So what has Tallinn got to do with HS2?

What has Tallinn got to do with HS2?  [TEN-T blog 1]

This is the first of a series of articles about the European Transport network, TEN-T, by Madeleine Wahlberg.

The idea that HS2 is linked to EU policy in important ways is something that UK government and opposition leaders have often denied. Indeed it is thought by some to be crude ‘scaremongering’ to suggest that there is a link. Similarly almost no MPs seem to know anything about the EU’s transport policies and how this is affecting HS2. HS2 is part of the European Commission’s Trans European Network for Transport (TEN-T) policy so we need to understand it and we will publish a series of blogs to spread the news and start the conversation. If you have any questions for a future TEN-T blog, put them in the comments below.

A few weeks ago I was in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, attending the ‘TEN-T Days’ on behalf of STOP HS2 and the inter-European network that we are part of[1]. There were around 1,300 people discussing ways to take forward the EU proposals on the Trans European Network for Transport (TEN-T)[2]. A TEN-T programme has existed for years but what is on the table now, and being voted on in the EU parliament, is “the most radical overhaul of EU infrastructure since its inception in the 1980s[3].

First, a super-fast summary of TEN-T policy for those to whom this is all new.[4] At the start of the EU the focus was on developing basic transport in areas without proper roads etc. Then the focus shifted to linking up all the countries across borders. Over time, the EU was looking at part-funding 92 schemes[5] but attention moved to 14 priority projects (PPs) across Europe. In the latest phase, it is focused on 9 key routes that form a network across the entire EU. These are called the ‘Core Corridors’.  TEN-T policy has split these ‘Core Corridors’  from the rest of the national networks (which it labels the ‘Comprehensive’ network) and EC financing and prioritisation is going to be focused on the Core routes within a ‘Single European Railway Area.[6]

You can find a summary of TEN-T on Wikipedia but remember that anyone can write Wiki articles and the entry is currently out of date[7]. Here is a quick summary of current policy including maps[8] and for those who want more history, you can read the back story of TEN-T policy by looking at the introduction to the annual progress reports.[9] Reading the Fourth Railway Package in 2010 is useful background to the thinking behind current policy and also see the link below for a start to understanding the ‘Connecting Europe Facility’ (CEF) which is the money side of the TEN-T proposals[10].

Here are some key features of current TEN-T policy – and remember that these apply to HS2 as well.

  • The Core routes have now been whittled down from over 30 Priority Projects to 9 key ones and HS2 is part of route 8 ‘North Sea to Mediterranean’ – Cork/Belfast and Edinburgh/Glasgow to London, Dover, Lille, Paris/Brussels, Metz, Dijon, Lyon and Marseilles.[11]
  • These Core routes are called ‘Corridors’ because they do not apply to a single road/rail along one route. There might be a canal for freight and a train for passengers, both developed with TEN-T financing along the same bit of Corridor.
  • The Corridors are multi-modal and TEN-T positively encourages modal choice along each Corridor in order to encourage closer competition between modes.
  • Moreover, the concept of a Corridor now also extends TEN-T policy and financing over all of the infrastructure that is needed for moving along and between modes, not just for the tracks themselves. That means it could now also cover things like station developments, motorway service stations, warehousing and port buildings – all financed with EU funds. Crucially, this spreads the realm from which private developers partaking in a TEN-T development can extract profits (as we know in relation to Euston) and it spreads the realm of EU governance (to be discussed in the next blog).
  • In the latest manifestation, the Corridors have also allowed for another kind of expansion of TEN-T policy. The policy now stresses the links between a Corridor and ‘Urban Nodes’. So the split between the Core and the Comprehensive networks remains BUT the Core network is grabbing a bit more of the Comprehensive network. TEN-T policy (and therefore financing and governance) will now also cover whatever facilities and infrastructure are needed for ‘the last mile’. Now, I don’t know how much of Crossrail 2 might come under this but certainly Boris might be pleased at the suggestion that EU TEN-T funding could be extended to cover ‘the last mile’ in Old Oak Common and Euston, which is underground links and stations. But Boris should note that a governance package comes with the financing package! Less significant for the UK, TEN-T financing has also been extended to improve links between the EU and non-EU neighbouring countries – what is referred to as the EU’s ‘front doors’ – offering the possibility of funds for say helping to develop new customs facilities for Russia.
  • The EU’s budget for co-financing all of the Core Corridors across the EU has been whittled down from their desired €80 billion to €26 billion (still three times what they had previously). It is important to stress that this is just the EU’s contribution. The overall costs of implementing the 9 Corridors will be MUCH larger than that. What is significant though is that these funds are secured to 2020. That means secured ie no future change in policy will be allowed, including Mr Cameron trying to renegotiate UK terms of engagement. This is another key element of the latest TEN-T policy – it aims to take infrastructure development out of the realm of changing and pesky national governments and to provide long term security for investors. More next blog….

