Campaigners against HS2 have received a boost as the Rail Utilisation Strategy report from Network Rail has confirmed what they have always believed, that usage on the west coast mainline is not as capacity, as those advocating HS2 have suggested. Up until now, the Department for Transport, London Midland and Virgin Trains have all refused to publish loadings (passenger numbers) on the line which campaigners believed would show the insistence that these lines are already almost full to capacity are false.
The RUS report (Page 55) shows that in the busiest hour during the morning peak (when fares are at their highest), long distance services in to Euston are at just 64% of capacity, with the figure dropping to 60% for the whole three hours of peak morning demand. With the exception of the non-commuter Heathrow Express (30%), the only other services in to London which are quieter are domestic HS1 services at St Pancras, which net just 44% and 41% occupancy. In 2009 the original size of domestic HS1 Javelin trains was halved. In contrast, several stations are classed as over capacity with routes to Paddington, Moorgate, Liverpool Street, London Bridge and Waterloo all coming in over 100% in the busiest hour.
Euston and HS1 domestic services to St Pancras also show the lowest track utilisation, taking in just 8.3 and 6.5 trains per track per hour.
By 2031, after the first stage (but before the second stage Y network) of HS2 is due to be built, Network Rail are assuming in their RUS report that long-distance services into Euston will have become the most under-capacity part of the London network, as the projected forecast of 6,500 passengers in the peak hour will be just 47% of the projected 13,796 capacity.
Stop HS2 chair Penny Gaines said;
“As this report shows Euston is one of the least overcrowded stations at rush hour. The Department for Transport have consistently refused to release passenger loading data on the West Coast Main Line, and now we know why. It’s becoming ever clearer that spending £33 billion on HS2 is the wrong priority for the country’s railways. Incremental improvements can be targeted on the parts of the rail network in most need, and priorities changed if the situation changes. But all the time the government continues to push ahead with HS2, they are spending billions on the wrong solution to the wrong problem. It’s time to derail HS2 and focus on solutions on the parts of the railway network that actually are overcrowded.”
Stop HS2 Campaign Coordinator Joe Rukin said;
“We have been waiting for a long time to see some official figures on peak train usage on the west coast mainline. We knew full well that the current argument for HS2, that there was no capacity in peak hours was totally concocted. An independent study had shown just 56% loading at peak in the evening, so 60% in the morning sounds about right.”
“This report proves once and for all that all those HS2 advocates, like the All Party Parliamentary Group for HSR who produced their closed-minded report last week, who keep saying that the alternative proposal will not meet peak capacity are just making it up, pure and simple. In releasing their actual figures for peak-time usage Network Rail have made it abundantly clear that the proposed alternatives which will cost the taxpayer much less money are the right thing to do. This report proves that HS2 is a solution looking for a problem, and the problem is elsewhere”
“Over the past two years we have seen the advocates of HS2 change their tune on why it is needed every time we have knocked down their arguments. They said it was needed for the environment and we proved them wrong, they said it would solve the north-south divide and we proved them wrong, they said it was needed for jobs and we proved them wrong, then they said it had a great business case and we proved them wrong. Recently they moved on to say it’s all about capacity, capacity, capacity, and now we have proved them wrong on that too. We don’t know what will they come up with next, but we look forward to proving them wrong on that as well.”