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

“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.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Glen Beakbane, Kidderminster, UK

    It is apparent that the best interest of communities up and down the land are of no concern to the government. I have not heard how those living along side the route shall benefit from this huge and noisy transport link. Regenerating industry by encouraging local business near to where populations live shall benefit the environment and economy far more than building such a pointless rail line. I am certain more people would object if it the true facts were known. I hope some sense shall prevail. Do not build this.

  • Taron, W. London, uk

    hs1 -> crossrail tunnel ---> old oak ---> chiltern line .. job done

  • brian, Beeston (Notts), England

    Great news indeed,
    absolutely essential to maintain our competitiveness & win investment in the uk.

    To say HS2 will destroy the chilterns is quite misleading, The chilterns are 47km wide, HS2 will be be 25m wide fence to fence with additional 25m tree free zone. as a % that doesnt sound like total devastation to me. (maybe we should go back to building motorways instead...that would certainly have more of an impact)

  • Claydon William, Norwich, Norfolk, England

    The quickest route to Birmingham is via the Chilterns. Upon leaving London, there is a vacant 2-track main line currently unused between Old Oak, Perivale and Ruislip, so routing HS2 via Old Oak with a tunnel under Kensal Green to Primrose Hill does make sense, especially as the likely HS2 servicing depot will likely be the vacant ex-'Eurostar' North Pole depot.

    Personally, I would have preferred HS2 to follow the entire Chiltern route to Birmingham via Banbury, the M40 corridor, and Small Heath, but I'm just happy to get the extra rail capacity we desperately need built asap

  • michael, London, England, UK, EU

    WHY are we limiting our nation to just TWO high speed lines???

    We have HS1 - tick. done
    We could do with
    HS2, portsmouth, southamption, brighton, gatwick, and tunnel under london with subsurface station under kings cross and then carrying on north - running roughly the ecml route.
    HS3 - the airport interconnector, a loop, LHR, LGW, a station in what will be the thames gateway int airport, stanstead, luton, and LHR. This can spur off with HS4 at or near Luton to go to Birmingham international, Manchester int and bradford leeds and possibly edinburgh or glasgow.

    HS5 - Belfast, dublin, under sea cut/cover tunnel, swansea, cardiff, bristol, swindon, reading, LHR, and a new subsurface tunnel with station under st panc/kings cross and carrying on to join HS1 at stratford

    HS6, the stratford, (new tunnel to st pan/kings cross station), LHR, Reading, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow/Edinburgh

    HS7, old ECML upgraded

    HS8 - the new subsurface from west to east - stratford, standstead, cambridge, nottingham, manchester, blackpool, scotland

    HS9 - plymouth, bristol, cheltenham, birmingham, liverpool, manchester, leeds/york?, new castle, scotland - pushing all the way to inverness

    HS10 - the east / west under london that goes to LHR, st pan/kings cross, stratford, thames est new airport, to be carried on to another set of chunnels to be build as the current ones are at capacity. there are 2 main bores and there should be at least 6, 2 for freight, 2 for le shuttle/eurostar, 2 for eurostar.

    ETC.... I could carry on till I described two dozen LGV's!

    I could keep going and send you some nice diagrams that would be far more beneficial than ONE single LINE build in 40 years time!

    Along with this is a total electrification of the entire rail network and ending the need for DMU's.

    If you would like to discuss a proper scheme that makes sense and is best value for the customer and citizens of the UK, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Michael Turberville

  • Stephen Cryan, Warrington

    Without looking at all the relevant points both in favour and against the proposed HSR2 plans we must consider two main elements before making any decisions.

    1 - There are already traffic capacity restraints(which will only become worse) on the WCML between Euston and Rugby. This problem has to be solved one way or another.This can be done by upgrading (again) the WCML or by diverting traffic on to other lines in the same corridor, or by four-tracking or even six-tracking one or more of the present routes, or by building a new line (HSR2), or even by a mixture of new line and upgrading.

    2 - The second essential consideration is the long term strategy regarding train transport in this country. A line to North West England and Scotland is a necessity, as is a line to Yorkshire, the North East and on to Scotland, while another line to the West Country and South Wales must be included. All these lines originate/terminate in London but that does not mean that all the traffic is to/from London.
    Knowing the strategy means the lines can be built in parts - starting with the worst sections for running speeds and bottlenecks - because that is the way everybody else does it (Spain does not count as it has a different gauge on old lines) and so facilitate the running of stock on new and classic lines together - as both the French, Germans et al do.

