Capacity, Journey Time, & Energy Costs of HS2

This is a guest post by Finmere, who often comments on the Stop HS2 website.

This country has signed up to very ambitious carbon reduction targets. Whether because of climate change or energy conservation, this issue should be paramount in all government departments when planning policy – especially transport.

Currently, the main argument put forward in favour of a new line is to increase passenger capacity, but over 40% of the claimed £44bn of benefits is dependent on journey time savings.

Higher speed means greater energy consumption which increases approximately with the square of the speed. The HS2 traction energy modelling carried out at Imperial College shows that operating at 360 km/h consumes 23% more energy than at 300 km/h. The journey time saving, between London and Birmingham, travelling at 360 km/h compared with 300 km/h, is just over 3½ minutes.

In other words, saving just over 3½ minutes consumes 23% more energy.

While energy and climate change ministers are signing international agreements on CO2 emissions and energy conservation measures, the department for transport is just ignoring it and happy to burn 23% more fuel to save 3½ minutes.

Is this another example of the need for ‘joined up government’, or could it be that without the 3½ minutes the whole business case would collapse?

43 comments to “Capacity, Journey Time, & Energy Costs of HS2”
  1. Rich you ask which businesses will be destroyed well i can only tell you about my town and there are 650 at codemasters and as they are Indian owned now they could even leave the country.there is also agarden nursery and im not sure how it will affect the polo grounds.It is easy to say they will be compensated or reocated.They may not be able to find premises nearby and a small town will loose out.There are obviously going to be many other cases along the proposed line and it is naive of you to imagine otherwise.

  2. I find it astonishing that on the one hand we are being made to buy low energy light bulbs and yet these trains are going to use so much more electricity to save a few minutes. I’ve heard David Cameron claim to be the greenest government ever, but actions speak louder than words. They’re not really serious about energy and climate change, just paying lip service to it.

    • those few minutes savings – how many more times do hs2 critics have to use this incorrect statement !!!!!

      the savings are at least 33-36 minutes London Birmingham and even greater to Manchester / Leeds ! We are talking of at least a 35% improvement. You can say that even that isnt worth it but please stop saying that it is only a few minutes as that is totally inaccurate !!!!!

      Also ask any passenger on a train now if they would like to have a seat and get to their destination quicker !

      • Nick Yes people want seats and in many cases the under used first class carriages should be reduced because they are under used .ah but then they want to build a first class train called hs2.OH we are such a huge island we have to travel across it faster do we ?.Considering in many other countries they have to endure much longer journeys why are we so special that we cant manage it?Also have you not seen how many who have just opened HStrains have closed them due to lack of passengers.

        • This must be one of the most naive posts I’ve read on here.

          1) The profits form first class carriages (even half empty ones) subsidise the cost of standard class seats. Get rid of the frist class and watch the fares rocket for everyone else.

          2) Where does HS2 say it will be first class only?

          3) Why should British travellers put up with slower trains just for you?

          • Surely you don’t believe what the Government is telling you do you? This project has shades of the Iraq war about it and the wool being pulled.

            The consultation is “more doggy” than the doggy dossier prepared by the Prince of Darkness Peter Mandleson

          • maybe if a train was run on the current line, without stopping at staions on route (like hs2) the time saving issue would seem a little meek???
            At the end of the the day hs2 is just a scheme to put some mp’s name up in “lights” on the history of this country.

      • Those savings will only be realised if you live on the door step of a station. If you don’t you have to factor in the travelling to the start point of the journey so for me it would make the actual time travelled longer…..this doesn’t seem sensible to me

        • “If you don’t you have to factor in the travelling to the start point of the journey ”

          Yet more comedy gold.

          Don’t know about you but my journey to anywhere when I am at home is from my front door, or from my work from the office door – not from a particular peice of transport infrastructure, whatever mode.

          “so for me it would make the actual time travelled longer…..this doesn’t seem sensible to me”

          So looks like we had better cancel the whole thing then if it doesn’t work for you.

          Don’t suppose anyone lives or works in the centres of our largest cities then? – London, Birmingham, Leeds Manchester who might actually use this thing.

