Building HS2 speed-first from Euston would bring central Birmingham into London’s one-hour rail commuter catchment, increasing London’s domination of the UK economy and worsening the North South Divide. Plan B instead puts a Northern Cities Crossrail first, to run east-west through Manchester Victoria and Leeds, with high-speed connectors south to Birmingham and to Sheffield, north to Newcastle.
A northern cities crossrail
The 40-mile first stage of Plan B would halve today’s Manchester to Leeds rail times, breaking through the economic barrier of the Pennine Moors and drawing the rail systems and economies of East Lancs and West Yorks time-nearer each other. It would take half an hour out of today’s cross-Pennine rail times from as far east as Hull, York and Newcastle to as far west as Liverpool, Wigan, Preston and Bolton.
HS2 will not do this.
Adding Bradford and Sheffield to this Northern Cities Crossrail, with a 40-mile next stage, would fast-connect an urban grouping half as populous again as Birmingham. It would have the city centre resources, SME groupings, research, design and technology skills and commuter catchments needed to power-up the Northern Powerhouse economy.
HS2 will not do this.
An extended Midland Main Line (MML)
Extending Northern Cities Crossrail services south through Sheffield Midland (not via Meadowhall) would allow MML services from London St Pancras to stop in Sheffield and continue north to Manchester Victoria or to Bradford and Leeds: extending and upgrading the MML so it relieved and competed with the WCML and ECML.
Plan B’s new fast lines are shown in heavy red on the map. They have been optioneered to follow existing motorway and railway corridors where possible. HS2 does not do this. Regional main routes where Plan B trains would run on through 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
Plan B in London
Plan B trains’ destination in London would be St Pancras International with its Eurostar, Kent HS1 and Midland Main Line interchange and, one level down, through-running further south via its Thameslink platforms to interchanges with the London Crossrail at Farringdon, with the District and Circle Lines at Blackfriars and with the Kent, South London, Gatwick and Sussex rail network at London Bridge. But the lines into London Bridge are far more congested than those into Euston, so Plan B proposes:
A Canary Wharf fast-connector
Plan B includes a Thames tunnel route to connect the Brighton, Gatwick and Croydon line with the Lea Valley, Stansted and Cambridge line via rail-rail interchanges at Lewisham, Canary Wharf East and Stratford. It would relieve the commuter congestion at and approaching London Bridge station and the associated overcrowding on the Jubilee Line between London Bridge and Canary Wharf.
The idea of a direct Gatwick-Lewisham-Canary Wharf-Stratford-Stansted link first appeared in the BML2 project (Brighton Main Line 2). See: http://www.bml2.co.uk/
Local connectivity: The Plan B main line has scope for connector chords off into the town centre stations at Huddersfield, Wakefield with scope for rail/rail interchanges at M1 Jn.37 (Barnsley W), at Mirfield (Huddersfield-Halifax-Dewsbury) and at Rochdale.
See Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_395
And see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICE_3#Class_406
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 its dash to Birmingham.
Plan B’s North-first start is aimed 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.
This next map shows the original NorthStart map of 2011. Line HS62 is still 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 a commuter stop at Rochdale and another at Jn.24 of the M62 for Halifax-Huddersfield North. Line HS21 on the map remains the scheme’s Stage 2. It extends the Midland Main Line north from Sheffield Midland. Plan B still includes a new 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: too costly.
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.
West Coast Main Line seating capacity
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 needed only where 12 car sets would stop.
See Chris Stokes in ‘Quotes’.
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. If HS2 is launched Euston-first it will give London a big new economic artery and put Birmingham 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. A further main map update and text revisions were added 8 October 2015 and 25 November 2016. More text revisions 12 June 2017.