Euston we have a problem. Indeed Mr Steer we have more than one.
Response to Greengauge 21 press release of 10th December.
Supporters of HS2 contend that the new line is needed to reduce journey times and increase capacity on intercity travel. According to data published by Network Rail in 2012, Euston is the least busy London domestic long-distance station – using just 60% of train capacity in the three-hour morning peak, compared to equivalent figures at Paddington and Waterloo of over 100% at peak times. Data released at the judicial reviews indicates that loadings were only 52% for Virgin trains at evening peak times in 2011. These loadings will be lower going forward as a result of 31 of Virgin’s 52 Pendolino trains being extended from 9 to 11 carriages and 4 additional 11 carriage trains being added to the fleet. The two additional carriages per train are standard class. It is anticipated that occupancy will then fall to 35%.
The primary purpose of HS2 is not to improve capacity on regional/commuter trains. Plans are in the course of development by London Midland to improve capacity through Project 110. This will provide faster services (110 mph) and more trains, although the full range of improvements is not scheduled to be available until May 2014. It is planned to provide 10% more seats at peak hours on the mornings and 20% more seats at peak hours in the evenings by running additional trains.
A further means of increasing the number of trains using the London – Milton Keynes route would be possible by providing grade separation for the Ledburn junction although no plans have been made to go ahead with this work.
Jim Steer at Greengauge 21 has seen fit to publish capacity usage figures for London Midland which the DfT considers commercially sensitive on other routes. The DfT refused FOI requests to release such information for Virgin trains.
It is the pricing policy of Virgin and many other train operating companies which creates peaks such as after 7pm. That policy does not justify the building of an additional train line. There are already two train lines between London and Birmingham with services provided by three different train operating companies.
An average is just that, an average. There are bound to be higher loadings on some trains just as others will have lower loadings. Whether you look at the 1 hour or 3 hour evening peak, there are more passengers standing on trains out of Liverpool Street, London Bridge, Paddington, Victoria and Waterloo than there are on trains from Euston according to DfT data published in 2012.
It is not clear to me how providing more freight services will increase commuter capacity on the Milton Keynes – Northampton corridor, but maybe I lack suitable technical knowledge.
Mr Steer goes on to say that by taking the Virgin Train services off this corridor more commuter services could be run. According to the Demand and Appraisal report (published April 2012) available from the HS2 Ltd website, Virgin trains (or whoever holds that franchise after 2026) will still be running on the West Coast Mainline, although their service pattern will be changed. Perhaps he meant to say some Virgin train services.
This report also indicates that there will be 42 trains run per day each way between Northampton and Euston once HS2 is introduced. Northampton currently has 2.5 million rail passengers per year. Yet at the present time there are 54 trains per day each way between Northampton and Euston and that figure will be improved by Project 110. So the “benefit” that HS2 indirectly brings to Northampton is a reduction by 12 in the number of trains currently run each way to/from London. The reduction will be even greater in relation to the Project 110 schedule.
What Mr Steer also fails to acknowledge is that the DfT increased the money saved from “efficiency improvements” (service cuts) from £5.1 billion to £7.7 billion in the HS2 economic case released in August 2012. Prior to this most recent change, rail analysts had already identified that Coventry, Stoke-on-Trent, Wilmslow, Stockport, Leicester, Chesterfield, Wakefield and Warrington (HS2 phase 2) would have less trains on classic rail after HS2 is introduced. These latest efficiency improvements can only cause fewer services to be run. So the idea that more trains will be run on classic rail from 2026 onwards is a myth in a number of cases.
In choosing to reuse the headline “Euston we have a problem” Mr Steer chooses to ignore the very real problems that will be created at Euston. There will be significant disruption at Euston for seven to eight years while the station is rebuilt, which has been described by one rail commentator as “performing open heart surgery on a conscious patient”. It is possible that significantly fewer trains will be run at peak times during the rebuilding programme. Furthermore, Daniel Moyland deputy chairman of Transport for London has pointed out that the Victoria and Northern lines would not be able to cope with the thousands of extra passengers arriving at Euston at peak times. Crossrail 2 could address such problems but its substantial cost has not been included as part of HS2.
Then in the vicinity of Euston there will be hundreds of residents who will lose their homes and a collection of businesses whose properties will be demolished. Camden Council believes the effects of HS2 will cost the council £1 billion.
Mr Steer we have more than one problem at Euston and the DfT should not be ignoring them.