One day after the essential vote on the principles of the HS2 Bill I received a reply to questions I had posed to the Transport Department. I asked about how full or empty trains are out of Euston in the morning peaks. I have long argued from my own experience that there is no capacity problem to the north for business people wanting to go at prime time.
The Ministry has confirmed that in the first hour trains out of Euston have 82.1% of their seats empty. In the second hour they have 62.6% of their seats empty, and in the third hour taking us up to 8.59 am they have 54.8% of their seats empty. I rest my case. A shortage of seats to get to the Northern cities to do a day’s work and boost the northern economy is not a problem.
I have also looked up where most of the travellers are, in the light of arguments that London and the South East has enjoyed too much of the investment money in the railways in recent years. I have discovered that 72.7% of the journeys undertaken on the entire British network are in London, the South East and Eastern region bordering London. All journeys in regions without a border with London account for just 27% of the total. Within this Wales has 1.7% of total national journeys, Scotland 5.3%, and the North East 0.8%.
As new investment – once safety is taken care of – needs to concentrate on areas where capacity is stretched and demand growth is strongest, it is not surprising that London and the South East accounts for a big part of the investment, as they account for almost two thirds of total rail journeys. London alone accounts for more than 46% or almost half.
There is a need for more capacity into London from Milton Keynes and Watford, just as there is a need for more capacity into London from most commuter towns beyond the M25 on a variety of other lines. Paddington and Waterloo lines have a much worse capacity issue than Euston lines overall.