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 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. Trains on the Thameslink route will be able to interchange with the London Crossrail at Farringdon and connect to the southern rail network at Blackfriars and London Bridge for routes to Kent, South London, Gatwick and Sussex.
HS2 will not do this.
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
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.
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 be a joined-up cross-Pennine economy with city centre buzz, talent pools, SMEs, university research, design and technology skills and commuter spending power: 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:
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.
East Midlands Airport would be one of the two stops on Plan B’s north-south main line. The Plan B station would be built at the motorway end of the airport and connected by short rail spurs to the existing lines into Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Loughborough.
This joined-up grouping of university cities, heritage and world-level industries has the potential to grow bigger than the sum of its parts, with its airport and station central to it. At present the airport has no rail connection and HS2 was not planned to stop there.
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, Birmingham and Wolverhampton and out to the Midlands’ west side rail network. It would join up the Midlands’ city centres and their talent pools, SME networks, university research, design and technology resources, producers and commuter spending power.
Canary Wharf fast-connector: HS2 Plan B includes a Thames tunnel route with rail-rail interchanges at Lewisham, Canary Wharf and Stratford. It would relieve Southern commuter congestion at and approaching London Bridge station and overcrowding on the Jubilee Line between London Bridge and jobs at 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. See: http://www.bml2.co.uk/
The first train fleet on Plan B would be successors to the Class 395 commuter trains running at up to 140mph on HS1: see header photo. They would be inter-operable, able to operate on new high speed track or to leave it to join existing routes into existing town centre stations. At St Pancras, they would either terminate next to the Eurostar platforms or continue via the Thameslink platforms to interchange with the London Crossrail at Farringdon and with the Southern network at Blackfriars.
See Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_395
And see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICE_3#Class_406
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.
St Pancras to Birmingham rail times: these would be slower than HS2 but still time-competitive with WCML services from Euston. Plan B’s M1-M6 route aims to avoid central Birmingham becoming part of the London commuter catchment, an inherent risk with HS2’s speed-first route to Birmingham and its shorter rail times.
Plan B and the North South Divide: HS2 Plan B aims to deliver its benefits with the North South Divide in mind: a North start, not a London-first start. A North start should anchor railway engineering, civil engineering, rock-tunnel, power supply, steel-working, signalling system and smart-train skills and jobs well to the north of the Divide.
Off-line connectivity: The Plan B main line would have connector chords 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, with the West Coast Main Line at Coventry NE and possibly at M1 Jn.13 (Milton Keynes East).
Connectivity south of the Thames: The Class 395 trains on HS1 operate north and south of the Thames between London St Pancras and towns in North Kent. They would be able to use the Thameslink route to operate as far south as Gatwick and Brighton.
HS62 on the plan would be the high speed link between Manchester Victoria and Leeds. It would track 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. HS21 on the map would be the scheme’s north-south main line.
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’.
So, what’s wrong with HS2′s London-to-Birmingham start?
London is the UK’s great economic powerhouse. It has four international airports. Its commuter arteries fan out across the south of England to access a catchment population and spending power twice that of Birmingham and Manchester put together.
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 Plan B route on 17 September 2013. The Stratford-Canary Wharf-Lewisham tunnel route was added 3 July 2013.
Further updates to map and text 24 September 2013.
The map with Crossrail fields was added 22 April 2014.
Detailed maps to follow:
- Layout option for Leeds-Bradford Airport’s first rail connectors