Posted 16th March 2012 | 14 Comments

Engineer sets out plan for more trains on HS2

THE chief engineer of High Speed 2 has told an audience in Derby that sophisticated signalling, plus dedicated 'acceleration lanes', could increase headways from 18 to 30 trains an hour.

Giving the iRail 2012 Distinguished Lecture – ‘Designing High Speed Rail for Britain’ – at the Derby College Roundhouse, Professor McNaughton declared that the future was based on the use of dedicated Very High Speed Trains rather than compromise rolling stock like Eurostar, adding that with a new railway 'you can optimize every feature to maximize capacity'.

He said HS2’s control system would be based on ERTMS Level 2 train control, and would be designed to allow headways of two minutes, giving a theoretical capacity of 30 trains an hour. At the moment, a maximum of 18 is envisaged.

Headways would be maintained by trains stopping intermediately, such as at Birmingham Interchange, and then departing on 'acceleration lines' up to 14km long, so they were running at high speed before being slotted back in behind a fast train that had just overtaken them.  

He said an Alstom AGV with a maximum design speed of 350km/h, on which HS2 operations are modelled, could accelerate to 200km/h in 8km, and to 300km/h in another 5km.  

He also disclosed that Bombardier had been commissioned by the Italian State Railway to develop a 400km/h Very High Speed Train, while the Russians were looking at 500km/h.

Professor McNaughton said the detailed proposed route for the Manchester and Leeds arms of HS2 will be passed to transport secretary Justine Greening within the next two weeks, and could be available for public scrutiny in the autumn.  

In answer to questions from the 100-strong audience, he said that if the political and financial will was there it could be possible to carry forward the process, already adopted for Phase One, and move to a second Hybrid Bill two years after the first.

The length of time necessary to complete the northern sections will be less than for the first phase – because 25 per cent of Phase One to Birmingham will be in tunnels, which take a long time to construct. Some substantial viaducts will also be needed on the London-Birmingham section, again adding to the construction time. 

He said the crossing of the Colne Valley will be “the ultimate challenge for viaduct architecture.” Showing a picture of Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle and Carlisle line, he said that route would never be allowed now because it passes through a National Park.

Referring to the HS2 proposals for London, he said the city was the 'only true metropolis in Europe', and that it was necessary to be able to distribute people to all parts of the metropolitan area. This explained the plan for a major interchange station at Old Oak Common, just west of Paddington, which would enable passengers for the west and east of central London to continue their journeys with one simple change to Crossrail, while passengers heading north or south would continue to Euston, where they too could make one change to Underground, Overground or suburban National Rail services.

He added that the new station at Euston, which would include housing as well as commercial and retail developments, would be the size of 17 Emirates’ football stadiums, and would be 'the biggest development of any kind ever seen in London'. In support of the Old Oak Common plans, he said that the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham was regarding the development not just as a railway interchange but as a West London equivalent of the Docklands regeneration area.

He also predicted that, further north, the building of a new central station in Birmingham would trigger development of that city's East Side as a new commercial quarter, while the National Exhibition Centre area would become a new city, focused on crucial interchanges of railways and motorways. He believed the airport alongside the NEC would be able to claim the title of 'London Birmingham', because it would be closer to central London in journey times than either Stansted or Gatwick.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Mark Hardinge, Worcester

    I have been very pleased to read your article on the high-speed rail link HS2, but considering that it is the largest infrastructure project proposed in the last 20 years, there has been very little discussion publicly on the route chosen. This is especially important since within 2 months, the final plans will be agreed.
    I am sure you know that many object to the route chosen. What I feel is important is to discuss another route, that is extending the HS2 railway line from Stratford through the Lee valley to Ware, Welwyn Garden City, Luton and Milton Keynes. This is a much better route because it will pass close to modern industrial cities which would benefit from the HS2. It will use fewer tunnels, saving over 10 billion and save ruining much loved countryside. It also saves much money by not duplicating a London HS2 station. In addition to these benefits, because trains travelling in tunnels go at half speed, the alternative line will be much faster. Since there are so many benefits to this alternative route, I do feel it ought to be discussed openly, hopefully preventing adopting the presently proposed system which is second rate and vastly more expensive.
    Publicising this alternative route would do the country and many people a big favour.

