Written evidence from Wiliam Barter (HSR
1.1 To test alternatives to High Speed 2, the
DfT commissioned Atkins to prepare scenarios representing different
approaches to delivering capacity and journey time benefits on
the West Corridor by conventional upgrades to the West Coast Main
Line (WCML). Only one scenario, designated RP2, survived financial
appraisal. This, with some further enhancements, is being promoted
by opponents of HS2 as an alternative to HS2, claiming that capacity
increases are equivalent.
1.2 In particular, HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA)
have published a report "More capacity on WCML: an alternative
to HS2", suggesting that options based on the DfT/Atkins
"RP2" would provide at least as much additional capacity
as HS2 would offer. However, the HS2AA report contains a fundamental
flaw, in that it takes an invalid measure of "capacity",
and fails to consider the implications of peak service levels.
RP2 and variants to it suggested by HS2 Action Alliance will not
match the capacity required, and that would be delivered by HS2,
at the critical peak period.
1.3 Further, from the point of view of local
and regional services:
will damage local and regional services through omission of stops
at intermediate stations on the West Coast corridor South of Birmingham.
will rule out desirable enhancements to local and regional services
on the West Coast corridor South of Birmingham.
2.1 I am a professional rail planner, with experience
under British Rail in operational planning for major projects,
but working since 1994 for consultancy firms or as an independent
consultant. I teach Operational Planning and Railway Economics
for the Institution of Railway Operators, and am a Fellow of that
2.2 Milton Keynes is forecast to grow to become
a city in the same league as Newcastle or Nottingham. Its station
also acts as a railhead for large parts of Buckingham and South
2.3 For London commuters, as trains operated
by the current InterCity West Coast (ICWC) franchise do not stop
at Milton Keynes in peak hours, the frequency of fast services
to London is very limited. This is particularly acute in the evening
peak when, because the commuter and InterCity peaks overlap, there
is severe pressure on the available route capacity so that only
2 fast commuter trains operate per peak hour.
2.4 There are currently 11 InterCity West Coast
services from Euston in the evening peak hour, using the Fast
line. The two Northampton Line trains in that peak hour also use
the Fast line, making a total of 12 Fast line departures.
2.5 For commuters to Milton Keynes, as trains
operated by the current Virgin franchise do not stop at Milton
Keynes in peak hours, the opportunities to travel from locations
in the West Midlands are limited.
2.6 For business travellers to Birmingham, the
frequency of service is no better than hourly, as of the three
Euston-Birmingham trains per hour, only one stops at Milton Keynes
so as to minimise the journey time for through passengers.
2.7 There is a significant flow of traffic between
Milton Keynes and stations to Harrow, and the West London Line,
serving Kensington Olympia (for employment areas in Hammersmith),
Clapham Junction and Croydon. However, because of limited route
capacity, this service is no better than hourly, and in the morning
peak hour the gap in service is as much as 72 minutes.
2.8 It is peculiarly difficult to make a journey
by rail between Milton Keynes (and indeed the whole South Midlands
growth area) and Yorkshire/the North East. There is no obvious
good route, and services on the variety of possible routes are
slow and inconvenient.
3.1 HS2 Action Alliance study
3.1.1 In assessing "capacity", HS2AA
have calculated nothing more than the number of physical seats
in the proposed rolling stock fleet. This would be a fair proxy
for capacity in the case of a service operated at standard levels
throughout the day, but not for the WCML/ICWC where both demand
and service provision are significantly peaked. The capacity available
to passengers is of course (but as HS2AA overlook) a function
of both the numbers of seats on each train and the numbers of
trains that actually run in a given time period.
3.1.2 The numbers of trains in the present service
reflect peak periods by increasing frequency compared with off-peak.
However, the number of peak trains is constrained by the infrastructure
limitations, so that little further increase is possible without
3.1.3 As a significantly greater level of train
frequency is already offered in the peaks than in the off-peak
period, running extra trains can contribute little to peak capacity.
In fact, compared with the present level of ICWC peak service,
RP2's output in terms of evening peak hour trains is just ONE
extra InterCity West Coast servicethere would be one Birmingham
and one Manchester train additionally, but offset by a actual
decrease in the Liverpool and Glasgow services.
3.1.4 So any additional peak capacity can arise
primarily from only the extra coaches on each train plus the reconfiguration.
After introduction of 11-car Pendolino sets, the trains would
each have a capacity for 600 passengers, a total capacity for
passengers of 6,000. Capacity of all trains could, it is claimed
under HS2AA's most optimistic scenario, be increased by 106 seats
to 706, by addition of a 12th coach and conversion of one First
Class coach to Standard Class seating.
