Posts by MW

MW post, Telegraph, 24 Jul 2017 10:32AM
Following piece by Daniel Hannan MEP

In poor old over-crowded Britain, HS2 will add central Birmingham to London’s one-hour commuter catchment and so worsen the interchange problem at Euston, it will not have a central London interchange with Crossrail, not have an interchange with HS1 or with all those people served by the Southern electric network and it will do nothing to make our fragmented but populous North more competitive with London.

MW Letter to the Editor, The Times
Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Projects like another London runway and a London start on HS2 (Times Leader 23 July) seem more likely to grow London than lessen the North South Divide. A more balanced list would feature tunnels through the Pennines divide to lessen the road and rail times between Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester, with a North-first start on HS2 to follow. Alas, tunnels lack glamour.

MW post, York Press
23 March 2016

The cities of the North are too scattered to become a single economy on their own, let alone a powerhouse, unless new infrastructure is built through the North’s big economic divide, the Pennines, to bring the cities of East Lancs and West Yorks time-nearer each other. HS2 will not fast-connect these cities and needs to come second in funding priority. Any alternative to HS2 needs to be built North-first.

MW comment to Public Finance Magazine
(‘North of England needs HS3 to link up cities, says Infrastructure Commission’)
15 March 2016

Manchester Victoria would be a smarter starting point for the much-needed fast rail connector to Leeds station. Both are through stations, which means that the fast link would bring the rail systems and cities of East Lancs and West Yorks time-nearer each other….. HS2 will not fast-connect these cities and needs to come second in funding priority.

MW comment on Simon Levey piece in Imperial College News
(‘HS2’s London to Birmingham railway may create just over half of the total economic gains predicted by the UK Government’)
31 July 2015

On past evidence, the London economic honey-pot will always grow in size to take up the capacity of any radial transport arteries built for it: which is why HS2 risks adding central Birmingham to the London economy, making the UK’s tilt towards London worse.

Mr Osborne’€™s northern powerhouse might ease that tilt, but it will never do it while its eastern and western halves are kept time-apart by the east-west divide of the Pennines. HS2 will do nothing for that, either.

MW comment on HSUK scheme to beleben website
7 July 2015

My key critique .. is that (per Quentin Macdonald) it would not “go over next to the M62 but would reopen the Woodhead Tunnels and the associated Great Central route.”

Someone better qualified than me may wish to comment on the practicalities and benefits of re-opening … the Woodhead Tunnel/s.

MW comment on John Kay piece in
‘How modern politics gives HS2 plan an easy ride’
30 June 2015

Mr Osborne could always park HS2, save a few billion and instead start on the east-west infrastructure that his northern economic powerhouse badly needs.

MW comment on Jim Pickard piece in FT
1 April 2015

If the next Chancellor parked the HS2 project and paid for a 39-mile HS3 between Manchester Victoria and Leeds first .. (he) would save more than a few billion from his next five years’ cashflow:

…and on Jeremy Paxman piece in FT of 16 May 2015:
(MW posting as NorthStart)

… building this ‘HS62’ first and growing it south via East Midlands Airport would move HS2 off its cross-country route and into the main transport corridors where it belongs.


MW supplementary submission on a Northern Cities Crossrail
to the Lords’ Select Committee on HS2, published November 2014:

MW comment on Christian Wolmar piece:
‘New trains now, not HS3 in the vague future’
1 November 2014

If HS3 turns out to be a 40-mile fast link between Manchester Victoria and Leeds, it would join up a Northern Cities Crossrail system connecting Liverpool in the west to York and Hull in the east. Long overdue electrification of more of its east-west lines would cut train times still further and HS3 Stage Two would fast-connect Bradford and Sheffield to the system. It might look like this:  http://hsnorthstart.wordpress….

So HS3 and the Crossrail could together do the trans-Pennine economy and the North South Divide a lot of good and allow Whitehall to park HS2 until HS3 was open.

MW comments on beleben blog
29 October 2014

If HS2 strategy started … North-first and with a Manchester-Leeds fast connector it would help ease, not worsen, the tilt of the UK economy towards London. More interestingly, the London-wards links it then needed would look an awful lot different to the London-centric strategy on offer now.

… and on 22 October 2014

…an HS1-spec connector between Manchester Victoria and Leeds would do more for northern connectivity than HS2.

MW first submission to the Lords’ Economic Affairs Select Committee
chaired by Lord Hollick investigating the economic case for HS2
15 September 2014 ___________________________

MW comment on Wolfson ‘Garden City’ Prize awards
Piece by Anthony Alexander in 
5 September 2014

The garden city was and is a good idea but, if garden cities are built within London’s commuter catchment, each will help tilt the UK economy and the SW1 mindset more in London’s favour, sharpening the North South Divide. HS2 will do worse, drawing central Birmingham to within an hour’s commute of central London and setting the North South Divide in stone.

… The only real counter-balance to London would be the East Lancs and West Yorks urban zones combined. So, rather than build HS2 and southern garden cities first, the UK first needs a Northern Cities Crossrail to fast-connect Liverpool in the west via Manchester Victoria and Leeds to York and Hull in the east, with its first major spur to Sheffield.

