Are you being served? Without HS2 we face difficult choices

Wedgwood Station

Wedgwood Station has already lost its train service. How many more will follow as capacity problems increase? photo from Stationmaster blog

As demand continues to soar on our railways we will be forced to make increasingly difficult choices about which stations are served and which are not.

There was more evidence of this problem this week in a news release from London TravelWatch which says it is alarmed by the new timetable introduced on the London – High Wycombe route last Sunday (May 13).

The independent passenger watchdog says it fears that passengers will suffer from some ‘quite drastic changes’ to the Chiltern Railways timetable.

In this case London TravelWatch says stopping services to High Wycombe have been revised so that the level of service at some stations such as Northolt Park and Seer Green & Jordans will be reduced to just one train an hour.

Sharon Grant, London TravelWatch chair, said the new timetable had been put in place to improve reliability.

“It does so at the expense of those passengers who rely on the half hourly stopping service to High Wycombe. One overcrowded train an hour is really not acceptable,” she said.

This is happening across our network as train operators struggle to cope with the competing pressures for faster, more frequent, long distance services whilst at the same time striving to maintain local service frequencies on a mixed use railway network with limited capacity.

Similar problems were experienced following the most recent £9bn upgrade of the West Coast Main Line, which saw the local station at Etruria close completely whilst other communities such as Wedgwood and Barlaston had their train services replaced by buses.

Even busy commuter stations such as Canley and Berkswell lost their regular 30 minute service to Birmingham and Coventry following the WCML upgrade, as local service frequencies were sacrificed to allow the introduction of one additional hourly Birmingham – London intercity service.

These are the stark choices that will face operators providing services on an increasingly crowded network.

This is why further upgrades to existing infrastructure (such as that proposed by 51m) will neither solve the long term capacity problems nor prevent the future downgrading of services at smaller main line stations serving local communities.

This is why we need HS2.

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3 Responses to Are you being served? Without HS2 we face difficult choices

  1. Great blog, this is the HS2 case in a nutshell. If commuters and leisure users want their railway to serve their local communities, they have to accept that those travellers wanting city centre to city centre journeys should use dedicated inter-city services. HS2 provides dedicated tracks for those fast services to use, leaving capacity for regional services on the existing network. It’s not complicated — on the Chiltern line, the operator has ramped up its limited stop London – Brum service directly to challenge Virgin for business users.

    HS2’s opponents are quick to cite Chiltern as an HS2 ‘alternative’ yet here we have Chiltern Railways targeting city to city journeys by business people (even introducing ‘business zones’ on board, a pseudo first class). By achieving a 100 mile/h line speed AND BY ELIMINATING INTERMEDIATE STOPS, Chiltern Railways has been able to eat into Virgin’s share. BUT let nobody claim that this is the best use of capacity: it is the worst possible use actually, because different speeds and stopping patters eat up the slots available on any section of the railway.

    The examples are legion across the West Coast network. As well as the neo-Beeching effects of the last West Coast upgrade (a policy endorsed wholesale by 51M, HS2AA et al), the situation around Manchester is equally appalling. Consider that there are three morning rush hour trains from the Mid-Cheshire line (Northwich, Knutsford, Altrincham and local stations) towards Manchester for commuters. Only one actually gets there! The others turf their passengers off at Stockport. Why? Because the introduction of three trains per hour to and from London took that capacity away.

    Transport for Greater Manchester is implacably opposed to plans to introduce a fourth London – Manchester train per hour through that congested south Manchester area. So guess what 51M’s ‘Better than HS2’ report suggests…?!!

    Tough choices indeed.

  2. Don says:

    Have you been to Wedgewood? It consists of a closed down Factory (Wedgewood)
    The Wedgewood Waterford brand was destroyed by directors who spent money they
    did not have on a product that was unwanted. Oh ! that sounds like HS2

    • gohs2 says:

      Yes, of course we know Wedgwood (but it’s ‘Wedgwood’ rather than ‘Wedgewood’ though). Cutting local and regional services is something HS2 opponents say they oppose and we agree on that. We need to expand them, not cut them as rail’s market share grows.
      If your point is that Wedgwood doesn’t need services then what about services from Stone or nearby Barlaston? What about reduced services at busy Canley and Berkswell near Coventry? Where do you draw the line at cutting local stations out?
      Network Rail says with the 51M alternative to HS2 there will be no growth between Coventry-Birmingham and services will be threatened at Stone, Rugeley and Atherstone. Rail has doubled in the West Midlands in a decade so it’s a choice about expanding rail or cutting services and stations out.

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