The Anonymous Widower

‘Upgrade East Coast Main Line Before HS2’ If Leeds And Yorkshire Want Faster Rail Links To London

The title of this post, is the same as that of this letter to the Yorkshire Post.

This is the opening paragraph.

The decision to scrap HS2 running to Leeds is controversial but those who travel to London should not despair.

The writer makes these points.

  • High Speed Two will probably charge a premium fare because of the speed.
  • The current journey time to the capital is two hours 13 minutes at a cost of £28-60, if purchased in advance.
  • Planned improvements on the East Coast Main Line will reduce the journey time to London King’s Cross to one hour 56 minutes.
  • High Speed Two will take one hour 22 minutes.
  • If the line between Doncaster and Leeds were to be improved, the journey time could be reduced to one hour 45 minutes.

The writer finishes by saying that if the government ‘four tracked’ the entire East Coast route, 140mph LNER’s Azuma trains would match the times of High Speed Two.

In What Will Be The Fastest Times Possible Between London King’s Cross And Leeds?, I came to this conclusion.

It looks like a non-stop service between London and Leeds running at 140 mph, with perhaps some sections at perhaps a bit faster, could be able to match the High Speed Two times.

Running non-stop saves a total of eighteen minutes.

In an hour, I would give Leeds one non-stop and one stopping service to London.

March 9, 2022 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , ,


  1. Well, 4 tracking of the whole route will never happen. However, there are vast swathes of redundant track bed on the east coast route that could be re-instated in parts to allow long lengths of overtaking.

    Comment by Andrew Bruton | March 9, 2022 | Reply

  2. I do think that the best way to speed things up when you have two or more services is to have one non-stop train and a stopper.

    If you look at London and Norwich, not all trains do the journey in 90 minutes with one stop at Ipswich.

    Comment by AnonW | March 9, 2022 | Reply

  3. Perhaps we should revisit Virgin’s plan for the E.C.M.L in 2000.This didn’t completely 4 track the whole line but went a long way towards it and did include the Leamside line.3 hours London to Edinburgh should be the target.

    Comment by Hugh Steavenson | March 9, 2022 | Reply

  4. Bottleneck at the Digswell viaduct (Welwyn Garden City) is an example of a location where 4 tracking would be very expensive. Possible, useful, but expensive.

    Comment by MilesT | March 9, 2022 | Reply

    • As a control engineer, I believe that Digswell and Newark could be increased in speed, by precisely controlling the trains, through those two sections.

      Comment by AnonW | March 9, 2022 | Reply

      • Sadly, I think all of that optimisation has been done, within the limits of the physical infrastructure of the viaduct, gradients, and train performance of current (fairly modern) electric local trains. The cheaper improvement would be a wide bypass of the viaduct for local services, e.g. WGC to Hertford/Ware/Stevenage (or similar to the West) not using the viaduct.

        The viaduct is a bottleneck today, mainly because of the need to interleave slower commuter trains in between expresses, with Welwyn North station just north of the viaduct. Removing Welwyn North station as a stop on local services might help, but would raise complaints from a small but vocal local group (who would need to be placated by a mixture of free shuttle bus or free parking at Welwyn Garden City station).

        Personally, 2 hours to Leeds (which I used to do regularly) is fast enough–need to look at what % of UK city population/GDP is within 2 hours of London. Yes knocking a decent chunk off of London to Scotland (and Manchester/liverpool) is important in terms of decarbonising travel (modal shift from air to rail).

        Comment by MilesT | March 10, 2022

      • … and once you’ve widened the viaduct there’s the tunnel next to it as well!

        I hadn’t heard of the wider by-pass proposal before. This is presumably to mitigate both problems in one hit, and probably at a better price.

        Comment by Brian Armitage | March 11, 2022

      • @Brian Armitage. The idea of a “wide bypass” for Digswell is my own idea (at least I don’t think I have heard of it anywhere else), spur of the moment.

        I haven’t even got the crayons out yet to try and plot a route, either to the East or West. And I suspect it the the bypass might need to be a shuttle (light rail?) with change required at WGC to avoid needing a new flyover/under junction somewhere North of WGC station, which could be tricky to fit in.

        Comment by MilesT | March 11, 2022

      • They’ve got a wide by-pass. It’s called the Hertford Loop and it’s going to be digitally signalled. I would expect some Thameslink services to go that way. But there would need to be a link between Stevenage and WGC via Welwyn North, so that all current journeys were possible. Perhaps there is a need for a big Park-and-Ride station on the Hertford Loop in South Stevenage with a very frequent bus service to Welwyn North and WGC?

        Comment by AnonW | March 11, 2022

  5. Unfortunately the writer of the letter doesn’t have a clue about what they are proposing and fundamentally misunderstand the rationale for HS2.

    We only have to look at the West Coast Mainline upgarde 20 years ago to understand why an ECML upgrade would be insufficent – by the time it was finished, overdue and overbudget because of unforeseen problems with upgrading Victorian infrastructure, all the extra capacity was used up… and that’s before you also consider the years of disruption the works would bring.

    The other benefit of the cancelled HS2 Eastern Leg to Leeds is that it brings relief to both the ECML and the Midlands Main Line.

    Comment by Brian Armitage | March 10, 2022 | Reply

    • I believe that recently, there has been some radical thinking in Network Rail about timetabling. The first fruits of the new thinking was that on the crowded East Coast Main Line, they managed to squeeze in London and Norwich trains with a single stop at Ipswich in ninety minutes. My first run in ninety minutes was in a rake of Mark coaches hauled by a well-maintained Class 90 locomotive, which was at the limit nearly all of the way.

      My programming speciality, if I had one, was writing scheduling algorithms for big projects and it was a difficult process.

      I suspect that Network Rail have found an expert who is using new techniques to squeeze more trains in current infrastructure.

      If you have a Class 800 train or similar, each stop probably takes six-eight minutes, if you include dwell time and the time it takes to slow down and get back up to speed.

      So if you have two or more services on a route, you can afford to run a non-stop or single-stopper and pair it with a stopping train.

      Greater Anglia have done this to get their Norwich in Ninety service. They also use high-capacity Class 745 trains.

      I can see this approach leading to pairs of service like this between.

      London and Leeds, with a single-stopper calling at Peterborough.

      London and Liverpool, with a single-stopper calling at Nuneaton.

      London and Manchester, with a non-stop train and two stoppers.

      London and Sheffield, with a single-stopper calling at Leicester.

      And then there’s flighting, where perhaps five trains leave King’s Cross, three minutes apart, going hell for leather to the North.

      Gradually trains drop off to Cambridge, Lincoln, Leeds etc.

      Digital signalling would allow the lead train to set a speed of 140 mph.

      This would increase capacity drammatically.

      Comment by AnonW | March 10, 2022 | Reply

  6. One of the stated purposes of HS2 is: ‘By freeing up space on existing lines, for new local train services, passengers and freight, HS2 helps ease congestion and over-crowding’ They won’t do that by charging premium fares.

    Comment by JohnC | March 10, 2022 | Reply

    • I agree with you on fares, which should be touch-in and touch-out by means of a bank card or phone app.

      Comment by AnonW | March 11, 2022 | Reply

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