23 Apr 2011

If we need capacity, then add capacity

Articles in the April issue of Modern Railways were a cogent presentation of the arguments for HS2, but they scarcely made the case for a 300 km/h railway rather than a 200 km/h one. The conclusion to be drawn is that the need is for capacity. It is seems to be taken as given, that the costs of building, equipping and operating a high speed railway, complete with a fleet of bespoke high speed trains for running on Britain’s classic routes, would be little more than those of a conventional railway. Where is the evidence?

In addition, there are interest costs that will build up during the ten-year construction period before the first revenue-earning train starts running.

The arguments actually presented point to a strategy of providing additional capacity through a rolling programme, mostly by reinstating what was lost in the 1960s, as 200 km/h and local railways, including much of the alignment chosen for HS2 itself.

Beyond this, before making firm commitments, the entire debate needs to be opened up. Radical alternatives should at least be considered. Would it be worth building a core network of freight lines capable of taking double-stack containers, or passenger routes where 3.5 metre wide trains with 25% higher capacity, such as Bombardier’s Gröna Tåget, could operate?

Whatever is decided will be be critical for Britain’s infrastructure far into the future. HS2 looks too much like a a pre-conceived solution.

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