3.1.5 There would thus in this evening peak hour
be one completely additional train, and 11 current trains lengthened.
The extra capacity resulting is:
||11 x 106 =||1,166||
|||+ 1 x 706 =
|||= Total of
3.1.6 This is an increase of just 28.4% in the evening peak
hour, rather than the increase claimed by HS2AA for their proposal
over the 2013 "Do minimum" case of just over 100%.
3.1.7 The full benefit deriving from both seats on trains
and numbers of trains can only be achieved outside the peaks,
when of course the need for extra capacity is minimal. It follows
from this that the lower load factors claimed by HS2AA for their
proposals are largely a result of capacity being provided off-peak
when it will hardly be used, rather than contributing much of
significance at the times of day when extra capacity is actually
3.2. InterCity West Coastassessment of capacity
3.3 I now go on to calculate how evening peak hour capacity
out of Euston would build up over the years, starting with committed
schemes for train lengthening, then comparing RP2, the HS2AA proposals,
and HS2.My analysis concentrates on ICWC trains leaving London
Euston in the evening peak hour (17:00 to 17:59). This represents
the period of both high-value business and greatest demand, so
is when the greatest single portion of benefits are generated.
This is taken as being a more valid representation of reality
than the all-day average implied by HS2AA's analysis.
3.4 Scenarios considered are:
conventional upgrade to WCML as set out in the February 2011 update
to the High Speed 2 Strategic Alternatives Study (DfT/Atkins),
featuring 11-car operation and infrastructure changes to accommodate
additional trains. For this purpose, RP2 and RP2a are identical.
scenario proposed by High Speed 2 Action Alliance, based on 12-car
trains and conversion of one First Class coach to Standard Class.
+ ICWC - the sum of capacity on HS2 and ICWC trains, ie the overall
capacity on the West Coast Corridor served by HS2 and the West
Coast Main Line (WCML). HS2 capacity is of course zero before
2026. The basis of the calculation is 11 trains per peak hour,
as set out in the Technical Appendix to the 2009 set of reports
by HS2 Ltd.
3.4.1 These capacities are then compared with
a Capacity Target. I do not have an actual base figure for the
2008 evening peak hour to apply this growth to, so have taken
the 2008 capacity as being equal to the demand, a reasonable starting
point for peak services. The best interpretation of this line,
therefore, is to take it as representing the growth in capacity
required to maintain the balance with demand at its 2008 level.
3.4.2 The 2008 base capacity, with 11 ICWC departures,
each with 442 seats, is the starting point for all scenarios.
I am aware that one of the 11 trains is in fact formed of 2 x
5-car Voyager (492 seats), but have assumed Pendolinos throughout
as this is a likely future scenario within the next franchise,
and for simplicity.
3.4.3 The 2013 step based on conversion of all
evening peak hour trains to 11-car sets is also common to all
options other than HS2.
3.4.4 Key events in the evolution of capacity
for RP2 are then:
additional evening peak 11-car departure.
This service might be introduced earlier than 2026 but schemes
to enable this have not been developed to the point of being able
to assume this.
3.4.5 Key events in the evolution of capacity
for RP2/HS2AA are then:
of 12-car trains with reduced First Class accommodation. This
date is purely nominal, since as far as I know no timescales have
been determined, but it is likely that enabling works would be
completed before 2026.
additional evening peak departure, as for RP2, but of 12-car formation
with reduced First Class.
3.4.6 Key assumptions in the evolution of capacity
for HS2+ICWC are then:
for HS2, introduced in 2026, is based on 4 x Captive departures
to Birmingham, each with 1100 seats, and 7 x Classic Compatible
departures, each with 550 seats, made up of 2 x Liverpool, 1 x
Glasgow, 1 x Preston and 3 x Manchester.
of Phase 2 is assumed in 2033.
opening of Phase 2, I have not assumed any extra trains, but simply
that the Manchester trains will be converted to Captive with higher
seating capacity. There will of course be extra trains, but as
the implication is that these will be to Leeds they are regarded
as not relevant to this WC comparison. Heathrow and HS1 services
are also outside this comparison.
means of increasing capacity through the operating concept may
existeg running two Classic Compatible sets coupled to
Manchester then split for Liverpool and Glasgow, but have not
is currently unknown how many residual trains there will be after
2026. My assumption is six per evening peak hourthis is
four serving Milton Keynes as suggested in my April 2011 article
in Modern Railways, plus two otherssimply a plausible working
assumption to populate this analysis, and slightly less than now
on the expectation that capacity will be absorbed by extra stops
compared with now.
