Posted 23rd September 2010 | 28 Comments

Route of HS2 is set to change, Hammond reveals

Anti-HS2 feeling is running high in the affected areas

Anti-HS2 feeling is running high in the affected areas

THE controversial route of HS2 through Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire may be changed, according to the transport secretary Philip Hammond. He has been in Buckinghamshire to meet some of the increasingly vocal objectors for himself.

Britain’s first domestic High Speed line, as currently planned, would cut a swathe through the Chilterns, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Local people have called for much of this section to be built in tunnel, which would add greatly to the cost.

Mr Hammond went to Amersham on 22 September to hear some of the objections at first hand.

Later, he revealed that the plans are still very much in the melting pot.

He told the Bucks Free Press that: “It will definitely be different. We’ve already announced some changes, although these are relatively minor. We will come to a decision about the route we prefer and we will put that forward in the New Year.”

Meanwhile, further north, the debate continues about whether the High Speed network should be built as an S-formation -- going to Manchester first and then looping across the Pennines to Leeds -- or as a Y, with separate lines serving the north west and Yorkshire from a junction north of Birmingham.

A new report from Arup claims that the Y-shaped option would generate economic benefits in Yorkshire worth more than £60bn.

Arup has identified ‘productivity benefits’ of £2.3bn, including £750m and £420m for the Leeds and Sheffield regions, largely through support the new line would give to the regions’ financial and business services sectors.

The Y-shaped network had been the preferred option of the previous Labour government, but the Coalition has commissioned further research on the single S-shaped line.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Martin , near Amersham, UK

    Is that it!!! a half full pub and an actor hold the rest of the nation to ransom – at the cost of six miles of tunnel!!! - because the noise could scare the horses – it would be cheaper to just write out cheques to whatever the preserved value of their property is then demolish it – a bit harsh you might say –well blame that modern unelected scourge of society - the environmentalists!!!!!!!! – no!! you cant use your car – no!! you cant fly on a plane - no!! you cant run a train past my house – the cost of this train is less than the the total over spend
    of what the civil service mandarins calls teas and coffees??? – and l agree that if youre going to build it – it should be bigger and faster – look at the TGV - and all public transport should be subsidised – these are the people that go to work and pay into government coffers – with little thanks from those who rely on it - when it finished and running l will be there watching and my only hope is that it will be as exciting as the 574 kilometre TGV

  • Thomas, Wycombe, UK

    All of the NIMBY's must be banned from using any form of transport (car rail air) either as driver or passenger. They must not be able to pass on travel polution to other areas.

    In other words, there was much support in the Chilterns for the widening of the M40/M25 and Terminal Five.

    Anyway, most of the campaingers will be dead by the time this is built!!

  • Claydon William, Norwich, Norfolk, England

    The standard of debate about HS2 has almost reached moronic proportions IMO.

    HS2 is desperately needed to increase national rail capacity, to encourage modal shift onto rail to address congestion, and to address future carbon issues by being able to abolish domestic UK jet aviation.

    These matters are of a national strategic importance and should supercede local selfish short-termism.

    A Heathrow loop/spur is essential IMO as a connector for international air passengers. Demand for travel to/from airports like Heathrow is much more spread around the clock, and in many ways compliments peak travel patterns into central London

    Its just a shame that when we have just spent £6BN on terminal 5, that we didn't take the opportunity to build a HS station box underneath.

  • H Harvey, Birmingham

    How many of the objectors to HS2 are quite willing to use M40 (and its links) and mosdt most probably do so even though some may have objected to its construction.
    How many of these HS2 objectors use this and other M ways and yet were never interested in the noise pollution and destruction these cause/d.

    Those in the Burton Green area will and already do suffer from planes landing/taking off from Birmingham airport (they are on the flight path) but their noise is nothing compared to inhabitants closer to the airport.
    As to noise from the line I have waited for trains at Widney Manor station and the continuous noise from the M42 is deafening and drowns out the local trains until they are 100metres away.
    Having stood alongside HS1 the perceived noise from Eurostar trains is about equal to that of Pendolinos and no doubt the HS2 trains will be less than this given a decade of technological advance.

    I an (not) afraid to say most of the objectors fall into the NIMBY (or special interest) class but some have a genuine case lets hope they are given appropriate compensation.

  • Mark Scott, carlisle, Uk

    Don't forget Cumbria, when planning the route.

