Friday, 4 November 2011

Thames Hub and HS2

So much of the HS2 debate is loud, shouty and not very revealing, with fixed positions and closed minds. As such it is no surprise that the combatants missed the huge Thames Hub proposal and how it affects HS2.

Thames Hub is a proposal from Fosters, Halcrow and Volterra to utterly transform infrastructure in the UK. Unlike some previous plans, it is highly persuasive because of the sheer number of infrastructure problems it tackles.

The headline grabbing element is the new hub airport for the UK. This would be a 4 runway and 24 hour a day airport located in the Thames estuary on the end of the Isle of Grain. The site is chosen as it is close to the capital, yet still allows most flights to land over water. There are few if any other locations in the UK which can match this. (To serve the UK's population best, expanding Luton airport might make the most sense, but that would involve far greater aircraft noise disruption to far more people)

A new airport is nothing without access however. To achieve this, the proposal includes a high speed rail connection from HS1 in Kent, via the airport and around the M25, linking up with all the existing main lines, including potentailly HS2 (more on this later). Rather than driving to the airport, users would be encouraged to park and ride. (As a new line, it could potentially run 24 hours a day)

Not content with a new high speed line, the proposal links in freight traffic. There are huge container ports in the Thames estuary and not enough capacity on the railways to transport them. As such, there are far more lorries on the road than there need to be. The proposal suggests that the new railway line around the M25 would be 4 track, with significant freight capacity.

As part of the railway line, a conduit would be built to transport broadband and electricity. This removes miles of pylons from the countryside, surely a clear benefit.

And in the Thames itself would be a new Thames barrier, designed to safeguard more of London than the current one does. By protecting the land, it frees up huge tracts of East London for development (now they are safe from flooding). At a stroke this provides much of the housing land necessary to cope with the potential extra 10 million people the UK is projected to grow by. (Thus environmental concerns on the Isle of Grain must be balanced against the environmental impact of alternate sites for new housing on the edge of many UK towns and villages on green field sites.)

The potential closure (or major downgrading) of Heathrow would also relase more land for development. Other cities have moved their primary airport in the past, including Paris (1974), Munich (1992), Denver (1995), Oslo (1998), Hong Kong (1998), Kuala Lumpur (1998), Athens (2001), Bangkok (2006).

The sheer scope of the plan is breathtaking and would be utterly transformative for the UK.

The land for the airport itself is somewhere I've actually been too, a number of years ago. It is land of no great landscape quality and entirely suitable for change. Two villages would be destroyed, but with suitable generous compensation I believe that to be acceptable. There is a concern over birds, especially with aircraft, however this is something that can be overcome if the will is there.

As I always say, its important to look at the alternatives.

Heathrow is full and overflowing with just 2 runways (and no longer any possibility of a third), when Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Madrid all have at least 4 runways at their airports. It has always been in the wrong location for London as it requires planes to land over the heads of 7 million people. Heathrow simply cannot expand.

Gatwick, Stansted and Luton each have just one runway. Each one could be expanded, however doing so would face larger opposition than the estuary as planes would fly over more people. And its important to consider that one of the three would need three new runways adding to reach the four necessary for a UK hub.

Another approach is "Heathwick". This would link Heathrow and Gatwick with a fast rail line is essentially linking the worlds busiest single runway airport (Gatwick) to what is probably the worlds busiest two runway airport (Heathrow). Clearly that solves nothing.

The "spread" approach entails linking perhaps four or five airports (probably including Birmingham via HS2) to create some form of virtual hub. This appears to me to be the classic 'make do and mend' fudge approach. Bear in mind that Birmingham only has one runway.

Finally, there are, and have been, other plans for the estuary, including a site close by at Cliffe and a floating island further out. The principal difference to Thames Hub with these is the detail in the supporting proposals, including all the other infrastructure effects.

Looking at the alternatives, I think Thames Hub must be considered a viable option, and perhaps the best, since creating a four runway airport at Luton or Stansted seems unlikely.

But the big impact here is on HS2.

As I covered in my last blog, the HS2 route has been hugely influenced by a need to go "somewhere near Heathrow".

But the Thames Hub plans talk about closing Heathrow, or downgrading it to budget airline status!

It is patently nonsense to let "somewhere near Heathrow" dictate the route of HS2 when it is uncertain that Heathrow will survive in its current form.

It is utterly essential for Government and politicians to decide on airport policy before deciding on the HS2 route.

After all, if the "somewhere near Heathrow" constraint is removed, then the M1 route of HC-Midland suddenly looks far more sensible.

(Images credit to ThamesHub/Fosters/Halcrow/Volterra)

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Heathrow tail wagging the HS2 dog

Update 2011-11-02: This blog was written just before Labour suggested routing via Heathrow and Lord Foster release the Thames Hub proposal. Read on to understand why it is essential that the UK decides on Heathrow vs Thames Hub *before* deciding on HS2 (if Heathrow declines or is closed, the sensible HS2 route would be very different)

For HS2, a number of groups have come together in the Right Lines Charter to encourage Government to think a little more deeply. The first principle of the charter is that High Speed Rail should only be introduced within the scope of a national framework. This is especially important when considering access to Heathrow.

As I've noted before, Heathrow is a major factor in the current HS2 route proposal. The original terms of reference framed the route planning with a "via somewhere near Heathrow" approach, partly to replace domestic air routes by High Speed Rail. Those opposed to Heathrow's third runway were in agreement as removing domestic air "obviously" helps Heathrow.

Thus, HS2 route evaluation was constrained to include only those routes running to or near Heathrow. (Old Oak Common was the choice made).

This constraint had some big effects:

Firtsly, the Heathrow constraint forced the route to Birmingham and the North from London to start in West London, rather than in Central London. A simple look at the map shows how the proposed line from Euston spends a long time heading west and south(!) to reach Old Oak Common, before it starts any travel to the north. Clearly this is only justified if Heathrow is a big enough target.

Secondly, the Heathrow constraint lengthened the route from the shortest possible (by adding the dog-leg via Heathrow). As such, it became necessary to make the trains go faster to meet the journey time reductions that Britain's broken transport economics require. Hence the 400kph design speed, which in turn lead to the straight line route through the Chliterns.

Thus, the net effect of the terms of reference and focus on Heathrow was to compromise sensible evaluation of other options. For example, the M1 route was rejected partly because the evaluation still required the line to go via Old Oak Common, which is clearly a crazy direction if you want to go from Euston to the M1 (just look at a map!!!)

