Last year, the Department for Transport commissioned consultants W S Atkins to consider alternatives to HS2. Referred to as the High Speed 2 Strategic Alternatives Study, it comprises four separate reports. It looks at a range of road and rail interventions between London and the West Midlands, which could effectively increase passenger capacity in line with forecast demand. The documents are available for downloading here.
The Rail Interventions Report concentrates on upgrades to the West Coast Main Line and the Chilterns route to Birmingham and in case of the latter, an interesting list of interventions are postulated. Amongst the options discussed is the possibility of running much longer trains on the WCML. But this is dismissed in the following sentence:
"However, operating a fleet of 400 metre would require platforms at every station served by WCML “fast” services to be lengthened. Selective Door Opening (“SDO”) is unlikely to prove acceptable or workable."
This curt dismissal of a major policy option is strange because what is called for is better SDO systm. Probably this would incorporate a detector system linked into the door opening mechanism. Such a device could be fitted to every door on the train, to ensure that the door could not be opened unless there was a platform alongside. Obviously it would take quite a lot of development work but calls for nothing that existing technology could not solve.
The report dealing with rail interventions mentions in passing that "HS2 Ltd have been tasked by DfT to test the cost and capacity of an entirely new conventional route between London – West Midlands ." I would like to get a look at that report.