Non aviation content. Play nice – No religion, no politics and no axe grinding please.
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I have to declare a vested interest. I live 500 yards from the prospective route of HS2, and about 20 miles from the nearest proposed station on it. So I will get all of the inconvenience of it being built, and none of the alleged benefits.

This certainly means I've taken an active interest. My take on it is...

(1) Okay, yes, there's probably a need for more capacity.

(2) There isn't a single HS2. There is HS2 North - desperately wanted and needed, and HS2 South, widely regarded as a white elephant.

(3) Making the South stretch first then North later makes absolutely no logical sense.

(4) Much of the economic case is built upon the understanding that nobody on a train does anything productive. Cobblers, we're all sat there working on our laptops and phones these days.

(4) The big problem is capacity first, speed far behind. You could solve many of the southern capacity issues by a combination of longer trains (and platforms), double decker trains (and lifting quite a few bridges), better command and control systems, and a number of big railway sidings to handle the flow asymmetry. All of those are much cheaper than even the wildly optimistic £20bn price tag for HS2.

Whilst I am biased in not wanting several years building work on my doorstep, and this may flavour my views, nonetheless...

- Stop fannying about down south, and build the Northern HS2 first.

- Create a realistic economic case both ends.

- Down south look seriously at building capacity within the current system, which will almost certainly solve the problems that do exist down here. It's up north that this is really needed, everybody knows that, yet politicians keep kicking that into the same long grass as the third Heathrow runway.

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By PaulB
I travelled from Birmingham, leaving at 07:30 and arrived at Euston at 08:42 the other week. Does it really need to be any faster?[1]

It needs to be cheaper, and the capacity needs increasing, Isn't there something that can be done with signalling to do the latter?

[1] OK, the speed of light would be not fast enough if you were wanting to leave Birmingham!
Most times of day, there's a London-Birmingham train every 30 minutes I think?

It seems to me that it really can't be that difficult to double capacity. A train every 15 minutes?

Presumably better signalling, more sidings for trains before they go back the other way, a bit of timetable juggling, and some additional rolling stock. Is anything else really needed?

By PaulB
There’s a Virgin train every 30’ but then there are London Midland trains as well that share much of the same line.

There are also (I think) Chiltern trains that use a different line ( and start from a different Birmingham station)

I wonder if a series of bypasses is needed.

Fully agree that the northern bits of HS2 need addressing before the brim to London bits but then the so called “Northern powerhouse” really will never exist as the (current) development of HS2 will just suck even more stuff into the capital, until it bursts.
I have a professional interest in North of England rail, and as a result work with a lot of people involved in long term rail planning in the North.
Firstly - I've not studied the full HS2 case in detail, but the northern sections, particularly Birmingham via Sheffield to Leeds, will be transformational on journey times and capacity in that area. Sheffield and surrounding towns currently have pretty appalling connectivity (by road and rail). There are few neighbouring cities as poorly connected as Sheffield to Manchester, and Leeds to Birmingham currently takes as long as Leeds to London. There is pretty compelling evidence that poor connectivity links to poor economic performance, and hence to poor prospects and social mobility. It is worth noting that HS2's plans have been significantly altered in this area to better contribute to local connectivity, not just high speed trains to London - for example HS2 will effectively provide a new route for local services between Sheffield and Leeds.

Secondly - can we stop talking about 'crossrail for the North' or 'HS3' ... these are the sort of trophy schemes that get put forward by politicians who don't understand what is actually required. The North of England is polycentric, and therefore transport needs are very different to the largely unicentric South East. It also has quite a different economic focus than the South East, with different sorts of connectivity needs. Nonetheless, simplistically, the economic aims for the North are underpinned by improving connectivity - this will give individuals more choice about where they work, and will give employers access to a wider pool of potential employees. Kids growing up in Salford today should be able to consider working in Liverpool, Leeds or Sheffield without transport being a major impediment to those decisions. This has been mapped to what is needed in terms of journey times and service frequency - e.g. the target for Leeds to Manchester is 6 trains per hour with 30 minute journey times. This has then been used to work out infrastructure improvements are needed. In some places this will be whole new lines, but in the main it will be things like junction improvements, 4 tracking, additional platforms, etc. This lends itself to an incremental implementation and benefits across the North. It is worth noting that HS2 designs have been altered in places to allow for the Northern Powerhouse plans - for example tunnel alignment in Manchester to allow for additional East-West tunnels under Piccadilly as part of the North of England connectivity.

Some of the biggest challenges we have with rail in the North is the mixed use. Whilst digital signalling can give big improvements in places like London Underground where all trains are travelling the same speed and stopping pattern - if you are trying to get high speed trains between Leeds and Manchester in 30 minutes, whilst still providing services stopping at 14 intermediate stops, you can't do this with signalling alone - you need the ability for fast trains to pass stopping trains, and you still need to provide significant separation between high speeds trains with multi-mile stopping distances.