          I take it you have heard of the national interest

          Keep up the good work though 🙂

  3. When, in the 1950s, the first stages of the M1 were built, it was often referred to as “the London to Birmingham Motorway”; it didn’t go to Birmingham nor into London. It was an early section of what was later connected up to form the present network.
    Perhaps we should stop concentrating purely on HS2 as the” London to Birmingham High Speed Link” and consider it as the first part of a nerwork connecting into the existing routes to the Midlands and North.
    After all , as it is now planned, the line into central Birmingham is but a branch,surely !

    • Let’s hope that common sense prevails and that the first leg is never built then we won’t have to worry about the remainder.

  4. If the High Speed 2 railway line from London to Birmingham is constructed following the “preferred” route published by High Speed 2 Ltd and Arup in December 2010, it will be built over very important parts of the natural environment in the Colne Valley.

    •Ruislip Golf Course
    •Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre (HOAC)
    •Part of the Grand Union Canal and Walk
    •Savay Lake
    •the important Mid Colne Valley SSSI, including part of the River Colne and the Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve.
    Much of this area was dismissed in the HS2 Route Engineering study as just “three flooded gravel pits”. While these are not people’s homes or large-scale employers, they are all features with real value to countless numbers of people in West London and neighbouring counties.

    The Government has recently published the UK National Ecosystem Assessment which aims to show “how to value our natural resources, so as to enable better decision making, more certain investment … and greater human well-being in changing times ahead”. The UKNEA was rapidly followed by the Natural Environment White Paper, indicating the Government’s intention “to put the value of nature at the heart of our decision-making – in Government, local communities and businesses.”

    So is the Government really now going to take account of the Colne Valley’s natural environment in its decisions about HS2?

    The UKNEA focuses on four ways in which mankind benefits from nature. One of these is designated “cultural services”, which are derived from places where humans interact with nature and with each other. The values of cultural services may be difficult to quantify, but this does not mean that they can be neglected in rational decision-making. Humans interact with each other and with nature in a very wide variety of “green” and “blue” spaces, such as gardens, parks, rivers, lakes, the seashore, woodland and wilderness areas.

    The outdoor recreation and engagement with wildlife possible in such spaces can have real benefits such as improvements in health and fitness and an enhanced sense of well-being through aesthetic satisfaction. The value of such a space depends on how near it is to a centre of population.

    In their different ways all the Colne Valley areas listed above provide important “cultural services” for large numbers of people in the region.

    I have a website ( from which you can download a document reviewing and assessing these cultural services. The website also has an engineering report showing that there is at least one alternative route for HS2 (if it actually happens) across the Colne Valley causing less devastation – though still too much.

    • …it will be built over very important parts of the natural environment in the Colne Valley.

      •Ruislip Golf Course

      Is this a wind-up?

      • No, it’s not a wind-up – like the other places, the golf course is a place where “humans interact with each other and with the natural environment” and benefit from the recreation – as the UKNEA study and the White Paper recognise.

        • Ah, I see. So rather than lawns, it’s more a case of “their golf courses or our jobs”. To be honest, if some important sounding people have done a study and concluded that some cultivated lawns with badly dressed people hitting balls about with sticks is in any way “natural”, then all I can say is I hope these people aren’t funded by the public.

          • What an obnoxious comment and a very shortsighted one. Wherever these HS2 jobs are available in the future, I’m sure more people in Manchester, Leeds and other areas will be regretting their blind support of HS2 in the future, as it tears through their communities, both on it’s way in and way out.
            Not many people who think they will get a job out of HS2 will get one – any city that needs regeneration and a boost to their economy, needs it sooner rather than later, definitely not in the 2030s.
            The public all over the country is being mis-informed, or not informed at all if it will not be useful to the DfT’s agenda (i.e. areas not getting a station).
            People who stand to lose their home, garden or business deserve sympathy and respect. If the government had treated people with one iota of that from the start, people might feel differently about HS2. At this point no one affected by HS2 has any reason to have any faith in the government. There is no reason that any taxpayer should have any faith in this project either. It has been mismanged and misleading from the start and with the errata’s published today and the continuing noise misrepresentation there is no reason to believe it will get any better.

