Oh Dear Lord, are they serious?

HS2 should consider slowing the speed of its trains to save money or risk only completing half the line, peers have warned, as they called for a major rethink of the Government’s flagship transport project.

Snigger.

The only reason even the cooked and biased cost benefit analysis works is by having higher speed trains. Slow them down and there’s no point to the project at all.

29 comments on “Oh Dear Lord, are they serious?

  1. A report published on Thursday also suggests looking at scrapping plans for HS2 to terminate in central London and cut costs by switching to a west London site on the outskirts of the city.

    Banner headline in brochure: WE WILL CUT JOURNEY TIMES TO LONDON*

    * Small Print: London is defined as a field just inside the M25. Make your own way in from there, whatever.

  2. This is what all the Fat Spud’s infrastructure splurge will be like. More power to the all knowing State!

  3. This has been on the cards for a while.

    Obviously it’ll be descoped, over budget, and late. And they’ll pull more numbers and models out of their posteriors to justify it.

    I don’t get why this was so hard. Pursue a project if and only if, it has a sensible case. If you make a case and it turns out to have holes that can’t be fixed, can the project. I bet such obvious points would be observed if MPs own money was at risk. Romans making engineers sleep under bridges they made for two weeks etc.

    If they’d have decided that actually it’s all about capacity and the time savings were over-valued, then knowing this from the start they could have taken a slower cheaper route e.g. using the M40 corridor.

  4. “….Slow them down and there’s no point to the project at all”.
    You really think that the sceptics don’t realise that?

  5. The originally-planned London terminus was Euston. I live in NW2, so if I were to use this then realistically I’d have to take public transport to Euston. Door-to-door, google maps tells me it’s 32-45 mins as I writing this (the crow flies distance is about 5.5 miles). If I build in 10-15 mins grace to ensure I make the HS2 train I need, I’ll assume an hour for that stage of the journey. I think we’re told London to Brum will be just under an hour. So that’s just under two hours on public transport.

    Alternatively, the M1 and M6 will get me there in 2 hours and 9 mins (as I am writing this), in infinitely greater comfort and privacy and that is with, last time I did it, miles of average speed cameras restricting drivers to 40mph. And this way I do not have to lug bags full of folders and texts halfway across the country.

  6. Anyone who has worked on large projects will recognise the signs of a final death spiral.

    Phase 1 – lowball costs to get management buy-in.
    Phase 2 – ratchet up costs to true level as project progresses
    Phase 3 – management tire of ever-increasing costs: “This project must be completed within its existing budget”
    Phase 4 – latest generation of project managers start cutting lumps out of the original scope in order to keep within budget.

    The end product is something that costs twice as much as original estimates and delivers half the benefits.

  7. One hopes this is part of a political dance that’s required to be performed before cancellation.

  8. * Small Print: London is defined as a field just inside the M25. Make your own way in from there, whatever.

    Tomorrow’s Headlines: Michael O’Leary sets up new rail franchise business

  9. The Edinburgh tram cost £1Bn for 8 miles of track (and over £7m for the inquiry… into why it was such an expensive fuckup).

    Maybe HS2 is just trying to one-up the Jocks? £56Bn (that the government will admit to) so people can get to Birmingham slightly-faster-but-not-really. This austerity business is a bitch, eh?

  10. @Steve – Reports in 2017 said the cost of HS2 would be £403m per mile. The Jocks are amateurs!

  11. Anyone who has worked on large projects will recognise the signs of a final death spiral.

    If senior managers applied the law of PI more often they wouldn’t even get off the ground:

    Multiply all first estimates of a project by PI and if the costs and timescales aren’t acceptable don’t go any further.

  12. When it comes to HS2 I still don’t understand why there are so many businessmen (and women) whose time is so valuable that we need to spend £squillions so that they can save an hour or so sat on a train.

    I get that relationships need to be built and that requires face to face meetings, but for most meetings web conferencing and video conferencing is acceptable and fairly easy. I used to chair a web conference while anchored in Studland Bay with other participants scattered all round the country. In the ’90s we had conference calls with people sat on 3 continents.

