Coventry to Birmingham Interchange. This is only likely to be a realistic option for those living on the western side of Coventry, and will, I suspect, leave many residents of the Coventry area, or those travelling from London to that area, with little option but to stick with the WCML and Coventry station.

There will also be another possible route, which is to use HS2 between London and Birmingham Interchange and to use the WCML between Coventry and Birmingham International. Mr Elliott did not view this as a particularly attractive option, pointing out that, even on a Virgin Pendolino, it takes 12-13 minutes between the two WCML railway stations to which must be added the time to interchange between the WCML and HS2 stations (see footnote 4).

So, if most Coventry travellers heading to or arriving from London are unlikely to find HS2 an attractive alternative to the WCML, what does Professor McNaughton’s indicative service plans promise? Applying a similar analysis as I used for the London-Milton Keynes-Northampton rail corridor in part 9 yields the following characteristics of the indicative service plan for long-distance services:

Current stopping peak-hour services from London                                                    3

Intermediate stops factor for current peak-hour services                                           1.0

Indicative stopping services after HS2 Phase 1 (Figure 6-3)                                      2

Intermediate stops factor for indicative peak-hour services after HS2 Phase 1         4.0

And for the “commuter” services, currently operated by London Midland:

Current stopping peak-hour services from London                                                    3

Intermediate stops factor for current peak-hour services                                           6.7

Indicative stopping services after HS2 Phase 1 (Figure 6-6)                                      2

Intermediate stops factor for indicative peak-hour services after HS2 Phase 1         6.0

I don’t know what you think, but it looks to me that Messrs Elliott and Rukin were right to claim that the services on the WCML rail link between Coventry and Euston will be degraded once HS2 Phase 1 becomes operational.

(To be continued …)

Footnotes:

  1. Whilst all three services leaving Euston between 17:00 and 17:59 on a weekday are scheduled to take 59 minutes, some other off-peak services are scheduled to take up to five minutes longer.
  2. Mr Elliott’s comments on the existing service may be found in paragraph 118 of the transcript for the morning of Wednesday 14th February 2015. Mr Rukin’s are recorded in paragraph 318 of the same transcript.
  3. See the sixth and seventh train paths from the left of the Appendix B diagram in the December 2010 document High Speed Rail London to the West Midlands and Beyond: HS2 Technical Appendix.
  4. Mr Elliott’s comments on travelling from Coventry to catch HS2 may be found in paragraph 204 of the transcript for the morning of Wednesday 14th February 2015.

PS: Whilst I have tried very hard to get my facts, and interpretations that follow, right, I am very conscious that I am not a railway buff, but that some of my readers are. If I get anything in this current series wrong, please let me know.

Important Note: The account of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committee that is given in this blog is based upon an uncorrected transcript of evidence, which is not yet an approved formal record of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

 

Degrading practices, part 9

(… continued from Degrading practices, part 8, posted on 16 Apr 2015).

In part 5 I characterised the recasting of services on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) that will be required subsequent to the opening of HS2 Phase 1 as “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. Professor Andrew McNaughton told the Members of the HS2 Select Committee that the aim of the indicative proposals that he was presenting to them was “particularly to pick up the commuter growth areas, which are part of the Government’s central strategy, out at Milton Keynes, Northampton, Rugby and so forth” (see footnote 1). Indeed, boosting commuter services in the London-Milton Keynes-Northampton rail corridor is consistent with one of the “high level principles” identified in The Strategic Case for HS2 (see footnote 2).

Of course, none of the stations that Professor McNaughton mentioned will be served by HS2 trains, so they can only be given more train services if they are cast as Paul in the Peter/Paul equation. So an acid test of how successful HS2 will be as a solution to WCML capacity problems is the extent to which it will boost capacity in these commuter growth areas. In order to get some feel for this, I have constructed another table of data; this one concentrates on the London-Milton Keynes-Northampton rail corridor.

