After years of speculation, HS2 Ltd technical Director Andrew McNaughton has finally admitted that towns and cities in the Midlands, Scotland, Wales and The North West could lose direct services to London if HS2 goes ahead, for the benefit of commuters in Milton Keynes.
Giving evidence to the HS2 Hybid Bill Committee of MPs, McNaughton said;
“We take off the main line most of the long-distance non-stop services, because the purpose of HS2 is to serve cities on the long-distance network. That means in the peak we see at least 10 totally new services are available in the capacity that we released on the West Coast Main Line. We [HS2 Ltd] basically introduce 10 long-distance services, which means all those services come off the main lines.”
Towns and cities which are could see slower, reduced or no services at all to London if HS2 goes ahead are; Rugby, Nuneaton, Coventry, Sandwell & Dudley, Wolverhampton, Telford, Shrewsbury, Tamworth, Lichfield, Crewe, Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent, Macclesfield, Wilmslow, Stockport, Runcorn, Warrington, Wigan, Blackpool, Preston, Lancaster, Oxenholme, Penrith, Carlisle, Lockerbie, Motherwell, Chester, Flint, Prestatyn, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Bangor and Holyhead.
Currently, the 10 peak hour long-distance services consist of stopping trains to Glasgow, Crewe, Liverpool (2), Manchester (3), Birmingham, Holyhead & Wolverhampton. To underline the lack of attention to detail which HS2 Ltd have displayed for the last five years he continued, saying that this;
“Gives us a chance to re-plan the West Coast Main Line with new services around the needs of the communities served by the West Coast Main Line, no longer largely controlled by the need to run non-stop trains from the likes of Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow.”
This is despite the fact that there are no non-stop trains from London to Liverpool, Manchester or Glasgow. Glasgow trains stop at; Warrington, Wigan, Preston, Lancaster, Oxenholme, Penrith, Carlisle, Lockerbie & Motherwell. Liverpool trains stop at; Rugby, Stafford, Crewe and Runcorn, whilst Manchester trains stop at; Crewe, Stoke-on-Trent, Macclesfield, Wilmslow and Stockport. Some trains to any of these three destinations can stop at Tamworth, Lichfield and Nuneaton.
Even though it is likely a new out of town station could be built near Crewe by HS2 Ltd, the current station is likely to lose out with a reduction in the number of services. It would not be possible currently to run HS2 ‘classic compatible’ trains on to North Wales, as the line is not electrified past Chester.
The cuts which have been admitted to so far, only relate to the Western side of HS2 so it is likely that a similar fate might await services to the Eastern side of England coming out of Kings Cross and St Pancras. That could mean reductions in services to places such as: Newark, Wakefield, Bradford, Doncaster, Brighouse, Halifax, Leicester, Chesterfield, Derby, Peterborough Lincoln, and of course the current city centre stations in Sheffield, Nottingham and Leeds.
To show that HS2 is, as the Stop HS2 campaign has always maintained, all about getting more commuters in to London, McNaughton told the committee;
“Milton Keynes today sees basically four, five, a number of trains stopping, but sees many more going straight through. When those long-distance trains are taken on to High Speed 2, then we predict that pretty much every train stops there. That’s made the point that the number of seats on trains serving Milton Keynes, after HS2 comes into being, pretty much doubles.”
McNaughton did go on to say that the Secretary of State has said that broadly, where people have a train service to London, after HS2 comes in, there ought to be broadly a comparable-type service, but this would be; “Balanced against the opportunity to improve commuting to the places that most need improved commuting.” However, the business case supporting the HS2 project requires £8,300 million worth of cuts to be made to current rail services.
McNaughton then went on to say that the West Coast Mainline;
“Is the country’s biggest rail freight corridor, so we shouldn’t make an assumption that every iota of released capacity should be reserved for passengers, because carrying more freight by rail is another government priority.”
This is despite the fact that only half the capacity for freight on the WCML is used currently, with a document produced by HS2 Ltd stating;
“Currently, on the WCML, there are three standard off-peak freight paths per hour; although currently, approximately 1.5 paths an hour are used.”
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin responded:
“Supporters of HS2 have always said it is needed to ‘free up capacity’. We have always said this means for dozens of towns and cities across England, Scotland and Wales ‘losing the trains you currently have’. Now this has finally been confirmed, it is clear HS2 is not about ‘rebalancing the economy’, it’s about faster journey times to London for businessmen from a handful of cities, increasing the London commuter belt, and delivering £8,300 million of cuts to current rail services from places they don’t think are important. It should be clear to any politician currently thinking about getting elected that there are much better ways to spend over £50,000 million of taxpayers money and HS2 is a white elephant which should be cut now before any more money is wasted on it.”
“If there is a need to get more services to stop at Milton Keynes, then we could just get some of the services which go through the station currently to actually stop. I am pretty sure that would not cost fifty billion pounds. What the Government is saying to people is that after ten to fifteen years of disruption planned for the West Coast Mainline during the building of HS2, many places might end up with worse services at the end of it.”
A typical peak hour out of Euston includes the trains and stops below. However, Tamworth Blackpool, Telford, Shrewsbury and Lichfield are not listed below as these destinations get less than one train per hour.
LONDON EUSTON 1830 – Warrington Bank Quay 2014 – Wigan North Western 2025 – Preston 2038 – Lancaster 2055 – Oxenholme Lake District 2108 – Penrith North Lakes 2134 – Carlisle 2150 – Lockerbie 2209 – Motherwell 2253 – GLASGOW CENTRAL 2311
LONDON EUSTON 1833 – Rugby 1922 – Stafford 1953 – Crewe 2015 – Runcorn 2034 – LIVERPOOL LIME STREET 2053
LONDON EUSTON 1840 – Crewe 2010 – Wilmslow 2027 – Stockport 2036 – MANCHESTER PICCADILLY 2049
LONDON EUSTON 1843 – Milton Keynes Central 1913 – Coventry 1942 – Birmingham International 1953 – Birmingham New Street 2008 – Sandwell & Dudley 2024 – Wolverhampton 2037 – Stafford 2050 – CREWE 2116
LONDON EUSTON 1857 – Crewe 2033 – MANCHESTER PICCADILLY 2110
LONDON EUSTON 1900 – Stoke-on-Trent 2024 – Macclesfield 2041 – Stockport 2055 -MANCHESTER PICCADILLY 2111
LONDON EUSTON 1903 – Rugby 1951 – Coventry 2002 -Birmingham International 2013 -BIRMINGHAM NEW STREET 2027
LONDON EUSTON 1907 – Nuneaton 2002 – Stafford 2026 – Runcorn 2100 – LIVERPOOL LIME STREET 2121
LONDON EUSTON 1910 – Milton Keynes Central 1940 – Crewe 2047 – Chester 2113 – Flint 2129 – Prestatyn 2142 – Rhyl 2148 – Colwyn Bay 2159 – Llandudno Junction 2206 – Bangor (Gwynedd) 2222 – HOLYHEAD 2256
LONDON EUSTON 1923 – Coventry 2022 – Birmingham International 2033 – Birmingham New Street – 2045 – Sandwell & Dudley 2058 – WOLVERHAMPTON 2111