Capital solutions

The Railfuture analysis, part 6

The designers of HS2 really hate railway stations – trains have to slow down and stop at stations and this adds valuable minutes to the journey time. Passengers, of course, regard conveniently-placed stations as a rather essential way of accessing a train service. In this conflict between designer and customer the HS2 designers have clearly won; HS2 will not serve a whole group of well-used stations on the West Coast Main Line between London and the West Midlands. So Watford Junction, Milton Keynes Central, which carries more passengers to and from London than Birmingham New Street, Northampton, Rugby and Coventry have all been shunned by the HS2 designers.

However, despite this reluctance to include stations in the HS2 route, the Capital is to be blessed with two, which many might think is one more than is strictly necessary. Certainly, Railfuture in its submission to the HS2 public consultation gives an emphatic “thumbs down” to a West London interchange station at Old Oak Common, as I reported in my blog A wet suburban station (posted 9 Feb 2013). Railfuture does however agree with HS2 Ltd that the London terminus should be Euston station.

However, Railfuture does not share the vision of a station that bursts out of its present confines to bring destruction to the surrounding streets. The Railfuture approach is to make room for HS2 at Euston by shifting services elsewhere:

“In the Network Rail London & South East RUS (Rail Utilisation Study) published for consultation earlier in 2011, they suggested diverting most of Euston’s existing commuter flows on to Crossrail, by means of a new connection from Willesden Junction to the Old Oak Common area. This would enable these trains to be joined up with other Crossrail train services terminating at Paddington from the east (something which Railfuture always felt was a failure to make best use of Crossrail’s £16 billion cost and resources). They will also offer improved commuter journeys from the West Coast Main Line corridor, and will balance the currently highly asymmetric Crossrail proposals. The longest regional services to Northampton and some to Milton Keynes could be retained at Euston. Also London Overground’s Watford-Euston service could be diverted to run to Stratford, and TfL appears to support this option. We believe these solutions could greatly reduce pressure on Euston’s Underground connections. With buffer stops advanced 120m towards Euston Road, it is possible to accommodate all the 400m long ‘high-speed’ platforms, without any need to extend the station westwards, with the consequent highly expensive destruction of some 200 homes and other properties, and re-housing and massive compensation costs.”

The point about relieving pressure on the Underground at Euston is significant. Railfuture identifies “its currently limited connectivity to the London Underground and local rail network” as “Euston’s probable major drawback”.

Railfuture notes that the HS2 plans appear to gloss over this major shortcoming:

“Railfuture is concerned that the Government has chosen not to follow normal railway practice, of improving connectivity at existing main line terminals, and of developing strategies to divert terminating commuter flows, for which Kings Cross and St Pancras might be taken as the prime example, with commuter services diverted onto the ‘Thameslink’ network. Apparently the Government has no firm plans to make major improvements to Euston’s ability to cope with dispersal of passengers from the increased HS2 services.”

Railfuture is fully aware that the proposed omission of Old Oak Common from its alternative design, and the loss of the associated access route to Heathrow, may be regarded, in some quarters, as “an additional reason for rejecting” the proposal. Railfuture’s response to this is to offer an alternative outer London interchange, for those who are determined that London should have two stations:

“An alternative possibility if our preferred M1 alignment was selected, could be an interchange station at Brent Cross, where major redevelopment has been agreed in principle already. This would still require a change of trains to reach Heathrow, but provides an option avoiding interchange at congested central London stations. There would be journey time penalties inherent in use of the obvious available circumferential route from the triangle near Cricklewood, via Dudding Hill freight-only line, Acton, thence to Heathrow via the Crossrail route. We estimate a journey time of 25-30 minutes, and clearly this is about connectivity not speed. However it would provide a connection off the highspeed route. We only dwell on this issue at all; in order to highlight that alternative journey options may be possible, without the airport’s accessibility being an additional reason for rejecting our choice for HS2.”

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on February 25, 2013 at 11:14 am

    North towards Stevenage and then splitting to Peterborough and the North and across from Stevenage to Milton Keynes and Coventry/Birmingham is better than the WCML alone. The short sections of 4 track will enable all the main Northern radials to be intecepted giving diversionary access to and from London.

    Reply

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