In this table I have listed only stations on the Euston-Rugby section of the WCML that are currently served by London Midland and/or Southern. For each station I have compared the number of trains currently serving it in the 17:00-17:59 peak hour (first column of figures) with the service calling rate envisaged by the indicative service pattern shown in Figure 6-6 and Figure 6-12 of The Economic Case for HS2, PFMv4.3: Assumptions Report (fourth column of figures). Whether the Southern cross-London link service should be in the count is arguable, since it does not call at Euston, but it does provide a commuter service into north London (Wembley Central) and so I have included its station calls in my totals.

The other service aspect that my table considers is what I have called the “intermediate stops factor”, which gives a measure of the number of intermediate station stops that a traveller from Euston to the named station will encounter before reaching his destination. The number of stops varies from one train path to another, so I have taken a simple average of stops per peak-hour train path – I have excluded the Southern service(s) from this average, as these trains do not call at Euston. I have included this factor because I consider it an indicator of the “quality” of a journey – a trip with more intermediate stops is likely to take longer and be more crowded.

The third column of my table counts stops by long-distance trains, currently operated by Virgin; due to disembarking restrictions these services do not serve commuters to Watford or Milton Keynes. The sixth column shows stops by long-distance trains provided by the indicative post-HS2 Phase 1 service pattern shown in Figure 6-3 of The Economic Case for HS2, PFMv4.3: Assumptions Report. I have not been able to find any information about whether any service restrictions are likely to apply to these trains.

Taken over all of the stations listed the future indicative service provides an approximately fifty percent increase (from 72 to 106) in the number of peak-hour station stops by WCML commuter trains, which is a welcome improvement. The majority of stations share in this bonanza, although to varying extents, but two stations, Wolverton and Long Buckby, look to be destined for a worse service after HS2 comes into operation – so the Government’s intention to “ensure that all locations with services to London will have services that are broadly comparable, or improved, when HS2 arrives”, to which I referred in part 1, appears to be at risk even in this most-favoured WCML corridor.

The solution for Milton Keynes Central, which I would imagine is the epicentre of commuter growth, appears to have been found in a different way. At this station the number of stops by commuter services has only been increased by one – effectively this is brought about by the doubling of the Southern service from one to two – and additional capacity is proposed by increasing the stops by long-distance trains from three to seven. Presumably, if this increase in services is to have any impact upon commuter overcrowding, then at least some of the seven long-distance services will need to be freed from the current peak-hour restrictions that apply to the current three long-distance services that call at Milton Keynes Central, and which I referred to above.

Intermediate stops factors will, in general, be improved by the indicative post-HS2 proposals, or will, at least, be no worse. However, passengers using three stations, Apsley, Hemel Hempstead and Leighton Buzzard, will find more intermediate stops on their services, with consequent increased journey times, presumably.

In his presentation, Professor McNaughton specifically mentioned Northampton and Rugby as “two other areas where people would like to run more trains” (see footnote 3). Strangely, in view of this, these two stations do not seem to do that well under the proposals that the professor presented; the former gets only one additional calling commuter service, plus a new terminating long-distance service, and the latter is expected to make do with the current number of peak-hour services (four), with only an additional calling long-distance service to add capacity.

(To be continued …)

Footnotes:

  1. The relevant section of Professor McNaughton’s evidence to the Select Committee is recorded in paragraphs 174 to 188 in the transcript for the afternoon of Wednesday 11th February 2015. The quote comes from paragraph 179.
  2. The principle “to provide additional commuter capacity where it is most needed” is one that I identified in part 5 of this blog series. The full list of the “high level principles” may be found in paragraph 4.2.6 of the document The Strategic Case for HS2.
  3. See paragraph 184 of the transcript for the afternoon of Wednesday 11th February 2015.

PS: Whilst I have tried very hard to get my facts, and interpretations that follow, right, I am very conscious that I am not a railway buff, but that some of my readers are. If I get anything in this current series wrong, please let me know.

Important Note: The account of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committee that is given in this blog is based upon an uncorrected transcript of evidence, which is not yet an approved formal record of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

Degrading practices, part 8

(… continued from Degrading practices, part 7, posted on 12 Apr 2015).

