We are being told that HS2 is necessary because in a number of years time the railways will run out of capacity. Politicians imply that the overcrowded trains that commuters catch today are symptomatic of this.
However, as Joe Rukin pointed out in his evidence to the Transport Select Committee, there are artificial barriers which stop current services being used to best effects. These barriers do not depend on a long series of engineering works: they are things that could be done today.
As Joe said in his evidence:
“For example, there are practices in place which restrict capacity due to the effects of privatisation and the franchises. For example, Wrexham and Shropshire currently run five trains a day to Marylebone, which go through Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Coventry. They are not allowed to stop there because of the franchise agreement with Virgin.”
Christian Wolmar wrote in his blog yesterday: “Wrexham & Shropshire was a great little service, a kind of throwback to the best of British Rail but it never made any money and was hampered by the ridiculous constraints such as not being allowed to offer a full service at Wolverhampton or stop at Coventry. “
If politicians were serious about the experience of travellers, they could have allowed the WSMR trains stop at more stations, and carry more passengers. Without these artificial constraints, who knows whether the service could have continued?
The decisions of people who say the trains will run out of capacity tomorrow prevent the full use of current capacity today.