    Two questions for financing:-
    The assemblies of Wales and Scotland have limited tax raising powers. Either they have to be given more power (a difficult question) or these projects should be considered UK infrastructure and therefore UK planned, executed and financed.
    The GBP33 mentioned in the article (and most certainly more) is a lot of money. Can we have some figures for comparison?. How much would upgrades on the WCML, ECML, MML and GWML cost?

    Lord Adonis has proved to be the best Secretary of State for Transport in living memory Minister (50 + years). He at least provided the documents which were used for his decision making on HSR2. Unfortunately, the present coalition government has proved to be much less transparent. They will present their plans as a done deal, affecting the fewest true blue constituencies as possible, while trying to comply with ridiculous election promises (the Heathrow extension).

    The protests in the Chilterns and Lichfield, though important, are just smoke to hide the bigger picture. The alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear. Civil servants (and politicians) do not like to have to revise plans and decisions already made. However, High Speed infrastructure should be a national consensus of the greater good for the greater number. These projects should never be allowed to be the ego-macho whims of the minister and parties in power of the day.

  • Stuart Kelly, Lanarkshire, Scotland

    Anyone in Scotland who is a taxpayer contributes as such to HMRC in the UK not Scotland.
    As such we have as much right, as those in the well infrastructured south, to excellent transport links.
    The UK needs high speed links to remain a key player in the EU. Our rail infrastructure simply cannot cope any longer, you only need to step on trains to see how overcrowded they are. Oil will not last forever and we as a country must look at ways of being able to travel between key European cities in the least possible time. I live approx 200m from the West Coast Main Line and I can assure you you do not notice or hardly hear the freight or passenger trains. I applaud the government for building this, but it must be done quick and not spoken about for years with long public enquiries delaying the process. France, Germany etc do not mess about they get on with it. Build it in its entirety all the way to Scotland and a link to Wales too in order that we become an integrated society.

  • Kathryn, Wendover

    How can people say this is great news?!? Anyone that has said this does not live in the areas that are actually going to be affected by HS2. It is going to completely ruin the Chilterns for a service that none of them can actually use!!!! Anyone who is for this should take a trip down there and see exactly what is going to be destroyed and that's not without looking at the financial cost of the project.

  • Sarah Matheson, Wendover, Buckinghamshire

    The business case from HS2 does not stack up. John Savins (MBA) excellent Financial Analysis for the case AGAINST HS2 is based upon the actual HS2 Ltd figures, both those which were generally provided to the public and much more which has been obtained under the FoI Act, relating to the underlying financial and demand models.

    To access go to the wendover HS2 website and look under news, latest news, business case analysis.

    Your government want to make huge cuts in health, education, etc yet are prepared to spend £34 billion cutting up huge swathes of virgin countryside so that 36 high speed trains an hour can thunder past rural villages at 95 decibels for NO PROVEN BENEFIT.

    The big society and economic regeneration of the North arguments are a myth. Its the slaughter of the many for the benefit of the few. £34 BILLION To save 20 minutes of a journey to Birmingham when Chiltern railways are already upgrading the service and have probably the best railway franchise in the UK.

    HS2 comes down to basic morals though at the end of the day. If our society has reached a point where we are forced to destroy peoples homes, workplaces, quality of life, not to mention the 59 species of protected wildlife that will be wiped out, all to get somewhere 20 minutes quicker - we have to question what kind of a country are we living in. This isnt nimbyism at its best.

    No, This will be an act of vandalism, a scarring of a landscape that will remain in place years and years after all the silly HS2 demand forecasts have long since been unrealised.

    We are an island - we are not France - we dont have huge distances between our cities.

    Shame on you Phil Hammond

    You will lose a huge amount of the vote if this goes in.

  • A Hepburn, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

    Given that Scots are forced to use London airports as our hub and the train journey down there is typically 6 hrs from Glasgow (and a lot more from the north), how is Scotland supposed to compete with the rest of the UK and Europe? What will happen when Heathrow manages to force short-haul flights out altogether in favour of the more lucrative long-hall (as they are already doing)? And what will happen as air transport inevitably becomes less affordable because of oil prices and environmental factors over the next couple of decades?

    A high speed rail link is absolutely critical to the survival of the Scottish economy.

  • Claydon William, Norwich, Norfolk, England

    Fantastic news, at last someone has stopped the talk and made a decision. Its far from perfection, but lets just get it built pdq.

    With this plan; (that includes a Heathrow loop); we can now seriously look at carbon centred policies that will abolish domestic english jet aviation. Demand to London follows traditional 'commuter' peaks over 5 hours a weekday; airport demand is 'spread' around 24 hours and compliments 'London' demand.

    Our Celtic cousins in Edinburgh and Glasgow will enjoy much faster journey times comparable city-centre to city-centre with air. If they want HS over Shap, then perhaps Mr.Salmond can find the money from Scottish tax-payers for a change.