In this posting I will continue my examination of the exhibit below that Professor Andrew McNaughton presented to the HS2 Select Committee on the afternoon of Wednesday 11th February 2015 (see footnote), in particular the right-hand side diagram that provides an “indication of how the West Coast could be used when High Speed 2 comes along”.

Select Committee exhibit P4557(13) (Source: HS2Ltd)

Select Committee exhibit P4557(13) (Source: HS2Ltd)

The red and yellow lines indicate train paths that might be operated on the West Coast Main Line (WCML), with the red lines indicating services running on the slow line and the yellow those operating on the fast line. Unlike the diagram on the left-hand side of the slide, there has been no attempt to differentiate between fast long-distance services (currently operated by Virgin Trains) and commuter services (currently operated by London Midland) – Professor McNaughton said that he “didn’t want to suggest franchises at this stage” because it would be “premature”. He did, however, admit that he “shouldn’t have used yellow” because “it’s the same yellow” as has been used in the left-hand diagram to designate the London Midland franchise.

Nevertheless, Professor McNaughton’s source document, The Economic Case for HS2, PFMv4.3: Assumptions Report, does differentiate between long-distance and commuter services, and the former are set out in Figure 6-3. This figure suggests a reduction from the current eleven peak-hour long-distance services leaving Euston on the fast line to seven as follows:

  • The service to Holyhead will be retained, but stops will be added at Milton Keynes Central, Rugby, Tamworth, Lichfield Trent Valley and Stafford, which will presumably increase the current 3hrs 49mins travel time to Holyhead (unless improvements are also made to the North Wales line).
  • The service to Scotland will be retained, but stops will be added at Milton Keynes Central, Stoke-on-Trent, Macclesfield, Stockport, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Oxford Road, which will presumably increase the travel time to stations north of Preston that will not be served by HS2 classic-compatible trains (e.g. Carlisle and Motherwell).
  • One service to Manchester Piccadilly will be retained, which will serve the same intermediate stations as the current service that leaves Euston on the hour. This service will, however, only operate towards London in the morning peak and in the reverse direction in the evening peak.
  • The current service to Liverpool will terminate at Crewe and intermediate stops at Lichfield Trent Valley, Tamworth, Nuneaton, Rugby and Milton Keynes Central will be added. Like the Manchester service, this train will operate in the peak direction only.
  • There will be a new fast service to Northampton, calling at Milton Keynes Central only.
  • Two of the current three fast services to Birmingham New Street will be retained, and both will be extended to Wolverhampton, rather than one as at present. It is perhaps an indication of the inefficiency of the HS2 solution for this route that five long-distance services (three on HS2 and two on WCML) will be required to replace the facility offered by three WCML services at present.
  • The direct service from London to Scotland via Birmingham will be replaced by a service from Birmingham to Scotland, requiring a change of trains at Birmingham New Street.
  • There is no indication in Figure 6-3, or its accompanying text, whether the current restrictions that are designed to keep Watford Junction and Milton Keynes Central commuters off the long-distance services will be retained.

The post-HS2 proposal will also double the frequency of the Croydon-Milton Keynes Central service on the slow line to two at peak times.

The indicative commuter services post HS2, running on a combination of the slow and fast lines, are set out in Figure 6-6 in the Assumptions Report. The proposal increases the number of train paths used for these services from the current total of eleven operated by London Midland to fourteen, as follows:

  • The slow line services terminating at Tring will be increased from two to three, which will increase the trains calling at Watford Junction and Apsley by one per hour and those calling at Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamstead and Tring by two an hour.
  • One of the two slow line services that currently terminate at Milton Keynes Central will be replaced by two slow line services terminating at Bletchley and the other will have additional stops added, which will have the combined effect of removing Kings Langley from the stations served, increasing the trains calling at Harrow & Wealdstone, Hemel Hempstead, Tring and Bletchley by one per hour, increasing those calling at Berkhamstead and Bletchley by two an hour and adding Leighton Buzzard to the stations served (with two trains).
  • The current slow line peak hour service to Northampton will be changed to remove Harrow & Wealdstone, Berkhamstead and Wolverton from the stations served and add Leighton Buzzard, Apsley and Kings Langley.
  • The current fast line peak hour service to Northampton will be increased to two services, increasing the trains calling at Leighton Buzzard, Bletchley and Milton Keynes Central to two, adding Watford Junction to the list of stations served (two trains) and removing Wolverton from the stations served.
  • A fast line peak hour service to Rugby will be added, calling at Berkhamstead, Leighton Buzzard, Wolverton and Northampton.
  • The current slow line service to Birmingham New Street will be removed.
  • The current two fast line services to Birmingham New Street will be retained but with changes in the stations served, which will increase the services calling at Leighton Buzzard, Canley, Berkswell and Hampton-in-Arden to two and remove Wolverton, Marston Green, Lea Hall and Stechford from the stations served.
  • The current fast line service to Crewe will be retained, with four additional stops (Polesworth, Stone, Kidsgrove and Alsager).

It is, perhaps, a fitting comment upon the efficiency of the HS2 proposal as a method of improving commuter services that providing ten new train paths on the high-speed lines has the net peak-hour effect of increasing commuter services by only three train paths plus one for the Southern service.

(To be continued …)

Footnote: The relevant section of Professor McNaughton’s evidence to the Select Committee is recorded in paragraphs 174 to 188 in the transcript for the afternoon of Wednesday 11th February 2015. The diagram that I have reproduced in this blog is P4557(13) in his exhibits pack.

PS: Whilst I have tried very hard to get my facts, and interpretations that follow, right, I am very conscious that I am not a railway buff, but that some of my readers are. If I get anything in this current series wrong, please let me know.

Important Note: The account of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committee that is given in this blog is based upon an uncorrected transcript of evidence, which is not yet an approved formal record of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

Degrading practices, part 7

(… continued from Degrading practices, part 6, posted on 8 Apr 2015).

Professor Andrew McNaughton, Technical Director of HS2 Ltd, got down to the nitty-gritty of what the opening of HS2 services might mean for the West Coast Main Line (WCML) about halfway through his presentation to the HS2 Select Committee by introducing the exhibit below (see footnote).

Select Committee exhibit P4557(13) (Source: HS2Ltd)

Select Committee exhibit P4557(13) (Source: HS2Ltd)

The professor described the two diagrams depicted on the slide as “involved” and asked the Members of the Select Committee not to “dive straight in” – good advice which I intend to follow. Not only are the diagrams extremely complex, but I have found achieving a clear reproduction impossible, and you may have difficulty reading all of the text even if you expand the graphic to full screen size. So I will take a leaf out of the professor’s book and take things step by step, providing additional illustrations where these will help.

The diagram on the left of the slide shows the services leaving Euston station on the WCML during the weekday hour 17:00 to 17:59, as currently scheduled but excluding London Overground services, depicted as train paths. This gives an alternative presentation of most of the information in the first of my two tables – the one that I introduced in part 2 – and is the reason for using the same peak hour for my table and is also why I excluded London Overground services. If you check the table against the diagram you will see that each service that I have identified in my table corresponds to a line (train path) on the diagram.

The train paths that use the slow line are grouped at the left of the diagram; these are seven London Midland services (coloured blue), plus the Southern service to Milton Keynes Central (coloured red). I have checked my table against this diagram, and the information in both tallies exactly.

The group on the right of the diagram for the current timetable shows the corresponding train paths for the fast line services. These are four London Midland services (again coloured blue) and eleven long-distance, limited-stop Virgin Trains services (coloured yellow). Again my table and Professor McNaughton’s train path diagram agree, with the minor exception that my understanding – which I have rechecked against the relevant timetable – is that the circle for Watford Junction on the left-hand yellow line in Professor McNaughton’s diagram should be faint, rather than bold, to indicate a “pick-up only station stop”.

