The 7.20 train to Manchester


I was able to do some more spot checks on the capacity issue on railways to Manchester when going to conference.

I caught a later train than I usually do to go to Manchester. The 7.20 you might have thought would be one of the busiest, getting you into Manchester in good  time for a 10 o clock meeting.  When we left Euston over half the seats in the Standard class carriage and  70% of the seats in the 1st class carriage where I counted   were empty. The proportion empty rose  at Milton Keynes, the first stop on the route, and stayed that way for the rest of the journey. That was despite the Conservative conference which must have  created some extra demand.

The other carriages on the train seemed similarly populated to the ones where I counted. Coming home on the 9.15pm  most seats in Standard were empty, with around 90% of the first class seats empty  in a carriage where I counted.     Tickets were checked both  before getting onto the platform on the way to Manchester, and again on the train  just as we pulled out of Euston. Tickets were not checked on  the way back.

When I try and get on a commuter train at Reading or Wokingham during the morning peak we have a real capacity problem. I went to a reception with the  train operating companies at conference, and talked to them about the priorities I draw from these experiences. We need to boost capacity on popular routes at popular times. The main capacity problems seem to be on commuter routes into major cities.  Once again I did not experience any capacity problem on trains out of Euston,  or back to Euston.

It will be interesting to see if Labour’s reshuffle heralds a change of their view on HS2. The new Shadow Transport Secretary is not such a keen advocate, and I hear the Shadow Treasury team do think they would like to get  their hands on the £50bn in the books for HS2. The fact that it will all be borrowed would not put them off proposing spending it in some different way if they do decide as a matter of Shadow policy to ditch the grand project a Labour government started.


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  1. Andyvan
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Typical. A ridiculous proposal to spend money on a white elephant vanity project using money that isn’t theirs and doesn’t, in fact, exist until conjured up by the Bank of England is somehow transformed in the minds of politicians into a pot of cash that can be fought over and distributed to whatever stupid scheme they can dream up, preferably with a hefty fee for them or some of their friends.
    What about coming back to the real world? The one where the country is broke and only continuing to function by borrowing or printing vast sums that devalue the currency even more than it already has been. The one where those that don’t feed off the public purse are getting poorer year by year. What about some financial competence from the people that purport to represent their constituents?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Agreed, except that so far there is no evidence from the sterling trade weighted index that QE has devalued the currency:

      Note that the relatively small falls which caused exaggerated panic reactions in the media earlier this year – “sterling crashes”, “the pound plunges”, etc – have proved temporary and have now been reversed, with the index more or less back to where it was in October 2012.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

        I should have made it clear that I meant the external value of sterling against other currencies, not its internal purchasing power.

        • Gary
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

          all currencies are falling, those that fall slower than others may appear to be rising.

          The only true measure is what goods and services you can actually purchase for this paper.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

          Phew – lucky I put in that clarification!

          The first £200 billion of QE in the UK supposedly added between 0.75% and 1.5% to CPI inflation:

          Extrapolating that to £375 billion of QE would make it between 1.4% and 2.8% extra inflation, say as a best guess around 2%.

          Therefore whatever other effects it had, £375 billion of QE has not actually “trashed the currency”, as some people (including myself) thought that it might and some people still assume that it has; there has been no discernible effect on the external value of sterling, and it seems there has only been a minor impact on price inflation.

          Which naturally enough has led some on the left to be seduced into the dangerous notion that there is no need for the government to do anything about its budget deficit because it could “simply” have more money printed to cover its debts, see some of the comments on the “Living within your means and avoiding too much borrowing is now “madness”” thread a couple of days ago.

      • stred
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        The spending power of government employees- public pensions, reundancies and re-employment, and welfare has increased along with inflation. The spending power of those employed in the private sector and savers has been reduced. Exceptions are the bosses of major companies, accountants, consultants and lawyers who depend on government regulation and capital spending.

        The transfer of wealth from private to government is balanced in order to create enough inflation to be tolerable and reduce the evntual debts, while the £ stays the same against other currencies, as their goverments are playing the same game. And, best of all, few voters realise this and the growing proportion who depend on the government spending and don’t care anyway.

        • uanime5
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

          May people working the private sector get welfare, such as housing benefits and tax credits. So in may cases in the private sector is using the government to ensure they can pay low wages.

      • Mark
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        Much of the trade weighted index consists of other currencies that have also been indulging in QE, in what amounts to competitive devaluation. It makes rather more sense to look at the purchasing power of a basket of commodities, or commodity price index, which reveals that major currencies have devalued sharply, especially in the light of the demand slowdown that the global recession caused. Such indices are to some extent influenced by flows that are not directly related to changes in currency value: for example, problems in other markets can lead to liquidation to fund losses elsewhere, and depress prices temporarily.

        • margaret brandreth-j
          Posted October 17, 2013 at 6:05 am | Permalink

          quite , so the playing fields are levelled.

    • oldtimer
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      You make sound points. I blame tunnel vision.

      • alan jutson
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

        Yes, they simply stand on their political platform and signal more spending, simply shunting the money we have not got sideways.

        Let us hope a whistle blower will halt such an outcome.

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

        It is a case of four leg good two legs bad. The government and BBC thinkers) have it in their green religion agenda that:

        trains, Buses, bikes, walking, electric cars, so called “renewable” energy etc. are good and efficient and personal transport cars, vans, trucks & planes are bad. Their is no real science behind this religion whatsoever.

