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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