High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Further written evidence from Neil Mathers (HSR 1A)


In my earlier letter of 23 July (HSR 1) I raised my concerns about the often quoted high speeds of 225-250 miles per hour. I had said the overall specification is still missing, and on the technical side:

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

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

—  HS2 load factors and ridership may be too low.

—  "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".

I also attached the report "World Speed Survey 2009" by Dr Colin Taylor[1] who stated:

"Frequency wins over speed in the commercial stakes. Despite the launch of the world's first regular 350 km/h services, our biennial review of the world's fastest timetabled trains finds no faster average than 272 km/h. Jostling between recent entrants and traditional contenders has seen many countries change position in the tables."

As a result I am even more concerned regarding the quality of technical data and other figures drawn from a hat, and had said:

"For instance HS2 documents indicate an ultimate frequency of 18 trains an hour. How is that figure arrived at? In an emergency will all 18 trains decelerate at the same time? And how far would the trains travel before they all come to a stop? Who has the appropriate experience? What physical separation is essential between following trains so they each have room to decelerate? Also how much of the track to Birmingham would be occupied by travelling trains and by those that have come to a halt?"

Have you yet had the opportunity to address my serious concerns?


Since writing that letter I learned there had been a fatal high-speed train crash near Wenzshou, China. Of a total 1630 passengers on the two trains, 40 were fatally injured, and 210 needed hospital treatment. Details are given in the attached report[2] "China's high speed rail crash—What really happened". Other reports indicate a fault with the Train Control System.

Following the crash, China reduced its "Maximum Design Speed" from 350km/hr to 300km/hr, also operating its trains at lower speeds and frequency, presumably to increase margins of safety.


In engineering terms I would expect "operating conditions" to range 65% -70% of "maximum conditions". A recent analysis by epochepogue confirms this view, see attachment.

Regarding HS2 what can we learn from recent data? Details speed, headway and trains/hour are given, see: www.greengauge21.net/wp-content/uploads/Final-Report-Appendices-B-J.pdf. In the attached chart some figures are highlighted[3]:
At max speed 300km/hr and headway 11,600m, then trains/hr = 16.2 at 75% design capacity (peak)
or 12.9 at 60% design capacity
At 360km/hr (for HS2), and headway 18,400m, trains/hr = 13.1 at 75% design capacity (peak)
or 10.5 at 60% design capacity

Not one figure supports HS2 claim of 18 trains per hour on HS2 line from Euston to Birmingham.


Previously I found no substantiation or corroboration for several technical aspects of the HS2 project; quite the contrary. I hope you will check and investigate government statements for operating speeds, frequency and required headways for the HS2 service to Birmingham and beyond.

If the HS2 scheme doesn't work properly, there will be no real return. It will simply go bust.

30 August 2011

1   Not printed with this submission. Back

2   Not printed with this submission. Back

3   Only available in the PDF version of this document. Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011