To be clear, the HS2 route is a result of the constraints applied - of "somewhere near Heathrow" and "serving Birmingham in phase 1" The constraints became locations - Old Oak Common and Birmingham Interchange - and between these two constraints, the HS2 route chosen is one of very few options available. It is the broken constraints I object to, not the Chiltern routing per se. (ie. if I agreed with the constraints, and thus the constraining locations at each end, I would have relatively few qualms about the chosen route.)

But is Heathrow important enough to justify all this?

Well, I started this article with a link to the Right Lines Charter and its desire for a national framework for the investment. An absolutely key part of that framework is a national policy for airports.

Put bluntly, the UK and London airport situation is a national disgrace, with Heathrow merely one element. Its the classic example of how the UK fails to properly provide national long term plans that make sense and aren't overtly political.

Most MPs, and perhaps many people in the UK, still see Heathrow as something important. A vital hub airport in the world's network.

But the truth is that Heathrow is no longer in the first tier of world hub airports.

A two runway airport simply doesn't cut it anymore as a hub. Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt now clearly lead Heathrow in Europe (with four or more runways), with British Airways now looking at Madrid (four runways) as the solution to the lack of space at Heathrow. This matters in that there are far fewer direct flights to destinations in China, India and other upcoming destinations - from London you have to change at another hub. Over time, this acts as a major disincentive for multi-national inward investment based growth in the UK.

So, the solution is to remove all domestic flights from Heathrow, leaving more space for international flights?

Well no. Only around 10% of all take offs and landings at Heathrow are domestic, and some of those are flights across the water to Belfast. So, while HS2 could remove some domestic flights from Heathrow, it certainly wouldn't remove enough to convert it into a viable first tier hub.

Thus, a key national question for politicians is whether they want the UK to have a globally significant first tier hub airport. Heathrow isn't one (and a third runway probably wouldn't have been enough, as four runways is the current "standard" for a hub).

There are various possible solutions to the hub issue, including an island to the east of London, greatly expanding either Stanstead or Gatwick to 3 or 4 runways, or expanding both Stanstead and Gatwick to 2 runways each - sending each airline alliance to a different airport. Another solution is to say that the UK doesn't need a first tier hub. (HS2 implies use of Birmingham to relieve Heathrow, which is fine if everyone travels to airports by train, but we should recognise that simply isn't the case, thus Birmingham Airport is a bit of a red herring here.)

The key point I'm making is that Heathrow is a bit of a dead duck. Its not going to grow any more. In fact its going to reduce in importance over the next 50 years, not increase.

So, the truth is that Heathrow simply doesn't matter enough to the UK over the 50 year investment lifetime of HS2 to force the entire High Speed route strategy to serve it. The vast majority of passengers from the northern cities want to go to London (or somewhere around London) not Heathrow. Airport traffic as a proportion of the total is actually very small (HS2 Ltd estimate less than 2000 passengers per day).

And its this uncomfortable truth that the Right Lines Charter's "national framework" drives at. Without an airports policy that underlines the lack of importance of Heathrow, its difficult for politicians and civil servants to realise that the HS2 focus on Heathrow is plane stupid!

(As it happens, Old Oak Common serves a second purpose - linking to Crossrail, but that has generally been seen as a secondary item compared to serving Heathrow. In reality from a transport perspective, the Crossrail distribution effect is far more important than Heathrow, but getting that message across to non-rail audiences seems to be hard. However, if you remove Heathrow, it also turns out that the distribution effect could be fulfilled in other ways, such as linking to Thameslink if routing via Luton/West Hampstead.)


Accepting that Heathrow is on the decline is sometimes hard, especially when it seems like a permanent fixture in UK geography. But it is simple logic to see that Heathrow will over the next 50 years come to matter to UK air travel less and less.

But if UK air policy decides to shift to an estuary airport, or a hub at Stanstead/Gatwick, then it completely changes the rationale for a High Speed Rail route directly to "somewhere near Heathrow". Heathrow is no longer important enough to the UK to justify that.

And as I've described before with HC-Midland, removing that broken constraint can result in a much more sensible routing for the new lines the UK rail network desperately needs.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Birmingham Interchange is not an interchange

In my ongoing evaluation of HS2, its time to write about Birmingham Interchange.

Birmingham Interchange, is the HS2 station located on the edge of Birmingham. The site is next to the M42 1 mile east of Birmingham International station on the existing main line (the airport station). The intention is to add a cheap "people mover" to transfer passengers to the NEC, airport or existing station. There is also vague talk of a tram line (which doesn't materially affect the following conclusions).

The executive summary is that the plan for Birmingham Interchange is dire. Read on for the detail.

The key issue is that the station is completely disconnected from any form of public transport, meaning that the vast majority of passengers will be expected to arrive by car, for which 7000 parking spaces are planned. But the M42 in that location is one of the busiest stretches of Motorway in the entire country and well beyond its design capacity. This combination is a recipe for disaster. HS2 Ltd comment as follows (pdf, chapter 8):

Our estimate is that in 2033, the interchange station would attract a net addition of 1500-2000 cars trips to the area during the morning peak hour.

The chapter is worth reading to understand the analysis done. It makes no reference whatsoever to access by public transport. Only access by car is considered.

The station is intended to be used by passengers living in various parts of the West Midlands conurbation and in Coventry (nobody lives close enough to walk to the station). Its only fair to look at what these passengers do today, and what they will do in the future.

Many in the West Midlands conurbation currently use local rail services to access London trains at Wolverhampton, Birmingham New Street, Birmingham International or Coventry. With HS2 there will be no direct access to the new line by local rail at any of these locations.

Residents in the west of the conurbation around Wolverhampton can currently travel to Wolverhampton station for their long distance service. HS2 does not serve Wolverhampton, so those passengers will either use the existing service (assuming it continues) or drive to Birmingham Interchange. (The official document assumes Wolverhampton will use the city centre station, but they can't as New Street and Fazely Street aren't integrated)

Residents in the centre of the conurbation can currently use local rail and buses to access New Street for their long distance service. Since the HS2 station in Birmingham is disconnected from the local rail network, there will be far fewer uses of the local network to access the long distance services. Thus again, passengers using HS2 are most likely to use a car to access Interchange. (The official document assumes these travellers will use the city centre station)

Residents of Coventry currently have an excellent three trains per hour service to London. This will be scaled back after HS2. Passengers in Coventry will be encouraged to travel to the Birmingham Interchange station instead. Which again means a car. Certainly no sane person would take a local train to Birmingham International, then a "people mover", then an HS2 train. (The official document assumes these travellers will use cars to access Interchange station)

Taken together, HS2's Birmingham stations are a recipe for a massive increase in car journeys.

