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HS2 trains will never be late, claims boss

Staffordshire | News | Published:

Passengers will be guaranteed a seat on Britain's £50 billion high-speed rail network putting an end to the misery of standing on crowded trains for long journeys, according to the project's top engineer.

Andrew McNaughton, technical director of the proposed north-south rail line HS2, also made the bold claim that the 225mph trains would never be late.

In an exclusive interview with the Express & Star, Mr McNaughton said: "HS2 will take the stress out of travel, that means whether you book your ticket five minutes or five months before the train leaves then you will be given a seat. You will also be told where on the platform to stand for the carriage door.

"It also means doing the basics. That means the bloody thing will be on time every time - not if you're lucky. If it departs Birmingham Curzon Street at 10.42am, then it leaves at 10.42am, not 10.43am.

"Whether it is sunny, snowing, raining, sleeting, hailing, those trains will run on time. I am not having the wrong type of leaves or the wrong type of anything holding those trains up.

"This will mean that passengers won't have to get a train an hour earlier than the one they actually need to just to make sure they get to where they are going on time. It will be reliable."

He said HS2 would also scrap first and standard class carriages, replacing them with 'customised zones'.

These could range from family carriages for travellers with young children to ones with individual booths for businessmen wanting to work. It is also being investigated whether the layout of each carriage could be changed depending on who has booked to travel on that particular train.

"This is going to be our touchstone," he said.

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"We are going to make these journeys individual. In the 21st Century people are individuals. We are not simply going to build a high-speed rail network based on what rail travel is already like. HS2 is a railway that will do it for you. It is centred around making passengers happier by making it easier.

"For example, family areas will alleviate the stress of parents worried that their children are annoying other passengers who are maybe trying to work."

Mr McNaughton said ticket prices would be set by the government and the operators - but would be similar to current ticket prices.

He said: "The guidance from government is that fares will be broadly similar for inter-city travel. Some will be expensive but some will be cheap just as it is now. People say it will be a train for rich people. But most passengers are leisure travellers. HS2 will be for everyone."

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The HS2 network will stretch to 351 miles from London to Manchester and Leeds. In the Midlands, stations will be built at Curzon Street in central Birmingham and close to Birmingham Airport. Journey times to the capital from central Birmingham will be slashed to 49 minutes from an average of one hour 25 minutes. Journey times from the second city to Manchester and Leeds will be halved to 41 minutes and 57 minutes respectively. Travel times between the new station near Birmingham Airport and London will be just 28 minutes.

High speed trains will also stop at Stafford courtesy of a spur link near Lichfield using special trains that can also run on the regular rail network. Journey times from the Staffordshire county town to the capital would be cut to around 50 minutes.

The trains will stretch to nearly 400m in length and have 1,100 seats -–the equivalent of three jumbo jets.

If approved by MPs in 2017, work on the London to Birmingham leg could start straight away, with trains running in 2026.

The final route of the northern legs to Manchester and Leeds is yet to be approved but HS2 bosses hoping work will be completed by 2030.

The project will cut a 45-mile swathe through rural Staffordshire from Lichfield to Swynnerton as it curves around Stafford.

Supporters say it will boost the economies of the Midlands and the north, but opponents say it will cause huge environmental damage to the countryside and there are cheaper alternatives.

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