Outside the marginals

A commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010, 2015 & 2017 elections (and THAT referendum)

Second Class High Speed Rail

There seems to be a bit of momentum behind HS3 – or High Speed Rail along the M62 corridor.

Only a bit mind – part of the route and not very “high-speed” and only possibly planned.

Plans for a high-speed “HS3” rail link in the north of England have moved a step closer after a report by the boss of the HS2 scheme, Sir David Higgins.

Sir David said better rail links in northern England were “desirable” and “possible” after being asked to look at ways of maximising the benefits of HS2.
BBC News Website 26 October 2014 : ‘HS3’ rail link for north of England backed by Sir David Higgins

The accompanying map shows a “possible” link between Leeds and Manchester – not extending to Liverpool or showing any link to Sheffield, Hull or the North East.

It’s likely that the faster trains in the north of England wouldn’t run on completely new lines, but a mix of upgraded and new tracks. And whilst the proposed HS2 route would have a maximum speed of 225mph, the suggested speed for the new trans-Pennine link would be around 125mph.

So the new HS3 will have to share track with other slower traffic (including freight) and it will introduce to the route maximum 125mph running – a speed that was introduced on the London Bristol route in 1975 using technology that is now 40 years old. Yet if these “high-speed services” have to thread their way between Leeds and Manchester commuter trains the average speed is likely to be well below the 125mph maximum.

Meanwhile HS1 and HS2 are dedicated 225mph routes (almost twice the speed). And Crossrail is costing £16bn whilst for HS3 they want it to cost no more than £7bn.

So it’s fobbing off the Northerners again and trying to build northern infrastructure on the cheap. It is as if someone in the South wants to keep the North in its place. The plans are not even “definite maybes” only possible options.

The Conservative’s “Northern Powerhouse” policy very much looks like a case of all fur coat and no knickers.


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6 thoughts on “Second Class High Speed Rail

  1. As usual it’s all patronising talk from the (representing the South) government. There’s loads of alternative solutions, but none of them even considered.

    And why do we need things such as the Heathrow Spur on HS2? If trains will be going non-stop from Birmingham, then the only purpose of it is to deprive airports North of Birmingham of custom, and travellers of convenience, as nobody south of Birmingham would have any use for it.

    Now, politicians, please tell us again how any of this is going to be of benefit?


    An interesting question to ask of the public would be:

    Do they want trains that will complete their journey in 90 minutes and always arrive on time, or

    Do they want trains that are timetabled for 60 minutes, but end up taking 70/80?

    I suspect that likely overwhelming support for the former would put to bed forever the notion that people are only interested in speed.

    • And why do we need things such as the Heathrow Spur on HS2?

      More interesting is the abandonment of the planned link between HS1 and HS2 – presumably those of us in the provinces either have no interest in going to the Continent or are not bothered by having to detrain at Euston and then trot along the Euston Road to St Pancras and retrain at St Pancras International.

      Perhaps HS1 is a plaything for Londoners?

      • It always did seem a strange way to go about things. Every time I see a rail holiday advertised, it starts off with “Take Eurostar to . . . .” yet Eurostar is about as much use to me as a chocolate fire-guard, as not only is it excessively inconvenient, but the additional costs just to reach it (should I want to, which I don’t) would cost as much as a flight from Manchester to Brussels, Paris or even Frankfurt.

        The whole rail and air issue is only redeemed for the ‘powers that be’, because despite modern communication, the majority of travellers are blissfully unaware of the range of destinations available from Manchester airport, or better connections from Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt than LHR could ever offer. This is enhanced by the lack of knowledge exhibited by most travel agents, who will try their best to get people to make an unnecessary rail or air journey south (commission probably helps) rather than find them the best travel arrangements.

      • If you live within the immediate hinterland of Manchester airport, it has to be the “obvious option” either as a hub airport serving a wide range of international destinations or as a feeder airport to continental hubs (which seem so much pleasanter than Heathrow).

        However if you live in say the North East (of England) the journey (by road or rail) to Manchester Airport is not easy – particularly if you are fretting about catching a flight! If HS3 was to be a genuine (modern – and reliable) High Speed service connecting the East Coast Mainline directly to Manchester airport (with direct services from Newcastle and Darlington), Manchester then becomes an attractive mega-regional hub. Failing that those of us in the North East use Newcastle Airport as a feeder airport either to the southern hell-hole or to the more attractive continental hubs.

        I think this is just one further illustration of opportunities that are lost due to a failure to take an holistic view of transport planning (rather than a London-centric view).

    • Do they want trains that will complete their journey in 90 minutes and always arrive on time, or

      Do they want trains that are timetabled for 60 minutes, but end up taking 70/80?

      In Japan, In Germany, In Switzerland they have both.

      I think too much is being made of the “ignore time savings – because you can now work on the train” argument. Journey time creates a perception of distance.

      If you work in Leeds and know that you can quickly (and reliably) “pop down” to Liverpool for a morning meeting and be back in the office for a lunch meeting, your view of the distance is different to what it would be if your meeting in Liverpool required a whole day trip.

      If the “Northern Powerhouse” is to work and challenge London, it is necessary that businesses in Leeds and Liverpool feel that they are close neighbours and that collaboration is no more difficult for them than for a company in say the Isle of Dogs and another in Westminster.

      Do we want:

      Liverpool ….:….:….:…. Manchester ….:….:……..:….:….:…. Leeds


      Liverpool = Manchester == Leeds

      That would be the advantage of (proper) high speed rail “in the North”. And for reliable high speed services you do not make them share tracks with commuter and freight services.

    • And why do we need things such as the Heathrow Spur on HS2?

      This is an interesting question that I don’t think has been fully thought out.

      I accept the point that with Heathrow so dominant it is hard to get new international services into regional airports (although I note a new summer only service from Newcastle to Newark was announced this morning). Direct High Speed services into Heathrow will arguably increase this dominance.

      However much of the capacity problem at Heathrow is due to Northerners flying into Heathrow to catch international flights. With a decent high speed network most domestic flights should be unnecessary.

      Will foreign inward investors view the existence of High Speed services from Heathrow to “the provinces” as meaning that those provinces are more attractive for inward investment? Or would they prefer a more effective airport at say Manchester with shorter (genuine) high services to for instance the North East (of England)?

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