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HS-2

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PDR
1342352.  Wed Feb 12, 2020 5:55 am Reply with quote

We don't seem to have discussed this - what do people think?.

I would be interested in hearing the views of a certain grey-haired cricketer who is known in the parish...

PDR

 
barbados
1342354.  Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:13 am Reply with quote

I believe the project has been mismanaged from day 1, and that has allowed costs and delays to spiral.
I think that the current plan of dividing the project into sections will make that easier, it is also a good thing that it now comes under government management, rather than private with the occasional update to the transport secretary.
Will it help? It should, there were people complaining on the radio that their ancient woodland is being ripped up, and in the same breath saying how it is ridiculous to be standing on the train to London because itís full.

 
crissdee
1342355.  Wed Feb 12, 2020 7:18 am Reply with quote

I kind of see both sides of the argument. I don't really like to see people's houses cleared, or woodlands levelled, but at the end of the day, our transport infrastructure is woefully inadequate for the job in hand, and roads/rails have to go somewhere. There are a limited number of practical routes from say, Maidstone to London. Finding a way to avoid any place that people care about would be an impossible task.

 
cnb
1342358.  Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:44 am Reply with quote

crissdee wrote:
There are a limited number of practical routes from say, Maidstone to London. Finding a way to avoid any place that people care about would be an impossible task.


It is reasonable to question whether this problem was exacerbated by over-specification. HS2 is designed for 250mph - faster than any extant wheeled rail line in the world. A track designed for current 'European standard' speeds of 200-225mph could have much tighter curves, and be more easily routed around obstacles.

At 250mph, the curve radius needs to be about 7.5km, but at 200mph it can be 4.5km.

The journey time impact over the relatively short distances between cities in the UK is minimal - reducing the speed from 250 to 200 would increase London to Birmingham journey time by less than 5 minutes.

 
crissdee
1342359.  Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:51 am Reply with quote

Even if they specced it down to "only" 200mph, I guarantee that there will be outcry over whatever route they take. As barb points out upthread, people want better rail services without building new infrastructure, the proverbial "cake/eat" syndrome. Something has to give.

 
barbados
1342360.  Wed Feb 12, 2020 10:33 am Reply with quote

Is there not some future proofing taking place though?
With the additional speeds would come additional capacity, maybe the grey haired cricketist could explain better, but the difference if 5mins would allow the trains to depart 5mins quicker each journey, which over the course of the day would equate to a lot more seats

 
cnb
1342361.  Wed Feb 12, 2020 10:48 am Reply with quote

crissdee wrote:
Something has to give.


Absolutely. It's not going to be possible to improve infrastructure without any negative effects.

My point is that it may be possible to reduce the negative effects without much practical impact, if the specification is excessive. It's reasonable to ask whether the 250mph spec is really useful, or just vanity.

 
cnb
1342362.  Wed Feb 12, 2020 10:59 am Reply with quote

barbados wrote:
Is there not some future proofing taking place though?
With the additional speeds would come additional capacity, maybe the grey haired cricketist could explain better, but the difference if 5mins would allow the trains to depart 5mins quicker each journey, which over the course of the day would equate to a lot more seats


It would potentially improve capacity, all other factors being equal. There are other things that can be changed to have a similar effect, though. Increasing the acceleration and braking rates could achieve the same journey time saving without a change to the top speed, for example.

 
Jenny
1342371.  Wed Feb 12, 2020 12:10 pm Reply with quote

250 mph might have the effect of reducing air traffic though, presumably over longer journeys than London to Birmingham when that becomes possible.

 
cnb
1342376.  Wed Feb 12, 2020 12:44 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
250 mph might have the effect of reducing air traffic though, presumably over longer journeys than London to Birmingham when that becomes possible.


It probably will reduce domestic air traffic, but domestic air traffic in the UK is tiny.

600,000 passengers per year fly between London and Manchester. HS2 is designed to carry 100,000 per day on that route.

If you're going city centre to city centre over that journey the train is already faster than flying. Most of the passengers on those flights are connecting from other flights at Heathrow. If the train connection at Heathrow is good, then the airlines may stop offering the domestic route (as has happened with a lot of domestic flights in France thanks to the TGV station at Paris Charles de Gaulle), but they'll only do that to free up the runway slots for more profitable long-haul services - no gain for the environment.

If HS2 went further then it might make a bigger difference - London to Edinburgh - the busiest city pair - has 3.5M air passengers per year, many of which are 'point-to-point', but that's still only one train every 2 hours, on a line designed to carry 18 trains per hour.

It's clear from those numbers that the main driver for HS2 is to accommodate increased travel, not to move passengers from air to rail.

 
PDR
1342377.  Wed Feb 12, 2020 12:47 pm Reply with quote

Given that the gains are so tiny (5-10 mins in journey time over the whole route) I'm struggling to see that happening.

But I don't know very much about this and I'm keen to get views from those who do.

PDR

 
suze
1342379.  Wed Feb 12, 2020 12:59 pm Reply with quote

The grey-haired cricketist has been visiting [Commercially Sensitive] Council today. He was actually there to talk about Park and Ride, but apparently HS2 did come up in passing. He's now left that council's premises and is on his way home, so I'll see if I can get him here to speak for himself later this evening.