However, there is a catch. 1 in 3 households in the West Midlands don't own a car. So, by forcing car access, HS2 manages to reduce the overall mobility of the population!

Moreover, what has long been understood by those in the rail industry is that once people start their journey by car they are more likely to just keep on going by car. If you're driving from Wolverhampton to eastern Birmingham, why not just keep on going and drive all the way to London, or if you're in Coventry why not carry on driving to Manchester or Leeds?

It turns out that the rail network is absolutely dependent on good interchanges and junctions, where local journeys can be fed into national ones. HS2 ignores over 100 years of experience of what makes railways work by not buliding proper interchanges.

Interestingly, the London stations on HS2 are planned to be integrated with the local networks, at Euston and Old Oak Common (although the Old Oak plan is far from certain at this point). It is clear to me that Birmingham has drawn the short straw here. The effect of HS2 is to boost car journeys within the West Midlands area and reduce demand on the local rail network.

Given the lack of integration, especially relative to London, it is patent nonsense that Centro, the publicly funded body for public transport in the West Midlands, is supporting the current HS2 scheme.


Overall I think HS2 is a bad project and there is a better and more cost-effective approach - HC-Midland. However, my position is far more nuanced than that of the "anti" brigade. For starters, while the route through the Chilterns isn't my preferred choice and is far from ideal, I don't think that aspect of the scheme would be disasterous if it were to go ahead.

However, I am utterly clear that both HS2 Birmingham stations are unfit for purpose on basic transport grounds.

It is simply unacceptable and irresponsible in today's world to build a station whose only sensible access is by car and then have the cheek to call it "interchange". That mistake is compounded by the lack of integration in the City Centre.

In summary, there has been a lot of arguing about rail capacity, the business case and the importance of the environment. In my opinion, not enough focus has been placed on whether the line's stations meet basic transport criteria. Sadly, HS2's Birmingham stations fail spectacularly on those basic transport criteria.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Swanlink at Waterloo - photos

This blog expands a little on the Swanlink scheme around Waterloo.

A key part of Swanlink's relatively low cost is using surface access as far as Waterloo. Here I show some pictures that aim to explore that area in more detail:

At the south-west end of Waterloo is Westminster Bridge Road. The road is directly under the station throat. Swanlink proposes to build a new bridge over the road, at least two tracks wide. This requires the demolition of some non-listed commercial properties and relocation of railway equipment.

Moving north-west along the south side of the station the Swanlink project would remove the taxi road completely, lowering this to ground level or slightly below. The Spur Road ramp from Baylis Road would be redeveloped to replace the facilities lost underneath the current taxi road (such as deliveries and Waterloo & City line access). The taxi road (which is about 5m above ground level) is shown here:

East of the station a row of non-listed commercial buildings would be taken:

This provides access to the Waterloo (Cornwall Road) bus garage which would be the tunnel portal site:

Finding a route from there to Blackfriars Road through Southwark station will not be easy, especially given some buildings which are likely to have piled foundations. A tight curve may be needed, but speeds can be relatively low just outside Waterloo. The proposed Bankside station would use this land on Blackfriars Road:

Overall, the route on the map has been chosen to avoid tall buildings, but without detailed sub-surface maps it is impossible to confirm the route. Finding a route for tunnelling in London is hard!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Swanlink - Crossrail for SW London

This is the third blog in a series of three on Crossrail, the major new rail tunnel running under London. The first and second entries were written to set the scene for this entry, which focuses on solving the major problem of Crossrail - two eastern branches - with the Swanlink proposal.

Low frequency branches

The big problem with Crossrail is not that there are two eastern branches, but that the dividing point of those branches is so close to central London. This means that of the 24tph serving the central section from Paddington to Whitechapel, only half can continue to Stratford and half to Canary Wharf. However, there is clearly demand at both Stratford and Canary Wharf for all 24tph to go there.

The official response to this appears to be threefold. Firstly, that the capacity of each train is large, secondly that the trains can be lengthened by 2 carriages, and thirdly to design the signalling for future running of 30tph. The first and second points are fine, but miss the fact that trains of similar size already run via Stratford and are already full when running at a higher frequency. The third point would still only provide 15tph down each branch, but more importantly removes resilience from the network meaning worse recovery from incidents.

So, I've looked at what is needed to fix the problem, making the Crossrail investment dramatically more effective to the whole of London.

Proposal: Swanlink

This proposal is designed to solve multiple problems with London's rail network in a single hit. As such, it should have a good rate of return.

Clearly, the only way to solve the eastern branch problem is to run a full 24tph service on each branch, to at least Stratford and Canary Wharf. Simple logic therefore requires some new tunnelling from the Stepney Green junction to provide the necessary tracks. But the question is where should they go?

At this point, I switch to the recent London & South East RUS, which identifies capacity shortfalls in the railways around London:

With respect to longer distance services the RUS therefore notes that a significant peak capacity gap may arise, with a forecast shortfall in capacity for some 7,000 passengers in the busiest peak hour; this figure includes capacity required on today’s already overcrowded trains, along with the 3,500 resulting from future growth.....

An alternative way to increase capacity on the route would be to increase the number of tracks from the Surbiton area to central London from four to six, but this is only realistically achievable by means of tunnelling over a long distance. Such a tunnel would need to fit into a cross-industry strategy for future underground lines in the capital in general. The RUS has therefore worked closely with Transport for London to identify a variant of the currently safeguarded Crossrail line 2 route, and this forms Option F7 in this RUS.

Clearly, the SWML (South West Main Line) has serious capacity issues and Crossrail 2 is being mentioned as a solution. But looking at the problems with Crossrail 1 as I have done above, its clear that the SWML can be relieved at a lower cost by reusing part of Crossrail 1 being built now.

The Swanlink proposal connects the SWML to the Stratford branch of Crossrail.

The principle is to acknowledge that Crossrail 1 is actually "one and a half crossrails". By building the aditional "half a crossrail" linking to the SWML, it is converted to 2 independent Crossrail lines each with 24tph - one from west of Paddington to Canary Wharf and Abbey Wood ("Wharflink"), and one from the SWML to Stratford and Shenfield ("Swanlink" - South West ANglia).

