HS2 trains: the slow option on the West Coast Main Line

With HS2, its the details that matter as much as the headline figures.

Proponents of HS2 like to point out that specially designed “classic compatible” trains will be able to move from the proposed HS2 line to the existing West Coast Main Line and stop at existing stations.

The thing is though, once they are on the West Coast Main Line, the “high speed classic compatibles” will be “slow speed” compared to the current speeds of existing trains.  (The existing Pendolino trains travel at 200kph at the moment, although their design speed is actually 225kph.)

It’s not just they will slow down on the WCML, but the specially designed “high speed classic compatibles” will actually be travelling slower then existing trains running all the way on the West Coast Main Line from London.

From the House of Lords written answers:

Railways: High Speed 2


Asked by Lord Berkeley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in respect of the first phase of the proposed High Speed 2 line, whether trains operating on HS2 and beyond its limits on the conventional rail network will be capable of tilting on the conventional network. [HL10466]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in respect of the first phase of the proposed High Speed 2 line, what is the expected journey time from London to Glasgow using HS2 with and without tilting on the conventional network, compared with existing journey times.[HL10467]

Earl Attlee: At this early stage in the Government’s proposals for a high-speed rail network, no decisions have been made regarding the detailed specification of rolling stock. At this point however, the Government do not anticipate that trains operating on HS2 will be capable of tilting, either on the high-speed network or on the conventional network.

…Services running off HS2 onto the west coast main line to continue to Scotland would be speed-limited by the curvature of the route in a number of locations. However there is scope for increasing the non-tilt line speed from 110 mph to 125 mph or higher at a number of locations. Between Lichfield—where HS2 rejoins the WCML—and Glasgow, the difference in time between a non-tilting 110 mph train and a tilting 125 mph Pendolino is estimated to be 13 minutes. HS2 Ltd believes that by reviewing the assumptions behind the WCML upgrade works it should be possible to run non-tilting trains at 125 mph for lengthy sections, and thereby regain 6 or 7 of the lost 13 minutes. ..

Lets just look at that again.  Is “reviewing the assumptions behind the WCML upgrade works” code-speak for “make some upgrades to the WCML”? That would be in addition to the work needed to rebuild the London terminus of the WCML at Euston and the changes that will need to be made to the WCML at Lichfield to join it to the proposed new railway.

And if they do upgrade the WCML for the HS2 trains, won’t those upgrades be usuable by ordinary trains, increasing the speeds that ordinary trains can use, and reducing the time differential of HS2 trains?

But we are told, by the Department for Transport, by Norman Baker, and numerous other proponents of HS2 that upgrading the WCML is too horrid to contemplate.  Unless, it seems,  it’s for the HS2 trains to use….

9 comments to “HS2 trains: the slow option on the West Coast Main Line”
  1. Penny your post clearly infers that additional works will be required, otherwise why would you have bothered to write a post in the first place, and why include the following statement “code-speak for “make some upgrades to the WCML”? Note clearly where you intentionally try make out that upgrades will be required that have not been included in the plans for HS2 and then go on to say “That would be in addition to the work needed to rebuild the London terminus of the WCML at Euston” by saying this you are clearly trying to raise questions over costs.

    Now you are trying to claim that you did not raise question over cost and instead now are raising questions over the disruption alternations the WCML to allow 125 running will cause, yet another unjustified and misleading claim.
    Examples of works required for 110/125 running would be the replacement of signs along the track with possible minor signal adjustments, sections of track may also need to be re-stabilised with a DTS machine which I am assured can be done over night with minimal disruption.

    By taking the time to write a blog about the WCML you are clearly trying to make some sort of point, You claim there is a “contradiction” because minor adjustments will be made to the WCML so you are trying to infer that this will be costly and disruptive, whether or not you actually say it, you are still trying to raise questions about “upgrades” required to run classic compatible trains and therefore trying to mislead the public yet again. Otherwise why bother taking the time to raise an issue where there is none.


    The actual time saving from the WCML/HS2 connection at Litchfield to London is about 35 to 40 minutes, not the 20 minutes saving Anti-HS2 groups try to claim, yet another misleading myth fabricated by the likes of Stop HS2. Hence why the journey from Glasgow to London will be cut by at least 30 minutes even with a time penalty of 6 minutes, The statement clearly states 13 minutes is the time penalty incurred by non-titling trains from Glasgow to Lichfield currently and also states that this time penalty can be reduced to 6 minutes with some MINOR alterations.

    • Chris, it is one thing for you to jump to conclusions and write about the arguments you wish we had used on your own blog.

      But if you are going to comment on Stop HS2, could you adhere to our moderation policy, and discuss the issues we actually write in the articles, not what you “infer” we said?

