HS2: train floor and station platform heights

This is a guest article by Neil Roth.

HS2 Ltd are seeking to be allowed to ignore some of the technical specifications which enable trains from European countries to operate usefully on each others’ railways. Curiously, some of the fast trains currently operating on Britain’s national rail network would be excluded from HS2.

The European Railway Agency website states:

“Technical specifications for interoperability (TSIs) mean the specifications by which each subsystem or part of subsystem is covered in order to meet the essential requirements and to ensure the interoperability of the European Community’s high speed and conventional rail systems.”

The March 2014 issue of Modern Railways contains an article (starting on page 49) about HS2’s Trains and Systems. On page 51, the article states:

“…HS2 Ltd has been talking to the European Commission about the case for changing the (platform height) regulations. ‘ We think the best solution is to have a high platform’ says (HS2 Traction and Rolling Stock Engineer Thomas) Williamson. If that comes to pass, HS2 train platforms will not only be higher than their counterparts in Europe, they would also be higher than standard UK platform heights….” making it unsafe for boarding/alighting passengers if, e.g., Virgin’s Pendolino trains called at HS2 platforms.

The same article goes on to say (on page 52)

“….HS2 is considering funding modifications to West Coast platforms to make it easier to board HS2 trains: of course any changes will have to take into account other trains that will use those station platforms”

“West Coast platforms” are understood to mean those at stations on the existing West Coast Main Line where HS2 trains are planned to operate beyond the High Speed line itself, e.g., all the way from Crewe to Glasgow.

The above proposals are in spite of HS2’s own website stating that HS2 will be “designed to standard European high speed specifications”

The Modern Railways article does not explain how HS2 Ltd has come to think that a high platform is “the best solution” nor what those proposed modifications to West Coast platforms would be (bearing in mind that one of HS2’s objectives was to avoid disruption to existing infrastructure).

The design of train floor and station platform heights (and any horizontal gaps between them) is a vital consideration: step-free, gap-free boarding and alighting is a key objective, making boarding and alighting easier, safer and quicker for all passengers, especially those with disabilities.

Footnote 1. An article on page 16 of the February 2014 issue of Modern Railways highlights the potentially serious consequences of large gaps between the floors of London Underground’s new ‘S’ Stock and some of the curved platforms served by those trains.

Footnote 2. An item on page 81 of the July 2014 issue of Modern Railways headed FRANCE – NEW TRAINS ‘TOO BIG FOR RFF INFRASTRUCTURE’ suggests that the new trains are too wide for existing platform edges.

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3 comments on “HS2: train floor and station platform heights
  1. I wonder how they’ll get on with invalid chairs, likely that all trains will have to be fitted with a special device.
    There is absolutely nothing about HS2 that merits support, if HS2 Ltd. were a plc, this scheme would never have seen the light of day, Cameron as the proposer would have been laughed out of the boardroom, as he may be yet.

    • Unequal platform heights are not uncommon.
      Also where for example,Underground and main line trains share a common line, one may step down to one and step up to board the other.
      Ideally of course, a smooth, step free movement between platform and carriage is best., such as is found on the recently built London Jubilee extention where (straight!) platforms and trains were designed to fit.
      Whereas many modern buses can “sit down” at stops, the railway has to leave a sufficient gap between the fixed platform and the moving trains to prevent an impact, especially to allow trains to pass through at speed.
      Some UK stations have been fitted with a raised “hump ” to compensate for lower than normal platforms.
      Many stations and some trains with on board staff have portable ramps to enable the smooth passage of wheelchairs, as anyone travelling must have witnessed.

      In mainland Europe, while main city stations often have high platforms nearly matching those here, other wayside stations have platforms almost at track level.
      Modern trains have retractable steps which deploy as the train comes to a stop.

  2. It never ceases to amaze me that HS2 are making even more errors.They have tried to sell it to us that it will be a great new
    super fast line to join up the country and it seem that is the last thing it will do.Other countries have done miscalculations with rolling stock and have paid the price.Now HS2 want to change the height of the platforms so that other trains cant use them.What the????????????????????.do they do to earn their high wages.

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