Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Boondoggle Saints

Posted in Commuter, Customer service, Great Britain, High Speed, Infrastructure, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 25 November 2010

A new word has entered my vernacular; “boondoggle”. Ever since Governor-elect Scott Walker of the great state of Wisconsin decided that a railway line linking the capital city and the largest city in his state was one, and called it such, I have adopted the word “boondoggle” and will try to use it more in conversation. So, what’s to be done about the boondoggle of Southeastern’s “highspeed” service? While it is true that people can get from Kent into the centre of London faster by making part of the journey on High Speed 1, it means that other mainline services to Southeastern’s main London termini have been reduced, and that passengers are paying first class prices for standard class trains. While I have said before, on many occasions, that people are willing to pay for time, that would usually be in the case of intercity journeys with comfortable (relatively) seats and tables for working at, not for a commuter train (albeit a very fast one). The service is not helped by operating on what is essentially the high speed line to nowhere, at least as far as domestic trains are concerned. Going as far as Ashford on the high speed line, and then coming off onto the ordinary network for twice the distance limits the potential of what could be acheived. So what’s to be done? Well:

  • Forget the idea of domestic services in their current format, and return the paths used back to the mainline network. Some of these could potentially be diverted into the old Waterloo International platforms that currently sit idle waiting for use. If the government ain’t gonna pay, and South West Trains ain’t gonna pay, to bring them back into the use they’ve been proposed for, get someone else to use them. This could well have the added benefit of easing the congestion at Victoria.
  • Implement the Transmanche Metro idea in its place. High Speed 1, and its connection to the TGV network, massively expands London’s potential commuter belt into north-west France, while at the same time allowing for the potential of commuting to Paris from south-east England. By connecting stations on HS1 and LGV Nord to the regular rail network, you can expand the potential for commuting by ensuring that the high speed stations are not isolated for those commuters that don’t live very near one.
  • Build a Folkestone high speed station, that could be used both for these Transmanche Metro services, but also as a way of implementing the idea I’ve kicked around of having walk-on Eurotunnel Shuttle trains to cater for those passengers that don’t want to drive, but also don’t want to pay the prices Eurostar charge, a demographic that is lost to the ferry companies.
  • Move the Class 395 fleet to operate those services that were intended for the 5-car “inter-urban/commuter” element of the IEP. This can implement an instant 125mph capable commuter service where it is (supposedly) needed without the need to spend hundreds of millions of pounds trying to twist the IEP specification in knots to turn it into a one-size fits all platform.

Of course, there are other issues that would need to be addressed, particularly in expanding the commuter belt into France. While the IGC have moved on the question of distributed traction, they have not yet (and do not seem likely to) moved on the length of train issue, as Deutsche Bahn have found out with their London plans. But, would it be possible to fill a 400m long commuter train? Similarly is the issue of the Schengen Agreement, that Britain has not signed up to, and which means commuters from France to England would need their passports every day. Nevertheless, as an idea (and remember that is all this is), it seems to me a better use of the infrastructure than the boondoggle of Southeastern Highspeed.

Class 395 units at St Pancras - both these, and the infrastructure of High Speed 1, could be used better than on Southeastern's boondoggle


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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by gloverka, Chairman Pip. Chairman Pip said: Boondoggle Saints: […]

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