Posted 9th October 2010 | 12 Comments

HS2 unwrapped: major feature now available

Manchester Piccadilly in the future?

Manchester Piccadilly in the future?

RAILNEWS has published a major feature examining the proposals for a domestic High Speed rail network, which can be downloaded now.

The feature is the main part of an extra edition of Railnews Focus, which is normally published later in the month.

It reports on the government's case for building the line, considers the options which have been suggested, and looks at the opposition which has emerged, particularly along the route itself.

This special edition of Railnews Focus can be downloaded (pdf) by clicking here, or on the FOCUS tab above.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Dave, Somewhere, UK

    HS1 was built to take traffic from the Thames Gateway development - something not yet built. It was built to take traffic from destinations outside the London-Paris-Brussels triangle - e.g. from Frankfurt or Amsterdam when DB get their train up and running in a couple of years or from the north of the UK when HS2 is in place. In other words, if HS1 was full now then the planners would have got their sums wrong.

    HS1 was not sold off for a 70% discount. It was leased for 30 years for 2.1bn. As railways are typically built to last and HS1 will be in place for well over 100 years before major renewal work is needed, to raise more than a third of its cost for third of this time in no way can be considered a loss. And in the meantime the nation gets the benefit from it.

  • Peter Davidson, Manchester, NW.England

    Repeated experience now demonstrates how true HSR, once in-situ, begins to grab market share from airborne competitors - London-Paris, Paris-Marseille, Madrid-Barcelona, Madrid-Sevilla, need I go on........ but to compete effectively HSR must be fast, so obviously this requires truly high speed operation (320km/h will soon become the de facto standard target in this respect) and future proofing any new infrastructure seems like good old fashioned common sense, which makes a change in dear old blighty, with its penchant for cutting corners only to find costly upgrades are subsequently required.

    This means the idea of using existing corridors (motorways have been mentioned) is non-starter, precisely because said infrastructure is not future proofed in the aforesaid manner! (curvature and no expansion room under bridges/short tunnels). Technology works up to a point but it cannot buck the laws of physics?

    The role played by the Schengen Free Movement Area also seems to raise widespread misunderstanding. It is the UK's steadfast refusal to countenance entry into the Schengen zone (not the Channel Tunnel Treaty) mandating retention of border integrity - it is this principle that obliges passengers for a transport service entering UK territory to pass through border control and immigration checks prior to embarkation - if you think about it this principle also applies to ferries - if you arrive by plane airport security perimeters facilitate border control/immigration checks before passengers enter a free circulation zone.

    London stations? There is much current debate in the railway industry press at present regarding the impact of current Channel Tunnel safety regulations and how they affect competition between potential rival operators - it should be obvious therefore that any trainset operating in the tunnel environment must be at least 375m in length irrespective of its source of motive power and whether or not it allows transit throughout its entire length - surely this factor alone indicates why certain venues are deemed unsuitable, without radical rebuilding/refurbishment to receive International trainsets complying with this minimum requirement - in addition Schengen rules (remember that the UK being outside Schengen has reverse implications) may well preclude services originating in a UK provincial city from calling at London en-route to the continent. We should also not overlook the cost of building such termini/boarding points either - St. Pancras cost 0.8billion to refurbish to the desired standard!

    I'm firmly convinced that HSR is the coming mass transport revolution for the 21st.century - if Britain really does aspire to a) its claim to advanced first world status and b) homogeneity in terms of resource allocation, we should stop prevaricating and start building HS2 right now!

  • Mark Ettridge, london

    This is all very well but you seem to have forgotten another system MAGLEV run by ukultraspeed whos trains would run in excess of 300 miles per hour and would be way better for safety than wheels on rail at such speed. Anything short of this unique system would be both negative and engineering short sightedness.

  • Greg Tingey, London, England

    Fog in channel, Continent isolated.
    You pathetic collection of fuddy-duddies!
    OF COURSE we need HS2,3,(4?)