  2. It seems yet again that have taken a single sentence and misconstrued it into something completely different.

    With or without HS2 works will continue on the WCML to improve it, Network Rail have already set out upgrades that it thinks are needed even if HS2 is to go ahead just to keep the line operable at a time when demand is increasing at 6% a year.

    With you limited understanding of rail or the WCML it is easy for you to assume that major works would be needed in order to operate at 125mph on straight sections without tilt. However all that is needed is some minor changes such as new signs to indicate speeds applicable and in some cases new signalling. The Dft are talking about allowing none tilt trains to operate at 125 on straight section and 110 around curves, this is already possible with the infrastructure in place, all that is needed is an indication of speeds allowed.

    • Hi Chris, it was interesting to read your interpretation of this article, especially the one on your blog.

      If you read the article again, you will see that nowhere did we refer to “major works” being needed to allow HS2 compatible trains to run on the WCML as quickly as Pendolinos do now. We said that if upgrades were made for use by HS2 classic compatible trains, they would be usable by ordinary trains.

      However your comment also opens another point we raise from time to time.

      You commented “With or without HS2 works will continue on the WCML to improve it, Network Rail have already set out upgrades that it thinks are needed even if HS2 is to go ahead”. So you don’t appear to be arguing against all upgrades to the WCML. And then the question becomes, with the upgrades you support, is it necessary to build HS2 as well?

      • As I pointed out before, your understanding of current operations appears to be poor. All other operators on the WCML be it TPE or London Midland have units that are sub 110mph. So there may be marginal gains for those. However Gains will not be made from services on the WCML to London as Pendolinos (the only trains operating the full North/South services in the day) can already achieve 125mph. Running at say 140mph like Jerry suggest would require a wholly new and expensive signalling system.

        Your comment about upgrades inferred that there is an additional cost to HS2 not already included. However I simply pointed out that Network Rail will continue to monitor and make alternations to the WCML to improve national and local services. You seem to assume for instance that once full HS2 network is built that the WCML will become redundant. This is far from the case, instead the WCML become and even more important local commuter and freight line. By upgrades, I do not mean as you seem to imply the multi billion pound set of packages required in order for say Jerry’s plan (PR2+) to work. Upgrades or works simply refers to the ongoing maintenance and improvements of the WCML that will be required even if HS2 does go ahead.

        Network Rail continue to carry out works on the WCML and has set out proposals that are needed before the opening of HS2, however the changes will remain useful and indeed crucial after the completion of HS2.

        • Hi Chris,
          Once again, you seem to be argueing against straw men, not what we actually wrote. No-where did we say anything about the cost of the upgrades mentioned in the House of Lords written answer. No where have we said that the West Coast Main Line will be redundant.

          We have pointed out for months the contradiction in the argument used by some proponents of HS2, including the Department for Transport and government ministers. They argue that upgrades to the WCML would be unpleasant, so HS2 should be built instead. But for HS2 to work, changes to the WCML need to be made. One can quibble about whether they are called “changes” or “upgrade works” or “ongoing improvements” but the upgrades will need to happen regardless.

    • I think the mayor issue here is non-tilting, and the difference between 110mph (non-tilting) and 125mph (tilting) being 13 minutes.
      Remember the time saving from London to Birmingham is meant to be 20 mins.
      But if you take the “High Speed” train north of Birmingham, you could actually lose time.
      The fact that the “High Speed” train will be a slower train that those on the existing network, I find a bit of a cheek.

      • Alison Monroe has confirmed this. She said Classic Compatibles will not be able to go as fast as the Pendolinos . If HS2 ever gets as far as Edinburgh the journey will only be 30 mins faster than trains on the current fast service. Ms Monroe confirmed this too.
        Like most things such as this on the Stop HS2 website, they are not what we know/don’t know, we certainly don’t make them up. They are things ‘the experts’ have told us. Penny and others just report them. But if you know better than HS2 Ltd and the DfT ….. I suggest you tell THEM.

      • the london birmingham schedule with hs2 is 49 minutes with 1 stop at old oak common.

        trains currently take 82 to 85 minutes. one train in one direction only takes i believe 72 minutes. 82 minus 49 is 33 minutes. 85 minus 49 is 36 minutes. so hs2 saves 33 to 36 minutes on the first leg alone whilst massiveley increasing capacity on the total london – birmingham market. the second leg to manchester / leeds will bring considerable time savings also. so the total journey time to say glasgow from london will be very much quicker by hs2 even if the time north of manchester is a little slower then today. the existing tilting pendolinos will not be any slower and they are the trains that will be used on manchester glasgow services anyway. if the proposed changes mean that the pendolinos can run faster then so much the better !!! east coast does not use tilt so newcastle/edinburgh times will not be affected

Comments are closed.

2010-2023 © STOP HS2 – The national campaign against High Speed Rail 2