Recently I continued my examination of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) regarding their opposition to high speed rail, and the potential for their preferred solution to significantly worsen the rail service to the town of Northampton, together with knock-on effects for commuters around Milton Keynes.
On the TPA’s urging, the Fast lines on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) would have to be given over exclusively to InterCity type trains – and that’s all the way from London’s Euston terminus to Rugby. There would be up to 16 of these, all hour, every hour, which is potentially better than a train every four minutes.
This would need careful consideration given to what is called pathing: in other words, ensuring that there is a clear path for the train along a potentially congested stretch of track. Running trains at this frequency would be fine if none of them stopped until they had passed Rugby, where some would head for the West Midlands and some for the North West.But that would remove key services from Watford Junction, Milton Keynes and Rugby itself: travelling north by fast train from these stations would become more or less impossible. Some revision of the layout at Rugby may allow trains to stop there and not get in the way of those following, but without major – and very expensive – remodelling of Watford Junction, and yet more work at Milton Keynes, only recently rebuilt, stopping would potentially disrupt the service.
This one won't be stopping
Alternatively, some trains could be slowed down to maintain a reliable timetable, but the Benefit/Cost Ratio (BCR) of the service would suffer accordingly – something that rail industry group Greengauge21 has been trying to point out. So could the trains run at shorter than four minute intervals, given they travel at 125mph for most of the time?
The answer is that they could, but that running half a dozen trains at (say) three minute intervals, to generate one path allowing a stop at Watford Junction or Milton Keynes, would require heroic levels of exact schedule adherence to keep everything running as advertised. At present, three or four trains may run close together, but every so often there is a gap in the schedule – just in case.
The service level envisaged for the WCML by the HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA), and backed by the TPA, would remove that contingency. And there would still be no benefit for freight traffic, commuter services, or the conurbations of South and West Yorkshire.The TPA and HS2AA give every appearance of putting forward a false prospectus.