HS2 won’t help the most overcrowded trains

Many of the people who want the country to spend £33 billion on HS2 have picked on one issue in recent weeks: the idea that opening another train line between London and Birmingham in 2026 will mean that people using the existing network will have better trains – but not for at least 15 years.

However the most overcrowded trains will not be helped by HS2.

The Daily Mail published a list of the ten worst London commuter trains: they all have Paddington as their London terminus.  But earlier this year, the TaxPayers Alliance published a report showing that because of the extra stop at Old Oak Common, Paddington passengers will have a longer journey after HS2 is built.

Further, four of the worst trains in the Daily Mail’s list begin or end their journey in Oxford.  Oxford was never on the possible HS2 station list: however Bicester was, which HS2 Ltd thought might serve Oxford passengers to London.  HS2 Ltd rejected the possibility of a Bicester station even though their main report published in March 2010 said

“The three stations were modelled assuming they were served by three trains per hour, no premium fares and a train capacity of 1,000 seats. It was clear from this modelling that a station at either Bicester (serving Oxford) or Milton Keynes could generate significant benefits to passengers in the vicinity of the intermediate station… The benefits to passengers from these stations would also be significant, with both time savingsand relief of crowding on the classic network. These could amount to £500-600m during the peak hours, rising to £2.6-3.4bn if services continued throughout the day. The revenues of an all day service would also pay for the additional capital costs of an intermediate station at Milton Keynes or Bicester (estimated to be in the region of £150m).”

But in the document, HS2 Ltd then rejected the idea of these intermediate stations.

So whatever the current claims about HS2, it is clear that HS2 Ltd aren’t interested in helping ordinary commuters on the worst commuter services, just in building an expensive vanity project for fat cats.

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One comment to “HS2 won’t help the most overcrowded trains”
  1. Many years ago, a traveller waiting on Reading station for his train to Paddington was surprised to see the “up” Cornish Riviera Express, which normally ran through non stop,was slowing to a complete halt at his platform.
    Seizing this opportunity, he boarded the train and found a seat as the express resumed the last lap of its journey’ when he was confronted by the ticket inspector .

    “Excuse me,sir, but where did you join the train?”he asked, looking puzzled.

    “Just now, at Reading,” replied the traveller.

    “But you can’t get on at Reading,”said the official.”This train doesn’t stop at Reading.”

    “Oh, that’s all right then,”replied the traveller. “If this train doesn’t stop there, then I’m not on it!”

    Unlike most of the other railways serving London, the GWR did not develop an extensive network of lines to cater for commuters from the western suburbs. It was regarded as a “gentlemens’ railway” concentrating on its long distance trains between the Capital and the towns and cities of the West and Wales.In fact, a number of trains ran non stop as far as Swindon or even Taunton,for example.
    It was only in recent decades, as people began to travel daily from further afield that the emphasis changed.
    In the 1970s the new Hst 125 trainsets met the challenge of the M4 motorway for journeys to Bath, Bristol and the West, but daily commuters threatened to swamp the services at the London end as they much preferred the comfort of the fast new trains to the ordinary stock. This prompted BR to attempt to make the westbound Reading stop “pick up only”, but eventually gave up.
    Business in the morning and evening peaks continued to grow. People were now commuting daily not only throughout the Thames valley, but to and from many of the stations all along the line to Bristol and beyond,and overcrowding became such an issue that when the trains, now 30 years old, received major refurbishment a few years ago, extra seats were squeezed in, so as to overcome the discontent with the service.

    This perhaps explains the decision by HS2 Ltd not to consider station stops at Milton Keynes or Bicester.
    Penny suggests , I don’t know why, that the Government or HS2 Ltd are disdainful or uncaring towards us”ordinary people”.
    Rather, I suspect that the experience of the Thames valley overcrowding prompted them to plan specifically for a market of longer distance passengers, and they would argue that the space on the existing routes created by removing certain long distance non stop trains will permit more trains/ stops to serve places bypassed by the high speed service.

    Of course, as Steve pointed out a day or so ago, Chiltern Mainline services between the West Midlands and London are good connecting as they do with other routes on the way, and continue to be developed and increased despite greatly increased container traffic taking its share of “paths” through the Cherwell valley.

    A final thought. There are already doubts as to whether the intensive service envisaged by HS2 could be accommodated, even with technical improvements that may be developed over the next few years. So unless the whole scheme were to be re focussed – remember that Crossrail could have been a long distance link with very few stations,enabling say a train to run through from say Norwich to Exeter or Cambridge to Bournemouth,as some would have preferred, it was decided that the priority for the Greater London area was a fast link across the city, connecting both Underground and mainline stations, following the example of the RER service in Paris–then the only way that intermediate stations with even a few trains calling, would be to provide long sections of four tracks, with the consequent greater land take and extra cost.

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