The TSC v the HS2 consultation documents: train frequency

One aspect of HS2 which has been a concern since the start is the number of trains which are likely to be using the track.  This is in the consultation documents, but was also discussed at the Transport Select Committee hearing.

The main HS2 consultation document says on p19

“The focus has been on developing proposals for a safe and reliable railway, using proven European standards, technology and practice.

“Key aspects include:
• Speed: A line capable of up to 250 miles per hour but with a maximum train speed of 225 mph assumed at opening.
• Capacity: Up to 400 metre long trains with as many as 1,100 seats, and up to 14 trains per hour in each direction; developments in train control technology are expected to see that increase to 18 trains per hour on a wider network.”

With the mention of “proven … technology” most reasonable people would assume that 14 trains per hour in each direction must be in use somewhere – otherwise it’s not proven technology.

So what did the experts at last week’s Transport Select Committee hearing have to say about the number of trains per hour on other networks?

This is a topic which came up when Pierre Messulam, from SNCF, and Nicolas Petrovic, Chief Executive of Eurostar, were being questioned.

Petrovic said that they run normally run two to three trains per hour in each direction, with up to five in peak periods.

Q83 Steve Baker: But is there anywhere on the network that operates at 18 train paths per hour?

Nicolas Petrovic: 18 pathways per hour?

Pierre Messulam: On a high speed line, nowhere in the world. The Japanese are running 12 trains per hour. We are running a maximum of 12 trains per hour. We are considering next December 13 trains per hour, and nobody does more.

Q84 Steve Baker: What would you say is the practical technological limit?

Pierre Messulam: That is a very difficult matter. I am in charge of some of the ERTMS programmes for SNCF. We have had a discussion in France about this capacity. It is a complex question. You have to consider the braking power and acceleration of the train, and also the stop pattern. The more often you stop, the bigger the impact on capacity. Ideally, you would say you would go from A to B without any stop. Today, we think that with ETCS or ETMS you could have about 15 to 16 trains per hour.

So there’s the expert’s view on the number of trains per hour in each track.

Nobody is currently running 14 trains per hour – meaning that it’s not proven technology.  And the experts who run high speed trains elsewhere aren’t even considering 18 trains per hour.

And another example of HS2 Ltd are stretching the credibility with the consultation process.

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14 comments on “The TSC v the HS2 consultation documents: train frequency
  1. Love it. Penny you have been sidetracked again.
    Just read what follows under this blog.
    The discussions on here shouldn’t be how many trains an hour run, that’s irrelevant.
    The discussion on here should serve one purpose and one purpose only, how can we prevent a project that we believe to be ill thought out, our country cannot afford and has not been shown to be economically viable.
    If any discussion does not aid our resolve to achieve that objective, then delete it,
    It is, after all, OUR and THE ANTI HS2 site.
    I say again time is running out, and we need leadership onto what to do in the next 4 weeks, bearing in mind what we have not achieved in over a year of campaigning

    • Sidetracked???? How can anyone possibly be sidetracked when the title of this particular topic is…

      The TSC v the HS2 consultation documents: train frequency!!

  2. eros adam at the top implies that the 18 trains an hour does not include any slack for more services. all i am saying is that i dont understand the point of the story or the criticism. stophs2 continually say that there wont be enough passengers yet you are now implying that capacity is somehow going to be impinged. This sounds to me like saying there will actually be more passengers then has been previously admitted by stophs2.

    • It has nothing to do with forecast passenger numbers, and everything to do with HS2’s descriptions of the technology they plan to use. HS2 Ltd said their focus has been on using proven technology but as the article above says:

      “Nobody is currently running 14 trains per hour – meaning that it’s not proven technology. And the experts who run high speed trains elsewhere aren’t even considering 18 trains per hour.”

      • Penny – nobody is flying passenger jets at twice the speed of sound , yet the technology is well proven.

        As I said earlier, the actual limit is 20 trains an hour on a high speed line , but no one does that for operational reasons. If you dont believe it, then check out the ORR discussion from last year on the WCML franchise. Thameslink are planning a max of 24 trains per hour through the central core of the route.

  3. The point Penny was making is that HS2 Ltd are expecting to run 18 trains per hour at peak times on the London – Birmingham section of HS2 using proven technology. Observe the reaction of the two people who have direct experience of running high speed trains. Then remember that this schedule of 18 trains per hour does not include any trains to Heathrow or to Europe via HS1. Lastly ask yourself the question what capacity for growth has been provided on the London – Birmingham section of HS2? I would suggest the answer is none.

  4. Nick just because it works on paper does not maen a thing really until proved.Cars can go very fast but would you want to travel on a motorway where everyone could go 120mph .the chinese i believe have slowed theres down for safety reasons.Maybe it was the Japanese one of the two.Anyway at high speed even going the same way the number is high with no room for error if one has a problem the next would only be minutes behind.

  5. Not really sure what the problem is here. The consultation document says up to 14 trains per hour is possible with current technology. The SNCF says you could have 15 to 16 trains per hour with ETCS or ETMS. Are they not current technology?

    • The point is DfT/HS2 Ltd are saying PROVEN and they have said when it opens up to Manchester Leeds it would be go from 14 to 18 per hr. Sorry it’s what we have been told by DfT and HS2 Ltd. Presumably they need these figures to juggle the figures of the business case.

      • In actual fact , the absolute limit for a technical point of view is 20 trains an hour…..based on the headway of 3 minutes between each train. However from a commercial and operational point of view, it is very unwise to allow this as a delay on one train also becomes a delay on the other 19. Currently on the WCML, Network Rail allow a short ” break ” in each quarter hour of the daily timetable, to allow for recovery of any late running of a train in each quarter hour. Shinkansen also do this……which is why they are extremely punctual. With the advent of ECTS stage 3, a high speed train is increasingly automated and reacts to the situation around it by flashing the max speed to the driver…..which kicks in automatic should the driver fail to react.

        Petrovc did indeed state that Eurostar run up to 5 trains an hour……but of course they share the line with the Euroshuttle, South Eastern Javelin services, and now some freight traffic.

      • But surely by 2026 it will be proven technology? What they are saying is that they will not be developing their own bespoke system for HS2; rather they will be using existing (then) technology.

          • it is probably based on working experience from other existing high speed railways. also the stated frequency will be the maximum capacity available.

            hs2 critics want it both ways. one minute you are saying that there wont be enough passengers (apart from fat cat rich businessmen of course !!!!) then in the next breath are suggesting that 18 trains an hour wont be enough ! which is it ? some consistency would be good !!!

            • Either you are reading a different site or you have totally misread this one. I can’t find anywhere anyone has said 18 trains is not enough.

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