It’s been several weeks since the last load of rubbish about ‘alternatives’ to HS2, so the right-wing lobbyists, sorry ‘think tank’, at the Adam Smith Institute have dug up self-styled ‘rail expert’ Adrian Quine to cobble together the latest one. It’s a bit like Frankenstein’s monster, it’s made up of loads of old parts from previous ‘alternatives’ plus some new stuff that’s completely made up – as you’ll see shortly.
But who is Adrian Quine I hear you ask? Good question, I had to ask that too as I’ve never encountered him in all my years of working with or commenting on the railways. On Twitter he bills himself as a “Thought leadership consultant” (Gawd! Ed) as well as an ex-BBC broadcaster & “occasional Telegraph columnist”. So, no operational or practical experience of the railways then! Some ‘expertise’. Of course, the rail industry is quite familiar with ex-BBC types claiming that their stint at the Beeb makes them experts at everything.
Quine’s long, cobbled-together piece can be found at this link. Titled “Don’t railroad it through: Rethinking HS2” It’s clear that “rethinking” in many cases means “let’s just make it up and hope me claiming to be an ‘expert’ gives me credibility I don’t deserve”!
Here’s a few examples. This is from the opening page.
” Under HS2, a number of key northern cities destinations will lose direct trains to London, including Lancaster, Carlisle and Durham”
Really? And what evidence is offered to support this claim? A link to an HS2 document on the Crewe hub that contains an illustration of a possible service pattern that’s used for modelling purposes and that’s clearly labelled as such, and err – that’s it…
Now, you would expect a ‘railway expert’ to know that any timetable and stopping pattern on HS2 and the East and West coast main lines won’t be decided by HS2 Ltd. It will be decided by the Department of Transport, along with input from Network Rail. So this claim is demonstrably false.
“There are still sections of railway where 4 tracks are reduced to 3 or even 2 creating bottlenecks and severely limiting further growth. The mainlines do not directly serve cities such as Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds, requiring the use of slower regional connecting lines that halve speeds for the final 20-40 miles.“
Leaving aside the fact that the line from London to Birmingham is the original main line (not a ‘regional connecting line’) and that Hs2 will be running into Curzon St, the site of the original London & Birmingham railway station, Quine has shot himself in the foot. This isn’t an argument against HS2, it’s an argument FOR it. The idea that you could four-track the line from Rugby to Birmingham through Coventry except at massive expense, disruption and destruction is risible – and 4-track a live main line whilst it’s still in daily operation? Oh, please!
Next we have this:
“maximising current infrastructure by targeting bottlenecks on conventional lines, including building flyovers at key junctions, upgrading the Chiltern route to Birmingham or reopening the southern section of the Great Central railway, raising line speeds to at least 125mph;”
Not these old chestnuts again? “targeting bottlenecks” is like playing ‘wack-a-mole’, all you do is move the problem elsewhere, as those involved in the Staffordshire Alliance work at Norton Bridge know only too well. You’d think a railway ‘expert’ would too, but that’s the problem with Quine’s work. There’s lots of airy statements about ‘solutions’ but no serious attempt at analysis of them because he’s not capable – and he’s clearly not talked to anyone who is, hence the equally daft claim that you can upgrade the Chiltern route. A few minutes talking with any of Chiltern’s Management team would soon have put him right on that one. Unfortunately, the document is no longer available on line, but back in (around) 2012-13. Chiltern Railways wrote to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on High-Speed Rail in support of HS2. They pointed out that the Chiltern route could never be a substitute for HS2 as it didn’t have the capacity along the route, it was impossible to four track all of it and that there was no space left for extra services at Marylebone. Since then there’s even less as Chiltern have opened the new line to Oxford via Bicester. This is a complete non-starter, as any real ‘rail expert’ should know.
As for reopening the Great Central – give me strength! I blogged about that nonsense at length here. On page 23 Quine adds an extra dimension to this lunacy by suggesting that an “existing spur” between the WCML at Rugby and the Great Central at Rugby could be “reopened”
“Reopen the southern section of the Great Central railways far north as Rugby where it would connect with the WCML and a new or upgraded existing spur at Rugby from the WCML to Birmingham via Coventry and Birmingham Airport.”
What “existing spur”? The two lines were never ever linked! Will someone please buy Quine a map? Here’s the area surrounding Rugby station and I’ve highlighted the route of the old Great Central in Red. How on earth are you going to build a Southbound link between the two without demolishing large parts of Rugby? Oh, and if you did by some miracle manage to get it built, how are you going to deal with the fact several miles of the route is now designated as SSSI’s? Get past them and there’s the teeny little problem there’s no capacity left (and no space to build any more platforms) at Marylebone. The idea’s a complete non-starter.
On page 22 we’re told…
“The Euston Express proposal is designed to fully integrate both HS2 and classic WCML services into the existing station, rather than HS2 having a standalone station alongside”.
However, genuine rail expert William Barter tweeted this.
There’s much more. On page 11 Quine opines that,
“HS2 has unnecessarily used 400kph (250mph) speeds in its modelling to promote more impressive ‘end to end’ journey times.”
This is complete nonsense of course, and yet again William Barter (a man who knows a thing or two about such modelling) puts Quine right.
In fact, once Quine tweeted a link to this nonsense, a number of rail professionals and Journalists have jumped in and picked his rubbish to pieces. Here’s just a few examples.
You can find more at the #HS2 hashtag on Twitter. Suffice it to say, this rehash of failed ideas and fantasies is going nowhere. I could spend most of the day tearing it to pieces, but you get the gist. There’s all the usual nonsense about how digital signalling removes the need for HS2 (without the slightest analysis of how this works, especially on a mixed traffic railway), and just about every other excuse you can find. None of which are actually analysed or referenced. Many of the references listed in Quine’s article aren’t from academic sources or journals but from sources that you wouldn’t touch with a barge-pole! They include many media outlets like The Spectator and the Daily Mail, and those paragons of truth and accuracy, the Taxpayers Alliance!
But then Quine is hardly independent, as a few minutes browsing his Twitter account (@adrianquine) shows. He’s singing from the same libertarian, pro-Brexit, anti Hs2 song-sheet as the people he retweets, the odious Julia Hartley Brewer, the IEA’s Richard Wellings, Kate Hoey MP, Brexit Party funder Richard Tice and many others. This makes his next statement on page 26 especially laughable, and also deeply hypocritical.
“The rail industry is notoriously incestuous and is run almost entirely by engineers and career railway people rather than innovators”
Yet again the right-wing lobbyists try to turn their fire on HS2. Yet again they turn out to be using pop-guns….