Centro say we need WCML updates as well as HS2

An argument frequently made favour of building HS2 is that it is better then the alternative of another upgrade to the West Coast Main Line.  For instance, it comes up in the comments from Tuesday’s post .

However, it seems that we’ll have to have a WCML upgrade, whether or not HS2 goes ahead.  According to the Coventry Telegraph, the West Midlands transport authority, Centro, are saying that the lines won’t be able to cope with the traffic predicted for 2021, and so the route between Coventry and Birmingham will need to be upgraded anyway, with extra tracks.

This is not really a surprise to Stop HS2: we raised the issue following Teresa Villier’s speech at the Lobby Day in September, when she said that the WCML might run out of capacity 8 years before HS2 was due to be completed.

23 comments to “Centro say we need WCML updates as well as HS2”
  1. More capacity is needed BUT not in the form of the current HS2 proposal. The demand projection is almost certainly a massive overestimate. If we need a new line then it should be slightly slower which would allow a better route to be taken. The time saving argument is rubbish because there are so few stations, to use the trains mostpassengers will have to travel further to get to a station. A slightly slower trainline would deliver all the capacity benefits, with a better route, better connectivity and better environmentally.

  2. Understand the huge concerns locally; but struggling to understand the rationale, that we just don’t need it. Would we have argued the same for the huge port and airport infrastructure that we need and all take advantage off?

    Also, feel concerned about the attitude of future inward investors into the UK (to help provide the jobs of the future) if we neglect to update our national infrastructure, be that HS Rail, Energy infrastructure, etc.

    • @Tom: absolutely right. I would go one stage further and say, how do we encourage inward investors to locate their businesses outide London? I realise that not every part of the country would directly benefit from HS2, but it would bring significantly faster and (critically) more robust rail links to at least seven cities plus London.

      Having worked in a private-sector business in central Manchester from 2003-06, I can say from experience that the ability to travel for business needs in and around the capital remains essential. Major firms make their investment decisions based on numerous factors, but transport is surely high among them — and at present it is clear that UK inter-city rail services are below average by ‘top ten’ economy standards.

      I am sure it is no coincidence that there are a cluster of hi-tech industries dotted along the Thames Valley/SW London corridor (such as numerous Formula 1 teams for example) where travel time to London and Heathrow is around an hour.

      Sadly of course, the bulk of the opposition to HS2 comes from areas that are already both predominantly wealthy and also partly agricultural. The Oxford/High Wycombe/Leamington area is hardly in as much need of private sector job creation as, say, Merseyside. This is one of the most pernicious elements of the ‘No’ campaign, and one which (obviously) the campaigners would vocally deny, despite the quite obvious evidence to the contrary.

      • The government though ,should give 100% compensation for everyone whose business/house price is affected along the route. also pay their stamp duty and solicitors fees should they want to move away from the infernal noise. Its only fair play.You might see them as rich southerners but they have worked hard for every penny that they have. I don’t want to live in a country that walks all over hardworking people in this manner. I bet the government have massively under estimated what this is going to cost – hence they do need to look properly at other alternatives and they are currently not doing that. Lay all the aternatives on the table for populace to scrutinize and the full and real costs of it is a way forward that should be acceptable to everyone

        • @Lou: sorry but that post is doing the ‘anti’ campaign no favours. I graduated from university in 2002 with £££s of debt, and have no realistic prospect of buying even a shoebox let alone a flat or house where I live (in the southeast). It is very hard for me to have any sympathy for the idea that the state pays for you to move house! One of the secondary benefits of HS2 is to encourage private sector companies to invest outside London whilst being close enough to go there for business reasons.

          Roughly 10,000 students graduate from university in Manchester every year, and the vast majority of those who don’t want to work in the public sector are more or less forced to move to London/Southeast area to find grad-level jobs.

          How do I know? I am one! I don’t enjoy living in greater London, and I realise I am putting strain on London healthcare and public services simply because job opportunities in my field are so limited elsewhere in the UK. Obviously I use WCML rail services regularly to travel home, as well as for business.

          I am not advocating HS2 be built just for me (!) but clearly my own story highlights that the regeneration objectives cited are not some conspiracy concocted just to wind up people in Buckinghamshire.

          So I certainly won’t be listening to any ‘woe is me’ stories — the compensation ought to be comparable to any given out for construction of the far more destructive M40 motorway.

          • You might not care about people in Lou’s situation, but why don’t you think about the way future graduates will be working?

            Today’s students, and their younger siblings, are growing up in a world where people are used to having meaningful communication through the internet. They will treat videoconferencing as just a valid a way of holding a meeting as being in the same room.

            However, these future graduates will still be expected – through their taxes – to subsidise the cost of building a high-speed railway that might save them a few minutes if they wanted to travel to a meeting. But if those few minutes mattered so much, they’d save the whole of the travel time and hold a videoconference instead….

            • @Penny: I obviously do care that people directly affected by HS2 ought to be adequately compensated, but I can’t agree with the extent Lou suggests.