Swanlink detail

The junction at Stepney Green is to the east of Whitechapel so thats where the proposal must start. The first point to note is that there will need to be an interchange between Wharflink and Swanlink. The second point to note is that many commuters will want to travel from Stratford to Canary Wharf, changing at Whitechapel (it will be faster than changing to the Jubilee line at Stratford). As such, an interchange at Whitechapel makes sense. This should be designed so that passengers can easily travel from Stratford to Canary Wharf and vice versa. This requires a same-level interchange between passengers travelling west on Swanlink and east on Wharflink, and vice versa. The best design for this station is to place the two new platforms directly beneath the platforms being built now, reusing all of the surface access facilities.

The next point to note is that most travellers from the Shenfield/Stratford route currently travel to Liverpool Street. As such, removing their ability to travel to the Liverpool Street area is unacceptable. Thus the Swanlink route needs to run to Liverpool Street. Two more underground platforms will be needed, again directly underneath those being built now reusing the surface facilities. This time, the same-level interchange must be between passengers travelling east on Wharflink to east on Swanlink, and vice versa.

The combination of these two interchanges allows a passenger to change to the other line in any direction without needing to use any stairs, escalators or lifts. This saves time for commuters, building the business case.

After Moorgate, the proposed route takes a sharp turn under Guildhall to a station underneath Queen Street north of Southwark Bridge ("Queen Street" station). This would serve the western side of the city including Cheapside, Queen Victoria Street and Mansion House. Options exist to link this station to Mansion House, Bank and Cannon Street tube stations, but modelling would be needed to determine which if any makes sense. As this section is mostly under streets it should avoid foundations.

After Queen Street, the line would turn under the Thames to reach a new station under, or just to the east of, Blackfriars Road ("Bankside" station). This station would be linked with Blackfraiars Thameslink station (at the new Bankside entrance) thus provding another key link as at Farringdon. Land is currently available south of Southwark Street to assist building work here. This station may be able to link to Southwark tube station, but this may be of limited value. From there, the line would turn towards Waterloo.

The key to the affordability of the proposal is at Waterloo. South of the station there is a taxi road at the same level as the station itself. I propose replacing this with a new through platform. My analysis suggests that the limitation of 1 in 30 for gradient means that the line would need to go under Waterloo Road, not over it, so the new platforms would be at ground level. The tunnel portal would be on the site of the Cornwall Road bus garage requiring limited demolition of 2 or 3 non-listed commercial buildings. From there it routes to the "Bankside" station described above. West of Waterloo, a new bridge over the A23 would be needed to clear the Waterloo station throat and link to the existing SWML Wimbledon slow lines, again taking 3 to 5 non-listed buildings.

The advantage of this route is that the line requires an absolute bare minimum of tunnelling, probably with just one TBM drive for each running tunnel. The platforms at Waterloo would be above ground aiding access and construction. And the route serves two stations providing good access to Bankside (where large developments are proposed) and the western City area. The problems lie with the steepness of the grdients and navigating through the maze of underground tunnels, notably at Southwark tube station.

If the City route is not possible, then there is an alternate alignment, with a single station lying between St.Pauls and Blackfriars (see map). If it is not possible to build the Waterloo surface station, then a longer tunnel would be needed with a portal potentially as far out as Clapham Junction.


Swanlink dramatically takes the benefits of Crossrail to a whole new level. Pasengers from the entire South West corner of London would be linked in with big journey time savings.

Services would run from the existing Wimbledon slow lines (including Guildford, Epsom, Hampton Court, Chessington & Shepperton) through to Shenfield. It is intended that some Woking semi-fast services would move to Swanlink, freeing up the SWML fast lines as needed by the RUS mentioned above. (The Woking semi-fasts would stop more often than now, but they would gain time not having to wait for a platform at Waterloo, and in journey times beyond Waterloo.)

By itself, linking Wimbledon to Stratford is of limited value to commuters (although it would boost travel to Westfield Stratford City). The bigger benefit is for SWML commuters to reach the City and Canary Wharf directly. City commuters currently change at Waterloo to the Waterloo & City line, the 521 bus or a bike. They would now be able to travel directly to the City without changing, perhaps saving 20 minutes or more in each direction at peak time. Commuters to Canary Wharf from the SWML currently take the Jubilee line, whereas with Swanlink they would simply change at Liverpool Street (on the same-level) to access the 24tph Wharflink service, again with a big saving of time and hassle. Its important to note that the journey from Waterloo to the north and east sides of the City are very difficult today, so there is a big benefit there too. Finally, Stratford/Shenfield line passengers get much better access to the South Bank.

Estimated journey times
Journey*Now (off-peak, TfL website)With SwanlinkSaving
Wimbledon to Liverpool Street392217
Wimbledon to Stratford503020
Wimbledon to Canary Wharf39318
Wimbledon to Hackney573522
Wimbledon to Hoxton513219
Wimbledon to Woolwich513813
* Note that Wimbledon is used as the base location, but journey time savings apply over the entire suburban route network via Wimbledon.

Clearly these new links would greatly relieve the Waterloo & City line and the Jubilee line. Given the queue for the Waterloo & City (and crush conditions), this is a very good thing.

Finally, the plan permits 24tph between the City and both Stratford and Canary Wharf, a key design goal itself, reducing the inevitable overcrowding that will occur when Crossrail opens. Beyond those two stations there is no need for 24tph. Therefore, investment could be made to add new branches - to Barking, Upminster, Brimsdown or Chingford beyond Stratford, and to Dagenham/Grays or Thamesmead/Grays beyond Canary Wharf. These would be independent investments and are not included in the Swanlink case presented here.


The cost of Swanlink can be roughly estimated by comparison to Crossrail. That project has a budget of about £15bn. Swanlink is probably between a quarter and a third the size of Crossrail. It would have less initial setup costs (as it would follow on from Crossrail's up front investment), and also re-uses facilities at Liverpool Street and Whitechapel. The relatively short tunnel and surface station at Waterloo help keep costs down. An initial estimate suggests a figure around £4bn.

The quantifiable benefits arise mainly from journey time reduction, which would be considerable given current change to the crowded Waterloo & City line, 521 bus or Jubilee line. Further benefits accrue from the Wider Economic Benefits regime (Moving to more productive jobs, agglomeration effects, etc). Serving the Nine Elms regeneration area is clearly a huge boost.

Direct revenue can also be raised. The proposal also serves some London boroughs currently paying the lower levels of the Mayor's Crossrail Levy - increasing this to the higher level would also directly raise cash.

