This is a guest post by Andrew Bodman, one of our regular commenters.
You might expect the plans for HS2 to have some spare capacity. After all who would want to spend £33 billion on a scheme that has constraints from the day it is completed?
The Economic Case for HS2 (published by DfT) shows 18 trains per hour using the high speed track between Birmingham and London during peak hours (page 61). 18 trains per hour is the internationally recognised absolute maximum capacity for a high speed line.
But this excludes any trains for Heathrow and HS1. So services to Heathrow and HS1 (Europe) cannot be provided during peak hours, unless other services are cut to make way for them. In addition the chart shows no services to Edinburgh.
Peak hour services provide an additional three trains per hour compared to non-peak times. So that will have to be shared between Heathrow and Europe during non-peak hours. I do acknowledge the caveat in the DfT document: “Our previous work did not model services to Heathrow hence no Heathrow services are shown in Figure A2. This is being explored further in our current work during 2011, with the aim of optimising service patterns across the network”.
From the day the tracks to Manchester and Leeds are opened, there is likely to be a bottleneck on the section of track between Birmingham and London because it will not be possible to add any more trains at peak times. Does that show much foresight?
Instead, perhaps the Department for Transport should revisit Rail Package 2 and apply the principles to other lines too. Many additional lines (East Coast Mainline, First Great Western, Midland Mainline, etc.) could potentially be improved for the same cost HS2.