Building HS2 speed-first from Euston risks making central Birmingham part of London’s one-hour rail commuter catchment, increasing the size of the London economic magnet within the UK and setting the North South Divide in stone. HS2 Plan B, starting with a Northern Cities Crossrail, is Michael Wand’s alternative.
Manchester-to-Leeds fast connector
Plan B’s 40-mile first stage would halve today’s rail time between Manchester and Leeds, breaking through the economic barrier of the Pennines and drawing the rail systems and economies of East Lancs and West Yorks time-nearer each other. It would also 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: a Northern Cities Crossrail.
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 the Northern Cities Crossrail south to Sheffield Midland would allow MML services from London St Pancras to continue via Sheffield to Manchester Victoria, Bradford and Leeds: extending 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. 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
East Midlands hub
The East Midlands grouping of city centres, universities, world-level engineering and heritage has the potential to outgrow the sum of its parts, given an economic hub.
Plan B sees this as the East Midlands Airport with a high speed station on-site.
The Airport rail station would be one of only two on the north-south main line. It would be 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.
Plan B’s main line would continue south from East Midlands Airport with the M1 corridor. Near Jn.19 of the M1, it would meet Plan B’s east-west 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.
Plan B in London
Plan B trains’ destination in London would be the Midland Line platforms at St Pancras or the St Pancras Thameslink platforms to continue further south 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. The Plan B solution is:
A Canary Wharf fast-connector
Plan B includes a Thames tunnel route with rail-rail interchanges at Lewisham, Canary Wharf and Stratford. It would relieve the commuter rail congestion at and approaching London Bridge station and the associated overcrowding on the Jubilee Line between London Bridge and Canary Wharf. The route would also bring southbound commuters to Canary Wharf from the Lea Valley, Harlow, Bishops Stortford, Stansted and Cambridge.
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, 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 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
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.
Leeds-Bradford Airport: Plan B had an earlier option to give Leeds-Bradford a rail connection, but the costs and benefits of extending the high speed line further north via the airport and Harrogate seem daunting. Instead Plan B shows a new Leeds-Bradford airport at either Church Fenton near York or Burn near Selby. Each could be connected to the Northern Cities Crossrail at much lower cost and so add advantage to the cross-Pennine economy. Church Fenton recently had a major housing scheme proposed nearby. Both offer scope for rail-rail interchanges with the East Coast Main Line.
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.
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’.
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. A further main map update and text revisions were added 8 October 2015 and 25 November 2016.