The group that occupies the right-hand side of Professor McNaughton’s slide forms what he described as “an indicative service specification” that provides an “indication of how the West Coast could be used when High Speed 2 comes along”. However, as the professor pointed out, “the actual use of that released capacity would be planned in due course” and so we can’t place too much reliance on the detail, such as the number of services that will be provided at each station and the actual configuration of any of the train paths. Nevertheless, I think that it is possible to get at least a flavour of how WCML users are likely to fare after HS2 Phase 1 becomes operational.

The pale blue lines at the right-hand side of Professor McNaughton’s train path diagram depict HS2 services; full lines are sections running on the new high-speed tracks and the broken line sections indicate sections where classic-compatible trains will use the WCML tracks. This service pattern has been taken from Figure 6-1 in the document The Economic Case for HS2, PFMv4.3: Assumptions Report, and you will probably find this latter diagram is easier to consult for the details rather than Professor McNaughton’s slide. Whilst these services are similar to some of the existing WCML trains, which the Committee were told they would replace, there are some significant differences:

  • The three Birmingham services, which will run entirely on the high-speed tracks, are not able to call at intermediate stations in the Midlands that are served by the current Birmingham long-distance trains (Wolverhampton, Sandwell & Dudley, Coventry and Rugby).
  • Connection with onward services from the two HS2 Birmingham stations will be compromised by their not being collocated with the corresponding WCML stations.
  • The two classic-compatible services to Liverpool will alternate calling at Crewe and Stafford, rather than calling at both stations on each service as is the case now.
  • A classic-compatible service to Preston only will approximately replace the current service to Lancaster, but this will call at Crewe in addition and will not be able to serve Tamworth and Lichfield Trent Valley.
  • Three classic-compatible services to Manchester, with all calling at Stockport and one calling at Wilmslow in addition, will be provided as now, but these new routes will not call at Stoke-on-Trent/Macclesfield or Crewe as now.
  • One classic-compatible service to Scotland will be offered, broadly replacing the current fast route, but this will not serve the intermediate stations of Warrington Bank Quay, Wigan North Western, Lancaster, Oxenholme Lake District, Carlisle and Motherwell.

(To be continued …)

Footnote: The relevant section of Professor McNaughton’s evidence to the Select Committee is recorded in paragraphs 174 to 188 in the transcript for the afternoon of Wednesday 11th February 2015. The diagram that I have reproduced in this blog is P4557(13) in his exhibits pack.

PS: Whilst I have tried very hard to get my facts, and interpretations that follow, right, I am very conscious that I am not a railway buff, but that some of my readers are. If I get anything in this current series wrong, please let me know.

Important Note: The account of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committee that is given in this blog is based upon an uncorrected transcript of evidence, which is not yet an approved formal record of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

Degrading practices, part 6

(… continued from Degrading practices, part 5, posted on 4 Apr 2015).

Although he was far from clear in his explanation to the HS2 Select Committee (see footnote 1), what Professor Andrew McNaughton, Technical Director of HS2 Ltd, appeared to be setting out for his vision of what the West Coast Main Line (WCML) will be after HS2 Phase 1 becomes operational is very largely a railway for outer and local commuter passengers. He said:

“We take off the main line most of the long-distance non-stop services, because the purpose of HS2 is to serve cities on the long-distance network.”

He identified eleven such long-distant services scheduled currently during the WCML peak hour – these correspond to the eleven Virgin Trains services in my table of weekday WCML peak-hour services departing Euston. He said that “most of those 11” services would be replaced by alternatives, and my interpretation of what he said about the nature of those new services is that they would mostly be operated by Class 350 trains, or similar “commuter” stock, rather than the “long-distance” tilting trains used at present.

So this was the “bombshell” that I referred to at the end of my previous posting. Perhaps I should have suspected this was a possibility, but it hadn’t occurred to me before. Unfortunately, none of the Members of the Select Committee appeared to pick up this point and seek confirmation from the professor that he was, in fact, suggesting that the Pendolinos should be removed from the majority of WCML services (see footnote 2). Seeking clarification in the HS2 Ltd published documents, I found the diagram reproduced below in the document The Strategic Case for HS2 (where it is Figure 10 on page 24).

