Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A return to First West Coast and HS2

So, it's been a few months and First have lost the west coast franchise, though not in the circumstances I might've predicted. But it's nice to see a re-evaluation of the bidding process and a continuation of Virgin Trains services on the West Coast route.

But this is a minor point; a mere reference to something that was before.

My main rant today is about HS2, this government's farce of a high speed rail plan.

So I think we ought to go over the plans to begin with. The first stage of High Speed 2 is the construction of a new rail route through the midlands serving just outside of Birmingham. Coming later is the construction of a new terminus (at the former LNWR station at Curzon Street), and if the money doesn't run out then the route will be extended to serve Manchester, the East Mids and Leeds.

I have a few minor problems with this. My major concern is with the initial route. It doesn't go anywhere, and I do not believe that passengers will pay extra to save a very small amount of time. I am not opposed to the idea of a high speed line in Britain, as we are one of a very small minority of European nations who do not have an intercity high speed line. I just fear that this will be a prime example of what I can only refer to as "British Engineering" that is, something that was hurried out to appease a lot of people but fails at a key level and will be used mostly as an excuse for future governments to criticise the decisions of the current government.

Now, I would propose a few changes to this high speed proposal. I believe that the current route from London to Birmingham is fine, but that it ought to be routed out of a different terminal to Euston, as Euston is extremely busy. Say, Marylebone for example. This route should travel along the chiltern until outside of London, where it can branch away and become a high speed line proper. This could then pass over the west coast mainline near to Birmingham, and an interchange from the high speed line could be provided. That is to say, the high speed train could leave the high speed line and travel to Birmingham New Street, where it could say, continue onwards to Manchester or Liverpool or even Glasgow.

I like this as it helps relieve pressure on the overly busy West Coast line between London and Birmingham, freeing up spaces for more commuter services between the two cities and creating more freight opportunities also. I also like that this would mean that in theory the high speed line could be extended when ready to be as opposed to all being done at once. People will always be able to travel from Euston to Manchester, just the journey time would be reduced when the extended high speed line would be opened.

Now this is not without some problems, and I think the main is engineering a train that is compatible with both the limited loading gauge of British urban railways and the European loading gauge usually used on high speed lines, but hey, this train already exists in the form of Eurostar. We would merely have to update this to a new spec.

But, y'know, what do I know?

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