Posted 4th October 2010 | 23 Comments
Rail 'transformation' ahead as HS2 is confirmed
“I can announce today that the Government’s preferred option for High Speed Rail north of Birmingham will be for two separate corridors...”–Philip Hammond
THE transport secretary Philip Hammond has confirmed that the Government has decided to proceed with building the 'Y' shaped High Speed rail network.
Eurostar is also poised to invest in a fleet of Siemens-built Velaro units for new routes to Amsterdam and Cologne.
High Speed rail will also serve Heathrow Airport, which had always been Conservative policy. At the moment, it is being proposed that some trains would loop into the airport en route between London and Birmingham.
There would also be a link with High Speed 1. Eurostar chairman Richard Brown told Railnews recently that such a link would be valuable, and open up the opportunity of running through trains between the provinces and continental Europe at last. Original plans for ‘regional’ Eurostars were ruled out in 1999 on the grounds that using the conventional domestic network in Britain would not yield competitive journey times.
High Speed lines will serve Manchester and Yorkshire from a junction north of Birmingham, in preference to the alternative plan, the so-called 'S' shape proposal, which would have involved a single route to Manchester continuing from there across the Pennines to Leeds.
The state will provide most of the investment needed, which is reported to be somewhere between £20 billion and £33 billion, although a full cost analysis will follow.
The two High Speed branches will be connected with the existing West and East Coast Main Lines, which will also continue the debate about rolling stock. Unless the loading gauge of the existing lines is enlarged, through High Speed trains continuing on the conventional network will need to be built to the smaller British standards, although the High Speed route itself will be constructed to full European loading gauge, as was HS1.
Mr Hammond said his plans would support growth and reduce carbon emissions.
“We have committed to a high speed rail network that will change the social and economic geography of Britain; connecting our great population centres and our international gateways; transforming the way Britain works as profoundly as the coming of the original railways did in the mid-19th century.
“So we will consult in the New Year on the strategic roll-out of a High Speed Rail network and on our preferred route for the first leg between London and Birmingham.
“But I can announce today that the Government’s preferred option for High Speed Rail north of Birmingham will be for two separate corridors. One direct to Manchester, and then connecting on to the West Coast Main Line, and the other via the East Midlands and South Yorkshire – with stations in both areas – before connecting to the East Coast Main Line north of Leeds. The so-called ‘Y’ option.
“Giving us High Speed Rail connectivity – not just between London and Birmingham, but onwards to Leeds and Manchester. A strategic project that will make rail the mode of choice for most intercity journeys within the UK, and for many beyond.”
He has less good news for campaigners in the Chilterns who are bitterly opposing the project. A line from London to Birmingham must go through the Chilterns in order to follow the necessarily direct route.
Meanwhile, Eurostar may buy 10 Siemens Velaro sets for E600 million to extend its services from London to the Netherlands and Germany. The 400m sets would comply with Channel Tunnel safety regulations, and overcome the problem of using the existing Eurostars on Dutch and German routes. There is very little space left on board Eurostars to install the further systems of train control which would be needed.
The proposal, which was discussed by the Eurostar board on Friday, is said to be causing controversy in France. Its state-owned rail operator SNCF is the biggest shareholder in Eurostar, and ministers are apparently unhappy about the prospect of trains being bought from a German company, rather than France-based Alstom.
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