Degrading practices, part 14

(… continued from Degrading practices, part 13, posted on 6 May 2015).

The second claim made by Joe Rukin in his Stop HS2 blog posted on 13th February 2015 is that thirty-four named West Coast Main Line (WCML) stations could see reduced services to London if HS2 goes ahead. This claim can again be checked by referring to the table that I have prepared that details the before and after HS2 services for each of these named stations.

It will again be helpful to split the thirty-four stations down into the same five groups.

In the case of the first group of seventeen stations only served by long-distance WCML trains both before and after HS2 becomes operational, three stations are shown in my table as being scheduled for fewer stopping services in the peak hour, nine are shown with the same frequency of service and the remaining five are scheduled for a more-frequent service.

Of the second group of six stations currently served by both long-distance and commuter WCML services, and with this scheduled to remain the case, two are shown in my table as being scheduled for fewer stopping services in the peak hour and four are scheduled for a more-frequent service.

In the third group of five stations that would continue to be served by WCML trains, but will also enjoy stops by HS2 classic-compatible trains, two will end up with fewer peak-hour stopping services from WCML and HS2 combined. One would get the same number of peak-hour services and two would fare better than now.

For the fourth group, containing the three stations at which the current WCML direct long-distance services would no longer stop, the replacement HS2 classic-compatible trains will offer the same number of peak-hour stops at two stations and fewer stops at one.

Again no determination can be made regarding the final group of three stations, as the future plans are not known.

Overall then, Joe’s prediction that fewer services will call once HS2 is in service can be shown to be correct for eight of his thirty-four identified stations (Coventry, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, Warrington Bank Quay, Wigan North Western, Lancaster, Oxenholme Lake District and Carlisle). So he is on less firm ground with this claim, but can still demonstrate justification for making it.

Joe’s third claim is that some of his stations could see “no services at all to London if HS2 goes ahead”. My table provides no real support for this assertion. The nearest I can find to a station that would lose all current services is Wilmslow, which would get a call by a HS2 classic-compatible train to compensate for the complete loss of WCML services. I should, perhaps, also restate the qualification that we are currently in the dark about the situation regarding direct services to Telford Central, Shrewsbury and Blackpool North.

But, all in all, I think that Joe’s complaint stands up reasonably well. It is certainly closer to the truth than the Government’s [cl]aim, restated by Professor Andrew McNaughton in his presentation to the HS2 Select Committee (see footnote), that “all places with a direct London service today [will] retain a broadly comparable or better service after HS2 opens”. Whether that Government position is an aim or a claim, it is clearly one that will not be achieved, based upon my assessment in the final column of my table. Whilst I explained in part 12 the difficulties in making this assessment, and I have erred towards giving a positive, rather than a negative, rating in each case for this very reason, I feel that these are a reasonable test of the “broadly comparable or better” [cl]aim. I have rated six stations as having a “significantly worse” service post-HS2, indicated by “- -“, and twelve as being “appreciably worse”, designated as “-“. So that’s one more than one-half of the stations listed by Joe that fail the “broadly comparable or better” [cl]aim.

It is perhaps a sign of his desperation to defend the HS2 project with all guns blazing, no matter what the underlying truth may be, that Paul Bigland used blogs posted on 13th February 2015  and 19th February 2015 to attack both Joe Rukin and the contents of his blog.

Aside from the very unpleasant tone of his pieces, in which he brands Joe Rukin a liar and those of us who may give some credence to Joe’s claims as being “really stupid or geographically challenged”, he appears to have done what he accuses Joe of, which is to sound off without paying due regard to the facts. In his repudiation he appears to rely, far too gullibly you might think, on the aforementioned assurance given to the HS2 Select Committee by Professor McNaughton that “where people have a train service to London, after HS2 comes in, there ought to be broadly a comparable-type service”, and the fact of the matter is that, as my analysis has shown, the professor was not able to demonstrate that this would be achieved.

He also quotes Professor McNaughton telling the Select Committee that “the purpose of HS2 is to serve cities on the long-distance network” (see footnote 3) and that HS2 Ltd’s future plans have, as a consequence “effectively stripped the long-distance non-stopping services off the West Coast Main Line fast lines and into that now virtually empty railway” (see footnote 4). What Mr Bigland fails to realise, or at any rate tell us, is that HS2 Phase 1 will only serve eight of the thirty-four stations listed by Joe Rukin, and thereby cannot supply anything like the degree of direct relief to WCML long-distance services that Professor McNaughton implies.

At the end of his first blog Mr Bigland quotes Shakespeare to warn Joe Rukin that “truth will out”. That’s probably not the most appropriate reference, as Shakespeare’s words come from the mouth of a character engaged in trying to dupe his father (see footnote 2) – The Bard of Avon was not lacking a sense of irony. Notwithstanding, it is my hope that the facts and figures that I have presented in my blog series will serve to “out” the truth to the satisfaction of Mr Bigland.


  1. Professor McNaughton’s restatement is recorded in paragraph 186 of the transcript of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committee for the afternoon of Wednesday 11thFebruary 2015.
  2. The phrase is uttered to his blind father (Old Gobbo) by Lancelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice (Act II, Scene 2). The son is “try[ing] confusions” with his father, including passing himself off as a stranger telling Old Gobbo that Lancelot is dead.
  3. See paragraph 170 of the transcript for the afternoon of Wednesday 11thFebruary 2015.
  4. See paragraph 179 of the transcript for the afternoon of Wednesday 11thFebruary 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.





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