Swanlink also reduces the pressure on the SWML outlined in the London & South East RUS which advocated building Crossrail 2. Since Crossrail 2 (Clapham - Hackney) would be a £15bn+ project, and Swanlink is a £4bn project, so there is clearly a saving to be priced into the business case. Potentially, that £11bn difference is enough to justify Swanlink by itself. In addition, 5 terminus platforms at Waterloo are freed up, which can be used by other services, reducing the need to invest in bringing the Eurostar platforms back into use for SWML services, another saving that can be factored in.

Overall, I'm confident that the CBR for Swanlink would be good.


Swanlink is a logical extension to the current Crossrail scheme that suffers from having two eastern branches which divide too close to the City. By linking Stratford eastern branch and the RUS identified gap on the SWML a coherent transport solution is obtained. By reusing the Stratford tunnel and portal large cost savings are obtained, ideal in the age of austerity. The benefits to South West London are huge, with the Stratford/Shenfield and Canary Wharf/Abbey Wood lines also benefiting from more frequent services.

I hope that readers use their imagination and see how this investment makes sense and could really make Crossrail shine! There really is no cheaper way to get a second Crossrail line in London.

If you back the proposal, or have any other opinions, why not leave a comment!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Crossrail, east of Whitechapel

This is the second blog in a series of three on Crossrail, the major new rail tunnel running under London. The last entry focussed on the route West of Paddington, while here I'll focus on the two Eastern branches. The final entry will examine the central section and put forward a new proposal to improve the return on Crossrail dramatically.

The two eastern branches divide at Stepney Green, east of Whitechapel, where a shaft is being dug to allow access. The north-east branch goes to Shenfield and the south-east branch to Abbey Wood.

Shenfield branch

The Shenfield branch is designed to improve capacity and quality for the line that currently runs from Liverpool Street to Shenfield. Trains exit the central tunnel at Pudding Mill west of Stratford and then run on the slow line, leaving the fast line for services from Southend, Chelmsford and Colchester.

The slow line consists of existing stations spaced in a very similar way to tube lines. As such, it is clear that the plan for this branch is to operate it very like the District line to Upminster, or the Central to Epping. Although not 100% clear, it appears that the plan is to operate all services as "all stations" to Shenfield.

The Shenfield branch is due to operate at 12tph in the peak and 8tph off-peak. This is one train every 5 minutes in the peak, and one train every 7.5 minutes off-peak. Unfortunately, the route from Shenfield to London already has 15tph in the busiest peak hour. The current plan is for the additional "residual" 3 or 4tph to continue to run terminating in the main Liverpool Street station as they do now. This is undesirable as it means some platforms at congested Liverpool Street still have to be reserved for the local services. Off-peak, the current service is 6tph, so 8tph would be a welcome enhancement.

So, clearly the 12tph service is insufficient for the demands of the Shenfield route, however the situation is worse than that. Crossrail will be the fastest way to travel from Stratford to the West End, thus demand from Stratford in is likely to be higher than 12tph can handle. Many commuters from further out (Chelmsford, Colchester, Wickford, Epping, etc) are likely to want to change onto Crossrail at Stratford in order to avoid the change onto the Central line at Liverpool Street. This will place a lot of pressure on the service. Retention of the remaining services terminating at Liverpool Street shows that demand on this route is already high, so it seems unlikely that 12tph will be enough.

There is also difficulty with the timetable detail. The current peak timetable mixes services starting from Ilford, Gidea Park and Shenfield, with some of those from further out skipping some of the stations close to London. These commuters will probably want to keep this, but with no passing loops, it will be tricky. It may be that the service becomes tube-like "all stations" once Crossrail starts.

Looking at extensions, with the limitation of 12tph in the peak, I don't believe that it is feasible to servce any more destinations. Were the service receiving all 24tph from the central tunnel there might be more possibilities, but as it stands, Shenfield is all that is possible, and even that is troublesome.

In summary, the Shenfield branch is simple, self-contained and about the right length. The main problem is that there needs to be 24tph between Stratford and the City, and probably 18tph beyond that, yet only 12tph will be available. The "residual" Liverpool Street service is also a bit of a mess.

Abbey Wood branch

The prime reason for the Abbey Wood branch is to serve Canary Wharf. It is likely that the scheme only got political/business/financial support by routing via Canary Wharf. That said, it is certainly the case that Canary Wharf could do with another transport link. The Jubilee Line upgrade has shown how fragile transport to the area is and how the DLR cannot cope on its own. Once Canary Wharf was served, the line needed to terminate somewhere, and Abbey Wood was the option chosen.

Abbey Wood itself is effectively a convenient end-point however, rather than a true destination. It is basically a housing area, including access to Thamesmead area which has no rail access at all. Early planning did not terminate the line at Abbey Wood, instead it was intended to continue via Dartford to Ebbsfleet, see this 2002 pdf map. An extension from Abbey Wood to Dartford and Gravesend is still officially considered possible in the future.

The choice of Abbey Wood does have benefits to the services into Charing Cross and Cannon Street too. Some passengers will now travel via Crossrail rather than the existing route. This will provide some welcome relief on those lines. It should also have a effect on the DLR, as passengers switch from DLR to Crossrail.

The Canary Wharf station is being built in the dock just to the north of the main towers. This approach is perhaps the only possible option given the depth of foundations of the skyscrapers.

However, as with the Shenfield branch, the Abbey Wood branch will only be receiving 12tph - one train every five minutes. Given the crush on the Jubilee Line and DLR today, and massive growth in new buildings in the area it seems likely that 12tph simply won't be enough between Canary Wharf and the City. Beyond Canary Wharf to Abbey Wood the 12tph service will probably be enough.

Looking at extensions, the line to Dartford does make sense to be converted to Crossrail. In my opinion, other services should then terminate at Abbey Wood, such that only Crossrail serves the line between Abbey Wood and Dartford. If regeneration at Ebbsfleet takes off, then I think serving there rather than Gravesend would be the best choice.

In summary, the Abbey Wood branch exists to servce Canary Wharf and provide a useful link to the south east corner of London. The destination of Abbey Wood is clearly a cost-saving exercise as opposed to the more suitable destinations of Dartford and Ebbsfleet/Gravesend. As with the Shenfield branch, the main problem is that there needs to be 24tph between Canary Wharf and the City, but only 12tph are being provided.


The eastern side of Crossrail is a fudge. The two branches are fine in isolation, but trying to serve both will result in a lower quality railway and overcrowding. In the next blog I'll look at the choices for solving the problem of two eastern branches.

