High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from I D King (HSR 05)


1.1  As a former Area Manager for British Rail at both Birmingham and Manchester I have followed the various arguments put forward both for and against linking these two cities with London by High Speed Rail (HS2). There are however some basic facts from a purely "railway" point of view that could perhaps be considered and these are:


2.1  Comparisons have been made between the forecast journey time and that of the proposed high speed service. However the trains on the West Coast line, the Chase 390 or "Pendolino", were built to run at 140 mph. They are restricted to 125 mph due to the proposed parallel requirement of the line's signalling system to allow 140 mph running being aborted. The coast of resignalling the line would be small change compared with that of building a new railway. At 140 mph the time difference would come to less than at 125 mph.

2.2  Resignalling the route would benefit every point between London and Glasgow. Conversely with HS2, towns and cities such as Coventry, Wolverhampton and Stoke on Trent which achieve their level of service by being part of the Birmingham and Manchester services would see a reduction in quality.

2.3  The "tipping point" in creating demand between rail and air is always considered to be three hours and the present service is within that time band. Many passengers flying from Manchester to London are transfer or code-sharing who would be unlikely to change their mode of transport.

2.4  Lord Adonis has often quoted Lyon to Paris as an example of the effect High Speed Rail can have on the transfer of passengers from air to rail. This is not a valid comparison as prior to the TGV fast service the fastest train—the Trans Europe Express Le Lyonnais—took three hours 50 minutes and the normal train service was over four hours. A more valid comparison, Lille to Paris, where the journey of just over two hours was reduced to one hour the increase in usage was reported as only five per cent due in part to a regular hourly service being introduced.

2.5  The introduction of Eurostar services between London and Paris had a large effect on air travel demand but the reduction of the journey time of three hours with the opening of the High Speed Line HS1 did not, with the figures in the Financial Times showing London to Paris remaining the eleventh most popular in the World with around 1,061,000 passengers annually.


3.1  Only a small proportion of passengers live in the centres of Birmingham or Manchester. HS2 will worsen access to London services to those changing platforms at Birmingham New Street or using Wilmslow or Macclesfield stations from the residential areas South of Manchester.


4.1  It is far from clear how the figures for future demand levels have been calculated. However most of the stations on the line were built when fifteen coach trains were the norm and a sizeable increase in capacity can be obtained by lengthening the short trains running at present. Euston was designed so that the platforms can be extended Southwards which is why the escalator head to the Underground is position to the rear of the short suburban platforms rather than the more convenient East side as was originally proposed in London Transport.


5.1  Some of the comments linking HS2 to HS1 and the Channel Tunnel appear to envisage frequent services to mainland Europe. There are limited "paths" through the Tunnel for High Speed services many being already used by Eurostar apart from the proposed additional services operated by the German Railway Company.


6.1  Large expenditure on the construction and maintenance of HS2 is bound to effect expenditure on the rest of the system. There are lessons to be learnt from France where the traditional network has suffered due to the cost of the LGV or High Speed line. In about April 2008 the Cour des Comptes, the Government Audit Office, issued an extremely critical report saying that 46 per cent of the traditional network was in urgent need of upgrading and trains were being forced to travel at low speeds due to the state of the track.

April 2011

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Prepared 8 November 2011