HS2 Is So Screwed

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There are two ways of looking at High Speed 2. One is a colossal waste of money inspired by the European Union’s insistence that there be high speed rail lines from one end of the zollverein to another, the other is a colossal waste of money by the home grown.

Either way the case for it is so screwed:

Exclusive: Commuters will be enticed back on to trains with three-day season tickets

For the underlying argument isn’t in fact about high speed at all. Rather, it’s about congestion on the passenger railways. And here we have the admission that 40% of the peak time traffic is at risk of going up in a puff of smoke. Otherwise no one would be talking about the idea of allowing people to only pay for 60% of the previous peak time travel.

There are other issues here of course:

Commuters will be offered three-day season tickets under plans being studied by ministers to get Britain back to the office.

This is what a state run something means. The ghastly people prepared to kiss other peoples’ babies – most of whom did that degree in speaking bollocks to a white tie audience – have to get together to decide upon what train ticket prices should be. Rather than leaving it to the people who know something about train ticket prices, the people who run railways.

The same is going to be true about a national health service, it’ll be the same know nothings deciding whether appendices are extracted though a vertical or horizontal slice – those whose experience of appendices is the back of reports. And so on and etcetera, the allowable loaf in a national food service will be whatever is recalled of the afternoon Nanny decided to do Home Ec.

But back to the trainspotting point here. At the same time that they’re desperate to stop commuters fleeing the rails they’re expanding the capacity of the rails with £100 billion – just you wait, it will be – of our money. This isn’t the way to run a country. It’s not even the way to run a whelk stall and Jezza’s brewery piss up would work better.

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John BBloke on M4Bloke in North DorsetAddolffSpike Recent comment authors
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Spike
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Spike

Yes, Westminster has a firm idea of what should happen (powerful trains, full to the brim), lacking only information on what IS happening.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

But, actually, they do know. This is my obsession which started with observation, but led to me finding data around peak crowding, season ticket sales, season ticket journeys. The Department of Transport pay for this data to be produced, showing problems for 3 years before Covid. The study into season ticket journeys even talks about the effect of people working from home. There was slight growth on the rail network in terms of journeys, but it was off-peak leisure travel rising, while commuting was falling. And there’s plenty of capacity for leisure travel. The problem is that like many things… Read more »

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

“This is what a state run something means. The ghastly people prepared to kiss other peoples’ babies – most of whom did that degree in speaking bollocks to a white tie audience – have to get together to decide upon what train ticket prices should be. Rather than leaving it to the people who know something about train ticket prices, the people who run railways.” Yup. And things like whether there’s going to be e-tickets, whether there’s going to be wifi on trains, who is going to make the trains, even, whether the new electric trains were going to have… Read more »

Spike
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Spike

Yes to all of the above! The next election, we know the MP and his opponent are going to be arguing about whether his rhetoric was improper, whether he has scandals in his past, and whether he cares about “people like me,” not the quality achieved by this department or that.

WiFi on trains? This could be a money-loser! The key is multiple competing systems, knowing they will make extra profit by guessing right (and measuring).

Bloke in North Dorset
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Bloke in North Dorset

I know rather a lot about WiFi and mobile coverage on trains. I can assure you outside city centres where the mobile coverage is dense enough to penetrate trains, forget it.

If you want the long answer I’ll be happy to talk about the hours I’ve spent in technical meeting representing the government and trying to persuade the railway and mobile companies to get on and fix it.

Spike
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Spike

Evidently “WiFi on trains” will require some number of new towers and repeaters across the countryside. But the right answer is not for gov’t to persuade companies to fix it, but for companies to decide whether it’s worth it, or to declare “our train doesn’t offer WiFi, but the tickets are cheap.”

Bloke in North Dorset
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Bloke in North Dorset

There isn’t that sort of market. The railway company won’t allow trackside mast in the area they own for safety reasons, outside that area too expensive to build.

I’ve been working in the mobile engineering business since 1990, believe me, some really big brains and some serious political power has been involved in trying to solve this problem.

Spike
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Spike

I don’t get it at all. These are all technical problems to be solved. Need more safety? Work the problem, lightweight mast with guywires on roof. Too expensive? Piggyback on someone’s existing structure. You don’t need WiFi everywhere, you need cell towers everywhere, and probably have them, then a cellphone Hot Spot on the roof of the train, feeding WiFi inside it. My Walmart $40 refurb would work. What am I missing?

Addolff
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Addolff

Spike, you aren’t missing anything. On my line(s) we have had wifi for years. It was First Class only to start with but is now (I think) universal. One or two black spots but perfectly acceptable for the majority of the journey.
Improve the lines we’ve got not spend £100B on a vanity project.

Bloke in North Dorset
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Bloke in North Dorset

As I said, the problem is outside cities in suburban and rural areas. If you’re not going to use WiFi distribution inside the train the sites need to be close to the track and closely spaced to get enough signal inside and to cope with the signal processing required for a fast moving train. You also have to cope with tunnels and embankments. Its possible to use mast and network and sharing to keep costs down, even though the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) hate network sharing. Its not possible build sites at the side of the track for safety reasons,… Read more »

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

because of all the faff of setting up and that how much everyone blocks content (like video streaming and VPNs), I don’t even bother with wifi now. I get 30GB for £25/month. If I want to use my laptop, I hotspot it.

I haven’t tried the trip to Exeter for a while where you got no coverage after Taunton for quite a patch, but on the Reading to Bristol route it seems to work fine (I’ll live with the loss of service in Box Tunnel for 2 minutes).

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

Around 2000, I was working for a small consultancy in Westminster. Most days we were on client sites, so it wasn’t worth my buying a season ticket. But very occasionally, I’d be in the office for 4 days in a week, and then it was worthwhile buying a weekly season, which cost about 3.5x the price of a peak period daily return. I wonder what the price of a 3 day a week season ticket will be? I suspect few people will work a 3-day week in the office. They’ll either be there full-time (for whatever reason) or one, maybe… Read more »

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

When you hit 1-2 days a week, or when everyone hits 3 days, what happens to the various forms of transport, though? The two benefits of train travel are avoiding congestion and that it’s not tiring like driving. Assuming we lose 40% of travellers, how busy are the roads going to be at commuter times? How much is parking going to cost when demand falls? I was doing a daily commute to Reading which became roughly 1 day a week. So instead of handing over £50+ quid for a ticket, I came up with a plan to drive to Theale… Read more »

MrVeryAngry
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MrVeryAngry

Of course the other class of people (the same class of people?) who benefit from spaffing quazillions on rail are landlords and rent-seekers generally.
Remind me, what were the ‘Tories’ named for…

John B
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John B

But working from home helps ‘stop’ climate change, so why get people commuting again?