HS2 – getting the very best deal for the West Midlands

Geoff Inskip at Snow Hill: HS2 will release capacity for increased local, regional and freight services in the West Midlands

Geoff Inskip at Snow Hill: HS2 will release capacity for increased local, regional and freight services in the West Midlands

The following article was recently published in the Birmingham Post supplement, ‘High Speed Two – Opportunity Knocks?’:

HS2 will bring great opportunities for our region and we are determined to seize this opportunity to get the very best deal for people in the West Midlands.

High Speed Two will bring 22,000 jobs and £1.5 billion per year to our region.

We will enjoy fast, direct links with major cities in the UK and Europe and free up capacity on our existing lines for many more local, regional and freight services.

Major transport projects such as Crossrail and the Jubilee Line Extension have benefited London and the South East, but HS2 will invest in our regions starting right here in the West Midlands.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening visited us the day after announcing the go-ahead for the project and said she wanted the West Midlands to be the blueprint for HS2.

So it is vital we work together to ensure this regional investment delivers the best possible return.

At Centro we have already undertaken work to understand how we can deliver these economic benefits. We can use released capacity to provide many new services, for example:

  • Wolverhampton to Birmingham Airport services increased from three to seven per hour
  • Increased services from Wolverhampton to Coventry, Shrewsbury, London
  • Four services an hour introduced from Walsall to Birmingham Airport
  • Services increased from Coventry to Black Country, Leamington Spa, Milton Keynes and other destinations

We want the design of our HS2 stations to be world class, taking inspiration from the tremendous development that has taken place at Liège Guillemins station in Belgium among others.

We want to provide a bold, inspiring and uplifting gateway to our region.

Work is well underway on the £600m New Street Gateway development and construction has begun on our £127m New Street to Snow Hill Metro link.

Design work is taking place on the walkway between the New Street and Moor Street stations (next to HS2) and discussions are taking place on further proposals for rail, tram and bus links connecting HS2 with existing infrastructure.

Redevelopment of Eastside is taking shape at Birmingham City University and the city centre park and HS2 is the catalyst that will drive this forward.

There is a plaque on the wall at the former Curzon Street station which commemorates the first train service between Birmingham and London in 1838.

In 2026, almost 200 years later, the railway will once again arrive in this quarter of Birmingham bringing jobs and opportunities for people in the West Midlands.

There is a lot of hard work lying ahead, but it’s important we bring in HS2 on time in order to relieve the pressure on our existing rail network.

Although rail commuters are familiar with overcrowding, particularly at peak times, this issue is often overlooked when HS2 is discussed and debated.

In the West Midlands we have seen the number of rail passengers almost double in the last decade. Rail’s share of travel into Birmingham has risen from 17 to 27 per cent during this time. Nationally, rail travel is growing at 6 per cent per year and we have the highest number of passengers since the 1920s.

Without HS2 there simply isn’t enough capacity and, without it, we face stark choices about which stations will remain as lucrative, long-distance services inevitably take priority over local services.

Losing local and regional services and forcing passengers and freight onto roads will harm our regional economy.

This is too important to ignore. We must act now to ensure we have a sustainable future.

That is why we must work together and ensure we make the most of this exciting opportunity to deliver the best possible return for the West Midlands.

Geoff Inskip, Centro chief executive

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5 Responses to HS2 – getting the very best deal for the West Midlands

  1. hs2questions says:

    The RUS confirmed that long distance services into Euston are the least busy to the capital at just 60%, before the new carriages arrive this year. With scope to treble standard class capacity from the 2008 base, there is no capacity problem. HS2 costs exceed benefits (BCR is just 0.3 see http://hs2questions.wordpress.com/ ), and the Major Projects Authority says it’s doubtful it can be delivered successfully. It’s time to accept that HS2 is not going to happen and to focus on creating jobs and growth now and plan affordable improvements in service and journey time to benefit the whole region.