  • Chris, Neston, Cheshire

    The nimbys south of Birmingham are trying to push for a referendum which could push back the start date of construction. If the nimbys get enough support it could derail the project all together. The government needs to see that there is strong support from the public to counter the anti HS2 coalition

  • Richard, Chesham, Bucks

    I live in Buckinghamshire so clearly have a vested interest. I note Paul from Kent's opinion that he envisages the abov ground/deep cutting route through the chilterns AONB route as potentially a 'sensitively planned transport corridor'. I can tell you that I have looked through the maps very closely and the environmental effect will be catastrophic. Those in favour of HS2 argue that it will bring large economic benefits; this may be true but the benefits will not be felt at all in the Chilterns.

    In addition what many people forget is that whether the so-called 'preferred' route is actually the best one or not if highly debatable. Network Rail didn't think so and preferred the option of a route alongside the west coast mainline, not through the chilterns.

    If the economic case for HS2 is a strong as some claim, then at the very least the route should be tunnelled where it passes through the AONB. If however this is not 'affordable' then and perhaps it could be paid for by scaling back the cost of tunnelling etc at the Birmingham and London ends of the route; at least this would be fair in the sense that those who get the economic benefit from HS2 would 'enjoy' most of the environmental impact.

  • Alex McKenna, London

    Maybe they should have called it something OTHER than High Speed. The speed isn't the reason for the route. It is an extra modern route, which is needed because of the overcrowding of existing railways. Spending billions on improving the EC and WC lines wouldn't have such beneficial results, and would make travelling North impossible for another 20 years.

  • Paul, Kent, England

    Oh dear, it's time to de-construct some short-sighted misconceptions again.

    A common public misconception is that HS2 is principally about reducing journey times. This is UNTRUE. It's principle aim is to provide the additional transport capacity on the vital north-south axis that the UK will sorely need in a high mobile - low carbon future. Imminent Peak Oil and energy crunches will raise passenger and freight rail demand at the expense of road and air modes, all at a time when people are becoming more mobile, more time precious, information rich and more aware of the impact of climate change.

    So how to cater for this demand ? Building new roads is neither politically, economically or environmentally viable for the future. Electric and fuel cell cars can offer a solution, but they are limited in range and power and affected by the energy and carbon needed to manufacture and run them. They are not expected to much of an alternative for freight either. Air travel will become increasingly expensive as oil and power needed to refine Kerosene becomes more expensive.

    So to Rail. Many on here call for upgrading existing routes, but they are ignoring the practicalities and business cases of doing so. Well, the WCML has just come out of a £9bn updgrade and the southern section will be full again by 2014. The 11 car Pendolinos will help, but you only have to visit Euston on any day to see that demand will soak up this capacity very quickly. Yes you could upgrade it further, but at vaste expense and considerable further inconvenience. The business case is poor v a new HS2 line. Electrifying and upgrading existing lines (such as the MML and ECML), should of course be delivered to help provide extra capacity in the short term, but this is only a sticking plaster - in 10 years you will be facing the same problem.
    The solution with the best business case to solve this connundrum is to build new rail capacity. If you are to build new capacity, you might as well make it high speed to extract the most capacity out of a new corridor and attract the economic benefits to be had from reduced journey times. It seems every other developed nation on Earth has realised this and has built high speed networks, or is in the process of doing so.

    In tomorrow's global economy, those countries that prosper and attract the inward investment and talent, will be the ones that provide the sort of efficient, low-carbon, high capacity transit systems that high speed rail represents. Not to do so in the UK, would 1) limit capacity and therefore limit popular mobility through price, which would 2) have a negative impact on the country's economy and therefore affluency. So despite whether you would directly use, or are directly affected by high speed rail corridors, or not - is that what you would want in the future?

    As for the route, Paul Browne is correct, the year long study has proven that the current route is best - it should stay as it is. As is avoiding Heathrow and having instead the genius idea of an Old Oak Common Interchange.

    As for the environmental damage of a high speed corridor, I would ask everyone that is concerned to come down to Kent to see the *real* impact of HS1 here, rather than what people may suppose. Neither have the rural sightlines, the local environment or house prices been adversely affected by that sensitively planned transport corridor which effectively is as wide as my garden (as opposed to 'the scar' people talk of). Compare that to the constant din of a 6 lane motorway, like the M20, which indeed cuts the swaythe many talk of. In the Netherlands as in Japan, both countries with a higher population density than the UK, high speed rail has been built and is running. Ask the people there if their beautiful countryside has been spoilt or their lives detrimentally affected ?

    And finally for the cost. Of the c.£17bn a new high speed line would cost, most of the big bills won't even arrive until 2015 by which time the bulk of the nations accumulated defecit has been paid off (according to the Coalition's plan). Now is the right time to plan the corridor in detail with its associated light costs. In any case as Crossrail is finding out building duringa recession has big benefits in terms of the availability and cost of labour and materials - witness the hundreds of millions that project has managed to shave off recently.

