Letter to the editor
A letter follows, sent to the Solihull News:
In this week’s Solihull News Heart of England High Speed Action Group chairman Richard Lloyd wrote that we can ‘thank First Group and the Olympics for blowing the (HS2) capacity argument to pieces.’
This is simply not the case.
First Group knows that the southern half of the West Coast Main Line, which HS2 will relieve, will be full up by 2026. Indeed, First Group chief executive Tim O’Toole told the Select Committee that is why HS2 is necessary.
FirstGroup, as the nominated new franchisee, is forecasting the number of passengers travelling by 2026 will be 66 million (compared to 30.2 million last year) on Intercity West Coast services.
These forecasts for 2026, based on expected growth of around 10.5%, are hugely greater than the very cautious estimates of little more than 2 per cent per annum used by HS2 Ltd.
Soaring passenger numbers on the West Coast
In fact, the number of Intercity West Coast passengers last year was the number HS2 Ltd forecast for 2021!
As for First’s references to spare capacity on the WCML, much of this is seen to exist over the northern section, between the West Midlands and Scotland.
Services were added late at night and on Sundays for the Olympics but this does not mean we can add services when they are really needed at peak-times.
Rail’s success in handling the large crowds going to and from the Olympic Games was largely due to the existence of HS1 and the High Speed Javelin service, operating between St Pancras International and Stratford International in only 7 minutes.
Train operator Southeastern said its Javelins carried up to 100,000 passengers (that’s more than the Olympic Stadium could hold) every day of the Olympic and Paralympic games, a total of 2.4 million passengers overall.
Without the existence of HS1, the travel network would have struggled to cope.