Yesterday, the Department for Transport published a series of rail usage statistics. These included details of the busiest ten trains in Spring and Autumn 2013.
Predictably, pro-HS2 twitter users immediately claimed that the data shows that HS2 is needed – except that when you look at the data this is completely misleading.
Look at how many of the most overcrowded rail services are on the WCML https://t.co/XHZC4s74cc HS2 is needed given no spare track caapcity
— Kurt Stephens (@ManchesterKurt) September 10, 2014
Sure, the most overcrowded train was the 16:46 service from London Euston to Crewe. But this has already changed, using the solution previously suggested by Stop HS2. The Dft publication goes on to say:
“London Midland recognise that while the formation of this train may not have been the maximum allowed by the route, it was the maximum allowed at that time for the combination of the train path and the rolling stock available to them. The train has been formed of 8 cars since the start of the December 2013 timetable, the earliest point at which this was possible, reducing the load factor significantly.”
What’s more looking at the current 16:46 service to Crewe would suggest that passengers want cheap, slow trains. This is by far the cheapest service – £37 compared to £123.50 for the other five trains to Crewe leaving in the same hour. However this is a stopping train, with 12 calling points between Euston and Crewe: few passengers on the train will be going all the way.
In fact, anyone who wanted to get to Crewe fast could catch any one of four later trains and still be there before the 16:46.
The now infamous 16.46 stopping train from Euston to Crewe had only 4 carriages ! That’s the same as on the Cross Country service from Southampton to Birmingham which is often heavily over capacity. I’ve travelled more than once on 2 carriage trains between Birmingham and Cardiff, guess what, they were was crammed.
Can’t the government, Network Rail and the train operating companies work together to get the right amount of rolling stock ? The cost of extra rolling stock and lengthening a few platforms would be a lot less than £ 50 billion — meaning we would have some money spare to invest in power generation to try to keep the lights on.
On the “10 most crowded” list there are 2 other London Midland services ( but interestingly no Virgin services ) between London and Birmingham. Both of these called at Milton Keynes and Northampton — so the obvious solution would be to extend Thameslink a few extra miles from Luton to Milton Keynes and Northampton.