With HS2, its the details that matter as much as the headline figures.
Proponents of HS2 like to point out that specially designed “classic compatible” trains will be able to move from the proposed HS2 line to the existing West Coast Main Line and stop at existing stations.
The thing is though, once they are on the West Coast Main Line, the “high speed classic compatibles” will be “slow speed” compared to the current speeds of existing trains. (The existing Pendolino trains travel at 200kph at the moment, although their design speed is actually 225kph.)
It’s not just they will slow down on the WCML, but the specially designed “high speed classic compatibles” will actually be travelling slower then existing trains running all the way on the West Coast Main Line from London.
From the House of Lords written answers:
Railways: High Speed 2
Asked by Lord Berkeley
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in respect of the first phase of the proposed High Speed 2 line, whether trains operating on HS2 and beyond its limits on the conventional rail network will be capable of tilting on the conventional network. [HL10466]
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in respect of the first phase of the proposed High Speed 2 line, what is the expected journey time from London to Glasgow using HS2 with and without tilting on the conventional network, compared with existing journey times.[HL10467]
Earl Attlee: At this early stage in the Government’s proposals for a high-speed rail network, no decisions have been made regarding the detailed specification of rolling stock. At this point however, the Government do not anticipate that trains operating on HS2 will be capable of tilting, either on the high-speed network or on the conventional network.
…Services running off HS2 onto the west coast main line to continue to Scotland would be speed-limited by the curvature of the route in a number of locations. However there is scope for increasing the non-tilt line speed from 110 mph to 125 mph or higher at a number of locations. Between Lichfield—where HS2 rejoins the WCML—and Glasgow, the difference in time between a non-tilting 110 mph train and a tilting 125 mph Pendolino is estimated to be 13 minutes. HS2 Ltd believes that by reviewing the assumptions behind the WCML upgrade works it should be possible to run non-tilting trains at 125 mph for lengthy sections, and thereby regain 6 or 7 of the lost 13 minutes. ..
Lets just look at that again. Is “reviewing the assumptions behind the WCML upgrade works” code-speak for “make some upgrades to the WCML”? That would be in addition to the work needed to rebuild the London terminus of the WCML at Euston and the changes that will need to be made to the WCML at Lichfield to join it to the proposed new railway.
And if they do upgrade the WCML for the HS2 trains, won’t those upgrades be usuable by ordinary trains, increasing the speeds that ordinary trains can use, and reducing the time differential of HS2 trains?
But we are told, by the Department for Transport, by Norman Baker, and numerous other proponents of HS2 that upgrading the WCML is too horrid to contemplate. Unless, it seems, it’s for the HS2 trains to use….