The Northern Cities Crossrail would then have set the scene for a chain of garden cities on either side of the Pennines.

MW comment on Marc Johnson piece, The Rail Engineer, 10 April 2014
on Sir David Higgins report that HS2 would maximise benefits to the Regions

HS2 would need to have its flaws minimised before the country saw its benefits maximised. Critically, its diagonal dash to Birmingham would draw that city’s centre time-closer to the central London honeypot and risk opening a sharper and more intractable North South Divide.

MW letter to the Editor, The Times
March 20 2014

Sir, Instead of HS2 correcting the UK’s economic imbalance (Hugo Rifkind, 18 March), its speed-first route to Birmingham risks making that city and its airport a real-time part of the London colossus, worsening the North South Divide. If, however, HS2 capacity is equally important, the M1 and M6 corridors await it. HS2 could then improve the East Midlands economy, with a station at East Midlands Airport. And, although its twin destinations of Leeds and Manchester may be over 90 miles north of Birmingham, they are only 40 miles apart. If HS2 began construction by using the M62 corridor to draw these two centres time-closer, it would from the start shrink two of the UK’s economic divides.

MW comment on HS2 Is The Wrong Scheme In Wrong Place

Piece by Christian Wolmar on March 6th, 2014 Rail Magazine

…. forget uber-speed glamour, the HS1-HS2 connector, Old Oak Common, the plunge across open country to Birmingham and the two forks beyond. One route north would do and it would stop at East Midlands Airport, too, with connectors into Derby and Nottingham.

Look at the map. HS2 wasn’t thought out that way: a national opportunity wasted.

Comment on: Civic leader backs plea for high-speed rail
to come to Derby

Derby Telegraph, February 10 2014


Those on Derby Council who want to take the high speed line into the middle of Derby, then out of it again, seem not to realise what a huge and unpopular property take and disruption that would need in the city centre and in its approaches. And, how does the Council propose that the route (more property take etc) should exit Derby after that? It can’t stop at Derby. ___________________________

MW comment on Beleben website’s Daily Digest
3 February 2014

.. if Sir David builds an entirely new radial artery, bringing central Birmingham within an hour’s commute of the honeypot, London will grow again. London house prices will rise. Next, we will be told that, to meet the London housing appetite we must, simply must, build some Milton Keynes size cities over the Home Counties wheat-fields and new transport arteries to serve them, in case there will be queues of passenger waiting to board the packed trains there.

HS2 Phase Two Route Consultation: Response by MW
31 January 2014

Any Government project to link the key cities of the Midlands and North to London by high speed rail would be an opportunity to use the route, stations and time and capacity gains of that railway to lessen Britain’s North-South Divide. 

It would need to fast-connect regional city groups so they became an economic counter-attraction to the massive London economy to the south, to include a stop at East Midlands Airport. It would also need at least the first stage of construction to start in the North, to deliver the northern benefits of regional connectivity first. And it would need the construction of an express commuter link between Manchester and Leeds, to fast-connect the rail networks of Lancashire to those of Yorkshire.

The HS2 route and stations scheme north of Birmingham will not do this and so I see it as a lost and wasted opportunity.
For comparison, here is Plan B for HS2: http://hsnorthstart.wordpress…. ” 
Yorkshire Post 1:31 PM

January 20th 2014

Mr Bovington (anti HS2 letter to the Yorkshire Post) is just a bit hopeful. Whatever he or anti-HS2 groups say during the Consultation process, the DfT is set up to tough it out with HS2. It may be a poorly thought-through scheme but the Government has too much invested in it to concede any real changes.

That is, unless representatives across the North find common cause in support of a better northern alternative…. But, does Northern common cause exist?

MW comment on ‘Clash at Huddersfield University conference on HS2’
18 November 2013

Did Prof McNaughton really say, ” .. HS2, with increased connectivity between major cities, would be all about the North West, Yorkshire ….”

By starting London-Birmingham first, HS2 would draw Birmingham closer to the London mega-magnet, increasing the tilt of the economy in London’s favour.

With Euston-Birmingham open, HS2 would build a ninety-five mile high speed fork north to Manchester and a ditto fork to Leeds; two city centres with only forty crow miles between them but an hour’s rail time apart. Few figures better illustrate the northern economy’s inbuilt divide; and that HS2 would do nothing about it.

If, however, HS2 started North-first, with an express link between Manchester Victoria and Leeds, it would halve the rail time between these two centres and take at least half an hour out of the current Liverpool-Manchester-Leeds etc train times.

Adding Sheffield and Bradford to this first stage would bring Lancs and Yorks still closer together, with a central urban zone half as big again as Birmingham. It would re-cast the HS2 scheme. The Cheshire fork would be dropped. It might look like this:


but there must be other full-scheme alternatives.

The Scotsman
November 10th 2013

If we don’t need high speed rail we still need sub-high speed rail. And it needs to start North-first, if it is to have any worthwhile impact on the North South Divide. HS2 and its separate, eventual, high speed forks to Manchester and Leeds will otherwise set the North South Divide in stone; with only half the route to Edinburgh built.


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