  • Lutz, London

    @Simon Morris, South Heath - The Toledo-Madrid line is still open, and operational. The line you refer to was a politically motivated local line. One of the stops on the route has a population of only about 50k. This was not a technical failure, and, more to do with the dynamics of political interventions that have undermined high-speed rail in parts of France and Spain. You are not comparing like for like.

  • Lutz, London

    I would expect that Birmingham airport would see a drop-off in premium travellers as a result of HS2, with a shift towards more charter and low-cost traffic. The reason being that it would be more cost effective for airlines to offer thru-ticketing on HS2 services, rather than offer direct flights from either Manchester of Birmingham. BA and others are probably thinking along these lines given that they will have A380s to fill, and that provincial flights into Heathrow will be prised out due to the lack of run-way capacity. Even scheduled services into european destinations from Manchetser and Birmingham will be difficult to keep going as HS2 comes into play.

  • Phil Porter, Perivale

    Can somebody explain to me how it is going to be possible to live 10 to 15 metres away from the constant explosion of noise produced by 30 or even 18 HS2 trains every hour? Let's do some 'fag packet' maths. There are 60 minutes in an hour? Divide that by 30. That means a train every 2 mins. But wait, how long does it take to pass at a quarter of a mile long? So just a never ending barrage of noise then. Can the most excellent engineers, professors etc. salivating over this project please answer my question. How is it going to be possible to live next door to this nightmare?

  • John Morris, Birmingham

    HS2 cannot come soon enough. The original London to Birmingham railway took just over 5 years to build...

    Birmingham Airport will be at the hub of a network of great cities, of which London is just one. We need to get away from the London centric attitude that plagues almost every aspect of decision making in the UK. London is no longer the centre of the Empire!

  • Lee, Manchester

    The proposals sound intersting, as do some of the suggestion put forward by readers of this article. However, in reality none of this will happen as the rpice tag will be too high. What we will get, if anything, will be a slightly higher than existing speed mainline with rolling stock similar to the Siemens stock intended for ICE and Eurostar services. There wont be acceleration lines and the signalling is likely to be ERTMS2 or even TVM430. Remember, getting the Transport and Works Act through parliament is dependant upon MP's who make decisions based upon the number of votes it is worth in their favour. Even if there is a Transport & Works Order, this is only planning permission, it does not mean the 'network' will be built and certainly not within 2-3 years of approval!

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    When is commonsense once again going to prevail and construction of HS2 is undertaken as a single project on the full Y network as former transport secretary Lord Adonis proposed.

    The present government seems to think that building HS2 is simply a matter of transferring spending on Crossrail to HS2 with spending at the same rate per year. However, this might work for a Crossrail 2 but HS2 is a totally different kind of project with the opportunity to build sections of the route alongside the upgrade of the existing network.

    Even though the legislation may be done in two pieces then there is still no reason why legislation for the full Y cant be in place by 2018 which is when Crossrail is due for completion.

    Work could then proceed on sections in North West England that wooold serve Manchester alsongside work at the London End, The question that has to be answered is would doing this actually deliver better VFM and even bring down the total cost of the project?

    As to Euston the decision on whether the Overground will still serve Euston still has to be answered and if so would this not be beeter done by following the example at nearby St Pancras and moving the Overground into a box with potential to be extended across Central London and thus distribute HS2 and other passengers across London.

    As for the proposed station in West London could this include a HS2 branch to the GWR thus allowing at least conventional domestic high speed trains to run through to Wales and the West Country over the GWR as well as serving Heathrow Airport?

    HS2 needs someone with vision on board to fight against those who still think Horse and Cart is the best form of transport providing the horses are routed via another country lane to the one they live on!!

