Letters to the editor – Capacity case for HS2 has been reinforced

Letter to the editor

A letter follows, sent to the Solihull News:

Dear Sir/Madam,

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.

Yours etc.

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One Response to Letters to the editor – Capacity case for HS2 has been reinforced

  1. Chris Neville-Smith says:

    Have to say, I really wonder what the motives are when people make comments like the extra Olympics trains. I can just about forgive someone for missing the point with First Group’s promised extra trains on the WCML, but the extra trains for the Olympics? Anyone who’d looked at the additional mainline services for more than 0.68 seconds would have noticed these were almost exclusively overnight trains. That was a perfectly sensible for the Olympics (events ended at 10.00 and people still needed to get home), but as a “spare capacity” solution that only works by getting would-be daytime passengers to travel after midnight instead. How many WMCL passengers are willing to finish their journeys at 3 in the morning in order to avert the building of a double-track railway? I certainly wouldn’t, and this is coming from someone who’s not that bothered about finishing a journey at 11 p.m.

    This only fuels my suspicion that the majority of HS2 opponents don’t travel by train at all, because I cannot imagine any self-respecting rail user would propose this as a solution. Either that or they’re hoping that people won’t notice the magic extra Olympics trains were all overnight, which fuels my other suspicion, which is that most HS2 opponents are trying to get their way by political means (i.e. try to win people over on arguments that don’t stand up to scrutiny by making enough noise to drown out any scrutiny – and to hell with anyone who has to put up with the consequences of their non-solutions). I suppose you could just about argue that, for the sake of the country’s finances, overnight rail travel is a necessary sacrifice to make (if you somehow find a solutions for engineering works), but keeping quiet about overnight travel isn’t a way of doing it. Besides, I don’t hear any motorists selflessly offering to drive overnight in order to make long-distance journeys unnecessary.

    It’s a shame the anti-HS2 campaign is making this a motorist v rail user battle, because there are some reasonable counter-proposals and changes out there that haven’t got a look in at all. The only “alternatives” that have had serious consideration are things like 51M’s awful non-solution that is blatantly 100% aimed at stopping HS2 being built and 0% aimed at making things better on the railways (just the odd superficial pseudo-improvement to sound like you’re on the side of rail users). If HS2 goes ahead as then only credible option on the table, so be it, but it would have been far better to have had a public debate on the credible alternatives, not just the stupid ones.

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