3.4.7 The 2008 capacity has been uplifted by
the weighted average of the forecast growth from 2008 to 2033
for the key WC locations of Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and
Liverpool given in the Demand and Appraisal Report, which represents
growth of approximately 150%. This equates to an annual growth
rate of 3.8%, is in line with the range of growth rates identified
by Network Rail in the WCML Route Utilisation Strategy to 2025.
3.4.8 The assumed growth rate would have to be
reduced to 2.3% per annum in order to bring the target and the
RP2/HS2AA figures into line in 2033. The actual annual growth
rate for franchised long-distance operators since 2002/3 is about
5.5% (National Rail Trends).
3.4.9 The following chart displays the findings
from this analysis:
3.5 RP2disadvantages for local/regional
3.5.1 Under RP2, the present 12 fast line trains
in the evening peak hour would become 16, of which two would enhance
the fast service to Leighton Buzzard, Milton Keynes and Northampton.
So for Northampton line commuters, there would be 11 evening peak
hour trains instead of the present 9. This is good in itself,
but no more than would be possible after HS2 without further investment.
The argument for RP2 is simply that this benefit would be available
in a shorter timescale than HS2.
3.5.2 In fact, I believe it would be possible
to run additional commuter services now, in the form of a shuttle
service between Euston and Milton Keynes. This would avoid the
issue of the crossing move by using the Fast line all the way,
and would match ICWC running times by running non-stop to Milton
Keynes, using Voyager sets displaced from Chester services by
the pending electrification.
3.5.3 But beyond RP2, there is no realistic scope
for further enhancing service levels for commuters on the West
Coast Main Line. So RP2 rules out, for ever, the following improvements
that are clearly desirable now and would be possible after HS2:
the Milton KeynesBirmingham service from 1 train per hour
frequency for the Milton Keynes-Kensington-Clapham Junction-Croydon
rail options to connect Milton Keynes/Bucks/Beds/Northants and
frequencies for other Euston local and commuting services.
services to Milton Keynes from the West Midlands.
3.5.4 Worse than that, RP2, working as it does
within constrained capacity, attempts to improve journey times
by omitting intermediate stops. In the following respects, the
service at stations between London and Birmingham would become
worse under RP2:
Keynes-Coventry/Birmingham: Services only run via Northampton,
with extended journey time.
Reduced to two direct trains per hour instead of three as alternate
Birmingham-Euston trains would not stop.
International-London: reduced to two direct trains per hour instead
of 3 as alternate Birmingham-Euston trains would not stop.
3.6 HS2benefits for local/regional
rail services, ruled out by HS2
3.6.1 In its April 2011 edition, the journal
"Modern Railways" published my article reviewing possible
enhancements to the train service at Milton Keynes after HS2.
A copy of this article is attached for your information.
3.6.2 Key opportunities from that analysis that
would be enabled by HS2 are:
the Milton Keynes-Birmingham service from one train per hour to
two. Although the bulk of through London-Birmingham traffic would
transfer to HS2, I am confident that there would be sufficient
residual and intermediate business to support two trains per hour
between Euston and Birmingham via Milton Keynes, where both would
stop. This would also enhance the service at Watford and Rugby.
services to Milton Keynes from the West Midlands would also be
improved in both frequency and speed by this service pattern.
frequency for the Milton Keynes-Kensington-Clapham Junction-Croydon
service, as called for by today's traffic levels.
frequencies for other Euston local and commuting services. As
well as the two additional fast Northampton line services stopping
at Milton Keynes that would be enabled by both RP2 and HS2, HS2
leaves capacity for a general uplift of about 50% in semi-fast
and stopping suburban services on the Watford/Milton Keynes/Northampton
Phase 2 of HS2, Milton Keynes and Yorkshire/North East would linked
by a journey with just one change of trainsat the Birmingham
3.6.3 Subject to its own business case, it would
also become possible for South Northants to have its own station,
at Blisworth, close to both the A43 and M1, and currently ruled
out by the frequency of through trains at the site.
417 Other Watford and Northampton line suburban trains
depart on the Slow line. Back
There would also be two more Northampton line commuter trains,
but these are outside the direct comparison with HS2 services,
and could operate after HS2 anyway so are common to both alternatives. Back
My calculation from HS2AA figures-HS2AA themselves make their
comparison with the current train length of nine coaches, even
though they accept that a proportion of the fleet is committed
to be lengthened to 11 cars, and themselves refer to that as the
"Do Minimum" scenario. By doing this they are able to
present a headline capacity increase of 165%, of which much derives
from a committed scheme. Back
Additional suburban (Northampton line) departures are also proposed,
but are not part of ICWC services, and could equally be delivered
after HS2. In fact, I believe such services could be operated
anyway, but accept that this requires more detailed investigation. Back