          • People now get real benefits to their physical and mental health from all these parts of the Colne Valley, which are as natural as anywhere within 100 miles. Remarks about “stupid clothing” and “hitting balls with sticks” just destroy the credibility of the pro-hs2 lobby.

      • With the current route in places its going to be 10/12 metres below the water table. Water wings supplied??

        • You raise a profound point, Iain.

          Have you tried swimming through the Channel Tunnel?

          When next in London, if you are feeling brave,try the Jubilee Line.It crosses the Thames no less than four times,.

          There are more…try them -if you have the nerve…(just remember to hold your breath.)

    • natural environment !!! a canal ! savay lake ! a golf course ! which if any of these is natural – they are all man made and aren’t natural at all – I can only assume that you are being extremely sarcastic !!

    • Patrick with your “I have a website ( from which you can download a document reviewing and assessing these cultural services. The website also has an engineering report showing that there is at least one alternative route for HS2 (if it actually happens) across the Colne Valley causing less devastation – though still too much”.

      Are you mad?? Im sure that all those home owners at Harefield that your alternative route would pass right up against with this silly alternative route would be really happy with your proposal! NOT! If I were you I’d delete it before they find where you live!! 🙂

  5. so if hs2 were revised down to 300kph then would you agree with its construction ? or is this 360 vs 300 kph argument just a ruse to try to somehow undermine it so you can then say well it can be less straight so lets run it along the motorway and let people nearby fight the case ? or would stop hs2 become stop rp2 ?

    would you also agree with reducing the motorway speed limit to 90 kph / 55 mph and reducing the speed of asircraft by replacing jets with lower polluting turboprops ?

    answers on a postcard please !

    • Nick (12.10 am). As I understand it from HS2/Arup a reduction to 300 kph wouldn’t fundamentally change the choice of route (eg to run along the M40, I think I saw somewhere that this would limit the speed to 200kph or less) although it might permit changes to the preferred route. It would however reduce the noise impact and energy consumption.

      More generally, the focus of automobile and aeroplane design has for some time been on energy and cost efficiency rather than speed. Why should rail be different? At the very least I would have thought that the trade-offs should be considered as they specifically relate to HS2.

      Would it change my mind about HS2? Possibly, but I would need to see some analysis of what it meant in practice. Yes, I live pretty close to the route (<500m)

      • at the end of the day hsr uses less energy then either air or car so if we aim for taking as many passengers to hsr from these modes we will in fact reduce overall pollution.

        none of the inroads hsr has made against air oin particular in mainland europe would have been possible if the trains didnt run at 300 kph – look at paris to london or paris to brussels !

        and i havent heard of any airlines suggesting switching back to turboprops and reducing speed nor would a 50 mph motorway limit be very popular

        • Modal shift from air and car forms a very small part of HS2 predicted demand, far less than new journeys.

          HS2 is being built to 400 rather than 300kph

          Re speed limit and turboprops. Yes that’s true, but I think its hard to dispute that the vast majority of money and effort is spent on fuel efficiency and capacity rather than speed for both air and cars

          I’m very sceptical about speeds Ín excess of 300kph creating any discernable benefit outside a very theoretical BCR calculation

          • The latest 320 kph french AGV does not use any more and maybe less energy then the 200 kph pendolinos do.

            And based on current trends I believe that HS2 through the capacity it boths brings and releases on the current lines will encourage a considerable modal transfer from cars in particular. And lets not forget the increased paths for freight on the existing lines released by HS2, which has 25% of truck emissions

            I really dont see any alternative to HS2. A new line is the only way of increasing capacity without causing years of disruption to existing passengers . Certainly not if the West Coast upgrade is anything to go by !

            • Remember Nick that HS2 Ltd themselves predict that just 6 % of the passengers on an HS2 train will have switched from air , and just 7 % from a car . That doesn’t sound that significant to me and certainly not game changing .

              By comparison HS2 Ltd say 22 % will be new journeys .

              Are you saying you don’t agree with the assumptions and calculations of HS2 Ltd . That would be something we both could agree on !

