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Rail future High-Speed Rail Conference. Jonathan Tyler Passenger Transport Networks, YORK Bletchley Park 9 July 2011. Why I’ve been sitting on the fence [1]. as a long-time environmentalist I hold to a radical critique of

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rail future high speed rail conference

RailfutureHigh-Speed Rail Conference

Jonathan Tyler

Passenger Transport Networks, YORK

Bletchley Park

9 July 2011

why i ve been sitting on the fence 1
Why I’ve been sitting on the fence [1]
  • as a long-time environmentalist I hold to a radical critique of

the concept of eternal growth / high capitalism / globalisation / hyper-mobility

  • transition to a less mobile society essential but will take time
  • and we need excellent public transport
why i ve been sitting on the fence 2
why I’ve been sitting on the fence [2]
  • demand for rail travel growing strongly and rail’s mode share rising
  • some difficult capacity issues
  • significant sections of the infrastructure are of poor quality
  • the pattern of services requires overhaul

>> high-speed rail could be part of the solution [just as it was in the1970s]

but i have been on a journey
But I have been on a journey …
  • invited by Greengauge 21 to design an integrated WCML + HS2 timetable : accepted, given longstanding campaign on need for strategic timetabling
  • not previously involved in HSR debate
  • objective view based on HS2 assumptions
  • delivered a detailed and credible proposal

Proposed integrated WCML + HS2 timetable at opening of HS2 phase 1

designed by PTN

for Greengauge 21

prepared using the Viriato software developed by

SMA of Zürich


Pathing schemes :

Crewe … London, up / southbound,

HS2 + inter-city + regional services


SMA of Zürich


Pathing schemes :

solutions for

specific problems

the Birmingham … Rugby corridor


SMA of Zürich


Capacity challenges :

Colwich Junction


SMA of Zürich

the beginning of doubt 1
The beginning of doubt [1]
  • simplistic assumptions about growth trends, sheer scale of expected demand, arguable economic evaluations
  • peculiar timescale, no carbon-reduction
  • no previous study of timetabling, only broad statements by HS2 – my conviction about its importance derived from Switzerland (Taktfahrplan stages)
  • problems passed elsewhere, eg. Stafford
the beginning of doubt 2
the beginning of doubt [2]
  • realisation that apparent anomalies reflect HS2 thinking (focussed on large conurbations, compare no Stoke stops)
  • dismissal of places not served by HS2, eg. one ‘residual’ train/hour for Coventry
  • confusion about links with regional and local services, eg. in Birmingham
  • uncertain role of Birmingham Interchange
then serious worries and few answers 1
Then serious worries – and few answers [1]
  • field observations inconsistent with rhetoric and with data about capacity

(WCML RUS, sources)

  • capacity – the problem of reconciling all the aspirations with the number of paths
  • no analysis of portion-working

(nb. both operational and infrastructural implications)

then serious worries and few answers 2
then serious worries – and few answers [2]
  • study of eastern arm of Y:

# no clear strategy for connectivity with ‘classic’ railway

# ex-urban railheads – unacceptable ?

# maximum HS2 capacity limits benefits of relief for MML, ECML

# confusion over cross-country services

# politics of Wichnor Curve

then serious worries and few answers 3
then serious worries – and few answers [3]
  • more superficial assumptions, eg.

# OOC interchange, GWML capacity

# workability of HS1 connection

  • no study of cost saving against disbenefits of British rather than European gauge
  • regulatory regime – in whose interests will HSR be operated ?
so what has gone wrong
So what has gone wrong ?
  • absence of a national strategy for public transport as context for planning
  • failure to consider alternative scenarios
  • predilection for grand projets
  • HS2 propensity toward ‘perfect railway’
  • dispersal of responsibilities

[DfT / HS2 Ltd / Network Rail / TOCs]

1 a national strategy for public transport
1) a national strategy for public transport
  • accessibility objectives, standards of provision, optimised connectivity
  • modal-split targets, eg. narrow huge disparity between high and low rail shares(compare environmental gain with promotion of new trips)
  • a national integrated timetable plan to frame investment priorities (Swiss model)
  • in its absence

# limited assessment of alternative programmes

# a technology in search of an application ?


toward an excellent system of public transport






national standards

of service-quality

and connectivity

modelling of









2 alternative scenarios
2) alternative scenarios
  • continuous growth
  • comprehensive socio-economic collapse
  • large reductions in mobility (esp. air ?)
  • moderate reductions in mobility
  • changes in composition of rail demand, eg. less long-distance commuting, many (non-London) trips transferred from car
  • much rail freight not environmentally sustainable ?
3 the grand projet
3) the grand projet
  • engineers propose, politicians are tempted
  • a problem (apparent capacity shortfalls),

a political hot potato (Heathrow),

a longstanding economic imbalance (n / s),

a shiny technology (HSR) loved by campaigners,

and envy of foreigners (Tokaido, TGV, …)

>> long-term, ‘transformational’ ‘solution’

  • excludes short-term, incremental measures
4 the perfect railway
4) the perfect railway
  • separation from ‘classic’ railway :

# understandable, visionary, BUT

# relevance in multi-centric Britain ?

# optimal specification not tested against lesser options (esp. speed)

# connectivity disbenefits

# two-tier quality of service

5 dispersal of responsibilities
5) dispersal of responsibilities
  • fragmented planning:

# WCML RUS passed buck to HS2

# no detail on WCML benefits until Greengauge study [TOCs indifferent]

# limited study of interfaces [HS2 / NR]

# unachievable aspirations [DfT]

  • timetabling culture discourages visions
capacity confusion
Capacity confusion
  • trains / hour

- Tokaido : 14

- RFF / SNCF : 13, rising to 15

- study for Greengauge : 16.6

- under ERTMS 3, in theory : 18

  • eddy-current brakes, calculated risk : 19.2
  • HS2 Ltd : 10 / 14 / 18

“Further work is being done to determine which of the above services might serve Heathrow and which might run on to mainland Europe”Department for Transport / HS2 Ltd, February 2011

capacity confusion the problems
capacity confusion – the problems
  • planning must not assume a techno-fix
  • complicates capacity release on classic lines
  • somehow we have to decide priorities
  • no credible basis for HS1, Heathrow links
  • infrastructure design, eg. E.Mids, portions
  • also affects Lichfield Y Junction … Water Orton East Junction
so what should now happen
So what should now happen ?
  • devise a national strategic (timetable) plan
  • for routes with capacity constraints identify step-wise solutions, eg. timetable recasts, fares, train-reconfiguration, minor works, then larger works for specific problems
  • for routes with long-run capacity constraint or sub-standard speeds consider new (but classic-compatible) alignments

Jonathan Tyler

Passenger Transport Networks

49 Stonegate, YORK YO1 8AW

01904 611187