(Source: HS2 Ltd "The Strategic Case for HS2")

(Source: HS2 Ltd “The Strategic Case for HS2″)

The next but bottom bar shows the notional service mix on the WCML and HS2 lines combined when HS2 Phase 1 becomes operational. Within this bar the dark blue colour identifies three fast lane train paths for “Intercity trains”, reduced from eleven within the bar depicting the WCML services in 2009. Could it be that these three services represent the “rump” of today’s Virgin Trains service and will be the only tilting trains running on the WCML?

I have gained some assurance that I have not totally grabbed the wrong end of this particular stick by reference to a blog posted by the usually very astute Beleben. That blogger refers to “replacing current long distance trains with pseudo-commuter ones serving the ‘long-distance’ market, running beyond the normal commuter threshold (Northants)” and asks the question, “Are Class 350 trains really suitable for journeys of 300 km or more?”

If you look at the videos of the interiors of a London Midland Class 350 and a Virgin Pendolino that I have provided links to in part 2 you can provide your own answer to Beleben’s question.

However, Beleben also includes a table in the blog, attributed to an unidentified FOI response, that identifies four additional “commuter fast” services to be operated by Pendolino trains. So, not for the first time in my grappling with HS2, I am confused.

I can appreciate why, for timetabling reasons, it would be advantageous to remove the faster tilting trains from the WCML; if all trains run at similar operating speeds then the planning headways can be minimised (see footnote 3). It will also, I imagine, make it easier to timetable the classic compatible HS2 trains running on the WCML north of Handsacre junction, if they are not contending with tilting trains that have the ability to operate faster than HS2 on the heritage tracks. So it may make sense, anyway, not to run tilting trains to their full speed capability north of Lichfield.

However, aside from any increases in the number of stops on direct services to/from London that the retimetabling of the WCML may involve, it is reasonable to assume that any service that gets demoted from a tilting train will suffer an increase in journey times. Passenger comfort, as has already been argued, may also suffer, and travellers with luggage will find that the reasonable baggage stowage facilities provided on a Pendolino are missing on commuter stock – commuters are not expected to carry luggage.

So the rolling stock that will be used for each new service will be a very real issue for travellers. Whilst I understand the point made by HS2 Ltd that “timetables for the 2020s and 2030s will not be written until nearer the time”, I also agree with HS2 Ltd that “it is important to deepen our understanding of how rail services might be reshaped by HS2” (see footnote 4). One important element of this understanding is, I content, clear guidelines on the rolling stock that it is envisaged will be employed.

(To be continued …)

Footnotes:

  1. The relevant section of Professor McNaughton’s evidence to the Select Committee is recorded in paragraphs 166 to 173 in the transcript for the afternoon of Wednesday 11th February 2015. The slides that illustrate this section of his presentation are P4557(11) and P4557(12) in his exhibits pack.
  2. The Members’ questioning of Professor McNaughton was pretty ineffectual overall. Only one Member, Sir Peter Bottomley, made interjections during the course of the presentation (paragraphs 161, 168, 171, 180-182 and 187 of the transcript) and these were fairly superficial. At the end of the presentation Mr Bellingham asked about comparative fare levels (paragraph 192). My view of the effectiveness of the Members’ questioning of Professor McNaughton appears to be at odds with Paul Bigland’s verdict, expressed in the second of his two blogs on the matter, that they “questioned him intelligently and perceptively” – I respectfully suggest that you make up your own mind on whose view is the more credible.
  3. Paragraph 6.3.1 of The Strategic Case for HS2 cites “addressing the differential speeds of the various types of trains that use the line” as one of the ways of addressing “the challenge of delivering extra capacity”.
  4. See paragraph 61 of the Executive Summary of The Strategic Case for HS2.

PS: Whilst I have tried very hard to get my facts, and interpretations that follow, right, I am very conscious that I am not a railway buff, but that some of my readers are. If I get anything in this current series wrong, please let me know.

Important Note: The account of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committee that is given in this blog is based upon an uncorrected transcript of evidence, which is not yet an approved formal record of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

 

Degrading practices, part 5

(… continued from Degrading practices, part 4, posted on 31 Mar 2015).

