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The Conservative Bow group are currently touting a ‘new’ report which claims we shouldn’t be building Hs2 but reopening old lines instead. The problem is, this report is neither new (it came out in August) or the ‘fresh thinking’ the group use as their slogan.

The report seems to have only one function which is to say “anything but Hs2”. The reports main premise is that whilst the railways clearly need new capacity, this can be provided by reopening old railway lines. How? They never say. Instead, they quote a few examples of lines that have reopened (the Borders railway being one) or lines that they suggest could (BML2). What they fail to deal with is what happens to trains from these lines when they rejoin existing routes. For example. New platforms had to be provided at Edinburgh Waverley to allow the Borders railway to use the station. Edinburgh had old platforms to allow this to happen. Most stations don’t. So, what do you do then? The Bow group have no idea.

The report also ignores the recent fall in performance & punctuality that has been linked to an increasingly crowded network. Put simply, the railways are that busy with extra trains there’s little room for the timetable to recover during times of disruption. The Bow groups ‘solution’ would be to make this worse.

Here’s the group talking about the capacity question.

bow group

How, exactly, can this be achieved “through the use of existing lines”? The Bow group don’t even attempt to justify this claim. There’s no explanation at all on how this can (supposedly) be done which makes this report worse than useless. It’s all very well making such assertions but when you can’t even justify them – what’s the point? The obvious question – how would running more trains in/out of our existing termini relieve congestion – is completely ignored. You might as well claim Heathrow doesn’t need a 3rd runway because planes can take new and different routes to get there! The best the group can do is say “the logistics of merging the flow of trains from a re-opened line into existing timetables is a large job in itself.”

So what’s their answer to this revelation? They don’t have one. That’s hardly surprising when you look at the references for this report. The group haven’t talked to anyone who understands how the railways work. Instead, they quote from the likes of the IEA and articles in the Daily Mail rather than Network Rail, timetable planners or signal engineers.

Clearly, the only point to this report is to try & cast doubt on Hs2, not to seriously address the issues of capacity & congestion on the UK’s railways. If this muddy mélange of sources and assertions without answers is “fresh thinking” then we really are in trouble.