        Would 7 people, walking London to Manchester, over say 5 days (with meals and hotels) really save energy over the 3 hour journey using 4 gallons of diesel in a Ford Galaxy? It certainly would not be very high speed (which they do seem to like). I wonder if the BBC staff walk or bike London to Salford – in accordance with the religion. Just them by their actions.

  2. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    A few (and I cannot remember their names :it is not an academic exercise) are convinced that the returns on HS2 would be large enough to warrant the expenditure, but I do agree with you that it seems a too large risky step. We have to stop spending on the unnecessary .
    When I travelled from Milton Keynes to Euston however, I found the trains bursting at the seems with bodies and spent an uncomfortable hour perched on the edge of a ‘jutty out bit’of one of the chrome rails. Everyone was either playing with their phones or ‘I’ pads to pass the sardine -can time. The beginning of the journey commenced with everyone hovering on the white lines , guessing where the train doors were to open so they could elbow their way in first, to get to the last few remaining seats. I paid good money for that ticket and wasn’t so bothered about an extra 20 mins off the journey as much as a comfortable ride.
    There must be an easy way to assess capacity with the amounts of tickets sold. Perhaps someone could audit this and let the public know before anymore rash thought is given to HS2.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Indeed and with more video conferencing and the likes thereis even less need to travel anyway.

    The fact that you can work on the trains makes saving a little time of HS2 largely irrelevant.
    High speed train are faster often due to fewer stops which make the end connections longer anyway often travelling 30 miles in the wrong direction at each end before the main journey.
    Buses and cars have by nature to be part empty on their journey they leave the depot empty slowly fill up at stations and then empty and often return largely empty. Buses seating 50 odd might have average occupancies of only six depot to depot. Trains are often not much better but the customers by definition catch the full ones (and thus think they are much fuller than they actually are). They have a sampling error not often seeing the empty ones returning or at non peak times.

    Certainly little that is economically about trains (with the many staff, stations and tracks needed too) that is why they have to cost so much too. Personal transport, air travel and virtual travel are largely the future. Investment in some commuter lines make some sense.

    Cancel HS2 please now and stop all the damage to people’s homes and businesses and all this pointless waste of money now please.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      lifelogic–Re commuting and North London in to the City in particular the first thing that should be done is to re-open the overground lines from the old station actually at Alexandra Palace (as against the old Wood Green renamed) and the old Noel Park. Think of the huge weight lifted off the crowded Northern Line and roads in to the City. Presumably stand-alone accounting showed losses (maybe) but what about a couple of subsidies such as one reads about these days all over–at least in these two cases there would without doubt be a wider good and with no environmental damage–indeed the already built viaducts are things of beauty.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        Postscriptum–And think of all that benefit to GDP and employment getting the lines up and running again,

    • Bazman
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      What if you have to travel long distances on a regular basis as in every day. Get the chauffeur to do the diving or if you are middle class the driver? How are you getting on with you loan company crusade.

    • Hope
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

      The EU wants a separation of trains from infrastructure that is why it has happened not because of the UK government. More stupid socialist ideology that HS2 will have to follow.

      Reply That is not why it happened, as I have explained before.

  4. Bob
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    ” That was despite the Conservative conference which must have created some extra demand.”

    Not so that you would notice.

  5. Cheshire Girl
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    I often take the train from Crewe to Euston and because the trains run every hour, mainly non stop, there seems to be no overcrowding in standard class on the way down. I can’t speak for First Class as I don’t generally go there. I tend to take a mid morning train from Crewe.
    When I return from Euston, generally after mid day but sometimes early evening. I must admit I am annoyed to walk past about five First Class carriages that appear to be almost empty in order to get to my assigned seat in carriage C/D which is usually packed! I do think that at least two of those First Class carriages should be converted to Standard Class in order to relieve the crush. Another problem in Standard Class is the lack of luggage space. Sometimes there seems to be little option than to park larger suitcases near the doors. A move, quite rightly, deemed to be dangerous by the train companies.

    • peter davies
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      Though not packed enough to justify a brand new rail line and train system……..

  6. Old Albion
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    I never ever thought i would say it but; What England needs is a nationalised railway system.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      So that politicians can interfere in everything to do with rail travel not just unnecessary vanity projects? You can’t be serious?

      • Old Albion
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

        Deadly serious. I acknowledge that when Britain previously had a nationalised railway, there were many problems with it. But do you or does anyone believe the fragmented, over-charging, shambolic collection of failing profiteers that now (don’t) run the railway, is any better?

        • oldtimer
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

          They are certainly much better from my (limited) direct experience based on the Chiltern line than runs into Marylebone. The service is more frequent, the station facilities are vastly improved. My understanding of overall rail usage is that it has increased significantly since privatisation, to the point of bursting to capacity in places, and that many main line stations have benefitted from significant improvement.

          • Bazman
            Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

            The amount of money chucked at railways by the taxpayer in recent years means they have to be better. Not because of privatisation.

        • libertarian
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

          To all intents and purposes the railway system IS still nationalised.

          Network Rail is taxpayer funded

          • Bazman
            Posted October 20, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

            Got that one right at least.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      It is a core belief of the Tory party that everything must be in private hands, and their conviction that this is an invariable and infallible truth will not be shaken by the failure of some of their privatisations.

