Chancellor Spots Design Flaw in HS2

In a speech given today at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, George Osborne raised the possibility of a third high speed line in England.

However, this is not some bold new plan, but simply corrects the missing link from the HS2 plans. Readers of this website are probably well aware that HS2 does not connect Manchester and Leeds or Manchester and Sheffield directly and so will have no effect on journey times between the two cities.

The new line will travel the 40 miles between Manchester and Leeds – a fraction of the 350 miles of HS2 route. Liverpool is still excluded.

This is a massive design flaw in a line which is supposed to ‘change the economic geography’ of the country, and it is this flaw in HS2 which the Chancellor’s proposed line covers up.

The line itself is uncosted: although George Osborne told BBC Breakfast if it cost the same per mile as HS2 it would be around £6-7 billion, but that it would use existing rail corridors, making it cheaper. This decision is in contrast to HS2 to London, where the need to squeeze every minute off the journey time meant the engineers who designed the route avoided existing transport corridors.

However, the idea of faster trains linking Leeds and Manchester isn’t new. John Prescott, former deputy prime minister said “There’s no money, just a declaration from the very same man who abolished the Northern Way three years ago. He is trying to reverse his own damaging decision and we haven’t seen any detail, because there isn’t any detail.“

And Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said:
“This plan would mean 30-year-old diesel trains still being used and suggests service cuts and fares increases. The Government should commit wholeheartedly to real investment and growth in the north’s rail network, rather than sending out these mixed messages.”

With general elections in less than a year, this seems to be more about Northern votes than Northern growth.

5 comments to “Chancellor Spots Design Flaw in HS2”
  1. This whole ludicrous project stinks, what is sad is that there has not been any Press comment about HS2 Ltd’s lawyers attempt to gag the petitions of StopHS2 & HS2AA, thus preventing expert knowledge being available to MPs. If this project goes ahead, it will be down to underhand and undemocratic, but not smart tactics from No. 10, i.e. Cameron.

  2. There is also an element of risk planning here. If money ever gets tight – a contingency which may reasonably be allowed for in the course of such a long project, and one which may arise from factors entirely external to the project – it becomes easier to jettison the section via Toton and Meadowhall if you can offer a “high speed” alternative to Leeds via Manchester. This is made even easier if you have already built a high speed line to Crewe before you start any work on “Phase 2”.

    • Paddy- isn’t this the way that the French TCV network has been developed and expanded, connecting into the existing lines at the extremity of the HS so far as it is built, and then adding an extention for the next stage…so as to provide in effect, a series of bypasses.

  3. When it was announced, the £800m Northern Hub project was lauded (by govt) as a sign of their (govt’s) commitment to the rest of the network vis-a-vis HS2.
    Mr Osborne has hereby demonstrated the paucity of that claim but with his vision for HS3 to run from Manchester to Leeds, he shows his own lack of vision – vision being what all our leaders claim to have in abundance.

    As for the Northern Hub project:

    there is in all those hundreds of miles a brand new section of “new railway” to make all those experts at DfT proud of their innovative skills – the Ordsall Chord. No skimping Up North, then?

  4. A Javelin passenger services and large gauge freight from Liverpool across to Hull a link to enable both sides of the Y to take trains from Leeds via Manchester if the Birmingham Leeds track is blocked and vice versa. The current transpennine services would be fanned not point to point only.

    Manchester becoming dominant at the price of Leeds and Liverpool is not going to work when the Shale is local to the three areas. They will compete more but not become a multiple million connurbation.

    Why doesn’t HS2 phase1 on a different route alignment join the growth locations between London and Birmingham to provide the same connurbation growth between Banbury and Bicester, or Tring and Buckingham or Stevenage and Peterborough. Is inconsistent planning the hallmark of UK Government planning. The Chancellor wants road and rail in the North but not from London to Birmingham to relieve the M1 and other main road routes. Yes new short term planning is only to secure a vote in May 2015. Lord Prescott saw through the coding also with but you took away the funding.

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