Anti-HS2 campaigners are deluding themselves.
Claims that trains leaving Euston in the evening peak are only half full are wrong. While this is true for Virgin Trains (52% seats occupied), Network Rail has pointed out that London Midland – which runs the commuter services – is at 94% capacity, and traffic levels are growing at 4% a year.
According to Greengauge 21 Director Jim Steer, the 52% figure released by Government as the week of HS2 judicial reviews got underway is misleading because:
- Peak period use of Virgin Trains is artificially depressed by off-peak travel restrictions; this may be the commuter ‘peak’, but the busiest trains for intercity journeys are before 4pm and after 7pm when cheaper tickets are valid
- Even with 52% average loading, some Virgin trains are 80% full – and on Fridays they leave with standing passengers for long distance journeys.
“The important point that anti-HS2 campaigners fail to acknowledge is that the best way to free up capacity for commuters in the fast growing Milton Keynes-Northampton corridor is to take the Virgin Trains services off the line and free it up for more commuter services and for more freight services. Our studies have shown that a transformed timetable can be offered, supporting growth, relieving serious overcrowding which is coming just a few years down the line and getting a lot of lorries off the road network”, Jim Steer said.