      (By “failure” I mean failure of privatisation to provide better goods or services at lower cost, not failure to attract private investors when the enterprise is sold off. On the criterion that a privatisation is successful if the initial share offering is massively over-subscribed then of course the privatisation of Royal Mail has been a huge success, but we wait to see what will happen to our postal services.)

      • Acorn
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        It would be good if would build more urban rapid transit schemes (elevated light rail ???) that matched our 243 travel-to-work-areas (TTWA). It was a nightmare getting into Souampton from the west this morning and Birmingham, from the south, previously. Forget HS2.

        I see two thirds of Royal Mail shares are with the Banks, who will make a handsome margin to help replace their missing capital reserves. An early Christmas present from Osborne ( false allegation removed ed)

        Frightening chart of Central Bank bail-out (liquidity injections). See how much more the BoE had to stick in compared to the others. .

      • forthurst
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        “…the privatisation of Royal Mail has been a huge success…”

        I suspect that private equity will by using google earth to value the estate in preparation for a knockout bid. Most sorting offices are in the wrong place for vehicular access, sitting on valuable central plots.

        Personally, my sipp tried a slurp and got owt; obviously not a proper pension fund unless funding banksters. If only I’d been less greedy I could’ve had just enough stock to provide a gross income of a pound a week: I’m so upset.

        There should have been an auction for this stock for institutions which includes alien wealth funds solicited on the hyper-expensive and entirely unnecessary roadshow; the taxpayer deserved to recoup his investment after the pension fund was transferred to him. When the banksters said 330p was the upper limit otherwise they won’t punt, I’m thinking Mandy Rice-Davies; perhaps if (Mr Osborne) had misspent his youth playing poker (words left out ed), he would have called them.

        • Credible
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

          (some ed) seems to be doing very well out of this sale. So the big city firms get most of the shares and thousands of ordinary people who applied get nothing. This is a business we have paid into with our taxes and all so the very rich can get even richer. The majority of the British people didn’t want it sold. But who cares about what the majority want, who cares about the ordinary people of this country. John, I suppose you approve though.

          Reply Yes I like employee shareholding and wider ownership and wish the new company well, freed of the shackles of state financial and management control. I have written before on here of how I think the Royal Mail, could be better run, and postal employees better paid as a result.

          • Credible
            Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

            John, you talk about wider ownership, so why were more than 30,000 people denied shares so that a few large companies could buy them instead. The vast majority of the British people did not want this. Does this not bother you at all? You seem to brush public opinion aside when it’s not aligned with your views but is reeled out as a reason for a referendum when it suits you.
            Let’s see what happens to Royal Mail then. My bet is that the cost of posting letters and parcels will go up substantially, the service will get worse in rural areas and postal employees will be worse off. Indeed they will join the millions of people who work but are sinking into or towards poverty while the richest continue to get richer. The shareholders who have done nothing except have enough money to buy shares in the first place will get dividends of course. The rest of the taxpayers who have paid into this service over many years will gain nothing.
            Pretty similar to rail, water, gas and electricity.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

        Denis–Nary a mention from you or anyone else of the inappropriateness of Governments having to get involved in and making all those purely commercial decisions.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted October 17, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

          But it is not always inappropriate, that is your error.

          • Leslie Singleton
            Posted October 17, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

            Denis–You mean it is your opinion that I am in error but to me the question whether Governments should be involved in Commerce (meaning Trade and Marketplaces) should be answered about 99% I should say in the negative, There was a time when the Government had two and only two roles, viz internal and external security, ie the Police and the Military.

    • ChrisS
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      That’s the last thing we need.

      If it were nationalised HS2 would definitely go ahead.

      If the Railways were truly in the private sector without subsidies HS2 would never be built.

      • Bazman
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

        There would also be no railway for most of the country.

    • Mark
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      PESA tells us that the government spends about £7bn p.a. propping up the railways and consulting on HS2.

  7. yulwaymartyn
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    There is little point spending 5o billion plus on HS2 to save the time travelling on a train if first, as I did, you have to wait on the ground at Frankfurt for 45 minutes owing to “air traffic over Heathrow”. Then circle over Heathrow for a further 30 minutes waiting for a slot and then a further 45 minutes in the arrivals area at Heathrow Terminal 3 (which looks like a large sports hall in a medium sized county town) to show one’s passport.

    Britain “open for business”?

    You have to get there first.

    • ChrisS
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      Try flying into Southampton instead.

      There is a mainline railway station 200m from the small and efficient terminal.

      Getting off a plane is simple and very quick and it’s an hour by train straight into Waterloo.

      When you fly out, you only need to be there less than an hour before takeoff.

      It’s a well kept secret !!

      It’s a shame that the presence of the M27 currently limits the size of planes but this could be solved easily with a runway bridge, especially as the Ford Transit plant is now closed. More investment there would be money well spent.

      • Acorn
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 6:28 am | Permalink

        Your not supposed to tell everyone about SOUTHAMPTON AIRPORT!

        Letting people know about the successful integration of a motorway; airport and a mainline train station with park-n-ride, is not an excuse to copy it all over the UK.

  8. a-tracy
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    On the first day of the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow, we happened to be in Warrington waiting for a slow train to Glasgow, when whoosh a high speed train on its way to Glasgow whizzed through the station going to Glasgow without stops en-route. Commuters were speculating that this was full of conference visitors from London on a special express, are you sure the under capacity on your Manchester journey wasn’t because an extra train had been laid on direct to Manchester earlier or later than you chose to travel?

