27 Dec 2010

It is about priorities

I fell into an argument yesterday with a friend from Derby who was brimming with enthusiasm for the high speed line. The conversation went like this.

"How often do you go to London?"
"About four times a year"
"What is your most common journey?"
"From Long Eaton into Derby"
"How often do you make it?"
"Several times a week"
"What is the service like?"
"So how would the high speed line help?"

It did not take him long to realise that this investment will do nothing to improve his daily travel.

I then went on to explain that the high speed line could not provide an affordable walk-on service and he would have arrange to arrive long in advance to be sure of not missing the journey he had paid for. He is then likely to spend the time drinking coffee or looking at the magazines in W H Smith. In other words, he would have been better served with a slower but affordable walk-on service.


  1. I agree that by picking most local services in the UK you can prove that HS2 will be of no benefit (I too would see no direct benefit from it on the routes that I mostly use). However there are many people along the WCML who would see a benefit to their service by removing intercity trains from their route. Also I feel that if they think that over the next 20 years it is better to potentially over invest on a new line rather than minor network tweaks that will result in still having to build the line 10-15 years later when that capacity is used up.
    No long distance service is cheap if you do not plan for it (even driving, as filling up at service stations is more expensive), but that is because most people plan when they are going to undertake long journeys and when they don't they are often willing to pay the extra because they need to get there. Likewise if you need to get somewhere for a set time you should always plan to get there ahead of time because there may well be delays (i.e. traffic jams) and make sure you have something to do (i.e. take a book and some food from home).
    The problem is the government is not saying here have HS2 but no one else is going to get any rail investment because of it (as the argument on this blog seems to imply is the case) rather they are saying we are willing to make investment in the railways if there are good schemes (HS2, Great Western electrification, IEP, etc...) as we have found investing in roads does not provide that much benefit any more.

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  3. Anonymous - you are quite right about the benefits HS2 will provide on existing lines by releasing capacity, but these are potential benefits that will depend on investment being made on the classic routes. My suspicion is that HS2 will suck up most of the resources that will be directed into rail over the next couple of decades.

    Also - if HS2 is about capacity - why have we not seen cost-benefit studies for a new conventional speed railway which would run mostly on the old GW/GC alignment chosen for HS2, but without the need for deviations and heavy engineering structures to accommodate the higher speeds?

    Expensive fares except for advance bookings are a deterrent against the use of trains as opposed to cars. Apart from a higher-rate peak fare, it should not be necessary to book passengers onto particular trains to achieve effective yield management. Complex fares structures come about when the unit costs per seat are high, due to high speed operation and high cost rolling stock.