What’s the Mainline Alternative?

I sometimes feel that enthusiasts for high speed can’t think of an alternative to building HS2.  For instance, in the Channel 4 debate between Pete Waterman and Joe Rukin, Pete Waterman’s rationale for favouring it is “You can’t not build it; it’s as simple as that.”

But there are already several train routes between London and Birmingham, and today, Chiltern Railways’ new “Chilterns Mainline” service started between Birmingham Moor Street and London Marylebone after an upgrade.

Sure, it’s not high speed, but it has reduced the journey times on that particular route by about 30 minutes.  30 minutes is of course the same time saving as HS2 Ltd say will come from spending  £17 billion spend of taxpayer’s money on just the first Phase of HS2 (excluding of course, the cost of designing and buying new trains).   In comparison, the £250 million Chilterns Railway upgrade was paid for by private investment.

Sure, they’ve had to shut Marylebone for the last month, but for some reason, proponents of HS2 don’t seem to think HS2 Ltd’s suggested 8 year rebuild of Euston is problematic.

Maybe the real alternative that would serve the traveling public best is not a high speed, high cost HS2, but low cost options like upgrades to the existing rail network.

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19 comments to “What’s the Mainline Alternative?”
  1. The article in the local paper shows that the new chiltern pricing is not popular to all.i think they would rather it remained cheaper if a little slower.The majority of passengers gain nothing and it affects their income.so a negative effect.If this is the cost now what the price of an hs2 ticket?

    • It would be good to know how many of you actually use this line on a regular basis (or indeed any rail)?
      I use the Chiltern Line every day for work commuting.
      I would far rather shorten my journey times (not add more time) and most of all be totally sure of a seat each time!
      Why is it I find myself often having to stand up on these busy trains – morning and night?
      Im not sure that things have improved at all on my new Chiltern line service.
      So much for the upgrades. Trains seem even busier now – but perhaps it needs time for the new service to settle in. Fingers crossed.

  2. Ok then. I can understand the arguments for the spending of tax payers money. But what about if private investors came in and helped foot the bill. People like Richard Branson. The government have not ruled this out. What would your thoughts and arguments be then?

    • If people like Richard Branson thought there was the vaguest possibility they might be interested in building HS2, they would have said something by now. That they haven’t shows they don’t won’t to get involved even i asked.

      It was reported that the airports at the Transport Select Committee on Tuesday were quite clear that they didn’t want to pay anything towards the stations near them.

      • Simply not true. It isn’t even 100% that HS2 will happen. And the Government has not invited private investors in yet. Why would they declare themselves now and say they are interested? That just isn’t the way to do business. You keep it quiet to enhance your negotiations. But this isnt my question. My question was what would people think about the idea if private investors paid for it? That would then banish the ‘waste of money talk’?

    • Thanks for the correction: they’d announced severe disruption to the route lasting about a month.

      The Euston rebuild will be 7-8 years, according to HS2 Ltd.

      • Thanks Penny.
        I was assured that the seven years for Euston rebuild was actually to do to them having to maintain and thus avoid impacting on standard train timetables rather than being as a direct result of construction.

        • Euston station is due for major renewal anyway, whether or not HS2 goes ahead.
          If the Government goes ahead with the HS network, of which HS2 is but the first part, then a much larger terminus would be needed.
          The plan would be for the expanded site to be redeveloped one stage at a time, as Simon suggests,so that existing services could be maintained, as each section was completed, in much the same way that Reading station is currently being enlarged and rebuilt with additional platforms.

          • Euston is already one of the busiest, if not the busiest London termini, it cannot be compared with Reading. 7-8 years disruption is a significant issue, especially for those who use it now. And what about the effect on the communities around Euston? The disruption isn’t confined to the station concourse and it’s not just travellers who’ll suffer.

            And HS2 as currently proposed doesn’t even give a neat transfer to HS1.

  3. I think they should sign both.I like to see the views as it shows what is they object to.I shows how fed up they are with this government.I am still angry that they can descriminate against those without a website.It also shows how it it is still growing since the consultation .Obviously we need folk to sign the E petition too so it does need to be easily found.

  4. Pingback: STOP HS2 | What’s the Mainline Alternative? – Part 2

  5. Strange then, is it not, that Chiltern Railways themselves are supporters of HS2. Do you think they would seek competition for the sake of it?

  6. The people I’ve spoken at peak time, well those not asleep, to travelling London/Birmingham on the Chiltern line have said precisely this. They value the extra time they can use their laptops or even quietly unwind. They resent the excessive price of rail travel at peak times. There are very good reasons why Chiltern were voted the best line for several years running. It’s a shame the DfT don’t listen to the people who use the ‘services’ they are responsible for. They just seem hell bent on dictating to the franchises things they (the Dft) appear to know nothing about. It’s all par for the course… the more HMG of all colours meddle the worse things get.

  7. Pingback: Chiltern Mainline upgrade is not the solution for all UK rail problems | YES to High Speed Rail

  8. Of course what Penny fails to point out is that the fastest Chiltern rail time is still slower than the current West Coast route, and also uses diesel trains which impact far more on the environment than electric ones. No service north of Birmingham uses the Chiltern route to get to London, unlike HS2 of course where the time saving benefits will also be felt on services from the likes of Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. Interestingly, Chiltern Rail have also introduced a Premium Economy fare after a widespread consultation with the business community. In effect it dispenses with first class and introduces an ” airline concept ” for business travellers. The insiders of the rail community are of the opinion this is a very good idea, and may well spread out amongst other services in the UK

    • Very good point. The Chiltern Line is still slower than Virgin. Before the upgrade it was quite a bit slower than Virgin. Yet it was very popular. The reason, it was quite a bit cheaper than Virgin. Tends to support the view that what most people want is a decent service at affordable prices. Super fast speed is secondary, something that has been borne out in a variety of surveys.

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