    My family have had several instances where they’ve had to stand to Birmingham, even with pre-purchased reserved tickets and even all the way to Crewe because the trains from Euston were packed out.

    I’ve always thought IF HS2 is necessary it should start from Birmingham to Glasgow as the London-Birmingham line is fast and usually well serviced, although they have problems servicing known peak days. Warrington to London Euston (190 miles) takes 1:52, Warrington to Glasgow Central (200 miles) takes 2:47.

  9. frank salmon
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    This is why railways in the UK need subsidies of 50% or more. We still have too many inefficient train lines and services. visit to see the bigger picture.

  10. Bert Young
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    HS2 is complete nonsense – should never have been thought of – never have been approved . If there was such a thing as integrated management and operation of the railways , there would be a) a better strategic approach b) better day to day control over operations c) better allocation of resources d) an understandable national pricing structure for tickets e) an improved national approach to route priorities – and so on and so on . Party politics should not enter into this – Labour may have agreed to it ; it does not mean that the Conservatives , or others , should try to rubbish it , modify it , or make differences over it . Grow up ! .

  11. Alan
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    For the last 20 years or so I have been prophesying that the number of people commuting into London would fall as better telecommunications make it less and less necessary for people to travel every day to a central office, and every year I have been proved wrong. The number of people commuting goes up and up.

    Similarly it seems to me that high technology roads and cars, and advanced telecommunications ought to make it less and less necessary for people to travel by rail. Road travel seems so much more flexible than rail, and telecommunications so much faster and more convenient that I can’t understand why the number of people travelling by rail goes up and up. Sometime in the next 20 years – which is the time scale for HS2 to make sense – I would expect cars that drive themselves to be in widespread use, and telecommunications that make video meetings as effective for business purposes and some social meetings as real meetings. I would not expect an increasing number of people to want to travel by train. But then I have been wrong so far, so I suppose I will be wrong again.

    But we will get a magnificent train, which it will be a pleasure to travel on and to see. HS2 may not be economic, but it will be fun. (I do realise there are a lot of people who live on the route who will suffer the disadvantages and for whom the thrill of seeing the trains rush past may not provide much compensation.)

  12. Roger Farmer
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Lets have an independent traffic analysis on all Inter City trains that parallel HS2. Then we will know just what capacity is under utilised. Do not let government or the rail companies near such an enquiry.
    For those who use trains from both government and private industry, let us consider much more flexible working hours to use up the spare capacity you experienced. I would also advocate much more working from home. What is the point in spending two or three hours a day on travel to sit in front of a computer which could just as easily be in a spare room at home. We have the technology. I did it for thirty years and found it much more productive than mindless travel.
    Investigate the signalling and control technology to increase frequency and therefore capacity on lines such as Reading-London. If Heathrow can handle an air movement every minute, I do not know the exact figures, it should not be beyond Network Rail to achieve a similar frequency on fixed lines. A lot could be learnt from the Japanese in this area.
    This is where I would prefer to see £50Bn. spent, that we do not have, rather than on a prestige white elephant project of multiple Dome like proportions. Lets see independent figures before any trust is put in ministerial pleas for HS2 capacity. If man was a machine it might be possible to quantify the twenty minute gain in journey time. As he isn’t the gain is more likely to be spent on idle chatter with colleagues on how Man-U did last night than measurable productive gain.

  13. Georgina Dean
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    I would rather see the money being used by the government to build power plants and larger capacity for energy storage. That way they could at least keep some control of pricing. Surely if they put more economy carriages on to comutor trains when required it would ease the over crowding.

  14. peter davies
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I travel up and down that part of the country too on trains at various times – you do get peaks and full carriages at times in places, particularly as you head past Coventry and further South, but never enough to justify the likes of HS2.

    If the rationale is capacity, then double decker trains on existing tracks must surely be the answer. Focus on light rail in high population conurbations therefore linking towns has to be a better answer.

    People generally don’t want to live more than 30-40 miles from where they work so decent light trains to enable this would be a great help.

    • boffin
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Yes, doubledeckers could offer an immediate ~50% increase in capacity on commuter services … if only the UK loading gauge (size limitation of rail vehicles) were not smaller than those on the Continent. Furthermore, just £1Bn spent on new bridgeworks etc. to enable Continental-gauge vehicles (especially freight) to gain access to strategic parts of the UK network would offer significant, genuine economic benefit; HS2 offers none whatever, for £50Bn.

      A Brunel-era mindset in relation to train control (which was the real underlying cause of the Moorgate horror) persists, and is harder to overcome. It is worth remembering that the kinetic energy of a train increases as the square of its speed – 4 x the speed, 16 x the carnage-potential. What price demand for HS2 following the ghastly consequences of an accident at 200 mph on some other high-speed system?

      We have the technology to address this (and Mr. Davies’ further good point) very effectively, but it remains beyond the grasp of those trammeled minds at the levers of our ancient political signalbox.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

        boffin–The loading on the defunct Great Central Railway from Marylebone is I understand already at the larger standard meaning we could have new double decker trains (entirely additional trains, if not clear) almost instantly because mere track laying is a doddle–presumably this would be too easy and cheap but how could it not significantly mitigate the need for capacity that has suddenly sprung up now that the argument has been given up on speed.

