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.

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