    And its not as if these businessmen (and women) are in dead time sat on trains. Reports need to be read or written and sometimes its nice to have time to sit and think without interruption.

  13. 1) Cancel HS2.

    2) Sell the bloody aircraft carriers and cancel the aircraft ordered for them.

    3) Cancel the Foreign Aid budget – those of us who wish to aid foreigners can use our own money.

    Having thus built a bit of slack into the government’s budget, use it to buy out all sorts of madness in the taxation and dole systems.

    Then while the abolition of those insanities provides a further potential flow of revenue, sort out what is a legit demand on the taxpayer, and what can best be dealt with by leaving him more of his own money.

  14. > It’s not as if these businessmen (and women) are in dead time sat on trains. Reports need to be read or written and sometimes its nice to have time to sit and think without interruption.

    High Speed (2) is the wrong target; we should be aiming for High Productivity. This means soft furnishings to keep the noise down, rock-solid telephone and internet connectivity throughout the journey, and old-fashioned isolated compartments for making conference calls. Compartments should be booked so as to minimise disruption: i.e. all passengers in a compartment should embark and alight at the same stations. Of course, this doesn’t need a whole new railway; just a refurbishment of the existing First Class carriages, rebranded as Business Class.

  15. BiND,

    They say “business people” but it’s really about the rail people wanting more lines (based on extrapolating rail growth of commuters) and the Tories doing some PR to attract northern voters.

    Apart from the thing of working on the train, that level of growth isn’t continuing and in fact, demand has slacked off.

    The big things are working from home and distributed offices.

    A study recently showed that commuters are doing 8.5 trips per week. So, not quite 1 day a week at home on average, but close to it. 12% fall in season ticket sales. I see it on the Swindon to Reading train. The carriages used to be standing room after Didcot, and they aren’t now. Everyone gets a seat.

  16. You can get from the North West to London in around 2 hours on the train (plus another hour for transfers both ends), so you can travel from Manchester to London for the best part of a day of meetings and be home in time for supper.

    HS2 won’t get rid of the transfer time either end, even if it doesn’t start from a field near Slough, so the overall time saving is not that significant.

    I just don’t see how the time saved translates to worthwhile productivity gains. Andrew M’s idea makes a lot more sense.

  17. MC – Yarp

    Imagine if we spent £56Bn (in reality, maybe three times that when the HS2 bills are due) on upgrading the motorways and A roads.

    Motorway delays probably cost the economy more than rail delays. So turn the M6/M74 into a proper superhighway. If this driverless car thing takes off, give them a designated Autobahn type fast lane (no particular reason to apply human speed limits to computers, eh?).

    But then the miserable, wretched Tories, especially Smeagol Gove, hate the idea of the plebs owning cars. They’d much rather tax and regulate us off the roads so they can zip around in their Zil lanes telling us how strong and stable they are.

  18. Rob#1: Just as Sheffield’s HS2 station will be in a field next to the M1. So I have to get a bus into Sheffield, then a train from Sheffield to Sheffield Ajacent to get a train to London. Bugger that, once I’ve got to Sheffield itself I’ll give up and just get a London train from there.
    They seem to be thinking of HS2 in motorway terms – as a spine that individual journeys branch off from – but with motorways you don’t change your mode of transport, the vehicle itself branches off, that model doesn’t work for mass transport.

  19. So they knocked down a decent chunk of the area NW of Euston, including a lovely old pub called the Bree Louise, to end up terminating the line somewhere up by Watford instead?

    Useless cunts. There are people who need to be hung out to dry for this, a real Ecksie special.

  20. Don’t know the Bree Louise, Rob. Where was that?

    Plus, knocking down a decent chunk of the stuff NW of Euston is difficult to get worked up about. Mind you, I didn’t live there.

  21. @Phil May 16, 2019 at 7:58 am

    If there was need and demand for HS2, private companies would be queuing up to provide it.