        • boffin
          Posted October 17, 2013 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

          Thanks, yes, the former Great Central network from the North down to Marylebone was built with Continental traffic in view (1890’s prescience!)

          (the track gauge is standard – that is not an issue, no re-laying).

          If that original Continental loading-gauge capability has been (mostly) preserved along the former GC routes, that really is a factor of the utmost significance in the rational debate which we ought to be having on the UK’s future transport infrastructure, were Downing Street not blind, deaf and stupid.

          (I have previously argued for claim of European Infrastructure Funding to enable Continental-size traffic to reach Ireland via Merseyside/Holyhead … the Banbury-Birmingham-Holyhead lines, not being part of the original GC network, would presumably need quite a few bridge adjustments ).

          • Leslie Singleton
            Posted October 19, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

            boffin–What might make sense, and get the Government off the hook, is to build or at least start building HS2 only North of Birmingham and to crank up as just discussed Great Central and anything else that makes sense South of Birmingham. No damage to the Chilterns and Cotswolds or wherever plus an attempt to help the North. How could that be wrong? Would still be possible in future to build the Southern part of HS2 (in about 20 years) dependent on how things seemed then.

  15. Richard1
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    When it first came up the justification for HS2 was its green-ness. That nonsense lasted a few months. There was a brief and absurd claim that it would somehow help with freight (I can’t remember why). The came closing the ‘north-south divide’, an ill-defined phenomenon, and now apparently its about relieving capacity bottlenecks which don’t seem to exist. What all these bogus justifications have in common is a complete lack of intellectual rigour and empirical evidence. The ‘evidence’ is handpicked or even invented in order to back-solve into the desired result. Messrs Cameron and Osborne need to find a face-saving way out of this great white elephant, before Labour start buying votes with the theoretical £50bn its abolition would save.

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      First it was speed.
      Second it was capacity.
      Third it is now ‘healing’ the North – South divide.
      Fourth… any suggestions ?… !

      • oldtimer
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        “Fourth… any suggestions ?… !”
        Try this for size:

        “The truth of the matter” (a phrase that always puts me on high alert when uttered by a politician)) “is that it is the right thing to do” (a phrase that politicians seem to think obviates their need actually to state a practical, convincing reason).

      • Vanessa
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        Yes, it is driven by the European Union. Lisbon Treaty, ratified in 2009 (I think) takes complete control of transport and trains are part of that.

        The EU does not care about the Chilterns or beautiful landscapes it wants a High Speed train and it will get a High Speed train.

        • Richard1
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

          As far as I understand we cannot blame the EU for this. HS2 was a scheme dreamt up by the Labour govt, presumably as a political trap for the Conservatives (who felt they had to support it), and the Coalition has continued its support on the basis of various manufactured analyses. The best test for a project like this is will the private sector finance it? If not then politicians need to think very hard as to why not. Probably it means there isn’t the payback they anticipate.

          • Vanessa
            Posted October 17, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

            If you manage to find it on the EU website, transport in England is already there with HS2 built !

            The Labour government knew Lisbon would be ratified, they also knew what was down the track and perhaps were nudged by the EU – hence, they dreamt up HS2.

            There is no getting away from “our government” now which is in Brussels and was working that way before Lisbon was ratified.

            Look at the gendarmerie – training in West London. That has been going on for some years now which was in readiness for the Lisbon Treaty.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

          Actually it’s not complete EU control of “transport” until the EU eventually works round to taking complete control.

          As it could do, because “transport” is one of the numerous “shared competences”, and under Article 2(2) TFEU:

          “When the Treaties confer on the Union a competence shared with the Member States in a specific area, the Union and the Member States may legislate and adopt legally binding acts in that area. The Member States shall exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has not exercised its competence. The Member States shall again exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has decided to cease exercising its competence.”

          So our clever politicians have agreed that the EU will decide whether to take complete control of many areas such as transport or to leave some residual control to the member states.

          If you want to look at the EU treaties they are here:

          in an easily searchable form.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted October 17, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

            Important factual comment missed for moderation here.

        • uanime5
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

          The EU only wants there to be trains that link all the EU countries together. So unless there’s a huge demand in the EU to be able to take a train from London to the north of England the EU won’t care about these high speed trains.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

        Robert–Fourth is boost to GDP

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

        Helping the gender “equality” agenda, women and minority groups will be the next claimed benefits of HS2. Doubtless this with be considered to be worth at least £20Bn in their cost benefit analysis.

    • Bob
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink


      “before Labour start buying votes with the theoretical £50bn its abolition would save”

      If Labour were back in government they would suddenly find renewed enthusiasm for HS2, and the Tories would start opposing it.

      It’s the job of opposition to oppose the government, and it’s the job of government to carry out instructions issued from Brussels. This is what provides the British people with the illusion that they are living in a democracy.

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

        It is a very faint illusion.

    • stred
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      The next reason could be the need to transport BBC employees between Salford and London.

      • Robert Taggart
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps the Public Accounts Committee will have even more to say !