He's never been a huge fan of HS2 at all, and tends to think that it's the wrong project in the wrong place. I see that he has previously suggested on these forums that we forget the Manchester and Leeds sections because they will never be built; whether he stands by that I don't know. Grant Shapps has suggested today that, as cnb says, the route was over-specified and the sections north of Birmingham might perhaps be built as "normal" speed lines - but if so they become pointless, and would do no more than duplicate existing railway lines.

But we must wait for the man who knows about railways. I know more about politics than railways, so what is the politics here?

Transport is one of Boris Johnson's "things", in a way that it hasn't been for any PM since John Major. Fancy new railways make his willy go big, he's shown before that he's not as bothered about Home Counties NIMBYs as Conservative PMs have usually been, and some sections of the media have it that one of his siblings stands to make a lot of money out of HS2.

On the other hand, he's unlikely still to be PM in 2040 when we may actually expect trains to run on the new line, and he'll be well aware that Britain isn't all that good on building things on time and/or to budget. Some of his MPs have made it very clear that they don't like the decision - but he's lucky here, in that those MPs aren't going to decamp to UKIP as they might have done five years ago, and their posh constituencies aren't suddenly going to start voting Labour.

So Boris personally doesn't have a great deal to lose or gain, and he's made this decision quite simply because he wanted to. Which is a very good reason to make a lot of life decisions, but possibly not the best way to run a country.

 
AndyE
1342385.  Wed Feb 12, 2020 5:37 pm Reply with quote

Good evening everyone.

As suze said above, the subject of HS2 did come up when I was with some local government types earlier on. Their take on the politics is that Boris Johnson needs to do something to prevent a recession, and a big construction project might help with that. It would be rather damaging for Mr Johnson if there were to be a recession immediately we have left the EU, since he is among those who was adamant that there wouldn't be.

The existing railway line between London and Birmingham is fairly high speed. The journey of 115 miles 2 furlongs is scheduled to take 81 minutes by the fastest trains, which is an average speed of 85 mph. No other mode of transport can do the jourrney faster, and Britain is not Japan where they need ever faster trains for their own sake.

However, that existing line was built by the Victorians. There is little scope to make it faster, but we don't really need to. There is also little scope to run more trains, but do we actually need to do that either?

At present, there are eight trains per hour between London and Birmingham. That's three fast trains taking 81 minutes, three stopping services via Milton Keynes and Northampton, and two via High Wycombe and Banbury. That seems to cover most bases, and while we can't realistically add more trains we can make them longer if we want to.

The capacity argument doesn't really hold much water, then, so proponents of HS2 must rely on the speed argument. The projected journey time from London to Birmingham via HS2 is 53 minutes as against the current 81. Nice to have I don't doubt, but how many people really need it?

The received wisdom is that the 'tipping point' at which a business traveller switches from rail to air is three hours. From London, the only major cities which take that long by train are Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Newcastle, and there is no current proposal to give them new railway lines.

I haven't even considered the aspects which you will consider as either environmentalism or NIMBY-ism, depending on your point of view. But they exist and they're not going away, and even if they were the only possible objections to HS2, is building it for fairly marginal benefits really worth it?

Neither have I considered the route north of Birmingham at all, because it will never be built. My position on that has not changed. When we have, as we were promised 25 years ago, regular trains from all parts of Europe to all parts of the UK, I may reconsider.

 
PDR
1342386.  Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:07 pm Reply with quote

Thanks Andy - that's the sort of commentary I was looking for.

Do you have any data (or informed guesses) on what sort of utilisation those current 8 trains per hour run at? Are they full, standing room only or less than that?

I also came at this from the other direction - if I had £100bn to spend on boosting the economy in "the north", what would the preference list of spending targets look like?

I was wondering if things like housing, connectivity, hospitals, schools etc might be better investments.

PDR

 
AndyE
1342387.  Wed Feb 12, 2020 7:11 pm Reply with quote

The government does analyse train loadings in considerable detail, although the full results are made available only to Train Operating Companies. Summaries are made available to the public, but from data in my possession I can start to answer your question.

Of the ten most overcrowded trains each day, in the 2018 figures (the 2019 figures are not yet published) nine were peak commuter services to/from London. None of these runs to/from Birmingham. The tenth is an evening peak service from Manchester Oxford Road to Wigan and Preston. Commuter services in the Manchester area are dreadful compared to those in the London area, but HS2 won't change that.

Trains between London and Birmingham arrive in Birmingham with seats available at every time of day except for the hour between 0800 and 0900. Even during that hour those trains arrive at Coventry with seats available, so it's local traffic that is filling them up.

In the opposite direction, they arrive in London with seats available at every time of day except for the hour between 0700 and 0800 at Euston (seats until Milton Keynes), and between 0700 and 0900 at Marylebone (seats until Bicester).

I can vouch for the trains via Northampton being half empty outside peak times, and I suspect that the trains via Banbury are as well. The fast trains will be well loaded, but with seats available.

Every year we are told that commuting will become a thing of the past, and every year that doesn't happen. Milton Keynes was never even supposed to be a commuter town so let's ignore it. Should we really be spending £106 billion to relieve four trains from Coventry to Birmingham, and four from Bicester to London?

Bicester is not a major centre in any case, and its commuters have the option of using its other station, which is not served by trains by trains ex Birmingham. As for the Coventry commuters, they have the option of taking local stopping trains rather than standing on the fast train. It takes eight minutes longer that way.

 

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