You may have heard about Greengauge 21’s report, published yesterday, which suggests that the passengers on the West Coast Main Line will have an improved service after HS2 is built. The report says that there “will” be improvements and lists a number of service improvements which “will” happen.
But the report is based on a whole series of assumptions.
The first and biggest assumption is that after HS2 is built, the way British railway timetables are developed will change to the method specified by Greengage 21.
Greengauge 21 got Jonathan Tyler of Passenger Transport Networks (PTN) to suggest a possible timetable using the techniques used to develop Swiss railway timetables, and the report assumes that the West Coast Main Line timetable would developed like this. But they give no reason why British railways would adopt these techniques.
And, if these techniques really are more suitable, there is no reason why they can’t be adopted whether or not HS2 is built.
Another assumption they are making is that there will be a number of improvements to the local network. These range from re-opening Kenilworth station, to adding the Croxley link – but these improvements can be done whether or not HS2 is built.
Then there is always the question of who will be using these trains.
A typical example is their suggested service between Milton Keynes and Scotland.
Currently travellers from Milton Keynes to Scotland have a choice of a daily direct Euston-Glasgow train which picks up at Milton Keynes, or a range of other services which involve just one change.
Greengauge suggest that after HS2 opens there will be a direct hourly service from Milton Keynes to Scotland. But who will be catching these trains? There will be no ‘classic-rail’ Euston-Glasgow trains anymore: the HS2 trains will have replaced them. Maybe this direct service will start from Milton Keynes, but will there really be enough people wanting to travel to Scotland from the Milton Keynes area to make it worth running 8 or 12 direct trains Milton Keynes- Scotland every day?
However yesterday’s report also implies that Greengauge 21 have changed their mind about alternative services to HS2. In a report they published in December (“HS2 – why the critics are wrong”) they criticise the idea that the released West Coast Main Line capacity could be used to “offer slower but cheaper trains that wastefully rival HS2 services”: services that would be aimed at a different market segment to HS2’s customers.
And now they are suggesting that the released capacity could be used to provide fast services that not only rival HS2 on speed, but would be far more convenient to large segments of the south east. These would not just be the travellors within easy reach by car of Milton Keynes. The direct Milton Keynes – Scotland service may also be more attractive to passengers between Oxford and Bedford who could avoid London entirely and catch one of the proposed East-West link trains to Milton Keynes…
We do have an example of what happens to local services after a high speed rail link is built in the UK – High Speed 1 in Kent. The service away from the new line got significantly worse, prompting an online petition and comments in Parliament.
The Greengauge 21 timetable sounds good, but it is just a fantasy,