  6. This figure of 23% extra energy assumes that the HS trains are travelling at full speed throughout their entire journey.
    In fact, having stopped at Old Oak Common on a northbound journey, they are planned to run at a lesser speed until they clear the Chiltern tunnels on the approach to Wendover.

    Trains stopping at the Birmingham Airport interchange station would have slowed well before that point; also the run into Curzon Street would obviously involving a progressive slowing on the approach.

    On a conventional railway, trains will normally run at a lesser speed than the maximum permitted, often that is well under the speed that the train could attain if the section was not restricted. Diesel powered HsT trains such run in the Thames valley and the Midland main line,have a top permitted speed of 125mph, but traffic density, track geometry, approaches to stations and speed limits over parts of the route mean that they may approach this top speed for only a part of their journey, if at all.
    The “Pendolino” trains have, on test exceeded their designed service speed of 140 mph, but are limited to a maximum speed of 125 because limitations (and regulations) of the signalling system in use on the WCML.

    I have noticed examples of this (wilful or let us hope, misunderstanding) confusion in at least one leaflet produced by a local “Stop” group, a confusion between Maximum and Average speeds when “comparing ” trains currently running in the UK with those in other countries in mainland Europe, which while it appeared on a casual reading to support their case, was actually a completely false conclusion.

    • The 23% does not assume 360km/h for the whole journey. The traction energy modelling was undertaken by Imperial College using their Train Energy model.

      For some reason the link to the traction energy modelling document got missed from the above article. You can see it here –

      The conclusions are clear. A journey time saving of 3.5 minutes consumes 23% more energy.

      • Thankyou, Finmere for pointing that out. The data suggests to me that the enthusiasm of the engineers to build such a system at the cutting edge of present development- “If you are designing for the future’ -a dozen years ahead , then wny not make it as modern as you can,” is the gist of what I was told by HS2 engineers- will need to be tempered by these energy requirements for the extra speed.

        Of course, the faster you go then the fewer the number of trains you need to cover schedule.
        However, a balance needs to be struck. I imagine that similar modelling is being undertaken to match the “advantage” of the higher speed against higher track and wheel tyre wear, for example.

        If the present very straight track line were built, even if for reasons of economy, a lower operating speed was to be maintained even after the initial period, that would still allow for accelerated timings to be operated later if that was found to be desirable.

        If the track were eased, then the effect on the corridor environmentally and socially might be less uncompromising, but then there would be less chance for a subsequent upgrade.

        If this is to be built then some compromises will surely have be made.

        If it is not built, then we shall still be confronted with the same problems of overcrowding at the peak and of lack of paths for all the different classes of rail traffic all competing for track space, but then we shall be nearer to a crisis point..

        • Whatever technological improvements may or may not appear in the future it will always be the case that going faster will need more energy – anyone who claims otherwise is either ignorant of the laws of physics or has found a way to break them (and we can all switch to flying around in magic bubbles). I don’t think anyone would disagree with predictions that energy will cost more in the future than it does now, so there is no need to keep your options open for possible future speed improvements when there are real problems with the scheme as it is. Note how the Chinese have built their lines for superfast trains but are now scaling them back to ‘normal’ speeds.

          If you go faster you will need more trains (not less) and more repair crews in order to keep things working, else be prepared for more accidents. See

          Capacity issues have nothing to do with the speed of the trains. If you believe the DfT we need a new line, if you believe others we can quite happily get more than the required capacity with minor modifications of rolling stock and a few pinch points.

  7. You keep going on and on about Maglev. do you remember the old one with did have at Bimingham airport. Guess what it not removed due reliability problems back in 1995.

    • A very successful experiment that lasted for nearly 11 years.
      It is very interesting, if you care to read up about Prof. Eric Laithwaite and Tracked Hovercraft.

      Hard to believe that 20 years ago, Britain had advanced transport technology, but unfortunately, due to government decisions about funding amongst other things, we have lost our technological advantage, and are now dependent on others to provide us with trains.

      Now all we seem to do is want to copy Europe by building HS2, forgetting that our railway network is just as good, or better, what ever happened to visionary leadership?

