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Thursday 10 November 2011

TPA On HS2 – But Missing RFG

The desperation exhibited by the Comfortable of Tufton Street at the lack of traction their opposition to HS2 is gaining was clear yesterday as the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance’s chief non-job holder Matthew Sinclair span a report from the Commons’ Transport Select Committee to suggest that the project should be called in for review. But that wasn’t what the Committee actually said.

Moreover, Sinclair cites in support the Maily Telegraph’s deputy editor Benedict “famous last words” Brogan, though no link is provided, and the words attributed do not appear under his by-line. Brogan’s Twitter feed for the last few days does not mention HS2, so either he is being uncharacteristically modest, or Sinclair is pulling a fast one.

Sinclair also continues the TPA policy of inflating its own propaganda, by describing its press releases as “research notes”, when they are nothing more than knocking copy cobbled together from figures of their own invention (already dismantled HERE and HERE). But the latest offering from the TPA’s “rail expert” Chris Stokes has at least, and at last, mentioned the previously missing F-word.

That’s F as in Freight, the capacity for which is already constrained on the southern part of the West Coast Main Line (WCML) and also on parts of the East Coast Main Line (ECML). That’s not good, because demand for container and other intermodal traffic is rising inexorably. We know this because the Rail Freight Group (RFG) lay out the figures HERE in a letter to the Transport Secretary.

While Stokes suggests in the report cited by Sinclair that putting in a grade separated connection at Nuneaton will somehow be good enough to satisfy the demand for freight paths, RFG Chairman Tony Berkeley is clear that this will only satisfy “some” demand, and that by 2030 – soon after the first part of HS2 is due to open – that demand will need far more capacity.

What Stokes and the TPA also don’t appear to appreciate is that running 125mph passenger services and 75mph freights on the same railway is not a good use of capacity. Two pairs of tracks enable them to be separated, but that in turn constrains the ability to provide 100mph commuter and regional services. Transferring most of the fast services to HS2 eases that constraint.

So while the TPA continues to pretend that the WCML can be enhanced – with little or no disruption – to deal with future demand, bodies like the RFG are unequivocal on the need for HS2. As Tony Berkeley has said: “The country needs it”.

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