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Hobbyhorse

This is one of Hitachi’s new IEP trains being tested. These or variants of this are to be supplied to the Great Western and East Coast franchises.

I regret to note that bits are already falling off, even before delivery.

London to Bristol Mainline

The electrification of the Great Western main line still seems to creating more and more problems, while delays and costs escalate.

 

The first definitive indication that all is now of increasing concern is that the Government has now confirmed that the first 21 Class 801s will be delivered as bi-modes rather than full IEP format. These will be in addition to the 36 bi-mode Class 800s originally ordered for the East Coast and Northern services and presumably has been done to allow the HST125s to be cascaded to ScotRail on schedule, thereby pacifying the Scots Parliament.

 

HS2

It is of interest to note just how deep in the mire HS2 may be, as present financial reviews indicate some the “savings” now being contemplated.

The Daily Telegraph has reported that cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has produced a review on how to keep spiralling costs under control. He has suggested that the line north of Birmingham be curtailed at Crewe and the 225mph trains join the existing “rickety, old Victorian railway” for the journey into Manchester and Liverpool. This will mean joining the rail-traffic queues of services already on the WCML, express, local and freight, whose problems will all be “fixed” by the addition of HS2 running on its own purpose built 225mpt track.

 

Perhaps we should get The Cour des Comptes (Audit Office) to remind the ministers of their report regarding SNCFs TGV system that:

1.  “…… blamed local authorities for pressuring the state to allow the TGV to pass through their towns, creating an “incoherent” network. As a result, there are now a total 230 TGV stations across France, many on lines which are loss-making for the state-run SNCF company”.

2. “40% of TGV trains still travel on conventional track rather than the specially built high-speed lines”. (This hampers progress and does not allow TGVs to operate at economic speeds.)

3. The report said that high-speed rail often failed to meet the necessary criteria. These were “to link large population centres, within one and a half to three hours, few or no intermediate stops, a frequent service, a high user rate and good connections to other forms of transport”.

4. The Audit Office recommended a gradual reduction in the number of TGV stops, better planning and more transparency in passenger statistics.

5. SNCF is already considering rationalising the number of stations and radically altering TGV operations.

6. According to a French business website, the rail company is also looking into possible first class fare rises and restrictions on ticket refunds and exchanges in standard class.

 

It is also suggested that the miles of tunnelling under West London and the Chilterns come under close scrutiny, that should cause the “monied gentry”  who have been previously placated by the pie-in-the-sky promises some new concerns, adding yet more and continuing opposition to the construction of “Cameron’s Folly”.

 

There is a bright side (for HS2), Liverpool City council obviously have money to burn despite the cut-backs, which seem to be throttling other local councils, they wish to offer 2 billion pounds toward the cost of extending HS2 to the city. I wonder how the citizens of Liverpool feel about their “rates” money being offered to this dubious enterprise rather than funding their commitments to voters.

As I recall HS2 was announced to be a 250mph railway to connect the North and Scotland to the heart of London, Heathrow Airport and Europe. It would connect all the UKs local airports to reduce the pollution of short distance air travel, while slashing travelling times, to allow all travellers a fast journey  at no more than the cost of using our “rickety, old Victorian railway”.

 

Where do we stand now?

1. HS2 may not connect to Scotland unless Scotland funds it.

2. The planned “Grand” Euston terminus to link with Europe is not affordable and if funds can be found at all, it will be an “add-on” shed to existing facilities.

3. The alternate link to Europe, Euston via St. Pancras, has been shelved (read abandoned).

4. The Heathrow extension has been abandoned.

5. More of the High Speed Track required to make the project viable is being abandoned before it is even built. (See TGV trains still travel on..)

6. The links to local airports seem to have been swept under carpet. East Midlands airport has lost its HS2 link and Manchester Airport is about to follow.

7. Probably the most vital stop for HS2, (that to centre of Manchester), seems to be in considerable question. (TGV trains still travel on….)

8. Increasing amounts of the WCML and ECML are being utilised as track for HS2. Given that both these railways are already, apparently, at full capacity, where and what will be done to accommodate the 18 trains an hour supposedly to be delivered by HS2.

9. HS2 was to provide surplus track paths and allow nearly all express Inter-city traffic to be removed from our “rickety Victorian railway” and to be replaced with relatively slow-moving freight traffic. Where is this traffic to go now, given that the 225mph trains will be running on large sections of our 125mph system and thereby driving freight traffic and some expresses on to “other” routes? Presumably the “alternate” ones closed by Messrs Marple and Beeching in the sixties and seventies!

10. The cost of tickets is a subject which seems to have gone very quiet.

 

God help us all and our wallets. Still it is comforting to know that we can go back to the motorways and sit in the traffic containing the freight and passengers which should be on the railways!                                          MPT