One of the arguments handily trotted out by Government, which somehow is meant to demonstrate the need for HS2, is overcrowding on trains to and from Euston. Just as recently as July, in their response to a report by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee the Government stated:
“The committee has not questioned that there is a commuter capacity issue. London Midland, which provides commuting services into Euston, regularly features in the top 10 most crowded services in the country. There are capacity constraints for commuters along the West Coast corridor – not just in London, but also in the West Midlands and the North West, where services have had to be cut back to accommodate additional intercity trains.”
The problem with that statement from the DfT is that it was a mixture of half-truth and downright lie, as despite Patrick McLoughlin insisting that the West Coast Mainline was ‘full’, there are now no London Midland services in the top 10 most crowded list, due to adding more carriages and more trains.
This time last year, the DfT issued their list of the most overcrowded trains for Spring and Autumn 2013. Top of both lists was the 16.46 from Euston to Crewe. ‘Britains’ Busiest Train’ was the lazy headline as politicians sought to ignore the very obvious reason for this, and chose to say that this clearly showed an imperative to build HS2. The very obvious reason for this stopping commuter train being crammed was that it consisted of just 4 carriages.
Anyone who actually read the report, opposed to the convenient headline, would have noted the issue had already been solved:“The train has been formed of 8 cars since the start of the December 2013 timetable, the earliest point at which this was possible, reducing the load factor significantly.”
The other London Midland train to make the list published last year (No. 7 in spring 2013, No. 6 in the autumn) was the 18.13 to Birmingham. You might be excused for thinking that has surely got worse as what was a 12 carriage service now consists of only 8 cars. The reason this isn’t too much of a problem directly contradicts what the Government told the Lords EAC, about commuter services having to be cut back on the WCML. Whilst the 18.13 is now only 8 carriages, this doesn’t really matter as 3 minutes later there is now a 12 carriage train hot on it’s heels to Birmingham New St. When services were improved in May 2014, there were 5 London Midland trains to Brum in peak hours (plus 3 Virgin Services per hour), but when more trains and carriages came on line in December last year, this went up to 7. Northampton also benefits from an additional 2 services, raising the number of London Midland trains out of Euston between 16.46 and 18.52 from 21 to 25.
Add to this that the ORR granted GNWR permission to run new Blackpool-London services on the West Coast Mainline just last month, and the fact about only half of the freight paths are used, and the concept that the line is full is further dragged into disrepute.
It will come as no surprise that HS2 will be of no use whatsoever to any service which appears on the new list of the top 10 most crowded services, published yesterday. With 7 of the 10 trains consisting of 5 carriages or less, how to solve the problem is not exactly rocket science.