    • gohs2 says:

      It’s vital that HS2 goes ahead…….
      From the Exec summary: “Construction of High Speed 2 (HS2) is … the only realistically viable means of alleviating north – south capacity constraints.”
      “In the absence of the proposed High Speed Rail network, this RUS would forecast a significant capacity gap in 2031 on the WCML. The key issue affecting the London commuter market would be a significant shortfall in capacity in the morning peak on outer suburban services into London Euston.”
      There are many other factors to consider, but it’s worth noting the other ‘crowded’ routes this report cites are already seeing substantial investment (routes from S London are affected by Thameslink and London Overground, c£8bn capex) and lines into Paddington through Xrail and GW upgrading (c£21bn capex in total).
      It’s vital that HS2 goes ahead for the sake of national, regional and local services. And, of course, freight. If HS2 opponents believe capacity is not an issue why are they not advocating adding extra stops to existing WCML trains, or indeed removing some services, which would aid reliability?

    • Chris Neville-Smith says:

      I realise this is an old post which not many people are reading, but I think I must take issue with this 60% claim. I believe the figure they are citing comes from a Network Rail document looking at rail traffic into London as a whole. Yes, that’s London as a whole, and as Jerry “HS2 questions” Marshall might have noticed, the bulk of passnegers coming into London are commuters, and the reference to long-distance passengers is incidental.

      It is not clear from the document wether 60% means 60% of seats or 60% of seats + standing space, but that’s just a distraction. The point is that these are morning peak figures figures for the commuter peak. Anyone who uses the railways regularly (which I suspect excludes most HS2 opponents) will know that the peak for long-distance trains is closer to arrivial in London around 10-11, so to compare long-distance arrivals to communter arrivals at 8-9 is like comparing apples and oragnes. I don’t think it’s surprising that Euston should be getting the lightest demand at this time – I know few business travellers who willingly set off beofre 7, so one would expect intercity services at this time dominated by commuters from places like Luton, Stevenage, Peterborough, Reading. But most WCML trains can’t stop at commuter towns on the WCML such as Watford and Milton Keynes, so shouldn’t be any wonder Virgin Trains don’t get much commuter traffic.

      Is there any actual data for WCML trains themselves (and not just a doucment about commuter services which mentions WCML services incidentally)? Best thing I could find was the Rail Utilisation Strategy document for the West Coast Main Line, and on p48 you’ll find that there are indeed Virgin Trains services where people stand, particularly on Fridays, and unless grotwth suddenly stops, this is set to get worse.

      But they’re not the biggests. That’s reserved for the poor sods on the London Midland services, and the graphs on pages 49-51 don’t make pretty reading. Most peak London Midland services have people standing, and if this is being masked in the Euston capcity figures that’s no good. A half-empty pre-peak Virgin service is no consolation for a commuter who stands every other morning on a London Midland train. This, might, just might, be a consequence of not being able to get enough trains on one four-track railway and the local travellers drawing the short straw.

      But people like Jerry Marshall seem to operate by trawling through documents they don’t understand and cherry-picking figures than seem to suit their arguments. It’s not clear whether he didn’t bother looking at the graphs I mentioned or he did but chose to pretend these figures don’t exist. But either way, his claim that 60% = no capicity probelsm is woefully simplistic.

      I’ve also attempted to work out where this BCR of 0.3 came from, but concluded it waqs calculated by the Institute of the Back of the Envelope.

      • gohs2 says:

        Yes, the figures referred to by Jerry Marshall are based on around seven hours of headcounts at Euston. Opponents have repeatedly used them but choose to ignore ATOC’s industry wide, national figures reporting consistent growth (of around 6%).

        Similarly you may have noticed HS2 opponents attempting to use stories about increased seats for the Olympics to suggest we can solve capacity right now if we can do it for a fortnight!

        Of course the extra services ran mainly on Sunday and late at night. Opponents then claimed that wasn’t the case from Scotland. True, but a train leaving Glasgow at breakfast time isn’t arriving in the peak at Euston.

        No idea where 0.3 came from either!

  2. Peter Scott says:

    Yes, HS2 is definitely required. Additional capacity must be provided quickly between Rugby and London, to relieve the West Coast Main Line. This has reached the position where it is becoming almost impossible to maintain the existing route properly, because of the amount of traffic using it. But the HS2 railway as currently proposed is the wrong route – there are much better and more economical options out there. Development and consultation must continue, in order to explore and develop these other options.

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