HS2: Northern Section – TBA
Today’s announcement (gov.uk 29 January 2013) is being promoted as “joining the north”, “solving the North-South Divide”.
I suppose it is to be welcomed (even if it will not open until 2032-33 – twenty years time!) but it does expose a rather London-centric view of the country. The Geography is dodgy and the topography of the line is also a give-away.
We in the North are “being joined to London”. I live in England but am considerably further North of Manchester. Manchester is about 200 miles from London and the most Northerly town in England is a further 200 miles north. So calling Manchester “the North” is stretching it a bit – at least from where I live. The Scots may have further thoughts and comments!
The objective of the line seems to be to give faster connections to London. Whether this actually helps the North Midlands of England is debatable.
Some already say that phase 1 (to Birmingham in the South Midlands of England 120 miles North West of London) will just make Birmingham part of the Greater South East – possibly leaving the “West Midlands” feeling “hollowed out” with the major city well-connected to London, but all the others having to use the slow train or make a difficult connection (HS2 does not go to Birmingham New Street).
Provision of significantly improved links to London may also lead to a hollowing out of the English North West Midlands (Manchester) and the North East Midlands (Leeds). Why have a head office in these regional capitals when you could have them in over-heated London and “pop up” to the provincial branch office when necessary? Is that more efficient – particularly if it reduces the autonomy and remaining self-sufficiency of “Our Northern [read: problem] Cities”.
The Topography of the routes points both Manchester and Leeds towards London – when logically they should look to each other. Whilst the Manchester route allows for travelling from London into Manchester and then on North to Wigan and the old WCML, the topography of the new Leeds Station does not allow onward travel to Humberside, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
To avoid the hollowing out there should be a “triangle” topography rather than a “Y” topography so that Leeds and Manchester are linked by a high-speed line. The Eastern topography should also allow the Leeds High Speed station to access the North.
Just as the Scots are talking about East-West High Speed Rail between Edinburgh and Glasgow, there should be a East-West link in the M62 corridor. This should help develop alternative “centres of gravity” to London (which has to be a good thing?). It would also allow Manchester Airport (the UK’s second “airport-region”) to have a greater hinterland. Taking the train from say Newcastle to Manchester Airport rather than having to take the longer journey to that hell-hole called Heathrow has to be better – both for those in the North of England and the over-congested Heathrow.