  16. English Pensioner
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    The problem with our railways is that they are so fragmented since privatisation with trains being run by various companies and the track and stations being owned by another (state) company.
    The result of this is that it is always the fault of someone else when there are problems and there seems little liaison between the various companies. Pre-war in the days of the “big four” companies, each owned the track, stations, rolling-stack and locomotives and generally made a profit because they worked together as a whole; now it is almost impossible.
    Does any other country have this crazy ownership system?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      The EU requires that separation of rail infrastructure from the operation of trains, however as I recall that separation only has to be for accounting purposes. I have no idea whether the Major government misinterpreted the EU requirement, or it decided that it was better to have complete separation of ownership rather than just of accounts, or what. Personally I find it a bit of a nuisance that trains coming into a mainline station are now being run by different companies, and I haven’t seen any obvious advantage, but others may not share that view.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        Denis–It’s an attempt, repeat an attempt, at competition, innit?

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted October 17, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

          But it is not true that competition is always the best way forward under all circumstances, that is an erroneous Tory dogma.

          • Leslie Singleton
            Posted October 17, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

            Denis–I would have signed up to being an erroneous Tory except that I cannot these days (for reasons very different from yours).

    • alan jutson
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      E P


      Just like Electricity privatisation taxpayers still have to cough up (new power stations) for a rail service which if fully privatised may be one of the most expensive in the World.

      Forget high speed trains, we do not have enough long track routes to make them work efficiently.

      As a densely crowded small island, it would seem that we need more high capacity trains on our over used commuter routes.

  17. Neil craig
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    This does suggest they would have some difficulty filling the HS2 trains even at the same fares.

    The government’s highly optimistic guess is that it will carry about 15 million journeys a year. If they had to pay 10% of the cost each year as would, at least, be required for any commercial project that would add a minimum of £300 to each ticket.

    “Those who cannot do arithmetic are doomed to talk nonsense” John McCarthy

    • Bob
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

      HS2 is the railway equivalent of Concord.
      It’ll be nice for those that can afford it (such as anyone travelling on expenses like MPs).

      • Neil craig
        Posted October 17, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        At least Concorde was at the technological cutting edge and as all technological progress “stands on the shoulders of” previous progress it probably improved our technology background.

        High speed rail is a mature technology on what is almost certainly an technological dead end. If we wanted to push the tech envelope (as UKIP does) we should go for Musk’s Hyperloop, which also looks an order of magnitude cheaper.

  18. Robert Taggart
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    NO2 HS2 – cannot say that enough !

    Lucky for you Johnny – that you could afford to travel on the O7.20 – or did ‘we’ pay for your ‘privilege’ ? !
    The 21.15 would not have been a problem – fare wise or finding a seat – at any time of the week.
    With a few more ‘tweaks’ (quadrupling, grade separated junctions, ironing out of curves) the West Coast Main Line and other such main lines could offer faster journeys and more capacity. While this be nowhere near as ‘sexy’ as a whole new HS2 – it be more ‘along the lines’ of what is needed.

    If the former Great Western / Chiltern main line from Lundun Paddington (not Marylebone as currently) to Birmingham was to be upgraded further (electrification, quadrupling) – that could become THE main line between these two great cities. The services between these two cities on the WCML could then be downgraded to a secondary one – more stops and fewer trains overall – thereby releasing still further capacity.

    As for a future (God preserve us) Liebore government ditching HS2 – one looks forward to the ructions that will surely come about – Lord Adonis may have to defect – back to his ‘friends’ in the Liedums !

    Reply I paid for my own ticket, and bought it in advance at a discounted price. There was no luck involved, just hard work.

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Hard work indeed – even harder since privatisation – it be the only hard work some of us punters / scroungers have to do !
      Signed, Anorak !!

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

      Buying the ticket and checking out all the options/restrictions/times/details can nearly take as long as the journey itself – I often find.

  19. Sue Doughty
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    They need to put in another pair of railtracks on the Waterloo line – simple. Why haven’t they? Planning permission, probably. You could have that overridden and have it made better and faster

    • Mark
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

      They never restored the tracks they pinched for the Eurostar. The consequence is that the two branches at Clapham have to share six tracks into and out of Waterloo, instead of eight as it was when I first lived in Richmond.

  20. Iain Gill
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    we have had this discussion before…

    the trains into Euston are packed towards Euston in the morning and away from Euston in the evening, not the other direction!

    you repeating this little story is not going to change these facts

    Reply Not so – the trains are not full into London either in the morning.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Well regularly in the past, and still occasionally commute from Coventry into Euston every day, and the trains are packed standing room only both directions. Both Virgin and London Midland. I must be dreaming eh?

      And I have done the journey the other way and seen it quiet.

  21. Max Dunbar
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    One can never really sit back and relax on a long distance train journey here.
    Always at the back of ones mind is the expectation that an announcement of ‘signal failure’ will crackle through the pa system and herald maximum stress and inconvenience for the hapless traveller. Diversions and missed connections, or a nightmare journey on alternative transport. Perhaps an unplanned overnight stay in a cheap hotel.

  22. ChrisS
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    John, the latest developments in the Andrew Mitchell case raise extremely serious issues over police oversight.

    On the daily politics this morning even the crime commissioner for the West Midlands seems to have “gone native” having said he doesn’t accept that the three Police Federation officers lied to the media.

    Is this not so serious a matter that it should be discussed in your blog ?

  23. alan jutson
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Just a couple of points.

    Retired people can have a lot of time on their hands and so could probably be flexible on the timing of travel.

    Most trains are expensive to use unless booked months in advance.