              I am prepared to accept that working practices will change over time to some extent, but I am surprised by just how strongly this argument is being pushed. The basic question about HS2 is do we need extra rail capacity on the West Coast route? So any response must be based on that parameter. In 1995 (before widespread uptake of broadband, mobile and smart phones) BR’s Intercity division ran two off-peak 100mph trains per hour between Ldn and Bham, and one 110mph train hourly to Mcr and Lpool. In 2010, that figure was three, three and two, all with a maximum line speed of 125mph.

              I am afraid that alone suggests that the factors driving travel growth are outstripping the effect of tech suppressing demand. What you are postulating is not only that this growth will slow, it will actually cease. the reality in my industry (media/publishing) is that technology is a useful tool but if anything, it serves to facilitate face ot face meetings. I am sure this is reflected in other service industries, particularly where any sales activities are involved.

              Surely any government wilfully countering a 15 year trend when drafting transport policy would be castigated roundly for being irresponsible? No amount of ‘futurology’ about teleconferencing will matter if Network Rail says it simply cannot find extra slots out of Euston by 2020 or so. Videoconferencing also won’t help find room for intermodal/container freight, the great unspoken ‘green growth’ area that nobody is talking about….

            • Today’s students, and their younger siblings, are growing up in a world where people are used to having meaningful communication through the internet. They will treat videoconferencing as just a valid a way of holding a meeting as being in the same room.

              Gordon Bennett – how many times does this have to be explained? Video conferencing has been around for years and rail passenger numbers are still going up. End of. This is wishful thinking and nothing more. The idea that in the future with an ever-expanding population that rail use will go down because eveyone is working from home is utterly ridiculous. How much longer is “Stop HS2” going to keep pushing this nonsense?

          • why is that you don’t think my suggestion of the government properly analysing a number of different options, putting forward the real costs and letting the public scrutinize it all is a good way forward? Is it possible that you are also narrow minded and have your own vested interests and are not willing, like the government of considering other options?
            I don’t live near the thing but have an elderly aunt who does and is devastated. I have another aunt who lives 3/4 mile from HS1 and even with double glazing she hears it in side her house. thats going slower than HS2 will go. living in an urban area it is a short drive to the chilterns and my family love to get out of the smoke. all our favourite cycle paths will be affected.
            Please be a little more open minded.

            • we also live in a shoe box and our biggest pleasure in life is gettng out to the countryside. i don’t want to see an area the size of manchester cemented over and the best mountain bike paths close to london decimated. i don’t want to have to get on a HS train which I can’t afford in order to find some decent mountain bike paths.


  4. GET A LIFE….
    We need more rail links not less.
    What this country needs is a High Speed Rail ‘Network’ like in France.
    More quality fast rail links mean:-
    A, Fewer cars on our already overcrowded roads.
    B, Less pollution. (Trains are very environmentally friendly)
    C, Fewer Flights
    D, Less deaths on our roads.

    Its a no brainer, build HS2 the quicker the better!!

    • France: Area 675k sq km Population 66million
      UK (Including NI) Area 244k sq km Population 62million
      Do the maths.
      When you have the space you can afford to plough it up for infrastructure and not have to consider the environment.
      When you have reasonably priced tickets and plenty of people wanting to move around (and through) your country high speed rail travel makes sense.
      Is that the case in the UK?
      If you want it so much Gary, start a petition – when the number of signatures exceeds the number on the “Stop HS2” petition I will concede that the nation wants it.

  5. Is there anything that Goeff Inskip says that we (ie. people who know the railway generally and WCML specificially) don’t already know to be true? I would add two other issues to the Gordian knot of West Mids rail capacity: going north from Bham towards Wolverhampton is also a severely constraibed two track railway. How long before we have to bulldoze another pair of tracks through people’s back gardens? This congestion also leads to the laughable scenario where it takes longer to get from London to Wolverhampton than it does to get to Warrington. The Birmingham – Manchester rail service is also barely competitive with road despite the M6 through Staffs being one of our busiest motorway sections (…and as usual nobody but nobody mentions rail freight, even though container traffic will continue to grow as the UK becomes an increasingly import-led economy).

    The total HS2 alignment from London to Tamworth will require purchase of only 445 dwellings, yet I suspect the total for adding a pair of tracks through dense suburbia between Coventry and Birmingham would be not far off that total. Add in the cost of doubling the long viaducts that lead into Proof House Junction and you easily have a £5bn project. Just another few £££s of investment that could have been avoided had the government realised many years ago that preserving our rail network in aspic was never going to work.

  6. a) & b) have been tried to death on the M25, and anyone who’s suffered the misery of driving on that car-park will tell you it doesn’t really work. Too many people trying to use the same stretch of road. Doesn’t matter how many times you try to patch it up.

  7. A gentleman has given his view on the petition saying he has travelled the bham to london route for 20 years and it has never been crowded .other routes away from this route need improving how on earth can a nother north to south train help the east to west routes? it is utter madness.

