Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Up the right path

Posted in Europe, Great Britain, High Speed, Infrastructure by Chairman Pip on 22 October 2010

There seem to have been many goings on following the visit of Deutsche Bahn to London. Of course, there is the continuing ructions over Alstom, Eurostar and their little squabble, which has potential repurcutions for DB, and which has now gone to the High Court in London. But we also had Ulrich Homburg, the head of DB Bahn, heading up to the North-East to visit the company’s lastest acquisitions, Tyne & Wear Metro (which DB operates on behalf of the Tyne & Wear PTE) and Arriva (which is based in Sunderland). And while he was there, he intimated that DB may be interested in putting in a bid for the East Coast franchise, once it comes up for renewal, whenever that is intended to be. Of course, this has the potential to be exciting on its own as, given the proximity of King’s Cross and St Pancras, it would be possible to go from Scotland and the North-East to Europe using the same company’s trains. But, this got me thinking. Back when the Channel Tunnel opened, Eurostar planned to operate regional services to cities outside London. A total of seven full trainsets (14 half-sets) were built to operate these services, which were four cars shorter than the standard Class 373s, while slots were written into the national timetable to accomodate these services, which were given the name “Regional Eurostar”. Indeed, there was a great deal of criticism that the timetable was not reallocated to increase capacity for other operators once it became clear that Regional Eurostar was going to be a non-starter, because these slots remained as “ghost trains”. But, what has got me thinking is this – how difficult would it be, were Deutsche Bahn to obtain the East Coast franchise, to operate through trains from the East Coast Main Line onto High Speed 1? Now, before anyone starts criticising and saying “oh my God, you’re so fucking stupid!!”, let me at once say that, as with most of what I write on here, this is mere idle speculation on my part. Let me also say that I am aware of the potential difficulties that would arise:

  • A viable route would need to be found between HS1 and the ECML. Does one exist already? If not, then a connection would need to be built.
  • DB’s existing rolling stock would not fit the British loading gauge. There are of course the seven Class 373 sets, which are currently being used by SNCF, but which are owned by Eurostar (who would likely be unwilling to turn them over to a competitor).
  • There remains the issue of the Schengen Agreement, to which the United Kingdom has not signed up (and which will be an issue for Deutsche Bahn’s planned services to Frankfurt and Amsterdam), which would require modifications to anywhere that international trains stopped in the UK.
  • Operating to regional destinations, even if it were a case of running non-stop to terminals such as Leeds or Edinburgh, would still put the train significantly over the 5 hour threshold that is accepted to be where rail stops becoming competitive against air travel. This would likely still be the case even if the ECML was upgraded to 140mph running with improved capacity.
  • Do Eurostar’s old paths even still exist in the timetable? We all know that the ECML is pretty packed as it stands, with plenty of horse trading for new slots, improved timetabling and the like between all of the operators on its route, so putting services like these in would probably be difficult.

But, assuming these difficulties could be surmounted, how difficult would it be to see regional trains coming in via the Tunnel? This may not be as loopy a thought as you might believe, given the government’s stated aim of including a connection between High Speed 1 and High Speed 2. Of course, running such trains ten years prior to the opening of HS2 would probably end up being just as difficult, and three times more expensive, than simply building HS2 and its connection in the first place. But one can idly speculate.

“Takeover could take travellers all the way”


2 Responses

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  1. lastactionseo said, on 23 October 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Nice!were can i find the like-button or twitter-retweet-button 🙂 Matthias

    • Chairman Pip said, on 24 October 2010 at 1:50 am

      Click on the individual post, and you’ll find the re-tweet button, the like button and the rating

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