Introduction while waiting for Oakervee
Despite the amount of kite flying taking place before the publication of the delayed Oakervee report, it is difficult to determine which way the wind is blowing for HS2.
Mr Shapps says ‘give me the facts and a decision will be made in two weeks’. I hope not. The facts Mr Shapps gets will be either from convinced believers in HS2, such as Transport for the North, Midlands Connect et al, or from committed opposers, Lord Berkeley, Stop HS2 etc. All or nothing. Neither camp seems in the mood for compromise, but compromises and cuts are what are required. This being so, the
pause button for the entire project must be activated to allow alternatives, like those outlined in these pages, to be properly considered and costed. This is likely to take at least a year.
A few signs have appeared that reality is seeping into the thinking of HS2 Ltd. First it says that a reduction in speed is now acceptable. A design speed reduction from 400kph to 320kph will allow the lines to follow contours more closely. That will cut costs and solve some of the disputes with environmentalists and landowners. A lower speed will not affect capacity but there will be an increase in journey times which will reduce the benefit to cost ratio (BCR).
HS2 Ltd has also given up its long held view that it could manage to push 18 tph in and out of London. It now says the 18 tph will be reduced to 14 tph. This will cut the capacity of that key section of HS2 by more than 20% and further reduce the BCR.
HS2 Ltd has seen the sense too of amalgamating Phases 1 and 2a to avoid having to introduce comprehensive new timetables a year apart.
Of the 22 measures proposed below to improve HS2, cut its costs or even make it viable, the first, a design speed reduction, is conceded by HS2. The first part of the second, axing the Handsacre Link, is indirectly conceded by cutting the hourly number of trains in and out of
London. As the hourly HS2 service from London via Stafford to Stoke-on-Trent / Macclesfield is the only one using the Handsacre Link, axing this service and the link is an obvious way to reduce both numbers and costs. This leaves Stafford to look south for its HS2 links, which will now arrive via Birmingham and Wolverhampton, and it would make the Meaford Curve difficult to justify.
Noise is being made about greater integration of HS2 services with Network Rail services on existing railway lines. To achieve this the following is already proposed on this site:
It remains to be seen how much movement HS2 Ltd will make (or be forced or obliged to make) on the issues of Birmingham Curzon Street Station, Birmingham Interchange, Manchester Airport Station and the other issues raised herein. Any knee-jerk reaction, either to
continue unchanged or to scrap the project, means our politicians, like the accountants, have failed us. Compromise and patience is the key.
Added January 2020
Since the 2013 consultation into Phase 2, there have been no opportunity to make representations to HS2 on issues of any significance. This website highlights some areas where HS2 has gone wrong, often relating to traveller convenience and sustainability. The worst instance, Curzon Street Station in Birmingham, affects the viability of this key element of the HS2 project. Others, such as building interchanges away from the airports they are supposed to serve, and the obsolete Handsacre Link, will have large sums of money spent on them, without corresponding user benefits being created.
Higher speed is often presented as a means to achieve higher capacity. But 16 trains per hour at 200kph have the same capacity as 16 TPH at 300kph or 16 at 400kph. Higher speed only means higher costs, financial and environmental. HS2's dream of reaching a speed of 400kph is not a possibility. Scrapping the entire 360kph fleet would be needed to avoid a cut in capacity.
Costs can be reduced by reducing the design speed from 400kph to 320kph. And speed reduction combined with the axing of Birmingham Interchange may make HS2's other dream of squeezing 18 TPH through the southern core of its 'Y' network come true. Lower speed could here be the key to higher capacity. Lower speed will also reduce energy use and reduce the cost of rolling stock.
Another important area, which is not under the control of HS2 Ltd, is Air Passenger Duty. The fare for a domestic UK flight is often well below the fare for the equivalent rail journey. This undermines the economic viability of operating long distance rail services, such as HS2. Air Passenger Duty should be set at a level that will enable HS2 and other rail services to compete with air travel. This should also make new airport runways unnecessary and help to slow climate change.
With the recently announced delays to the HS2 project, the years for completion quoted herein are no longer valid. As the HS2 project is now 'paused' in order to review 'whether and how to proceed' this website offers a host of areas where the project can be made more user friendly or costs can be avoided. Below are listed 22 measures (not all under HS2 control) that will improve HS2, cut its costs or make it viable.
1. Reduce the design speed from 400kph to 320kph, see section 10a.
3. Axe Birmingham Interchange Station, see section 3.
4. Axe Curzon Street Station, see section 2.
7. Construct the Whittington Link, see section 6.
8. Upgrade the Midland Main Line from Birmingham New Street (or from the Whittington Link if better economic benefits can be obtained by four tracking from the Water Orton delta junction to that link) through Derby and Sheffield to Meadowhall, and construct the 2013consultation route between Meadowhall and Normanton, see section 6.
9. Rework the new Leeds HS2 station to additionally provide for conventional services running south and south east, see section 6.
10. Construct a York bypass to serve both HS2 and ECML services, see section 6.
11. Postpone the M18 / Eastern route link from Normanton to Thurscoe, see section 6.
12. Axe the Sheffield spur from the M18 / Eastern route, see section 6.
13. Replace the tunnels below Crewe with a Crewe eastern bypass and connect HS2 to the existing line to Stockport, see section 7.
15. Construct a HS2 link from the Crewe to Stockport line near Jodrell Bank to the real Manchester Airport Interchange and onwards to Manchester Piccadilly Station via an upgraded Styal line, see sections 7 and 8.
16. From the HS2 approach tunnel to Piccadilly construct a tunnel for TfN services towards the through platforms at Piccadilly, see section 8.
17. Axe the proposed tunnel between Manchester Airport and the approach to Manchester Piccadilly, see section 8.
18. Construct a new Metrolink tram line between the airport and Manchester Piccadilly, and a short new rail link from the airport to the Crewe to Stockport line near Stanley Green, see section 8.
19. Make provision for TfN services from Manchester Airport to Liverpool and the north to join the HS2 line north of Hoo Green for both TfN and HS2 services to share a single crossing of the Manchester Ship Canal, the River Bollin and the Bridgewater Canal. North of the crossing TfN and HS2 services to Liverpool and Warrington would leave the HS2 / TfN line to Wigan, Preston and Scotland, see section 9.
20. Procure GC gauge standard class carriages having a 3+2 seat configuration for all peak and some intermediate travel periods. Upgrade the following lines to GC gauge: 1) Birmingham New Street to Shrewsbury and Stafford via Wolverhampton; 2) from the Meaford Curve to Stoke-on-Trent and Macclesfield; 3) the NPR line from its junction with HS2 via Warrington to Liverpool; 4) if the proposed railhead and maintenance facility remains near Ashley the NPR line from its junction with HS2 at Hoo Green to its junction with HS2 west of Manchester Airport; 5) from the end of the HS2 line near Wigan to Preston; and 6) from the end of the HS2 line near Church Fenton to York, see section 10e.
21. To ensure the economic viability of HS2 and other rail services Air Passenger Duty should be increased to a point where rail travel can compete with air travel, see section 10f.
22. Joining or dividing HS2 trains from / to Edinburgh and Glasgow should be done in Preston, not in Carstairs, see section 9.
This section last revised 24 September 2019