      • Did you ever travel on it, if you did, you are one of the very few. Most of the time it was not working. A very successful experiment are you joking, for something that did not not work most of the time. The tech has been looked at and said NO

  8. Good post.
    The WCML and ECML already meet the 125mph requirement set out by the European Union to be class as High Speed Railways.
    So the claim the Britain needs to catch up with Europe is false, we have High Speed Trains.

    I might also mention that Tranrapid Maglev has 30% less energy consumption than HSR (ICE 3) at comparable speeds.

    • now you are just using semantics luke. yes if you use that classification then we do have high speed railways. however you want to classify our railways the existing network is reaching saturation so it needs expanding ! i mean we hold the world steam record at 126mph or as fast as our main lines now !

      If you compare even 155 mph railways we dont have any and we have one 180 mph line totalling about 70 miles compared with thousands of miles in mainland europe. your comparison is like someone from cuba saying we have cars so we dont need anything newer than a 1955 chevrolet !

      why dont you have your own blog about maglev. then we could discuss the pros and cons there. i dont see anyone wanting a huge concrete viaduct across the countryside. and it wouldnt offer through trains.

      • European cities are more spread out, we might have slower trains (and that is a question in itself), but journey times are shorter.
        We do need better trains, here in East Anglia we have 70s trains with heavy doors, no wheelchair access, narrow doorways., I know it is same up and down country.
        £13bn on a train that will only slightly improve journey times between two cities, and by-passes all commuter towns en-route, is a waste of money when the rest of the country is neglected.

        The trouble with a blog is, one has to manage it, and constantly post.
        I am on Twitter however, and there is an International Maglev forum where you can meet all the experts that Philip Hammond has failed to meet.
        Both are on my website, I would give links, but I fear the Admin would delete them.

        • Manchester will be almost an hour (54-56 mins per current timetable see journey planner) closer to london – that is not only a few minutes savings more like 40% ! Why do critics keep repeating this myth — it is not and never will be factual no matter how many times it is repeated !

          Birmingham – London Euston will be 33 to 36 minutes closer on what is generally a 1hr 22 to 1 hr 25 journey before delays are taken into account. That is a 40% reduction in time taken – hardly a trivial savings ! and if you say time savings are not important why do you want maglev ?

          and of course as the main reason for hs2 is capacity not speed it will release extra paths on existing lines to serve those very commuter lines to which you refer !!!

          I am sorry that your part of the country will not be served by hs2 but that doesnt mean your lines and trains will not be improved in other ways. You also have to see that any new line or indeed improvement needs to serve a majority of the population to justify its expense and i am afraid that isnt East Anglia.

          • during the construcion process (how many years is that untill it reaches manchester?) there will be huge disruption for many commuters and alot of working hours lost through this. many of the urbanites (mostly londoners) i know who assume its a green and gorgeous scheme, are going to be cursing the fact that they didn’t do more to get it stopped, when they realise how disruptive it will be, for many many years to come. the overall benefit of the scheme is paltry compared to all the hazards. by the time it is completed we will all look back and say why did we suffer that white elephant so that others could make a huge profit.

            • any disruption to commuters would only be when hs2 was being connected into the classic network and at places like the new station adjacent to the NEC.

              Upgrades to the existing lines would be far more disruptive – ask anyone who used the west coast line ! Many took other modes of transport and passenger numbers fell.

          • If the real reason for HS2 is capacity not speed as you state. There are many better and more economical solutions that would benefit the entire country.

        • @Luke: European cities are more spread out, we might have slower trains (and that is a question in itself), but journey times are shorter.

          In a sentence you have conveyed the parochial, island mentality routinely pervading the bulk of anti-HS2 rhetoric.

          Last time I looked Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh were all (you’ve guessed correctly) European cities! and just who do you mean when referring to collective we in your dialogue above? The British Isles form an integral part of Europe (just look in an atlas!).

          High Speed trains utilising HS2 to/from near European mainland (Paris/Brussels/Amsterdam) destinations, or even beyond utilising Lille Europe as a connecting hub, will forge long overdue direct (bypassing London completely) connections between the peripheral UK regions and major trading partners on the other side of La Manche – Europe is not some separate faraway entity you go to on holiday, we’re already part of Europe!

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