Comments welcome!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Crossrail, west of Paddington

Crossrail is the major new rail tunnel running under London. Services are currently projected to run from Maidenhead in the West to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the East. The central core tunnel runs from just west of Paddington to Stepney Green in the east where it splits in two, with one tunnel continuing to the Pudding Mill for Stratford and Shenfield. The other tunnel goes via Canary Wharf to Woolwich for Abbey Wood.

This is a key investment in the rail capacity of London and essential for its future prosperity. Overall, it is fantastic to see it being built, but I do have some comments on the details. In this blog I'll focus on the line west of Paddington.

Heathrow and Reading

The project is described by the London & SE RUS:

5.4.3 There will be 24 Crossrail trains in the highpeak hour across the capital between Paddington and Whitechapel. Beyond this Central London section, 12 of these will replace most inner services on the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) and 10 will replace most inner services (including Heathrow Connect) on the Great Western Main Line (GWML) route. There will also be 12 trains in the high-peak hour via a new cross-river tunnel route to Abbey Wood via Canary Wharf. It can be seen from the above that 14 of the 24 peak Crossrail trains will run no further west than sidings just outside Paddington.

The RUS then goes on to discuss whether the unused 14tph in the west could be better utilised. It proposes to rebalance the GWML (Great West Main Line) to have 20tph on the fast lines from Reading to Paddington and 16tph on the slow lines running to Crossrail. The fast line service of 20tph would be

  • 10tph inter-city, from places such as Exeter, Bristol and Cardiff
  • 6tph outer-SE, from places such as Oxford and Newbury
  • 4tph Reading express, peak-time capacity providers from Reading and Maidenhead, with alternate stops at Twyford and Slough (running on the slow line until Maidenhead or Slough, then on the fast lines)

while the slow line service of 16tph would be:

  • 4tph to Reading, stopping at some but not all stations
  • 2tph to Slough, stopping at some but not all stations
  • 10tph to Heathrow, stopping at some but not all stations

This means that Greenford, Henley and Twyford would have no through services to London, and the Heathrow Express service would only run off-peak.

Overall, this is an excellent starting point to discuss the London based GWML services. It makes far better use of Crossrail (which is otherwise very under-used in the west), and links in Heathrow to a much more appropriate level. The committed scheme of terminating 14tph just west of Paddington is patently barmy.

Would I change anything from the RUS plan?

Firstly, I believe that the Heathrow service should run into Crossrail all-day, and the Heathrow Express shuld cease to exist in its present form. This will require negotiations with BAA, but the benefits are clear, with Crossrail providing a much wider range of destinations and at significantly better quality than the Picadilly line.

Secondly, I dislike the "skip-stop" nature of the slow line proposals, which will make it hard to predict which stations any given train stops at, making moving between outer London stations rather difficult. What I would like to see is some detailed analysis on whether some sections of 6 tracks could be provided on the GWML. These would allow fast trains to overtake slow ones and provide a more traditional service, such as 4tph all stations to Slough, 4tph fast to Slough then all stations, 4tph Heathrow express and 4tph Heathrow slow.

Link to Watford?

The GWML proposals above take 16tph of the 24tph from peak-hour Crossrail, but the RUS also outlines a proposal for the other 8tph. It proposes a new link in the Old Oak Common area to the WCML (West Coast Main Line) allowing the slow line services from Tring and Watford to run onto Crossrail. The RUS makes no detailed service proposals. A key point is that this provides spare capacity at Euston to assist with the rebuild for HS2.

Sidestepping my views on HS2 for a minute, the WCML link makes some sense. The GWML and WCML are very close at that point, and geographically, WCML passengers are in fact entering London from the west, not the north west. Given a free hand, I would have preferred to see the High Wycombe, Aylesbury or Hounslow routes developed, but if HS2 continues as is, then I have to support the WCML link proposal.

The exact choice of routing is interesting however. The proposal suggests 8tph in peak and 6tph off-peak. In addition to the Watford to Tring section which should be served, it is important not to forget the London Overground all stops service from Harrow & Wealdstone to Watford which shares tracks with the Bakerloo from Harrow to Queens Park. This service runs 3tph, and could potentially be transferred to Crossrail. However, this would require additional investment in junctions and electrification. As such, it is likely that these services will be unable to be picked up.

I also note that in my opinion, the Old Oak Common interchange would be key. Stratford is a classic example of getting it wrong. The HS1 station is disconnected from the main station, requiring an expensive DLR extension to connect it up, making it highly inconvenient for interchange. It is vital that the Old Oak Common station is properly designed and planned to integrate the HS2 platforms, GWML platforms and the WCML platforms. They must be a single integrated station, not overly spread out - the passenger must come first.


The committed Crossrail service in the west is essentially incomplete. It runs to Maidenhead, when Reading is more natural and probably cheaper. It only sends 4tph to Heathrow, which makes no sense. And it only sends 10tph beyond Paddington, which is a huge waste of the central tunnel. The RUS proposals for peak of 8tph to Watford and 16tph to Heathrow/Reading make a lot more sense, although I would prefer to see new sections of 6 tracks on the GWML to allow a more standard split of services. I would also prefer to see the Heathrow Express scrapped entirely in favour of services through Crossrail.

Comments welcome on the Crossrail line west of Paddington!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Improving HS2 - Birmingham central

While my previous blogs have discussed alternatives to HS2 that I believe are better, I also want to write about options to make the current proposal more palatable. This blog focuses on Birmingham central.

One of my main criticisms of HS2 is that it doesn't meet the government's remit of a line from London to the West Midlands. The central Birmingham station of Fazeley Street only serves Birmingham city centre. It is completely disconnected from all other local railway lines, 5 minutes walk from Moor Street and 10 minutes walk from New Street. As such, there is no ability to travel on by train to the rest of the West Midlands, hence my claim that the remit has not been met.

The main issue in Birmingham is that New Street station is beyond capacity already. There is currently a large investment going into the station, but appallingly that investment will provide no new track-level facilities. As a result, Birmingham is going to face issues whether HS2 arrives or not.

HS2 Ltd's choice of Fazely Street just to the East of the city centre on a brownfield site is not by itself a bad choice. However, HS2 Ltd has had a failure of imagination by proposing it on its own. It is also a huge failure by being designed as a terminus with no possibility of future conversion to a through station.

View Larger Map

The Fazely Street site is the empty land on the right. Moor Street is centre right, New Street centre left and Snow Hill top left.

