1 eurotunnel security fencing Phil Marsh

Grade A1* awarded to High Speed 1 in Annual Report published by Office of Rail and Road

Published: 7th August 2015

Man appears in Court after walking through Channel Tunnel

“The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has published its annual report on High Speed 1 (HS1) performance in 2014-2015. It will be valuable ammunition for those in favour of expanding the UK High Speed rail network as ORR highlights that HS1 Ltd has been a success in the reporting period with a mere 0.20% of rail services being delayed by HS1 faults. And these faults are deemed sporadic rather than part of any trend in repeat failures.

“HS1 Ltd has operated very well in 2014-15, and HS1 Ltd’s performance during the year has remained very good” is the foreword to the report by Alan Price at ORR. A total of 73922 trains ran on HS1 with 6628 delayed but of these, just 116 or 0.16% of all trains operated were delayed due to a fault attributed to HS1 itself.

Top grade A1* awarded

The report awarded HS1 Ltd an A1* grade which is the highest available and their Asset Register was regarded as comprehensive and accurate, rather unlike network Rails. Train delays caused by HS1 averaged THREE SECONDS to each train throughout the year equalling the best performance also achieved in 2006.

HS1 also comes in for praise so far as data recording is concerned and it has also achieved greater efficiencies than originally planned resulting in lower charges made to train operators who use the line. The cost savings came about as a combination of two main factors; HS1 renegotiating the Network Rail (High Speed) contract and out-performing previous cost assumptions.

HS1 Ltd generated net income of £11.5million which is £9.1million higher than assumed by ORR for the period from 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2015. Last year traffic using HS1 increased due to a significant increase in freight traffic. There were also 594 more passenger services as well as 418 additional freight trains representing an increase of around 150% on the level of freight traffic the year before.

There is a large section in the report detailing finance and it makes interesting reading. A dividend of £55 million was paid and after £146million accounting adjustment was made concerning assets, a loss of £91million is reported.

It is pretty certain that those in favour of HS2 and HS3 will cite this performance as a reason to press ahead with high speed rail in the UK while those against such schemes will probably ignore it!

Will the current year be as good in performance terms?

The news headlines have been dominated recently by the continuing unrest at the French Channel Tunnel Portal where striking shipping workers combined with immigrants trying to access train services has caused chaos to rail services there. This has impacted on services using HS1 and for example, the person who walked through the tunnel caused serious delays to trains.

He is thought to have walked through the tunnel using the emergency evacuation platform that runs alongside both tracks and are linked to the central emergency tunnel which provides a refuge in an emergency.

What would anyone face when walking through the tunnel?

To start with, it is 31 miles long and the conditions inside are not good. There is always a high wind speed for several reasons; Trains act as pistons pushing and pulling air as they make their way through the tunnel and the length of the tunnel means that differing atmospheric pressure, even by a few millibars can and do create a prevailing wind towards whichever end has the lower air-pressure.

The ambient temperature is high, maybe up to 30 degrees caused by the heat generated from the electric train transmission systems and on-board electrical equipment such as air- conditioning. This heat means that salt air in the tunnel dries out and becomes a wind driven dust filled atmosphere.

Given this, the 40 year old Sudanese national’s Medway Magistrates' Court appearance would have been a breeze for him compared to the achievement of walking virtually the whole length of the tunnel. He was charged under a Victorian law of causing an obstruction to an engine or carriage using the railway.

They said:

A spokesman for Eurotunnel said the person "almost succeeded in walking through the tunnel and that they held an "unplanned" inspection on the same day leading to substantial delays.

The UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said 100 more guards would be deployed in the Eurotunnel terminal following a meeting of the government's emergency Cobra committee and that a "much improved level of co-operation and collaboration with Eurotunnel" plus a UK Border Force and French police presence in the Eurotunnel control room at Coquelles.

But when it comes down to it….

But the cause of train delays is not really down to HS1 or Eurotunnel as they have robust security measures in place to deal with normal threats. It becomes a political and economic debate with the quantity of incursions at Calais and the fact that Ministers are holding meetings seems to do little to help the rail industry at the moment.

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