    And as for the national neurosis on the deficit and immiment spending cuts - the government and the press are silent about the £120bn the RBS, Lloyds, Barclays, Northern Rock and other banks are contractually obliged to pay back under the Bank Insurance Scheme to the UK Government by 2012 ! And this excludes the value of the capital the Government owns in those Banks which it can sell.

  • Simon Nicholson, Loughborough, UK

    The big problem we have in the UK is that the rail lines we have were not built for the speed of the opperations that we expect now. If you compare road with rail for example, we still have the A1 the Great North Road, but it is nothing like it was 100 years ago. The west coast main line is still basically the same route it was 100 years ago and it is not suitable for today's speeds without spending a fortune maintaining the sharp curves.

    In this country we need a modern fast straight rail network, not following the contours of the land because thats all our forefathers could build with a pick and shovel.

  • Chris Reynell, Longstock, Hampshire.

    Why not build the new high speed railways along the motorways?

    The advantages are:
    Fairly good alignments
    Park and ride intermediate stops at the service areas
    Simpler planning, the area is already blighted with noise, fumes and light pollution.

    The line should swap sides of the motorways every 50 miles to give both sides of the train decent views.

  • John Buckeridge, Woodford Halse, England

    Why on earth is Hammond not cancelling this white elephant MML/CML duplication of a line?? We already have enough high speed lines, please concentrate funds on upgrading existing routes, i.e. GWML and SWML. Throwing money at this nonsense is going to send the railway into another 60s style crisis as the fares will never be able to compete with the low cost airlines. In the meantime, Network Rail continues haemorrhaging debt.

  • S. Archer, Southam, uk

    HS2 makes no sense on any level! I am all for a solution or attempt at resolving
    transport issues but am NOT convinced that this course is the right one and would only be too pleased if it could be proven! To date information given appears to be vague at best, surely we are entitled to a level playing field for both people for and against?
    I find it very worrying, for example, that many people I meet are unaware about the project, perhaps this will be addressed before consultations start?
    I have been following the progress on the Californian High Speed Rail, I do hope Government is too!

  • Jules, lowerstoft

    HS2 may have had less objections from Buckinghamshire if they had proposed a station near Brackley (or even at Calvert to provide a connection with the long proposed East West re-opening). The TGV planners "gave in" to such pressures (in return for a high speed line through their countryside the people of Picardie got a parkway station East of Amiens)

  • A Shanks, Warwick, England

    HS2 is a criminal waste of money. Public sectors workers are losing their jobs. First class carriages are empty due to austerity measures. Surely they are only keeping this alive so that they can claim a cost saving in the comprehensive spending review next month.

  • Peter Hooper, Windsor., UK

    Like the curate's egg, I found John Kelvin's comments to be good in part.

    I wholeheartedly agree with his view about Birmingham, where the present proposal is for 3 central stations at New Street (WCML), Moor Street (Chiltern Line) and Curzon Street (HS2); this is in addition to a HS2 station at Birmingham International.

    Personally I would prefer to see a tunnelled HS2 through station with 400m platforms running between Moor Street and New Street, with access to/from both these stations; thus allowing direct easy transfers between WCML, Chiltern Line / other local train services and HS2.

    However I disagee with his comments about the WCML. Virgin report their existing 9 car Pendolino trains are already so overcrowded on Fridays & Sundays, that on 50% of trains passengers have to stand (or sit) in the coridors for much of the journey.
    Even the planned addition of 2 extra carriages, making 11 car Pendolinos, will not meet demand in 15 years time.
    Also businessmen pay premium fares for 1st Class seating / facilities, take their massive cars off the road and allow them a relaxed environment in which to work while on the move. In my opinion this is and should remain a commercial decision for for the TOCs.

    Finally, Deutsche Bahn (the operator of Chiltern Railways) is even now planning ICE trains from Frankfurt / Cologne via the Chunnel to London.
    If HS1 is linked to HS2 via a London "LGV Interconnexion", then there is no good reason why these trains should not proceed to Birmingham and beyond.

  • Gareth Miller, Chinnor, Oxon, U.K.

    High Speed Rail is needed in this country as is an improved local train network, it doesn't have to be an either/or. What the people who suggest only developing local services don't realise is that these are feeders for the Main lines and improvements to them will result in increasing ridership on already heavily congested trunk routes. This is evidenced by the reverse happening when Beeching closed swathes of Branch lines in the Sixties.