The distance to Moor Street is actually fairly small, so the first thing that must be done is to create a single station concourse that unites Moor Street and Fazely Street. This should also be under a single station name, say Birmingham Central. However, most trains in Birmingham serve New Street, and that is significantly further away. This is where imagination is needed...

Step 1 - lower the HS2 platforms into the ground. As the ground is undeveloped, digging a big hole and putting the station in it isn't nearly as expensive as building a tunnelled underground station. By being below ground level, it provides the ability for future generations to convert the station into a through station by building tunnels onwards under the city centre, perhaps to serve Wolverhampton or the main line to the Bristol. A terminus station is incredibly short sighted and will never permit future generations that option.

Step 2 - build a new station at ground level on the current lines into New Street. Now that the HS2 platforms are below ground, there is plenty of room for a ground level station on the current lines from New Street to Coventry and Tamworth. This station will need lots of platforms to be effective, due to step 4.

Step 3 - integrate Moor Street, the HS2 platforms from step 1 and the classic platforms from step 2 into a single station with a single concourse. The concourse would run South West to North East effectively along Park Street. All platforms would be served by escalators from this single concourse level built to the highest modern standards. This unified station would be known as Birmingham Central.

Step 4 - all services that currently serve New Street would serve Central. Some long distance services would only serve Central and would no longer serve New Street. This last point is critical, as it will provide the space in New Street (which cannot be expanded) for future growth in local services.

In summary, this is an imaginative proposal to create a new Birmingham Central station integrating Moor Street, new platforms on the New Street lines and new sub-surface HS2 platforms. Express services would only serve Central, while local services would serve New Street as well. This fully integrates HS2 with the local network and makes a huge difference to the viability of HS2 as a West Midlands service rather than a Birmingham city centre one.

Overall, I oppose HS2 because I think there are better alternatives. However, if HS2 does go ahead, this is one change that I believe to be absolutely essential.

Update: This proposal is similar to this Arup proposal "Grand Central", suggesting it is feasible and practical.

Saturday, 30 July 2011


In my last post I outlined the basis for my HS2 response, a key part of which is the availability of a better option - HC Midland, where HC is High Capacity, not High Speed. This blog provides a bit more detail.

A key problem with HS2 is that the ultra high speed of 400kph limits the capacity to 12 tph (trains-per-hour). HS2 Ltd believe that this number if 14 tph or 18tph, but even if the technical ability is found to run more trains than anywhere else in the world at this speed, it doesn't leave any room for recovery when things go wrong. As a nation, we should build new infrastructure on this scale with some room to grow.

Some have pointed out that 24 to 30 tph is possible in the central London sections of Crossrail and Thameslink, and wonder why not the same on HS2? Well, it is about safety - as speed rises, it takes longer to stop and so a greater gap between trains is needed. These greater safety margins also therefore result in fewer trains-per-hour. The faster the trains are, the fewer can be run each hour.

Since the great problem is capacity on the railways, ultra high speed makes no sense. Thus, HC-Midland would be targeted at a top speed of 155mph or 250 kph. This lower speed then means that trains can stop more quickly, and be closer together, probably increasing the maximum trains-per-hour to 18 without major technical issues.

The real question though is why go via the M1? A key reason is because it is an established transport corridor rather than a mostly green field route, and we should prefer existing transport corridors where possible. It is important to note that it will not always be possible to route beside a motorway, but frequently it is.

More important in this case is that the routing between the Midland and West Coats main lines allows far more connections to be made for more local/regional travel. This converts the investment from being one where there are no real benefits along the route, to one where value can be seen and understood. The key components to this are the new regional links that are created, not just national ones.

At the heart of HC-Midland is individual sections that can be invested in separately. While the whole proposal is shown together on the map, it would not be built in one go, but instead created as money became available. Each section also has a smaller price tag.

To aid understanding, this blog has a map referred to from now on. It is important to realise that this map is at the highest possible level with no detail implied, and is only intended for the purpose of this blog.

The key section is Northampton to north of Luton, section E on the map, which follows the M1 closely with tunnels for Northampton south and Newport Pagnell. This one section provides a vital new transport link for the area as well as longer distance services, allowing commuting or business travel between Northampton and Luton, or between Luton and Coventry, far easier access to Birmingham from Luton and St.Albans, plus new connections to Birmingham, Luton and Gatwick Airports. A station at Newport Pagnell would probably also be justified.

These new journey options are based on my assessment that there will be a little more space on the Midland main line than on the West Coast main line over the next few years. Thus the goal of this one new section is to move Northampton to London commuters to travel via Luton with comparable or better journey times, potentially into Thameslink. A Newport Pagnell station would also extract traffic from Milton Keynes. Both reduce pressure on the West Coast main line.

The second key section is Northampton to Leicester, section H on the map (with three broad possible route alignments, including one that simply reopens the old line to Market Harborough). This section provides new local connections between Northampton and Leicester, but also far easier access from Milton Keynes and Watford to Nottingham, Derby and further north. For example, one recommended route on the current network from Milton Keynes to Sheffield is via Stockport in the south of Manchester!.

Of course, while the regional links are useful, the full purpose of this section is to work with the section to Luton. Together they provide Midland main line trains with an alternate route from Leicester and the East Midlands to London, via Northampton. With new construction and design, there should be a small but not insignificant time saving for these services, but the main gain is in capacity relief of the core section of the Midland main line through Kettering. This allows for more passenger and significantly more freight services. (The Bedford-Bletchley-Oxford route connects up nicely with a relieved Midland main line for freight access nationally.)

These two sections are probably justified in their own right, even if HS2 goes ahead - the regional and national connections made are valuable enough.

However, the problem still remains of increased London capacity. The HC-Midland proposal uses spare railway land between West Hampstead and Mill Hill Broadway (section C) and a mostly M1 route with tunnels at Mill Hill, Brickett Wood and Luton (section D) to provide the essential capacity into London. A short tunnel from West Hampstead (section A) would allow access to Euston.

For Birmingham, sections F and G provide enhancements to the existing line from Northampton with some new sections (various route options). Notably, the work to provide 4 tracks between Rugby and Birmingham is needed anyway, irrespective of HS2.

It is easy to look at the map and think this is simply a straightforward alternative to HS2 on a different route. But that would be a huge mistake. Firstly, the lower top speed of 250 kph is more appropriate for the UK, putting the focus on high capacity instead. Secondly, the core routing between the Midland and West Coast main lines can follow the M1 to minimise damage from development and noise. Finally, the real gain is in the huge number of new regional links created, rather than just national ones.

If you believe this is a good approach for investing in UK rail, why not leave a comment!