  • Chris, Cheshire, GB

    Why so fast? A slightly lower speed such as 160mph [c.260km/h]would be cheaper to build and more efficient to run.

    I have to disagree on this point. In studies carried out by independent bodies it was found that the construction of a "conventional speed" railway would only save around 2bn across the whole project but the economic benefits would be greatly reduced meaning in the long run it would cost more over the life of the track.

  • Anoop, London

    I agree with the principle of HS2, but not all the details. There is scope to produce most of the benefits at a lower cost:

    1. Why so fast? A slightly lower speed such as 160mph would be cheaper to build and more efficient to run. In hilly areas (e.g. north of Newcastle) it may be impossible to build a faster line anyway. The trains would be easier to procure as they can be modified versions of existing designs. They would have better acceleration at lower speeds and would not be much slower except on very long runs.

    2. Why a line to Manchester? The journey time to Manchester is only 2 hours currently - this is fast enough, and can easily compete with air and road. The Trent Valley lines have been four-tracked, so capacity is not too much of a problem north of Birmingham. Instead the main aim of the new line should be to reach the North-East and Scotland.

    3. Why the Primrose Hill tunnel? I propose an alternative: diverting the West Coast Main Line slow line onto Crossrail, and linking HS2 to the West Coast Main Line into Euston. This would involve new tunnels in the Acton / Willesden area, which would be easier to build and experience less opposition than tunnels near Primrose Hill. Also, the Euston slow lines are already linked to HS1 via the North London Line; this would spare the expense of building a new tunnelled link.

    4. Why rebuild Euston station? Using my suggested plan above (3), some slow trains would be diverted onto Crossrail, and would not require platforms at Euston. HS2 would feed into the existing slow lines leading to Euston. Some The building works at Euston could be relatively modest, involving just one or two extra platforms in the old parcels roads.

    5. Why a dedicated Heathrow loop? Instead I suggest a new line from HS2 to Heathrow Terminal 5, and for high speed trains to take over the Heathrow Express route to Paddington. Heathrow Express in its current form will be unnecessary after Crossrail opens, and the 125mph Great Western Main Line is fast enough for high speed trains to use between Heathrow and central London.

  • David Haggas, Skipton, UK

    Very much enjoyed reading the article. Why is thinking so muddled on through trains to Europe from HS2 stations north of London? The trains would (of course) stop in London en route so there would be no need to justify international demand from the regions alone. Time sensitive business travellers may not be attracted to rail north of the Midlands but leisure passengers certainly would. Eurostar's passenger figures show a large increase following the move from Waterloo to St.Pancras for example, despite people still having to negotiate clumsy changes of trains and all the check in palava.

    Rather than concerning themselves with Heathrow, ministers should have demanded a through route from the outset as it is central to the justification of HSR in Britain - to devolve power and wealth across the country from south east England. That means being connected seamlessly to the European network as your map shows and not having it firewalled in London - much like British Airways would like our international air travel to be.

    It is high time spokesmen from the big northern cities made some more noise about this a la Boris Johnson. Does anyone know who they are?