    Why not offer cheap seats to those who turn up at the last minute/standby ticket, instead of trying to wring out the maximum price and leave a train empty.
    Retired people may then use them more for outings, casual vists to friends/relatives, or simply an enjoyable day away to a point/location of interest.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      Indeed there should be last minute cheap tickets for wasted empty seats. In fact last minute ticket are often the most expensive.

  24. lojolondon
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I like this about you, John – commonsense, and you check the facts for yourself. I have seen elsewhere that the West coast line is the least utilised – less trains and less passengers than any of the main lines. Which once again begs the question – why do they want HS2 there?? Add it to the fact it will end in a Parkway, and anyone traveling to Birmingham will be financially and timewise, better off using the ‘slower’ train with a more convenient end point.
    The reason is right here –
    We are doing it to fit in with Europe’s plans for us. The taxpayer will pay whether we need it or not. Simples.

    • stred
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Note the plan on page 24. There is an 80 mile unfinished line between Perpignan and Montpellier, not a particularly difficult stretch to build. The French have no plans for 20 yearsto help the Spanish link their new HS line, which runs under the Pyrenees at great expense and terminates 10 miles from the tunnel. It seems that others can ignore directives when it suits them.

  25. stred
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Normally, my partner and I travel to the South Coast from London and back at weekends. The journey by car is 132 miles return and normally takes 80 minutes door to door, costing £11 in fuel. The journey by train and tube would take 350 minutes and cost £68.

    This weekend my bird decided to let me start work earlier on monday and tried to book a cheaper advance train ticket 2 days before. The fare to travel 50 miles single was still almost £25 on a crowded train. And this is with a 50% subsidy?

  26. Alte Fritz
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    My journey is the other way round. The 7.35 from Manchester will be packed. The 7 return similarly. Many trains in between, however, will be sparsely populated. It all makes me think that if HS2 has any economic consequences other than breaking the bank, it will be to draw more business to London, not to the destinations at the ends of the line.

    In the meantime, we do not need a service at twenty minute intervals. It makes no sense.

    And it would be nice to make the journey from home into Manchester in less sardine like conditions.

  27. lojolondon
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    John, one thing you didn’t mention is the cost – a single person could drive to Manchester and back for far less than the cost of a ticket. Travelling with a family or colleagues makes the comparison far worse – a day return ticket from Euston – Manchester costs £308. A car could easily do the 200 miles for £50. A car with 4 people in it would save the driver £1,150 in railfare.
    So you can imagine how out-of-touch the people are who imagine that a ‘faster’, more expensive train will be hugely popular with ordinary people, who are not travelling on expenses.

    Reply I was not travelling on exepnses, but bought a cheaper ticket in advance which tied me to stated trains.

    • Handbags
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      A good point.

      Most people don’t use trains.

      Railways are a London issue – used mostly by people claiming expenses (which is why it’s a big issue with most MP’s).

      I can see a use for trains if you live on a large under populated land mass – but on a small island?

      It’s over – face it and build more roads.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

        Handbags–Not so about the large land masses, that is if my experiences in America are anything to go by. Long distance trains are a thing of the past there with grand old stations such as Indianapolis together with a few lovely old carriages being turned in to restaurants etc. The journey from Chicago to Detroit that I once took by train (when Detroit was much closer to its heydey) was tedious to say the least because the train slowed to what seemed like walking speed a lot of the time–“bad rails/no money for maintenance” the Conductor said. Looking along the lines was frightening–in the UK the lines are dead straight, there they were seriously curved and buckled so one could see what the man meant. The longer distances do not as you imply favour rail but flying. As an Englishman I was forever being looked at in amazement and asked “but why don’t you fly”? Mind you O’Hare wasn’t much fun either.

        • Mark
          Posted October 17, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

          Midway can be a little quieter than O’Hare. 55th and S Cicero.

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        Indeed for short UK type of journeys car/trucks are usually by far the most flexible and efficient for peoples real needs. That is why so few miles are done by train.

        • lifelogic
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

          Despite the warped anti-car taxes and train grant subsidy playing field.

  28. alan jutson
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Off topic..

    No longer require some bunk beds which could be separated to be used as single full sized twin beds. Wehave used them as spare capacity over Xmas in the past.

    Was looking to give them away to a Charity organisation.
    Indeed have tried so far without success.
    It would seem that they cannot accept them, as mattresses do not have fire labels on them.

    Matresses are clean in good condition, but it would seem now have to go down the tip because they do not have the right label on them.

    What a waste.

    Whatever happened to the green/recycling/re-use policy which on this occassion seems to be illegal.

    More rules and regulations for our own good.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

      Put them on or gumtree or ebay. The same is true of electrical items -which charity shops cannot accept for bogus “safety” reasons fee or litigation reasons.

      They should just be able sell with buyer beware as not tested signs on them.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

      Given that the law prohibits selling mattresses without fire labels it’s no surprise that charity shops won’t accept them. They also can’t sell soft toys as toys if they don’t have the correct label. Though they can sell them as a models as long as they make it clear to the buyer that it’s not a toy.

      The only thing you can do is put an ad in the local paper or online and give them to anyone who’s willing to come and collect them.

  29. con
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    John – I know this is off topic but having just witnessed PMQ’s I do have to ask: who is advising Cameron on what to say / how to respond?
    Miliband continues to occupy the high ground on energy prices and responds on the various green / eu taxes which he implemented by saying Tories and Liberals agreed those too.
    The point is that only Miliband is kicking up a big fuss about energy price increases?
    Surely somebody must have the wit to call Miliband’s bluff?

