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Monday, 14 March 2011

TPA And HS2 – Wasting Billions

While the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) has been lobbying against the HS2 High Speed Rail project, to make sure it is not seen as just deploying knocking copy the group has put forward a package of improvements to the West Coast Main Line (WCML) known as Rail Package 2 (RP2). This is cited in the report HERE, and followed up HERE, HERE and HERE.

Having backed RP2, the TPA has then attempted to argue that HS2 and RP2 are directly comparable, though they are not: RP2 applies only to the WCML, and does not address the East Coast Main Line (ECML) or Midland Main Line (MML), both of which will have capacity freed up by the second phase of HS2, giving a link to Sheffield and Leeds.

Moreover, as I’ve already shown, the RP2 timetable, which uses 80% of theoretical maximum capacity on the southern WCML, is unworkable. And it makes no provision for extra peak hour trains. But there is a more glaring flaw in RP2, which the TPA has not thus far mentioned, and that is the need for a fleet of 97 new trains, each of eleven vehicles, and with both 125mph and tilt capability.

Alstom Pendolino: uncertain future under RP2

The capital cost alone of this fleet is likely to be around £2 billion. Moreover, the trains that would be displaced would be between 10 and 16 years short of even the most pessimistic life expectancy. RP2 does not tell where the trains might be otherwise employed, and the comparative costs of alternative use versus other train types.

Siemens Desiro: adequate for north of Northampton

It gets worse: services that at present are worked by single four coach trains (Northampton to Birmingham, and Northampton to Crewe) would use the new eleven coach sets, though the demand does not, and most likely will not, justify it. Thus, in order to wring out the most capacity from the southern WCML, parts of the network would be subjected to the economics of the madhouse.

So the TPA is backing a scheme that will bring an unworkable timetable, no relief to two of the routes where HS2 would release capacity, and significantly increases the cost of providing many services. Either commuters will face big fare increases, or the operating subsidy will increase.

Also, RP2 does not address the needs of the freight operators: there is more demand for paths for this profitable traffic than paths available right now. Completion of HS2 will free up around three freight paths per hour, every hour, in each direction. But the TPA is lobbying for RP2, which means less profitable traffic, and a far more expensive passenger operation.

And all that is something else that the TPA doesn’t want to tell you. So I will.


john b said...

Agree in general - but surely you could make the Pendolinos 11-car and use them for RP2? You'd only need to replace the LM fleet.

Tim Fenton said...

RP2 has the all-new fleet as one of its assumptions, and neither the HS2AA nor the TPA have dissented from any of RP2 - so it has to be deduced that they agree with it in toto.