HS2 Rethink?

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This topic contains 34 replies, has 16 voices, and was last updated by  canucklad 18 Jun 2013
at 14:03

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  • Anonymous


    I am surprised to see the poor economic performance of HS1 – particularly given it’s a pretty good service – and that the rest of the UK train services have seen such growth over the same period:


    Suspect that it will make HS2 a lot less likely – since the public will not want the debt and the private sector will be concerned how to get a return.

    LHR to Manchester and then Scotland could still make sense as an intergrated plan – financial support from BAA/Airlines?


    Is “the poor economic performance of HS1” really a surprise ?

    Granted it carries some Kentish domestic services but the main purpose of HS1 is to serve international trains to the Channel Tunnel and beyond.

    For various reasons, regularly covered in BT, rail passenger growth (and freight for that matter) has been well below expectations.

    Through running by international trains to points other than Brussels, Lille and Paris may not happen as soon as envisaged owing to a host of technical and political issues.

    For example, DB had planned to launch through trains to Holland and Germany next year. But the special fleet of trains for this service are not even constructed – let alone approved – for Channel Tunnel use and their introduction has been delayed until late 2015 at the earliest.



    When the Channel Fixed Link was being conceived, there were very specific technical standards devised and imposed both in the design of the tunnel but also in the design of the trains (Eurostar and Eurotunnel) which included inter alia the motive power, track side signalling, communications, fire retardant and fire isolation standards. Whether, after two major in-tunnel fires, the latter were up to much is a debatable point. The trains that met the standards were largely built in France. The French, as one of the co-operators, retained an effective veto over anyone else being allowed to make such trains or use non-CFL specific trains through the tunnel. It has been years of French obstructionism and foot-dragging that has prevented other operators from using their trains – such as Deutsche Bahn or Nederlanse Spoorwegen – and hence why the HS1 utilisation level has been considerably lower than first envisaged.

    I should add, that Eurostar could, of course, have sought to extend their network beyond Brussels, Paris and the seasonal destinations (EuroDisney, Aix-en-Provence and Bourg St. Maurice for the Tarentaise ski region) much earlier. Their lack of ambition is also to blame. You may recall that when Eurostar (the French state-owned SNCF is a co-owner of Eurostar) wanted to go and purchase new train sets (the Siemens Velaro I believe), they were stymied before being allowed to place the order. Even the French had to blame the French! With new Eurostar destinations starting in 2014, these developments should deliver dramatically increased HS1 utilisation levels.

    Notwithstanding that I consider HS2 to deliver poor value-for-money in comparison with putting most of the rest of the rail network under wires and dealing with bottlenecks in particular places (e.g. Brum New Street approaches), should it ever get built, it will operate to totally different principles when compared to the Tunnel sous Manche with multiple operators from the outset. And no interference from the French…!


    An “under wires” upgrade to existing lines would not provide a close to adequate solution as.

    – The latest HS trains have been tested at over 320mph. For safety as well as performance, they cannot be mixed with existing infrastructure trains. Similar to running a F1 car on the M25 – looks good but pointless.

    – HS2 not only significantly speeds up journey times on its own (kink free rails, specialist overhead cabling with contact free signalling) infractructure but in doing so removes fast traffic from the existing lines allowing much more slower cargo traffic and stopping passenger services on the existing lines. This will have the knock on impact of reducing road congestion and environmental damage.

    If you are interested in the technology advancements catch the final 10mins of this clip.



    Hi BigDog,

    Yes, watched the whole of the Youtube video – fascinating. What struck me though was that whereas in the UK, we seem intent on celebrating our rail heritage, elsewhere, the impetus is in pushing forward technological frontiers. In its own way, this is a highly symbolic representation of just where the UK has gone wrong: by turning our back on engineering, technology, manufacturing and instead concentrating on (ahem!) the betting shop end of “financial services” with all the attendant consequences that we’re now living with…

    From where I am at, wiring up the existing network would most likely deliver far wider benefits than HS2 and at considerably less cost. But, to an extent, we are already addressing that issue by putting “under the wires” the Great Western lines to Bristol, Oxford and South Wales, plus the Midland mainline, together with connecting spurs.

    However, if there is an argument for HS2, then it has to be one of industrial and technology policy/strategy as well as transport policy and rail capacity. I cannot for the life of me see why the UK taxpayer should be spending billions on importing technology and equipment from overseas. On this occasion I am happy to plead guilty to a “not invented here” mindset. After the ideologically driven destruction of the UK railway engineering and supply industry as a result of John Major’s fiasco of a privatisation, we have ended up with just one UK domestic producer: Canadian-owned Bombardier in Derby, who source a fair amount of their gear from other Bombardier plants in ….Germany.

