Published 29th January 2013
The Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, has announced the preferred route for the second stage of High Speed 2 (HS2). his set out his initial preferences for Phase Two of Two, which refers to the development and construction of new high speed rail lines extending north of Phase One (between London and Birmingham) to Manchester and Leeds (via stations in the East Midlands and Sheffield).
Phase Two is critical to the success of the full HS2 network. It will benefit the economies of the Midlands and North, and widen opportunities for millions of people by providing direct links to London, the South East, and Europe.
But HS2 is not just about connections to London. By linking Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, it will provide fast services between cities which are not currently well connected. The stations in Leeds, Sheffield, the East Midlands and Birmingham would each be separated by a journey of less than 20 minutes, making daily commuting easy and providing a high speed line that would integrate their economies as never before.
The railways are now carrying the most passengers for 75 years and huge volumes of freight but the current railway is little changed from the one designed by the Victorians and half the size following closures of 50 years ago. The Victorian design and railway geometry has left a legacy difficult to expand today as lines die environments have been built on or constrain railway expansion.
Phase two of HS2 linking the West Midlands northwards, will deliver the vast potential of HS2 with new lines extending high speed rail to new bespoke stations at Manchester, Manchester Airport, Sheffield, the East Midlands and Leeds. The Government estimates that up to 60,000 jobs in construction, operation and maintenance and potential station development will be created.
There will be two HS2 stations in Manchester, one will be built adjacent to Manchester Piccadilly and the other serving the airport. Leeds also gets a city- centre station at Leeds New Lane, while the East Midlands Hub station will be located at Toton, a former huge freight yard between Nottingham and Derby. Sheffield’s high speed station will be at Meadowhall, already a huge interchange station better known for its shopping centre.
The Government said a year ago that the HS2 network should link to Heathrow and its preferred option was for this to be built as part of Phase Two. Since then the Government has established an independent Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, to recommend options for maintaining the country’s status as an international aviation hub.
The decision will be taken when this report is issued in 2015 at the earliest. Passive provision for the line will be built in to HS1 to save money and later construction disruption to train services. The decision to link Manchester Airport is a good one which will ease pressure on Heathrow’s capacity as flights will be more attracted to Manchester with the high speed rail link.
The Government has also launched a consultation on an Exceptional Hardship Scheme for Leeds, Manchester and the proposed Heathrow spur. The scheme aims to assist eligible residential and small business owner-occupiers whose property value may be affected by the initial preferred route options for these lines and who can demonstrate that they have an urgent need to sell.
The Minister of State for Transport will write to the small number of people whose land may be required or whose properties are at risk of demolition should the recommended Heathrow route be built, to explain the situation to them and, in respect of property owners, to confirm that the Phase Two EHS would be open to them. The Government will also write to people whose land or property is above a proposed tunnel on the Heathrow spur route to make them aware of it.
HS2 phase two will connect with the West Coast Main Line (WCML) near Lichfield before heading on towards Crewe where another connection with the WCML will be made just south of the station. The line will then run in a tunnel under the town heading north before crossing over the M6 and M56 before heading past Warrington to a third WCML connection south of Wigan. The Manchester stations will be served by a spur off the main line running roughly parallel with the M56 towards Manchester Airport. The total route length would be around 95 miles.
The 225mph trains will be designed to run on HS1 and HS2 plus existing main lines enabling services to reach many destinations via the three proposed WCML connections. These are envisaged as reaching Liverpool, the wider North West, and possibly North Wales. Anglo-Scottish services could also run serving places in the North West en route to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Maintenance Depots will be established at Crewe for infrastructure maintenance, and Golborne near Wigan for rolling stock maintenance. Station sites and depots are using existing railway owned property to minimize land-take and cost.
The announcement states that eight out of ten of the largest cities will be served by HS2 as well as providing fast services between cities not currently well connected. The line is forecast to carry up to 5.4 million passengers annually who might otherwise have flown.
In addition, the statistics offered also suggest that potentially up to 9.8 million passengers transfer from the national road network. How can anyone argue against that as it will reduce road congestion and pollution through the Chilterns for example?
Some pundits are asking how HS2 will be of any benefit to the west country and it can be argued either way. It does not serve any stations on the Great West Main Line (GWML) other than a couple of miles out of Paddington at the 14 platform interchange at Old Oak Common. But when this is combined with the GWML electrification, there will be benefits for all on the GWML.
Passengers on cross country route via Birmingham should notice an improvement in reliability and punctuality as well as more seats on offer. HS2 will take much of the cross-country patronage as it offers a faster and more modern train service.
This will mean more seats are freed up on non-high speed services even though demand will continue to grow which is why HS2 is being proposed. So while places served by high speed trains like Manchester, Leeds, the Northeast and Scotland will obviously benefit, other places not served will also see some positive spin-offs.
West Country passengers will be able to change at the Old Oak Common Interchange for HS2 services to North and for trains to Heathrow and Manchester airports. But as trains are 20 years away, the continuing increase in rail passengers may still cause overcrowding by then.
The GWML electrification will benefit GWML passengers as this will bring more reliable, more frequent and limited stop services to the west country in 5 years’ time. The benefits of HS2 are marginal for the West Country, but worth having for everybody, if taken as a whole.
The announcement about HS2 means that there will be the potential for direct trains from Manchester to Paris, Brussels and beyond via a link to HS1 and the Channel Tunnel.
These trains were due to run from Manchester, Milton Keynes, Edinburgh and Paris from 1997 under the Regional Eurostar banner, but politics and economics clashed. After test train running, the latter prevailed as the rise of budget airlines killed off the plans. The seven special Eurostar trains built now operate in France on Internal services rather than on international services from around the UK as planned.
The existing main arterial routes such as the WCML and the Cross-country routes between Reading, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds will be able to offer more trains running at today’s speeds offering a choice and trade-off between journey time and price.
Freight will also benefit as many passenger services will be switched from existing lines to the new HS2. This will allow more local services and freight to operate helping reduce pollution and traffic congestion. One freight train can carry up to 70 HGV loads, its madness not to use rail for trunking goods! Fuel consumption is about 50% on rail compared to lorries on roads.