We also need to consider how other long-term trends will impact demand and benefits - particularly autonomous road vehicles - but it's probably premature to stop investing in rail in the hope that autonomous road vehicles will bring all the answers.

Oh, and finally - electric trains are the future, but universal overhead lines are a bit last year .... we don't want years of disruption putting up overhead lines through tunnels, when a train could easily get through a tunnel on batteries, and recharge on overhead lines either side.
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@rikur_ said
Kids growing up in Salford today should be able to consider working in Liverpool, Leeds or Sheffield without transport being a major impediment to those decisions.

From where I'm sitting, It's not just availability, it's cost. Even a new graduate would find that sort of commute prohibitively expensive.
Youngest son secured a job in Bradford....he moved there....Then a job in Leeds...he commuted, wasted nearly 3 hours a day on train services that may or may not run . Took a job in Manchester (about 45 minute journey) Found it more cost-effective to rent a flat within walking distance. Same scenario in London. When that job faded, he moved to Holland stayed with his sister for a while, now living in Amsterdam, where his job is.
(OK, he's single, unattached, no ties)
Perhaps this is the real key.... flexibility and ease of moving to where the work is, Way back, villages and towns grew around the mills/pits/docks/factories. People didn't want or need cars. Public Transport was relatively cheap and efficient. Modern Civilisation appears to have advanced backwards!
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We need to move the debate on from whether rail fares should track RPI or CPI, to what do we actually want fares to achieve in terms of behaviour, and set fares to achieve that rather than simply tracking the fare on the last day of BR.
There's no incentive (IMHO) to change the ticketing system for rail in the region

The changes need to be (regional) government lead, as the driver for change is socio-economic benefit, as opposed to more profit for the railways - and the changes need to be phased in with corresponding changes in rail capacity (nb: we'll nearly double the number of seats on services between cities in the North between 2018 and 2020) ... but citizen adoption of change will be even slower as people change jobs and move house, and learn new travel behaviours etc.
Last edited by rikur_ on Mon Jan 20, 2020 7:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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By rikur_
Flyingfemme wrote:Which kind of points to government owned and run public transport........private enterprise works for profit and the current dog’s breakfast combines short supply with high prices......great for the hottom line.

It certainly points towards government specifying the service and the fares - whether that means it has to be owned/run is a more political point ...... (London's buses are generally privately operated, but to a public service specification and fares structure).
Government already specifies rail fleets and timetables through franchising, and regulates fares through fares regulation - the problem is that the way it regulates fares is to say that they'll simply track RPI. It will be a big political gamble for anyone to move away from that model, as anyone that ends up paying more will be much more vocal than those that pay less.
It's also worth noting that at least some of the current overcrowding of trains in the North stems from Government decisions on fleet - e.g. First/Keolis TransPennine originally specified their class 185 trains as 4 carriage units, but were trimmed back by Government to 3 carriage units to save subsidy. BR was known to increase fares to resolve crowding - so public ownership isn't automatically the right answer if still operating to the wrong objectives.
By PaulB
The multicentric nature of the Midlands and North is as has been said before a major difference between it and the capital and this needs to be addressed before the region can even think about competing with the South East. Of course for reasons that are not entirely clear, or perhaps are entirely clear (make your own mind up) the choice was made to do this last.
At some point we need to either build a new railway or completely upgrade the existing one. It isn't just about knocking 15 minutes off a particular journey, its about having a modern railway that is capable of running whatever new trains come along in the next 100 years. Had we not built the M1 or the London Underground until we actually desperately needed them then we would have suffered chaos. People often talk about the UK not thinking ahead yet when we do it's wrong because it is not yet needed.

Until recently I travelled a few times a week from Kent on HS1 and then on to Birmingham. There really is no comparison, HS1 feels like a modern railway that runs at speed and pretty much bang on time. Euston to Brum would be slowing down, speeding up , stopping to let another train through and just felt like riding a railway from another age. Which of course it is. The train between London and Birmingham was busy but a large number of us were working on the HS2 project.

Modern railway construction will always be expensive, the way we build them now has changed and it is hugely expensive. Especially on a long run where you also need new stations and bridges, tunnels etc. This money doesn't just disappear though, it goes into economies all over the country and a large chunk comes straight back the the UK government in various taxes. A complete upgrade of the existing line would cause chaos and likely end up costing as much to the UK in the long run.

I agree on the need for HS3 & more investment up north too, however because of this multi-centre setup people tend to prefer to use road travel where they can go door to door direct. That doesn't mean there should be any less investment, just a different approach. A fast train form York-Leeds -Manchester - Liverpool would be great. It would also cost a fortune and would be all the better for lessons learned and skills gained during Crossrail and HS2 construction.
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