High Speed 2: The ‘real’ Business Case.

High Speed 2: The ‘real’ Business Case.


Karol Tyszka, WSP UK Ltd


A high-level investigation into the benefits of the re-use of capacity released by HS2 on the conventional railway network in Great Britain.


High Speed 2: The ‘real’ business case.

There has been much debate in the public realm about High Speed 2: its costs, benefits, and the disruption – both temporary and permanent – it will cause to the many people living along its route. In times of austerity, questions are rightly asked whether the project represents ‘value for money’ and whether it is the right answer to Britain’s transport needs.
The main ‘selling point’ chosen by the government to promote the project is that of speed and connectivity. The business case for HS2 rests in principle on the revenue generated from increased demand levels, as well as on the economic benefits generated by the reduced journey times between the cities linked by HS2. However, little attention is given to the conventional railway lines and how these will be used once the line is built. The main reason for this is the planning horizon: HS2 is due to be fully operational in about 18 years from now. This means patterns of demand on the rail network will significantly change, and the shape of rail services will change along with it. HS2 has therefore been understandably reluctant to be seen to commit to a specific service pattern which would only come into force two decades from now.
However, it is the question of re-use of capacity on the conventional rail network that will prove to be most valuable. At present the conventional railway network is a victim of its own success, struggling to cope with demand within different sectors (long-distance, suburban, regional and freight). Unlike in other European countries, HS2 is set to enter the main destination cities of Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds without recourse to the conventional network, and with its own dedicated stations. This is set to provide additional capacity relief to the conventional network, as in all of the three cities mentioned it is the main stations along with their approaches that form the principal capacity pinch-points.
Thus far, no significant study has been carried out into the re-use of conventional rail capacity following the completion of both phases of HS2. This paper seeks to start this process. It attempts to answer the following questions on a relatively high-level:
- What are the current forecasts for demand for rail services in different sectors across different conventional routes affected by HS2?
- How much capacity will HS2 release from each section of conventional route?
- How can the capacity released on the conventional lines be used to cater for the additional demand?
- What is the likely scale of benefits this will bring?
As demand figures and demand forecasting tools are considered commercially confidential, this study will seek to use existing figures from public sources regarding demand and costs of rail services to prepare high-level estimates of the levels of benefits that could be expected from the reorganisation of conventional rail services as a result of the construction of HS2.


Association for European Transport