Monday, 25 July 2011

HS2 consultation response

HS2 is the Government's proposal to invest £32 billion pounds to construct a new national High Speed rail line. The first phase, which the consultation is based on, is for £17 billion.

As a supporter of UK rail investment, it would be natural to assume that I would be in favour of this scheme. My initial reaction on hearing of the proposal was extremely positive. However, as the months passed and I investigated more, I came to the conclusion that the proposed scheme is deeply flawed on transport grounds. This is something I find deeply regrettable as it threatens other vital rail investment.

At this point I am required to state that I do not live along the proposed route (I live in South West London). However, I also have no great affection for the Chilterns. Were a Chiltern route the best option for the UK I would support it. However, as a general principle I believe that new transport corridors should only be created when routing via existing corridors proves to be impossible. And in this case a better proposal does exist using the M1 corridor..

In my HS2 response I cover in considerable detail the flawed methodology that led to the current route choice and provide a more sensible and viable alternative - HC-Midland - that can be delivered in much smaller phases as the need arises.

The four largest flaws with the HS2 methodology are:

1) An obsession with the lowest possible point-to-point journey times. In reading the various HS2 documents, it is clear that the methodology places an extremely high value on every minute saved. However, the approach does not consider the total door-to-door journey times of actual users. A point-to-point approach makes sense when considering a daily commute from a local station to a city centre. In this scenario, saving 10 minutes on the daily commute each way results in a considerably improved work-life balance. However, a longer inter-city journey should not be taken every day, and is frequently undertaken with luggage. Saving 20 minutes between London city centre and Birmingham city centre is irrelevant if it takes over an hour to get to the city centre station with poor station connections to the local public transport network. Given a choice, I therefore favour city-based rail investment over inter-city rail investment, except where they conflict (ie. where investment favours both inter-city and city-based).

2) An obsession with ultra high speed. The 400kph design speed is higher than other comparable railways are using and unnecessary for UK geography. Most high speed lines are run at 300kph. Speeds above that are only used where the two target cities are significantly far apart that the higher speed makes a real difference. France and Spain have an urban geography of large cities far apart with very low population density between. The UK however has large cities close together with significant mid-size cities and other dense population areas in-between. Unfortunately, HS2 is a scheme based on the French/Spanish model rather than the more similar German/Swiss model. The 400kph design speed also reduces line capacity, resulting in the crazy situation of a proposed new line intended to relieve capacity that will be at full capacity in trains-per-hour on day one of the new service.

3) An obsession with Heathrow. Government in the UK has not yet recognised that Heathrow is no longer in the top tier of world hub airports, nor developed a policy to either accept this or correct it. Part of this is a confused belief that huge numbers of passengers want or need to travel to Heathrow. This isn't the case (each plane carries relatively few people), and traffic over a high speed rail network to Heathrow would always be very limited in nature. Unfortunately, the HS2 route design used a constraint of travelling near Heathrow, which severely limited the available route choices.

4) An obsession with Birmingham. The HS2 proposal is supposed to be considering a proposal for a new line to Manchester and Leeds with an initial section to serve the West Midlands. unfortunately, this remit got corrupted to become a laser like focus on Birmingham city centre to the detriment of cities further north, especially in the East Midlands and Yorkshire. For example, the most cost effective way to reach Sheffield and Leeds is a major upgrade of the Midland Main Line from Leicester north, which can be achieved at a much lower cost than a dedicated line from Birmingham to Leeds. However, such an option requires the first phase to focus on reaching Leicester (a route which would also be suitable for the North West). However, because such a route, which is best for the North in general is worse for Birmingham, it was discounted due to the phase one limit of Birmingham. The consultation document contains a route selection diagram (B2) which emphasises this flaw by omitting Leicester, Nottingham and Derby entirely when considering phase 1 routes.

These four flaws, and four more covered in the response caused the selection of the HS2 Chiltern route and a heavy Birmingham city centre focus. This includes the Fazely Street station which is not linked to the local rail network at all, meaning that HS2 failed to meet its remit of a line to the "West Midlands", since only Birmingham city centre is served.

Having come to this conclusion I then became concerned that rejection of the HS2 scheme would threaten future investment in UK rail entirely. My interpretation of the available data is that some new line capacity will probably be needed on the London to the North corridor. The focus, for the benefit of the UK, should be on providing that new line capacity at the minimum cost and with the maximum benefit using far more phasing, ensuring that each stage is no more than £6bn and preferably much less. This led me to develop the HC-Midland proposal. However, such an investment must be balanced against the need for further investment on other over-capacity lines and stations, such as East Croydon, the Windsor line level crossings and the West Anglia Main Line. Dedicating all investment funding to one project is not acceptable, nor is it sensible for the UK economy.

HC-Midland, where HC stands for "High Capacity", not "High Speed", is a plan to provide a new route in stages as demand grows following the M1 corridor. The M1 route stands out head and shoulders above other choices on a sustainability view and its ability to be phased. Since capacity is the primary pressing issue, not journey times, running at a lower 250kph is far more appropriate. The route is designed, in the best German and Swiss traditions to provide incremental enhancements over time rather than a big bang. It is specifically intended to leave more money available for investment into the other city-based schemes, which have much clearer investment cases and benefit many more people's daily lives.

If you're reading this, there is a fair chance that you oppose the HS2 Chiltern route. My goal is to encourage readers to agree with me that the UK does need to invest in Rail, but with appropriate smaller projects, mostly less than £1 bn, that have a faster rate of return. In other words I want to draw opponents of HS2 away from solely opposition activities and towards a more positive alternative for UK rail investment.

I plan to cover the HC-Midland proposal in more detail in another blog entry soon. For more details now, see the HS2 response, but bear in mind that HC-Midland is intended to be built as part of a broader framework of investment focussed primarily on city-based schemes which would include some elements of the scheme known as "Rail package 2". Update: the HC-Midland proposal blog is now published.

I intend to support open commenting on this blog, however I ask commenters to stay on topic and to remain respectful at all times.


Welcome to this new blog where I plan to outline some proposals for investment in the UK rail network.

This blog has been started initially to have a home for my response to the HS2 consultation - the Government proposal for a new High Speed line from London to the North. In considering the proposal over many months I found that despite being in favour of rail investment, I was essentially opposed to the HS2 scheme. This blog is partly a reaction to explain how I came to that conclusion, and partly an effort to stimulate a debate on how smaller, more focussed schemes are better for the UK.

I hope you enjoy it!