    • however there are existing pinch points on all the major north south lines where it becomes difficult for east west trains to gain paths to either cross the main lines or alternatively use the main line for part of the journey.

      so the massive gains in total capacity that hs2 will bring will release extra capacity to increase the frequency of east west trains and maybe speed journeys up also.

      i am sure that there are times when the wcml isnt overcrowded as there are times when the m1 and m6 arent overcrowded. if overcrowding wasnt a problem, then virgin and the dft would not be in the process of receiving 11 coach pendolinos. unfortunately it will always be more cost effective to connect centres of larger populations so that the maximum amount of travellers receive the benefits. i dont see that as madness but financial reality.

  8. excellent news. we had better get hs2 built as soon as possible then. glad someone is recognising that lack of capacity on the railway is already here and now and needs to be addressed. if we build hs2 as soon as possible we could save the money of any proposed interim wcml upgrades.

    • There are 15 miles or so of two-lane carriageway on the M74 that gets busy at rush hour.
      Would we think about solving this problem by:
      a) Introducing measures to make the best of the available capacity (variable speed limits etc)?
      b) Widening the short stretch of road to remove the pinch point?
      c) Building a complete extra motorway all the way to Glasgow, while commenting that although this will be vastly more expensive and take the longest time to build it will release a lot of capacity on the old road? And you would save the money on not having to do (a) or (b) – unless the traffice got too bad while waiting in which case you would do those anyway.

      • firstly as you well know hs2 is only a two track railway that requires far less land take then does a motorway. secondly, we all know from the west coast upgrade that hs2 is more cost effective and NOT vastly MORE expensive as you claim. and if you are agreeing that there will be a capacity problem before hs2 is built then you are admitting that people will still travel and admitting that the railway network needs more capacity. so if we can find the funds we should build hs2 to birmingham and london as soon as possible to avoid more costly upgrading of the existing network.

        if we dont build hs2 the extra motorways you speak of will become reality

        • You avoid my point – in the road world there would be no possibility of building another motorway (anywhere) as it would rightly be seen as a crazy profligate solution, that either just encourages more travel or is an underused waste of money.
          The debacle of the WCML upgrade often seems to be given as some sort of justification for building HS2, while to me it just reinforces the idea that the rail industry and their lobbyists are very good at presenting their pet schemes in the best light and avoiding all mention of project risks.. Way back when these people would have presented the upgrade as ‘excellent value for money’ while knowing full well that by the time the true picture emerges it would be too late to stop and the taxpayer will just have to stump up – why would we expect any less optimistic relationship for truth and lies when it comes to HS2?
          Of course people will still travel in the future (but I don’t see any reason why they should be travelling vastly more than they do now when factors such as energy cost and web-based alternatives are acting to reduce demand.) So, there will be a need for more capacity on the WCML, and it is the point of the original article that there will be a capacity problem before HS2 could be built. That capacity can be met quite adequately by RP2, and in good time. HS2 will provide too much, too late.

          I’m confused as to how you evaluate HS2 to be ‘more cost effective’ and ‘not more expensive’ than the alternatives? Using DfT figures for both you are looking at cost benefit of 3.6 for RP2 compared to 2.7 for HS2, and then £4.6bn vs £17bn for the headline cost. Last time I did maths 3.6>2.7 (=‘RP2 more cost effective’) and 4.6 < 17 (=‘HS2 is indeed vastly more expensive’). And let's not forget that RP2 can be built in bits so if the promised hordes don't in fact turn up you may not even have to do all of it.

          • i wasnt avoiding your point at all i was pointing out that as a twin track hs2 has a width of not more then 22 metres in total then it is far less intrusive then a multi lane motorway would be. electric trains also do not generate pollution at the local level as cars do although obviously current power plants generate emissions which will reduce over time with renewables.

            also, the problem with upgrades rather then new lines is that it is a bit like refurbishing your house. that is because when you start taking things apart you find all kinds of other things that need doing ! there were many instances with the wcml upgrade where extra work that wasnt predicted for whatever reason had to be done and the cost ballooned accordingly.

            if we upgraded the wcml further it would cause massive disruption to passengers again and force people back to their cars again with all the extra congestion, accidents and emissions that result. Plus any new stretches of railway would well be new stretches of railway which would affect many more properties and possibly land.

            the government has to consider what is best for the country and offers the most benefits to the most people which unfortunately means that some people will be disadvantaged in one way or another.

            • My point was that for a similar set of circumstances but based on roads rather than rail there would be no chance of anyone suggesting an entire new motorway. As you well know rail makes no real difference to the amount of road traffic either way so all talk of increased accidents and congestion is bogus.
              Upgrades or new build we still rely on experts to give their best estimate of the cost of the projects – I don’t see why you shoud consider the same people ‘right’ for the cost of a new line but ‘wrong’ for an upgrade! At least with a refurb you are nominally dealing with things you know about, while the possibilities for increased costs when making new tunnels through virgin land must surely be high? While really how much is there to go wrong with adding a few more carriages and putting a sticker over the first class labels?
              Lastly, I admire your faith in the government but to imply that they are entirely altruistic and have no political or other vested interest in any decisions is to be optimistic in the extreme. I’m not anti-government, and don’t think those people are crooks – but I do think they can be sold a lie, and then persuaded to keep digging to try and prevent the lie coming to the fore.

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