    The argument that we can get away in the long term by chucking an extra carriage on the Pendolino's is a flawed one. This is a short term fix for already overcrowded services. Yes demand may be lower over the next couple of years, but on the whole demand for rail travel has been stagnant not falling, and even with the extra carriages on the West Coast line it is predicted that services will be overflowing by 2020. You can't just wait for services to be at capacity then to start thinking about High Speed or extra capacity, there are huge lead times in Rail. It has to be planned for way in advance like is happening.

    There is demand for High Speed Travel in this country, but the current scheme doesn't meet it for two reasons. The price of rail travel is much more expensive on the day than travelling by car and the first phase of the scheme only goes to Birtmingham and not even to the centre.

    A "different" High Speed Rail project that takes in the whole length of the country, accesses city centres and links not only to Heathrow but the Channel Tunnel Rail Link would help large businesses set up offices outside of London and bring down the inequalities in economy between North and South and of course it would help improve air quality by reducing the amount of cars on the road and therefore provide cost savings to the NHS.

    I was born and raised in the Chilterns, I am looking out on to the base of one of the hills as I write this. It is a beautiful place to live. I am also looking out onto an old branch line closed in 1957 and there are many other disused lines in the Chilterns. Risborough-Thame-Oxford being another. There were many many more train services "scarring" the landscape 50 years ago here. That is just a FYI statement of fact rather than an opinion of any kind.

    As far as the ill conceived current projects route through the Chilterns goes, of course Labour selected it so as to avoid their constituencies, this is Tory heartland and they will never get in (for better or worse) equally the main reason the Tories want to change the route is because they don't want to upset their core vote. Neither party give a damn about the Chilterns they are motivated by votes.

    So whether the Chiltern route is the right one or not is irrelevant as the decision will not be based on that, it will be changed regardless because the Tories are scared witless about how many of their vote are turning up at the public meetings.

  • john kelvin, oxford

    I'm a great supporter of train travel. However what is just so stupid about HS2 is that many passengers travelling to Birmingham will want to change for elsewhere, but because the line doesn't go in to New Street, they will be faced with, say, 20 minutes faffing around on a travellator to get to their onward connections. Which completely negates any time savings made.

    Ignore all this about an over-crowded WCML. Pendelinos are about to be extended to 11 cars. Then take the massive public sector cuts and huge reduction in 1st class travel demand. So on those 11 coach trains, make 10 of them standard class. That's already nearly doubled capacity.

    Yes, invest in UK trains, and extensively. But my vision is more huge electrification of existing lines, Siemens Desiros with high quality interiors providing very intensive services (e.g. Cross Country goes to 15 minute frequencies, similarly on Chiltern Lines to Birmingham), and with junctions upgraded where needed to cope.

    We should be thinking much more "Swiss Railways" and much less "TGV".

  • p.c.f.fry, perivale,middlesex, england

    amen to that,geoffrey woollard! paul browne:i think you mean "mettle";and,so what if hs2 spent the best part of a year planning this white elephant?i've spent the best part of 70 years living by the "preferred" route,and now risk losing my home to suit the surmised needs of a few politicians,and businessmen on expenses ;outside the cities,who will be able to use this line,or indeed could afford the exorbitant fares?the final irony?i,and millions of other taxpayers will pay for the privilege!the transport secretary thinks the coalition will have sorted the deficit by the time construction begins(though the planning may already have cost millions),but who is saying that hs1 has been a commercial success,when the government are trying to sell it off at a third of its cost?the supposed economic benefits are pie-in-the sky;the destruction of homes,livelihood,environment and wild-life is irreperable;instead of thinking about money,speed,concentrate on the moral issue of compulsory purchase,and the social consequences;as to "capacity"...what happens when you build a new motorway?capacity increases to gridlock;unlike continental europe,we are a small,overcrowded country,have a perfectly good rail network which has suffered neglect and decline;let that be improved;finally,as must be perfectly obvious,people will not abandon their cars,or cease to fly unless forced to;the green party have woken up to the fact that this is not as environmentally-friendly as painted;the national electricity grid is facing a crisis,and the hs line will require a considerable number of generators along its track;green?i think not! peter fry

  • Peter Hooper, Windsor., UK

    Brian Goss: it is not just the HS2 documentation that objectors should read.

    The history of the development of Turnpike roads, the canals, our classic railways and modern motorways have all allowed UK industry to develop, goods to be transported and the population given the ability to travel throughout the country.

    In the 21st Century, High Speed Rail must just be seen as the next logical development, along with new electrification schemes and de-carbonisation of our electric supply.

