High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Neil Mathers (HSR 01)


Bearing in mind there is no justification for statements in the recent Consultation I had to look elsewhere for corroboration. Alas I found no good news, but discovered details which fall woefully short of reality. Your proposals do not reflect current experience from high-speed lines operating elsewhere in the world.

There is no justification regarding the train paths or proposed speeds, or any revised requirements for rolling-stock. There is no information on the daily operation and performance of the new scheme from Euston to Birmingham and further north. Matters include:

—  Direct comparison with high-speed rail elsewhere.

—  Train path diagrams showing how it will operate.

—  Timetables supporting the train path diagrams.

—  HS2 load factors are not provided.

While such data is missing and your proposals not fleshed out, it is not possible to review your proposals today and determine if the scheme is coherent and valid. How do you imagine it will operate?

Train paths per hour (see attached chart (Train paths per hour, High-speed Rail world-wide))

In the consultation you say: "The proposed new line to the West Midlands would initially provide 14 new train paths every hour for long-distance services, with developments in train control technology expected to see that rise to 18 trains per hour on a wider network."

I reviewed a number of operating lines in Europe, and determined the traffic density averages 1.2 paths per hour, whilst the aggregate traffic is 12.1 paths per hour.

The HS2 figure of 18 train-paths per hour over a single track is ludicrous

You must develop accurate train-path diagrams to integrate the different routings, and to ensure the system does not snag up. This is another concern which has not been addressed.

Average trip speeds (see attached chart (Average trip Speeds, High-speed Rail world-wide))

I checked average trip speeds in Europe and elsewhere from timetables and plotted these against distance.

You will notice these speeds are all less than 200km/hr. Proposed HS2 speeds to Birmingham Interchange, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester are significantly higher; 16 to 30%. There can be no validation for such higher speeds over a shorter distance, and where the traffic intensity is so high.

Without the necessary train path diagrams you cannot determine the ultimate capacity of the new scheme. And it seems likely several paths will be lost when you combine differing routings to/from the north.

Daily load factor (see attached chart (High-speed load factors, from Network Rail))

In the Consultation you do not mention Load Factors on the HS2 scheme. Instead there is discussion on load factors and growth on other tracks such as West-Coast mainline, but that is largely irrelevant.

To calculate "the efficiency" or otherwise of HS2, you must estimate the daily load factor/s. As those factors are applied to the ultimate capacity, you arrive at the ridership on a daily basis. And please remember as you operate more trains, more frequently, then the daily load factors fall away.

Some data on HS2 load factor are found in the earlier Network Rail report "Comparing environmental impact of conventional and high-speed rail." Here performance on high-speed lines in Europe is compared with estimates for HS2 north from London. The differences are indeed significant, with HS2 load factors lower by 33%. Imagine how HS2 would increase its ridership; by reducing its fares?


—  HS2 train intensity (train paths per hour) is unbelievably high. Evidence is included.

—  Compared with Europe and Japan HS2 trip speeds are too high. Evidence is included.

—  HS2 load factors and ridership may be too low. Evidence is included.

—  There is no substantiation for your technical offering. Evidence is missing.

Once the basic data is validated, train-path diagrams and levels of rolling stock established, only then can system capacity be calculated, load-factors applied and possible cost-benefits established—but not before.

With critical information still missing as to the operation and validity of the scheme, further engineering studies must be completed. Without that extra work there is little likelihood the project will be successful and the anticipated benefits accrue. Presently I consider this project is a pig-in-a-poke.

28 February 2011

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Prepared 8 November 2011