    Either Bombardier, or we end up importing wholesale from Siemans, Hitachi etc. Where did Brush, Metro-Cammell, BREL etc go? Into an ideologically motivated industrial graveyard because, following privatisation, all rail orders dried up, their cash ran out and they went bust. That, and the idiot managers, directors and shareholders were too blind to be able see beyond the ends of their noses, so they did not design and supply to export markets.

    If we are to spend a packet, this should go together with rebuilding UK rail engineering, design, technology and manufacturing capacity. If needs be, that ought to involve a two-finger salute to the EU public procurement rules that everyone else ignores for their own industrial benefit.


    Wow Anthony, that’s quite a response, but how right you are, especially in your last paragraph.

    Two wrongs do not make a right but GB should do as France and Germany do until those 2 countries also play fair. Look at the fiasco when Vodaphone wanted to buy Mannesmann. They succeeded in the end but only after numerous hurdles were put in their way, yet look at the ease which which French and German companies buy up companies of national interest in the UK. All because we play by the rules!


    Well said LP and Anthony on the European ‘problems’! However, I do believe that HS2 is needed, especially if we are going to see growth in the regions which is apparently where growth is (hopefully) going to come from. To satisfy the NIMBY’s we could follow the German example and build our high speed lines next to motorways, adding no extra noise or disturbance for people on the M40 or M1, and later M6, corridors. Of course, this plan would also serve as a great advertisement for HS2 with trains travelling at over twice the speed of the cars next to them! Also, the line has to go via Heathrow, to get rid of domestic flights and some European flights eventually.


    Excellent post Anthony.

    When will people understand that the EU is a German plan designed and run for the benefit of Germany, and to the detriment of its enemies? We invented the train and yet we don’t make them anymore. The train industry along with a lot of other British industry has been deliberately ruined.

    HS2 won’t bring any ‘growth’ to the regions, and the poor economic performance of HS1 proves it’s a waste of money. Going via Heathrow is not going to get rid of domestic flights either, and how on earth can it get rid of European flights?

    What’s needed is a sensible pro-British government that will shut down the DVD’s Common Purpose and GO2 operations with whatever force is required. Then an economic strategy can be implemented to advance British industry including train building and all related areas. Following that, the government should proceed with electrifying all non-electric lines and buying new rolling stock.


    I am sure that those places that were to be blighted by the HS2 will be raising a glass if it does get shelved. However we do still need to be thinking about upgrading the rail network generally so it is a viable alternative to using a car. Not just infrastructure but also timetables, it can’t be acceptable to have a service that deteriorates so noticeably at weekends and holidays. To have a good public transport system it has to run all the time. Living in HK has made me acutely aware of the failings of all our public transport.


    AD……..Total agreement with your foreign investment points……only 2 words that should send a freezing cold feeling down all of our spines….

    Edinburgh Trams.!!!!!!!!!!!


    Is HS2 a good idea? Yes, but there are alternatives. The ECML, MML, WCML and the Chiltern Line all of which offer possibilities.

    This small island does not provide the space for High Speed rail except in certain areas, such as from Carlisle to Glasgow and Newcastle to Edinburgh.

    Spending money on which result being political vanity projects is not acceptable. Rail traffic is not just London-Birmingham- Manchester/Leeds, it is much more as traffic figures show. On a network a third of the size travelling numbers are now greater than in 1920. More money should be spent for the greater good of the greater number not just for the privileged few.

    In a lighter mood enjoy this website about railways in/ up to 1935.



    So we have at last the government´s proposed routes from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.

    It will take a good look to absorb all the minutia. At first glance though thanks to the vandalic sweeps of some ignorant planner´s pen beautiful Cheshire is going to be unnecessarily and irrevocably ruined.

    If you are travelling on the Leeds section you will need your GPS device to be able to find the station at Toton. At least the good people of that district will get their 15 mins. of fame.

    It seems that our vacuous vainglorious politicians have become prisoners of their civil servants and consultants. They have not got the message. They will put just a few more passengers on the trains while many more cars on the roads.

    Fast trains – yes, but not this expensive white elephant.


    Personally I think HS2 should stop at Bedford. (£32bn less costly than running it any further north.)

    What we really need as an extension of the M6 toll 100 miles south and 200 miles north.


    Wow how expensive would that toll be, it is already ridiculously expensive.

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