In part 4 of this blog series I calculated that as many as 35% of West Coast Main Line (WCML) passengers could be offered the HS2 alternative once Phase 1 is operational. The corollary of this is that around 65% of current WCML passengers will not be able to access HS2 services from their usual station, and will have no alternative but to stick with the WCML. How this majority of passengers will fare, post HS2 coming into service, is therefore an important consideration.

The October 2013 document The Strategic Case for HS2 identifies a number of “high level principles” to be employed in “making best use of the released capacity that HS2 delivers” for the WCML (see footnote 1). These principles include:

  • an aim that all places with a direct London service today retain a broadly comparable or better service after HS2 opens;
  • to provide additional commuter capacity where it is most needed;
  • and, to provide capacity for the growing railfreight sector.

To be frank, I find it bizarre that a new railway that has easing a capacity “crisis” on the heritage network (specifically for WCML commuters) as its prime raison d’être, or so the politicians tell us, will not serve any of the most badly-affected stations directly, or even serve anywhere near them. Similarly, the aspiration to provide railfreight capacity is not tackled head-on, as we have been told on a number of occasions that there are no plans to run freight trains on HS2.

If you check the table listing weekday WCML peak-hour services departing Euston that I introduced in part 2, and compare with the “served by HS2 Phase 1” column in the table that I introduced in part 4, you will see that the HS2 Phase 1 indicative service pattern only replaces one of the 23 peak-hour train paths directly. HS2 only offers relief to the WCML by removing passengers from some routes, thereby freeing seats on the WCML. This rather blunt tool requires a wholesale reworking of the WCML timetables to convert empty seats to freed, or reallocated, train paths. This reworking tends, almost inevitably, to require a “robbing Peter to pay Paul” approach, and there are likely to be losers as well as winners. This may mean that the first of the three principles that I have listed above becomes mutually exclusive to the other two.

I also have the nagging doubt that HS2 Phase 1 may constitute the over-provision of seat capacity on at least one route, London-Birmingham. My calculation (see footnote 2) is that, assuming no growth from 2009/10 passenger levels and that all London passengers using either of the two WCML Birmingham stations transfer to HS2, the occupancy averaged over the day will be around 15%. So, to be viable, the HS2 London/Birmingham service will need to attract at least twice this number of users from when it opens.

It fell to Professor Andrew McNaughton, Technical Director of HS2 Ltd, in giving his presentation on railway capacity to the HS2 Select Committee, to show how well the reuse of capacity on the WCML released by HS2 Phase 1 could satisfy the high level principles. However, the first suggestion that he made for the reorganisation of WCML services was, as far as I was concerned, a bit of a bombshell, but I will explain what that was in my next posting.

Footnotes:

  1. The aims are listed out in paragraph 4.2.6 of the document The Strategic Case for HS2.
  2. I have assumed that three trains per hour run in each direction, amounting to 744 trains per week. If only 200 metre trains (550 seats) are employed, this provides about 21 million seats a year (744x52x550). The 2009/11 flows to/from Birmingham (New Street 2.32 million, International 0.8 million) total 3.1 million passengers. Occupancy on this basis is therefore (3.1/21)x100%.

PS: Whilst I have tried very hard to get my facts, and interpretations that follow, right, I am very conscious that I am not a railway buff, but that some of my readers are. If I get anything in this current series wrong, please let me know.

Degrading practices, part 4

(… continued from Degrading practices, part 3, posted on 27 Mar 2015).

I have prepared another table analysing data for peak-hour services out of Euston on the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

The three columns on the right-hand side of this table are a condensation of the timetable data that I presented in the table that I introduced in part 2; the intention is to provide a count of the weekday peak-hour services that call at each WCML station (see footnote 1).

The centre four columns give travel time information, in minutes, from Euston to each of the WCML stations listed, taken from the published timetables. The number of intermediate stops is also given, in brackets after the travel time. A best and worst travel time is given for both Virgin and London Midland, or for the single operator that serves the station in question, as applicable.