  30. Dennis
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I have never heard any info or comment on what the proposed fares will be on HS2 – am I out of touch? Please advise.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      I imagine about double the current slow train ones. So people will take the slow one unless on expenses.

  31. Roy Grainger
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    ” …grand project a Labour government started.”

    True but somewhat disingenuous since these days by far the most enthusiastic projectors of this scheme are the Con/Lib government – they have had plenty of time to cancel it had they wanted to. Once again, as on so many topics, you find yourself aligned with UKIP.

  32. Robert K
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    I have seen virtually no support for HS2 on this site or anywhere else apart from the government, and even then no-one seems especially keen.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      yes but there is no support anywhere for the high levels of immigration, the massive “aid” spend, handing intellectual property over to India, the “green” taxes which simply prices businesses out of the UK and move production to China and India doing nothing to reduce world pollution, the nutty anti car measures, and so much more…

      it just shows how limited democracy as implemented here is as a mechanism for change

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      Robert–Very well said–Only contemplated (I do not say favoured) by people living in London desperate (apparently) to get to (a Parkway outside of) Birmingham.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      Not much support for green religion expensive energy either, nor the EU, nor over regulation of everything under the sun, nor LEA motorist milking ………….

  33. ChrisS
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    If there is ever a capacity issue on the North South routes surely it would be far cheaper to lower the height of the existing trackbed to allow double decker trains ?

    This has been done in the tunnel under Southampton to allow the larger shipping containers to be transported out of the docks.

    It should be possible to increase the capacity by around 80% with double decker rolling stock. The same solution could surely be applied to some commuter routes as well but I’ve never heard it suggested.

    Couldn’t possibly cost £50, 60 or 75bn could it ?

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

      Chris–Excellent idea and of course would only need to de done under bridges and in tunnels.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      It is not their money so they are not looking for cheap sensible options!

  34. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Off-topic and by the way, JR, I like your article on the Spectator blog:

    apart from this in the last paragraph:

    “England is strong enough to keep her identity without a national Parliament, and with her identity and power partly shared with the rest of the United Kingdom.”

    Quite apart from the obvious argument that the English deserve their own Parliament just as much as the Scots, you must surely realise that the eurofanatics will NEVER stop trying to break up England until we have a Parliament for the whole of England.

    Reply The last thing England wants or needs is another bunch of politicians in another expensive building fighting for powers and money. Westminster is the English Parliament as well as the UK Parliament, and I am happy to do both jobs for the price of one. English votes for English issues.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Westminster is not the English Parliament as well as the UK Parliament, any more than it is the Scottish Parliament as well as the UK Parliament. Both the sovereign English and Scottish Parliaments abolished themselves in 1707 by their Acts of Union, you will recall; a devolved Scottish Parliament has been instituted because the Scots are held to deserve their own devolved assembly, so why is not held that the English also deserve their own devolved English Parliament?

      At one time I might have been content with a pragmatic and cheap compromise that the members of the UK Parliament who are elected in England could part of the time sit as the members of an English Parliament in the same premises, but I long since ceased to accept that and want a separate devolved Parliament for the whole of England.

      As I say, the eurofanatics will NEVER stop trying to break up England until we put a stop to it by having an English Parliament for the whole of England; you might have thought that the sound beating they took in the 2004 referendum in the north east would have deterred them, but that is not the case.

  35. Credible
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t understand the point you’re making. Yes the trains to London at peak time are too busy. What is the solution? Do you propose we build extra tracks between Reading and London for example. I somehow can’t see that happening.
    We could abolish first class. Was that suggestion made at the reception you attended?

    Reply I have written before about how we can increase the numbers of trains and carriages at busy times on busy routes. And, yes, the railway should replace some first class carriages with standard class if the first class is say half empty and the standard class full.

  36. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    Did you pay a peak fare when travelling to Manchester? It seems a bit masochistic to travel at 7.20 and pay heavily for the privilege. Not many people would want to.

    If the huge construction and rolling stock costs are treated as sunk costs, will HS2 make an operating profit on a day to day basis? If the answer is ‘no’, it should definitely be cancelled.

    Perhaps one answer to a lack of commuter train capacity is less commuting. Is is essential that all the jobs are in London? Do we need a continuing increase in immigration and population?

    Reply I had a discounted advance booking ticket and return, which worked out cheaper than staying in a Manchester hotel.

  37. Bazman
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    The problem with all this ant high speed rail rants is that Europe and many other industrial countries in the world have miles of it and we have hardly any. Obviously immigrants will be able to get here faster, but this does not seem to concern the other countries.

    • Edward2
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      Baz, that is because they are on these high speed trains passing through all these various European nations, trying to get to their ultimate destination, the UK

  38. Emile Economopoulos
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Why not have a smooth variation in ticket prices from 06:00 to 10:00 rather than the strange and curious discontinuous jump in price from “off peak” to “peak”.

    Even better, why not go the whole hog and have demand-led dynamic pricing for the seats (as do airlines) as well as a way for folk to buy and sell “seat futures”, allowing folk to buy blocks of seats for particular trains well in advance, e.g. 50 trips over 10 weeks, 3 weeks in advance.

    This then allows people to sell back seats they don’t use.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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