  • Jules, Lowestoft

    An American friend of mine (a rail campaigner) offers an interesting “outsider view” of European long distance rail travel. What he says is of course a truism. He says that Europe wide the situation is surprisingly similar to that found in the United States certainly the East Coast of America. Both in Europe and the United States long distance inter city travel (in Europe between countries) has a tiny share of the market, with major cities served by one train a day at best It is true that there are some city pairs (such as Amsterdam and Paris, London and Paris/Brussels) but these are regarded by Americans as what they are: in essence commuter lines. The Americans have these pairs also (such as Boston and New York) and usage (almost) matches European rail usage 'standards.' Also Europe (like America) has many centres, many destinations, which dilutes demand. Air can have its hub airports and although changing is a inconvenience it is nothing to the logistic nightmare (and costs) which faces rail if it wishes to cover every possibility, every demand with a simple single change. For international travel Rail therefore can never hope to compete with air for the business and leisure market for anything longer than (say) four hours. Further (and this will especially annoy those in the West Midlands) certain of Britain's major cities (to put it charitably) do not have the same draw for the incoming European leisure traveller as do other cities of Europe. Thus you and I (and someone from Paris or Zurich) may fashion plans for a holiday or visit to Barcelona or Milan or Munich, but let us face the reality: a Parisian (nor indeed a Londoner) is hardly going to have a burning passion to spend a week in Birmingham or Newcastle or Leeds. Unfair but sadly true for all the pushing of the cities and their merits. Of course there are “visitor cities” and locations in Britain attractive to the tourist but these may not nor or will not be served by direct international trains nor do they have the same draw as those “classic” European destinations. Thus inward leisure travel is always going to be relatively low compared with Europe.

  • Jerry Marshall, Burton Green, UK

    We have studied HS1 closely and been to visit. The most interesting lesson is that HS1 is running at a third of forecast demand and is being sold off at a 70% discount. Forecasts for HS2 are equally absurd and once again don't allow for the impact of competition, something Hammond admits was a mistake vis a vis HS1.

  • Claydon William, Norwich, Norfolk, England

    There is a counter argument regarding the potential merits of through services from the English provinces to Europe.

    If we're talking about London-Birmingham in 50 minutes with a link onto HS1, through Manchester-B'ham-Paris journey times will be very competitive to air. I suggest airline managers have more cause for concern than HS1/HS2 train managers.

    The other aspect of HS2 I hope we do not overlook is the prospect of including capacity for High Speed freight, using air-line type mini-containerised handling. The propsect of such high-speed freight business ought to be a significant part of project costing IMO, but will probably end up being overlooked given our oft dim-witted planning.

  • robbie craig, Romney Marsh, UK

    what is puzzling about the opposition to HS2 is that none of the opponents seem to have noticed that we have built one of these lines before. I use the line in Kent every day and lived here throughout its construction, whilst there are short term challenges (road closures etc) the end result is positive and soon blends into the background. I have read much of stuff produced by the opponents and it is similar to the stuff produced here before our line was opened - none of it has been true and the builders were sensitive to history and natural environment in the way they built it.

    One of the major victories of the opponents was that a parkway station was not built near Maidstone - guess which set of commuters are most unhappy at the moment. However - I think Ebbsfleet is a bit of a white elephant - not useful for Kent or the SE and essentially supplementary to what Ashford and Stratford can deliver in terms of connectivity.

  • David Faircloth, Derby, UK

    This is an excellent article, but I'm not sure the section on international trains is correct.

    Surely the problem is nothing to do with the UK not being s signator of the Schengen Agreement, but relates to Channel Tunnel security; customs/immigration controls can be carried out on trains, but the scanning undertaken at St Pancras, Lille Europe, Paris Nord and Brussels Midi would be far more difficult. However, this problem was addressed when the North of London Eurostar service was proposed; remember the eps waiting rooms on stations such as Crewe (I think it was on platform 5, near the steps from the footbridge at the front of the station)?

    Moreover, I believe Channel Tunnel Act requirements have to be taken into account; I understand this is why Temple Mills, North Pole and the Longsight eps depot were all protected by secure fencing. If my understanding is correct, unless this legislation is amended, a separate fleet of trains for international services through the Channel Tunnel will be required.

    But is there sufficient demand for trains carrying 700+ passengers to Continental destinations from those provincial cities on HS2? As someone who has traveled considerably by air throughout Europe over a period of roundly 20 years for work, I very much doubt it; however, if DB is successful in proving it is safe to operate trains shorter than 375m (or whatever the current minimum is) through the Channel Tunnel, a limited service of portion trains, one from Manchester and another from Leeds, South Yorkshire and the East Midlands, joining together at Birmingham Interchange and then going forward to Paris or Brussels may be justifiable - just!