I will come back to consider this service information in my next posting, but for the moment I wish to concentrate on the information in the two columns that are immediately to the right of the station names. The data in the left-hand of these two columns has been extracted from the very informative Network Rail document West Coast Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy (WCML RUS), which I referenced in the footnotes to part 3. This document is a veritable mine of information about the WCML, and includes, on page 47 , two tables of passenger “flows” to and from Euston for the survey year 2009/10; I previously referred to theses tables, 3.9 and 3.10, in my blog A dose of common sense, part 1 (posted 19 Oct 2013).

Whilst this passenger data is around five years old my searches have not turned up any more recent figures, so they will have to do. Also the data is incomplete in that only the ten busiest flows are recorded for stations greater than fifty miles from London, plus a similar top ten for stations less than fifty miles from London. Also of these twenty stations, two are on London Overground only, and so do not appear in my table. However, despite these shortcomings, I think that there is at least a basis here for a consideration to be made of how passenger migration from WCML “classic” services to HS2 is likely to impact on the WCML.

The right-hand of the two columns in my table is derived from the Phase 1 service pattern that has been assumed for the modelling that was used to derive The Economic Case for HS2 that was published in October 2013 (see footnote 2). In this column I have indicated the locations that will be served by Phase 1 of HS2: in the case of the two Birmingham stations this will be by “captive” (GC gauge) high speed trains to new stations in the general locality of the existing WCML station, and for all other indicated locations service will be by “classic compatible” (UK gauge) trains to the WCML station. In total, thirteen WCML locations will be provided with the alternative of a service to/from Euston on HS2 once Phase 1 is operational. Of these thirteen, seven are in the top ten list of long distance flows (Table 3.9) and these seven totalled 8.6 million passenger journeys in 2009/10. The six that we don’t have passenger figures for are: Stafford, Crewe, Wilmslow, Runcorn, Warrington Bank Quay, and Wigan North Western. Since all six must be below 510 million passenger journeys each, otherwise they would feature in the top ten table, the total for the six cannot amount to more than about 3 million, and is probably less, so I will assume that HS2 Phase 1 will attract a maximum of about 11 million passengers from the WCML, ignoring growth on the 2009/10 levels.

The WCML RUS advises that over 31.8 million journeys started from or ended at Euston in 2009/10 (see footnote 3), so HS2 Phase 1 could “poach” up to 35% of WCML passengers. This is a significant proportion, and would have a considerable effect on the business plan for the WCML. So even if it was not part of the HS2 master plan to reorganise services on the WCML, when HS2 Phase 1 becomes operational an extensive timetabling review will become necessary.

As far as Coventry is concerned, the three Virgin Trains serving this station, which carry all but a tiny minority of London traffic, serve five other stations also: Rugby, Birmingham International, Birmingham New Street, Sandwell and Dudley, and Wolverhampton. The last two stations in this list do not feature in the top ten table, but the passenger flows for the remaining four stations served total 4.65 million. The two Birmingham Stations, which will be served by HS2 Phase 1 albeit from different sites, account for 3.12 million, so the Virgin Trains services through Coventry could lose around 60% of their passenger business, based upon 2009/10 levels. It is hard to see that the current service levels enjoyed by the people of Coventry can be maintained in these circumstances.

(To be continued …)

Footnotes:

  1. In calculating the number of services totals I have employed the convention that peak-hour services are those that depart Euston – or Wembley Central in the case of the cross-London service operated by Southern – in the hour 17:00 to 17:59 hrs. Consequently, the departure time from stations distant from London may lie outside this peak hour.
  2. Specifically Figure 6-1 in the document The Economic Case for HS2, PFMv4.3: Assumptions Report. This diagram carries the health warning that it is for “transport modelling purposes only” and that it does not constitute “a future proposed service specification”.
  3. Refer to section 3.11 of the WCML RUS.

PS: Whilst I have tried very hard to get my facts, and interpretations that follow, right, I am very conscious that I am not a railway buff, but that some of my readers are. If I get anything in this current series wrong, please let me know.

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