  • James Barlow, Sheffield, United Kingdom

    So we've had companies do research and one of the biggest most succesful engineering companies have decided the Y shaped rotue serving midlands sheffield and north west is better (rather than one branch to leeds) yet conservatives still want this S shape. Do they not understand the concept of this research that has been done and that serperate organizations have come up with the same answer?

    How much does phillip hammond think it will cost to tunnel through pennines? much cheaper to break off south of birmingham surely? then your taking flat land (almost) up towards leeds.....

  • TSW, Warwicks, UK

    Surely tweaking and realignments should be part of a public consultation not at the whim and behest of ministers who shout loudest for their consitituencies. Public consultation should allow all interested and affected groups to put forth their views whereas it appears to be occuring behind closed doors and we are returning to the problems faced by HS1 in terms of communities suffering blight whilst the multiple routes were considered.

  • Charlie Moreton, Leamington Spa, England

    HS2 may sound like a good idea but honestly it is far from it!
    The demand is definately not there and they know this. Your local trains will be cut back to increase the numbers for HS2 and even then they are way off their predicted figures, therfore unless you live near Birmingham or London HS2 will not benefit you in any way, it will only make things harder. With current technology people can pass information and hold meetings at the click of a button without the costly trips to and from cities. The environmental impact will be massive and has been proven by experts not to be as carbon friendly as it is portrayed by a long way. There are many MPs that are against HS2 (2 ministers threatening to resign also) mainly because of the cost and the environmental impact, however most of these MPs have changed their tune because this is a potential vote winner, all because it 'sounds' good and green! This is England, a densely populated country, not Russia or even France that have huge open areas that are uninhabited. This will rip through the heart of the country shattering communities and all that is beautiful about our countryside.(Not just the Chilterns).

    You will save 30mins on a trip from London to Birmingham, then if you need to get a taxi to the centre it will take you 20mins. This will be a gigantic billion pound scar accross the face of our country that saves you 10mins. HS2 is not the solution!

  • andrew ganley, cheam, england

    HS1 HS2 who cares! if it wasnt for that industrial vandal,Dr Beeching we wouldnt be in this situation,like closing the old GC route to Manchester and beyond,good move that! esp as it was built to the Bern guage

    The fact is the UK isnt France where there are acres of land+no objection culture,the only land that was available has(is) being taken up with yet more
    road building,e.g making the M25/M1 fourl lanes=even more traffic and the same long delays.
    Forget HS2 concerntrate on making the rest of the network bigger.

  • brian goss, Beeston (Notts), England

    Those arguing against HS2 would do well to read the various documents published on it before commenting. HS2 is not just about journey times, it is also about growth in passenger numbers their higherst postwar level, increasing overcrowding, and the need to increase capacity. The WCML debacle has demonstrated that four-tracking existing lines isnt good value for money. It has also been demonstrated that HS2 offers a good economic return on investment. For those of use who do wish to use low-carbon public transport, HS2 - YES PLEASE, BRING IT ON!

  • Geoffrey Woollard, South East Cambridgeshire, England

    It appears that Philip Hammond had a difficult time yesterday despite his reported willingness to 'tweak' the route of the high-speed rail. But there is something much more fundamental in this than a little 'tweak' here and there. The fundamental thing is, do we need this project at all? As I understand it, the cost for the link from London to Birmingham alone is £17 billions. I also understand that a traveller from London to Birmingham can expect to get to Birmingham in half an hour less than at present. Is the expense and the disruption worth this trifling 'gain'? I think not. I also think that, excepting the putative traveller from London to Birmingham, there will be few in the remainder of the country who will either benefit or want to pick up the tab. I live in rural Cambridgeshire. If I want to go to Birmingham, I go by car. I would never in a million years go by train. It's time for us taxpayers to take an interest in this thing that was left over from Labour. There is nothing worthwhile in it for the vast majority of us. We must stop it altogether.

  • Paul Browne, London

    The Conservatives need to show their metal here. Yes, more could be done to mitigate the environmental impact but the line should remain where it is. HS2 ltd spent the best part of a year planning the route which is the best route. Moving it now would only add to confusion and delays of a year or more.

  • Peter Hooper, Windsor., UK

    What's of most interest is where the West of London station will be built - Old Oak Common or the Arup / BAA proposal for a GWR/M25/Heathrow hub.

    Also whether HS1 will be extended to the hub forming the London equivalent of the Paris "LGV Interconnexion". Then of course whether Euston will be the London terminus for HS2.

    Until these basic decisions have been made, the adjusted HS2 route through the Chilterns cannot be published / consulted on.