Summary: HS2 Plan B is a full scheme alternative to HS2. It would be built North-first in stages and follow motorway and railway corridors where possible. Crossing the Pennines and in the Midlands, it would fast-connect city centres in groupings strong enough to resist the tilt of the UK economy towards London. It would have a station at East Midlands Airport on its main line. And its destination in London would be St Pancras, with its Eurostar and Thameslink platforms. Plan B trains continuing south on the Thameslink route would be able to interchange with the London Crossrail at Farringdon and connect to the Kent, South London, Gatwick and Sussex rail network at Blackfriars and London Bridge.
HS2 will not do this.
1. Plan B’s new fast lines are shown in heavy red on the map. Regional main routes where Plan B trains could continue beyond the major stations are shown in thin red.
The line for the North-South Divide, from the Severn Estuary to The Wash, was calculated by Prof Dorling and colleagues in 2010. See The Economic Geography of the UK: www.sagepublications.com
2. Construction of HS2 Plan B would start with a fast link between Manchester Victoria and Leeds. Scarcely forty miles long, it would follow the M62 corridor eastwards through the Pennines from Rochdale and halve the current rail time between the two cities. This North-first, not London-first, scheme start is intended to attract and anchor railway design and construction, rock-tunnel, power supply, steel-working, signalling system and smart-train skills and jobs well to the north of the North South Divide.
3. A cross-Pennine economy: As both Manchester Victoria and Leeds stations have through-platforms, the forty mile link would also fast-connect the stations of East Lancs to those of West Yorks. It would join-up a cross-Pennine economy with city centre resources and networks, SME groupings, university research, design and technology skills and commuter hinterlands: the sort of ‘agglomeration’ seen by BBC2’s Mind The Gap two-parter, with Evan Davies reporting, as essential for competing with London and other world-cities:
4. A Northern Cities Crossrail: the rail networks joined up by the forty mile fast link would form a Northern Cities Crossrail reaching west to Liverpool, east to York and Hull and south to Sheffield and Rotherham.
HS2 will not do this.
5. East Midlands Airport would have one of the two intermediate stations on Plan B’s north-south main line. It would be built at the motorway end of the airport and connected by short rail spurs to the existing lines into the centres of Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Loughborough.
The East Midlands grouping of university cities, world-level industries and heritage has the potential to outgrow the sum of its parts, with the airport and its station central to it.
The airport has no rail connection today and HS2 has not been planned to stop there.
6. Midlands Cities Crossrail: Plan B’s main line would continue south from East Midlands Airport, following the M1 corridor. Near Jn.19 of the M1, it would meet Plan B’s Midlands Cities Crossrail, fast-connecting west along the M6 corridor to Coventry and Birmingham and through Wolverhampton to the Midlands’ west side rail network. It would extend the Midlands ‘agglomeration’ of city centre economies and skill catchments.
7. Canary Wharf fast-connector: Plan B includes a Thames tunnel route with rail-rail interchanges at Lewisham, Canary Wharf and Stratford. It is needed to relieve commuter rail congestion at and approaching London Bridge station and associated overcrowding on the Jubilee Line between London Bridge and Canary Wharf; and (in prospect) at Stratford’s Olympic Legacy Park. The route would also bring southbound commuters to Canary Wharf from the Lea Valley, Harlow, Bishops Stortford, Stansted and Cambridge.
The idea for a direct Gatwick-Lewisham-Canary Wharf-Stratford-Stansted link first appeared in the BML2 project (Brighton Main Line 2)
8. Off-line connectivity: The Plan B main line would have connector chords off to the town centre stations at Huddersfield, Wakefield, Sheffield, Rotherham, Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Loughborough and Coventry. It has scope for rail/rail interchanges at M1 Jn.37 (Barnsley West), at Mirfield (Huddersfield-Halifax-Dewsbury), at Rochdale and with the West Coast Main Line at Coventry NE and possibly at M1 Jn.13 (Milton Keynes East).
See Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_395
And see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICE_3#Class_406
10. HS2 Plan B journey times (See ‘Miles and Mins’ page) are based on the Class 395 speeds between St Pancras and Ashford in Kent. More recent, faster versions of this type of electric train are in use elsewhere in the EU. The Plan B main line curvatures have been drafted to suit these. As a result, Plan B’s St Pancras to Birmingham rail times would be minutes slower than HS2 but still time-competitive with WCML services from Euston.
See below: The risk of HS2’s Euston-first start and the dash to Birmingham
11. Leeds-Bradford Airport: Plan B had two original options for a rail-connected Leeds-Bradford Airport (LBA), but the costs and benefits of extending the high speed line via the airport now seem daunting. Plan B now proposes the relocation of Leeds-Bradford airport to either Church Fenton or Elvington, two existing airfields near York. Each could be connected to the Northern Cities Crossrail at much lower cost and so add advantage to the cross-Pennine economy. Both have had major housing or garden city-type schemes proposed nearby. Both offer scope for rail-rail interchanges with the East Coast Main Line.
This map is illustrates the original NorthStart strategy of 2011. Line HS62 remains its high speed link between Manchester Victoria and Leeds, tracking the M62 Motorway eastwards from Rochdale through the Pennine Moors. It would involve rock-tunnel and surface sections between Rochdale and Halifax, with scope for commuter stops at Rochdale and at Jn.24 of the M62 for Halifax-Huddersfield North. Line HS21 on the map remains the scheme’s Stage 2 and the first section of its north-south main line. Plan B would still include a new two-level Bradford Central station to replace the existing Bradford Interchange and Bradford Foster Square stations, but Plan B no longer has a main line extension north via Leeds Bradford Airport and Harrogate.
12. HS2 Plan B and the West Coast and East Coast Main Lines
Plan B’s position in the market would be that of a much-extended and much enhanced Midland Main Line: a new fast rail spine in the middle of England between the West Coast and East Coast main line routes; competing with both on occasion.
In the period before Plan B was built, the quickest improvement to seat capacity on the WCML’s Euston-Birmingham-Manchester Piccadilly route would be to change one car in each 9 car set to Standard Class from First Class.
Medium term capacity shortfalls on the WCML would be eased by track and signalling upgrades; later by introducing 12 car trains instead of the current 9 car sets, with platform extensions where 12 car sets would stop.
See Chris Stokes in ‘Quotes’.
13. The risk of HS2’s Euston-first start and the dash to Birmingham
London is the UK’s great economic and political powerhouse. It has four international airports. Its commuter arteries fan out across the south of England to access a skills catchment and spending power twice that of Birmingham and Manchester put together. But If HS2 is launched Euston-first it will give London a big new economic artery and bring Birmingham to within an hour’s commute of London’s vastly bigger business sector. London would grow into an even bigger business draw than it is now. Birmingham and cities further north of the North South Divide would lose more ground and the chance to change the shape of the UK economy and give the North a one-off (but lasting) boost from fast connectivity first will be lost.
See Lord Digby Jones in ‘Quotes’.
The NorthStart scheme map was updated with the HS2 Plan B route on 17 Sept 2013. The Stratford-Canary Wharf-Lewisham tunnel route was added 3 July 2013. Further updates to map and text 24 Sept 2013. The east-west Crossrails map was added 22 April 2014 and the Northern Cities Crossrail notation and detail were added 29 October 2014.