    Private won’t do big infrastructure? Bollocks, they’ve been screaming for decades to be allowed to build new runways – iirc LHR 3 is ~£18 billion

    .
    @Henry Crun May 16, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Snigger. Ryanrail was my thought too.

    .
    @Steve May 16, 2019 at 9:33 am

    Despite Edinburgh 1/2 tram line being a clusterfcuk politicians are planning to extend it.

    Never mind that it will never make a profit that covers construction cost, they’re hoping it might make an operating profit.

    Jouney time? Bus is quicker than tram from CC to airport.

  22. A report published on Thursday also suggests looking at scrapping plans for HS2 to terminate in central London and cut costs by switching to a west London site on the outskirts of the city.

    Terminate at Heathrow?

  23. A report published on Thursday also suggests looking at scrapping plans for HS2 to terminate in central London and cut costs by switching to a west London site on the outskirts of the city.

    Why not get Ryanair to run it and then you could terminate HS2 at London (Birmingham Airport). It would cut the journey time from Birmingham to London to about 15 minutes. And there is a train line already if you want to get elsewhere in London.

    They could save an absolute fortune.

  24. A new line between London-Manchester via Birmingham is needed because the existing line, the WCML, is full. It is full because the Victorians put stations like Adderley Park, Canley and Penkridge on that line while only having 2 tracks. If you don’t care about killing the occasional passengers then you can ignore today’s safety standards and go back to Victorian times, but otherwise, trains are already as long as possible, run as fast and as close as possible after each other, and the lines around Birmingham can’t be quadrupled without destroying a large amount of Birmingham suburbs – which may be a good thing but not if you like private property (yes I know the existing plan includes compulsory purchase of some homes). As soon as something goes wrong (track trespasser, someone vomiting on the train, equipment failure) then delays cascade to the rest of the day and/or there are lots of cancellations.

    If you are going to build a new line, making it “high-speed” or not barely changes the total cost – so the peers are talking nonsense.

    Regarding driving, personally I live close to an M40 junction and so I drive when I am going to the outskirts of Birmingham. But if I want to go to the city centre, the train is more convenient (well, I drive to Milton Keynes and get the train from there, because it’s easier than going to Euston). Evidently enough people are taking the train as more and more tickets sales are being recorded every year and anecdotally most trains are full during the day, despite the whining about extortionate prices and it being cheaper to fly from Stansted to Oslo Torp or whatever. If there is demand for more trains this should be fulfilled, but it can’t be without building a new line.

    Regarding the outer London stop (which would be at Old Oak Common), it would make sense to have this in order for passengers from the midlands and north to transfer to Heathrow and the west/southwest without needing to go from Euston to Paddington, clogging up the tube and roads with Ubers; and vice versa. Of course, stopping will add 2-3 minutes of dwell time and 5-10 minutes of deceleration/acceleration time, and the government thinks that people would only support HS2 because of the shorter journey time, so is against this. Yet the fact is that few people care about the journey being faster than today.

  25. John,

    All of what you say might be true. But the question you haven’t answered is this the best use of the amount of money that will be needed. I don’t think it is. I think the country would get far more value out of lots of smaller more incremental improvements. Your anecdotal evidence that people living along the line are better served by driving to intermediate stations and catching trains from there, shows that the main benefit will be to London blubbers get there journey times reduced. You could make the case for increased road capacity too, but no new major roads will be built.

  26. If you are going to build a new line, making it “high-speed” or not barely changes the total cost – so the peers are talking nonsense.

    Bollocks, Running trains at 200 mph rather than (say) 140 mph requires a completely different style of line – wider, much straighter, far more tunnels/viaducts, and probably increases the total cost by an order of magnitude.

    The initial cost-justification for HS2 was based on time-saving. Tim (and a bunch of others) blew that out of the water, so then it became about relieving congestion. If you really believe that (I don’t, it’s based on projections by consultants being paid to produce a particular answer), then the solution is a four-track conventional line, built to continental (Berne) loading gauge. There is just such a project, costed and ready-to-go – reviving the Great Central railway. It would be vastly cheaper than the farrago that is HS2 and deliver far more capacity.

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