    Well done Mr.Hammond; now hurry-up and get the damn thing built !!!!!

  • Will, Brackley, England

    We can't build the whole network at once - there just isn't the money. Scotland will benefit from the current plans, as journey times will be an hour shorter, and when the line is extended further, they will benefit further. If anything, it will be the Scots who will benefit most in the long run!

    I wish we would just get on and start building, rather than people constantly complaining that the first line will not run from their front door to the centre of London. Be patient, and more will follow.

    As for all the NIMBY's who live in the Chilterns, I refer you to the benefits reaped from the construction of the M40, which also runs through the area of outstanding natural beauty you are talking about. The benefits are much greater than the costs. And as for the noise people are complaining about, the trains will be doing 400 kph, so it won't last very long! And I live approximately one mile from the route, by the way!

  • Peter, London, Britain

    Excellent news - this will transform Britain's railways and at long last bring us on a par with the rest of Europe.
    The next step is the gradual changeover to the larger European loading gauge firstly where the HS2 lines enter city centres. It would not make sense to build the new line and then only run the smaller British loading gauge trains on it simply because anything larger wouldn't be able to enter existing city stations at Birmingham, Manchester etc.
    Already France is running doubledecker TGV's on its busiest routes and in Britain we have a much higher population density, therefore it's clear that high capacity must be built in to the new network.

  • Richard Houghton, Great Missenden, GB

    As ever no thought given to the long term impact on the quality of life of the residents whose communities will be destroyed by the building and running of HS2. Why have an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty when you simply disregard for unproven economic benefit.

  • Mark, Cardiff

    Just two major cities excluded..... what about Bristol and Cardiff?

  • Les Fawcett, Coventry, UK

    When will sanity prevail? London-Birmingham via Old Oak Common is not direct at all. OOC is south of Euston. What's the point of dragging HS2 half way to Heathrow, without actually getting there, very expensively in tunnel, when the alternative via M1 and east coast can get to Scotland and all cities between at similar cost as the current plan for London to Manchester and Leeds that bypasses several cities?
    No need to plough up the Chilterns AONB.
    No need to expand Euston's footprint.
    No need for 400kph - the CO2 savings claimed will not happen at that speed. We are supposed to be reducing our CO2 emissions by 80%, not increasing it.
    And if there really are to be 3 times as many people wanting to go to London in 15 years time, where are the plans for the rest of the country? Will we be saying in 15 years time, if only we'd thought about it we wouldn't have built it there?
    It's widely held among rail supporters that the current plan is a disaster.

  • cityboy, London/Edinburgh, UK

    Scotland is not frozen out. Journies to Glasgow cut from 4.5 hours to 3.5 hours (I took this info from the HS2 web page itself). The forecast journey times are less than it takes to travel from Edinburgh Waverley/Glasgow Central, check in, drop luggage and fly to City Airport or Heathrow and then travel into the West End of London or The City. Clearly, there is scope to extend the High Speed lines to Scotland. As there is a greater volume of demand and so train traffic toward the southern section of the UK's network, which means it will sooner reach capacity constraints, it makes more sense to build new lines closer to Birmingham Manchester and London than to start in Scotland.

  • A Hepburn, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

    What about Glasgow and Edinburgh? We need better links to the south more than any other part of the country.

    Hammond talks about the great benefits the new lines will bring the north of England, well what about the rest of us? Scotland already has higher unemployment and desperately needs better access to the rest of the UK and to Europe. Thanks for nothing.

  • Adam, Birmingham

    Not really Stuart. The complete line to Scotland has always been an "aspiration" but HS2 in one form or another has got to start somewhere so London to Birmingham and North West/East England is as good a start as any

  • Andy Forde, Glasgow

    Is the government aware of the existence of Tyneside, Glasgow and Edinburgh?

    This will only widen the north-south divide and further damage Scotland's economy relative to the rest of the UK.

    Doesn't the government care? The Lib Dems still have MPs and MSPs to lose here even if the Tories don't.

  • n morley, Sleaford, UK

    Scotland is NOT frozen out ! Its just that we cant afford it all at once. Annywayt, Scotland has its own govenment so you pay for it !

  • brian goss, Beeston (Notts), England

    @stuart, I dont think this proposal excludes the possibility of extending to scotland - that has always been part of the long term plan, just that funding & project bandwidth dont allow you to build the enitre length all at once, you develop the capability & do the project in phases.

  • Stuart Kelly, lanarkshire, Scotland

    Great news regarding HS2, just a shame that two major cities seem to be excluded- Glasgow and Edinburgh. Scotland frozen out by the tories yet again!!!