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.


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