  • Michael, London

    HS2 should have 2 up and 2 down lines PLUS the additional acceleration/deceleration lines with full speed fly-overs where it branches at Birmingham Int'l at the mid-way point and there should be another line split when on the south end - as it passes over/under the M25- 2 lines go to Old Oak common and on into London. Preferrably to a NEW Euston HS2 station, totally underground with say 6 or 8 platforms that are on a east-west axis with the west exit at the current Euston and the east exit at Kings Cross/St Panc - the through set of tunnels could carry on and join into HS1 at the Stratford Int'l box or bypassing with the second set of bores connecting at Dagenham. This would give GB+ All the way to Scotland either the southern loop around via Gatwick or the through London being served by 400m double decked AGV/TGV's and double stacked containers using the routes during non passenger hours.
    The other 2 go directly to LHR T5, with a station built on a North South Axis so the line can then carry on paralleling the M25 with a park and ride station near the M3orA3 junctions where it then has a east-west axis station at LGW. The HS2(a) for airports branch, would then carry and joint HS1 at Fawkenham Junction to use the channel tunnel - the (a) tracks would connect the airports of Glasgow/Edinburgh - Leeds/bradford - Manchester - East Midlands, Birmingham, LHR, LGW, channel tunnel - then CDG and Schipol and Frankfurt.
    Build a railway fit for the 22nd Century, not one that is nothing more than we should have had 30 years ago in UK!

  • Martin, London

    Don't forget north and south connections at Old Oak Common, as well as Crossrail!

    Transport for London is researching the North and West London Lines, and the Dudding Hill Line, plus Sir Terry Farrell has proposed light-rail.

  • Pamela Fiddik, Ickenham, Middlesex.

    To end the tunnel at West Ruislip is a disgraceful decision. This tunnel should at least continue on to Harvil Road to stop people's lives in Ickenham and West Ruislip being ruined.
    This government doesn't care about people like us! Is this Democracy, and how democratic is the Hybrid Bill? In Canada Hybrid Bills are not allowed, as they are are not considered democratic!

  • Jamie, Farnborough

    So I assume all HS2 trains will be built in Derby by Bombardier? If the design is similar to Priestmangoode's Mercury train, this could be a truly British transport icon that we could all be proud of. It could become as evocative of the UK as the routemaster or the spitfire, iconic of a new forward-thinking and ecologically-minded country.

  • Simon Morris, South Heath

    Given that HS1 runs at about a third of the capacity originally forecast, that a number of European lines have similar experiences of vastly inflated forecasts for high speed rail, and the ultimate example of the Spanish Toledo line which closed after running with an average of 9 passengers per high speed train, the engineers are wasting their time developing this technology. Why dont they spend more time assessing demand and produce solutions that suit the market. Only in government funded and subsidised operations like high speed rail can such vast sums be wasted.

  • Bill, Millom

    It is a great shame that the stations planned for HS2 are to be terminals. The time taken to bring a train out of these stations will be artificially extended by the need for the driver to change ends to the detriment of passengers going further.
    I have not seen any comment regarding the platform heights regarding trains continuing onto "classic" lines. Since HS2 will be built to the requirements of the Interoperability Regs, the platforms must be P55 or P75 (550mm or 750mm heigh respectively). This could go against the requirements of the Persons of Reduced Mobility Regs which have required platforms to be either built up or another solution to reduce stepping height - a project which is still ongoing.

  • Jim Campbell, Solihull

    Birmingham Airport will remain as Birmingham. It does not need, nor should it be titled London-Birmingham. It can grow, yes, but to suggest otherwise just shows how London-centric this country is.
    It is inevitable that development will continue around the NEC but as someone who lives in the vicinity I sincerely hope it does not become a "city". If I thought that I might join those who are trying to stop HS2.
    Interesting comment about not being allowed to build the Ribblehead Viaduct today as it is a National Park. We can all remember the outcry when BR tried to close the route.