Posted 22nd July 2008 | 3 Comments

Councils opposed to airport expansion unveil plans for £30 billion high speed rail link

Above: The proposed 'compass point' for the Heathrow Express development network. Home page picture: The proposed route for High Speed North. For full details click on link (right) to download pdf.

AN ambitious plan for a £30 billion south to north high speed rail link connecting Heathrow Airport to Edinburgh and Glasgow via the East Midlands, Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle has been unveiled by the 2M Group, a consortium of 21 local authorities opposed to airport expansion.

Devised by civil engineer Colin Elliff, the high speed route would be established in stages up to 2030 and link with High Speed 1 – the 186mph line from St Pancras International to the Channel Tunnel - and provide extensive connections between Heathrow and Home counties suburban routes.

Publication of the new plans comes in the wake of Network Rail’s announcement that the company is ‘kick-starting’ a process to look at the need for future rail lines – almost certainly for high speeds – as capacity on the existing system starts to run out.

That announcement came as Conservative politicians backed the case for high-speed rail, a Railway Forum conference again stressed the need for planning work to start and other organisations such as Greengauge 21, put forward suggested routes.

But 2M Group’s newly planned route differs from similar proposals in aiming to connect more cities with the airport. Its spine would follow the M1 motorway from London and serve Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh on its way to Glasgow. Spurs would extend to major cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

2M leaders said ministers’ obsession with building more airport runways made them look increasingly out of touch with modern transport needs.

Wandsworth Council leader Edward Lister said: “We are delighted to publish the High Speed North proposals because we want a debate. We have a government that can’t see further than the next runway. It’s time for some imagination in UK transport planning. We don’t pretend for one minute we have all the answers, but at least we’re asking the right questions.”

Richmond leader Serge Lourie added: “The country’s roads are grinding to a halt and all ministers want to do is put more planes in the sky and more cars on the roads. Just expanding the existing Heathrow runways would bring another million road journeys. The real demand is for sustainable transport options that actually help people and businesses move around the country.”

Journey times of just over three hours are envisaged for Sheffield to Paris, just over four hours from Manchester to Amsterdam, five hours 30 minutes from Leeds to Frankfurt and five hours from Glasgow to Paris.

First section of the route would link Heathrow to Leicester, with a branch to Birmingham connecting to West Coast and Midland main lines. A second phase along the M1/M18 corridor would link with the East Coast Main Line in Yorkshire, while the third stage would extend from Sheffield to Leeds via the disused Woodhead Tunnel and Manchester.

The route’s final stage would extend along the M62 corridor to Liverpool and follow the East Coast Main Line and M8 to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

High Speed North would include an interchange at Cricklewood, north London and an integrated ‘super’ terminal connecting Euston, St Pancras and Kings Cross stations.

Mr Elliff said: “This plan is about connections to Europe without internal flights and bringing European destinations closer to the UK.”

* The RMT union has welcomed the Transport Select Committee’s call for a stronger and bolder vision for the long-term future of railways and a report by Mps which urges the Government to stop ‘dodging’ the decision to build the high-speed rail links the economy and environment desperately need to develop a genuine 30-year strategy for the industry.

Reader Comments:

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

  • H. Harvey, Birmingham

    Read the York Aviation Report for the City of London Corporation 'Aviation Services and the City'

    Extracts from York Aviation report for City of London Corporation ‘Aviation Services and The City.’

    The availability of an expanded high speed rail network to points in the UK and
    continental Europe that could genuinely compete in terms of time and
    service levels could substantially reduce demand for air travel to these

    “If the option was there, we would do all our domestic travel by high speed train. It is
    simply a better and more efficient experience”

    it is essential that these links (high speed rail )are time efficient and do not involve changes.

    City of London should ……support developments in relation to high-speed rail links

    Businessmen Asked To what Extent Could Improved Rail Travel Serve as a Substitute for Business Travel by Air

    Within the UK
    (surface journeys of up to 3 hours) 69% said they could
    Within the UK
    (surface journeys of over 3 hours) 48% said they could

  • Derek Glenn, Leeds, England

    I am very strongly in favour of the expansion of our railway network and a freeze on the expansion of air travel. Expenditure on our railways is pitiful compared to other major European countries and unless new high speed rail links are planned and built soon, the existing network will become grossly overloaded or will be priced out of the reach of normal working people to discourage them from using it despite the obvious environmental benefits. Why are we even thinking about a new runway at Heathrow and building 2 massive new aircraft carriers that hardly anybody wants when this money could be used to improve our rail infrastructure for the good of all?

  • Craig Emerson, Southampton, Great Britain

    Sheffield to Leeds via Woodhead and Manchester, thats the long way round I think they mean Liverpool, that begins with an 'L' too. Don't get me wrong, i'm all in favour of good railway connections and support the call to re-open the Woodhead Route, a railway that should never have closed in 1981, such shortsightedness has been the downfall of not only British Rail and Railtrack but has now become Notwork Rails byword, I overheard one employee say that if it doesn't need doing, don't do it, in fact doing the barest minimum is fine with them. What this country needs is a railway company that wants to be the best in Europe, proud to be British like me