Greengauge’s fantasy timetable

You may have heard about Greengauge 21’s report, published yesterday, which suggests that the passengers on the West Coast Main Line will have an improved service after HS2 is built.  The report says that there “will” be improvements and lists a number of service improvements which “will” happen.

But the report is based on a whole series of assumptions.

The first and biggest assumption is that after HS2 is built, the way British railway timetables are developed will change to the method specified by Greengage 21.

Greengauge 21 got Jonathan Tyler of Passenger Transport Networks (PTN) to suggest a possible timetable using the techniques used to develop Swiss railway timetables, and the report assumes that the West Coast Main Line timetable would developed like this.  But they give no reason why British railways would adopt these techniques.

And, if these techniques really are more suitable, there is no reason why they can’t be adopted whether or not HS2 is built.

Another assumption they are making is that there will be a number of improvements to the local network.  These range from re-opening Kenilworth station, to adding the Croxley link – but these improvements can be done whether or not HS2 is built.

Then there is always the question of who will be using these trains.

A typical example is their suggested service between Milton Keynes and Scotland.

Currently travellers from Milton Keynes to Scotland have a choice of a daily direct Euston-Glasgow train which picks up at Milton Keynes, or a range of other services which involve just one change.

Greengauge suggest that after HS2 opens there will be a direct hourly service from Milton Keynes to Scotland. But who will be catching these trains?  There will be no ‘classic-rail’ Euston-Glasgow trains anymore: the HS2 trains will have replaced them.  Maybe this direct service will start from Milton Keynes, but will there really be enough people wanting to travel to Scotland from the Milton Keynes area to make it worth running 8 or 12 direct trains Milton Keynes- Scotland every day?

However yesterday’s report also implies that Greengauge 21 have changed their mind about alternative services to HS2.  In a report they published in December (“HS2 – why the critics are wrong”) they criticise the idea that the released West Coast Main Line capacity could be used to “offer slower but cheaper trains that wastefully rival HS2 services”: services that would be aimed at a different market segment to HS2’s customers.

And now they are suggesting that the released capacity could be used to provide fast services that not only rival HS2 on speed, but would be far more convenient to large segments of the south east.  These would not just be the travellors within easy reach by car of Milton Keynes.  The direct Milton Keynes – Scotland service may also be more attractive to passengers between Oxford and Bedford who could avoid London entirely and catch one of the proposed East-West link trains to Milton Keynes…

We do have an example of what happens to local services after a high speed rail link is built in the UK – High Speed 1 in Kent.  The service away from the new line got significantly worse, prompting an online petition and comments in Parliament.

The Greengauge 21 timetable sounds good, but it is just a fantasy,

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11 comments to “Greengauge’s fantasy timetable”
  1. The M40 has ACCESS points throughout its route.

    HS2 does not.

    Provide one or two intermediate stations-“Aylesbury and Wendover Mainline”, “Brackley and Silverstone Parkway” or”Coventry and Warwick Regional”, perhaps, and watch the opposition melt away!
    …(and house prices willactually rise.

  2. There is really no way to squirm out of the fact that if around £34 Billion is spent on HS2+Y, there will be very little more money to be spent on all of the rest of the UK’s urgently needed transport investments. That’s why it is a fantasy. Even if the Trident replacement were to be scrapped, that would only net around £20 Billion. Regions are waking up to the positive HARM that HS2 is likely to cause them.

  3. Greengauge say that cities and shires across southern England “will” benefit from HS2 – that seems unarguable to me. The fact that they are not presenting the actual timetable that would run seems immaterial – clearly there is lots of detail to be worked out – but the point is there will be substantial capacity for new services.

    Going back to my question which you don’t appear to have answered – does Stop HS2 dispute the claim that HS2 would offer substantial capacity for new train services between London and Birmingham?

    • If you build an extra line you will have more capacity – I don’t think anyone can argue against the obvious. With this extra capacity you can make plans to run lots of trains, and the greenguage21 scheme looks as good as any. But none of this answers the question as to who will use all these trains and who will pay for them. Either we will end up in a place where virtually the whole country is somehow converted into commuting vast distances or we end up with a lot of empty trains flying around for no purpose. The choise is then beween an acological disaster or financial disaster – or most probably a mixture of both.

      ‘capacity’ does not have an intrinsic value, only what someone is prepared to pay to use it.

  4. Really it would be most surprising if we had a firm post-High Speed 2 West Coast timetable to discuss 15 years before HS2 is supposed to open – in fact before the public consultation for the line has even begun. Therefore it seems reasonable to me for Greengauge to make certain informed assumptions at this stage.

    Surely the point the report is making is that if HS2 is built there will be substantial capacity available for new train services to towns and cities between London and Birmingham which don’t currently have the rail service they deserve? Does Stop HS2 dispute that claim?

    • Yes, that’s why it seems so odd of Greengauge 21 to present their suggested timetable as something that “will” happen.

      It might be a timetable that could be put in place, but as they say in their report, there are lots of other improvements that would also need to be made too.

  5. What do you base you comments on ? do you have some inside information as to what the new timetable will be . and why do you think that there might not be further funder in future for the rest of the network. and i dont see hs2 as being a drain it is more like a plunger to clear the blocked drain of the current network.

  6. i dont know what makes this plan a fantasy – it is in response to all the criticism of hs2 by stophs2 to show how services will improve on the classic network by the extra capacity of hs2.

    it is alll very easy to criticise the current timetable and to always put a negative spin on any positive story about hs2 and to suggest that because we do something now a certain way means we cannot ever do it differently.

    the reason why we dont have swiss style timetables is because of those very capacity constraints that hs2 will alleviate. and who says we wont have trains from milton keynes to glasgow on the existing routes ?

    and surely these possibly competing trains will offer more choice and a variety of destinations and ticket prices.
    at the moment many towns on the west coast and east coast route have a poorer service to allow faster services to the major destinations. this rationing is due to lack of capacity and to maximize the number of passengers.

    as for hs1 many people are satisfied with the new service. those who have not benefit are outweighed by those who have benefitted. 7 million users, 1 million new users.

    it seems a shame that stophs2 has to be so very negative about the positive impacts hs2 can have. there are concerns too which some of you have alluded to but your viewpoint is somewhat skewed.

    • Greengauge said that this is what the timetable “will” look like, but they do not set the timetable now, and they are unlikely to be setting it in 15 years time either – that is why it is a fantasy timetable.

      • a fantasy is something that doesnt usually come true in my experience ! the serious point is that there is nothing fanciful or unrealistic in the report – there is no reason why it couldnt or indeed wont happen.

  7. It beggars belief that ‘they’ try to sell HS2 to the country by suggesting it will make other rail services better? No it won’t.

    If HS2 goes ahead all the available money for transport schemes will be sucked up by the biggest infrastructure money drain this millennium (aka HS2!).

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