It is quite complex to get on top of the implications of EU TEN-T policy for HS2, but there certainly are implications despite McLoughlin shouting at me in Kenilworth that “HS2 has NOTHING to do with the EU”.[12] The next blog will suggest more ways in which I beg to differ!

[1] That network is called UIMP in English – Unwanted, Imposed Mega Projects. Some of the other groups in the network can be seen here:

[2] You can see the full programme here For detail load the PDF at the top of the programme. You will find us on page 10.

[3] European Commission Press Release 17 October 2013. An accessible portal for TEN-T policy is here:

[4] Parliamentary Briefing papers on TEN-T can be found here (for pre 2012 background):

and here (for a Feb  2013 update – so still not the latest policy):

[6]   and   MEMO/10/421 which will make particularly interesting reading for anyone interested in re-nationalising UK rail, as will the Fourth Railway Package below ref 9.

[11] Note that in earlier phases of TEN-T policy the HS2 route was given different route numbers.

[12] You would think that he would at least be aware of the financial support that DfT says it has given to UK TEN-T schemes over the years! Nearly €800 million (up to 2008 – we are not offered later figures).

4 comments to “So what has Tallinn got to do with HS2?”
  1. This all makes sense, but assumes that the last government was smart enough to secure EU financing for HS2. Secondly, if the EU was behind the planning, and part funding, I would have thought that there would be some governance on the design. There is no real connectivity between HS1 and HS2 (the current proposal is the equivalent of a country lane with the 30 MPH freight and local services North London Line). This last point would upset a European official who would be looking to have a true network and be able to run a train (passenger or freight) from any European capital to any other (e.g. Edinburgh to Warsaw). I can’t see how HS2 satisfies TEN-T. In summary: No connection to mainland European networks; no freight capability.

    • All very important points Chris.

      About ‘the last government securing financing for HS2’: No it didn’t, and perhaps I can suggest 4 reasons why not: 1. HS2 was not far enough advanced and TEN-T funding has been on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis fixed to specific implementation dates; 2. Basically the HS2 route was and is not an EC priority (look further east for most of those); 3. HS2 was not a UK Government priority for TEN funding – instead it applied for funding for getting cables from offshore wind farms onto land (a non-transport network but still part of TEN); 4. The EC had given money to the UK for modernising the WCML which, as I’ve explained before, was reasonably thought to BE the investment along what is now called Corridor 8. In the EC books, rail over 205kph on improved track is counted as HSR, so the TEN-T HSR policy was being implemented via WCML.

      On your next point ‘I would have thought that there would be some governance on the design’ you are absolutely right. There is indeed ‘some governance’ attached to the TEN-T programme, and this is much stronger in the latest iteration of the policy. I mention it in the blog in relation to Boris but hang on for a future blog! This is one of the major political challenges to the current Government and I imagine one really important reason why the few in Government who know what is intended under TEN-T are keeping a low profile on the topic.

      Your third very good point is that you can’t see how HS2 satisfies TEN-T. I fully agree. There are all sorts of ways that HS2 does not do this including as you say, connectivity but also in terms of sustainability, economic case and more. In Tallinn reference was made to ways in which to tackle ‘bad apples’, but we’ll see how this develops after the E. Parliamentary vote later this month.

      Stay in touch!

  2. None of the above shows that the EU is driving HS2. And it isn’t. HS2 is along a TEN-T corridor but there’s no compulsion to build a high-speed railway, or indeed for the moment, anything. TEN-T routes invariably correlate with major national investment in transport – because they are important and often in need of investment. But correlation isn’t causation, and even if it was, the EU might well be perfectly happy with some alternative to HS2 – as you say, it’s multi-modal.

    Last year’s Parliamentary briefing paper was a useful review of TEN-T: I’d be happy for it to be updated.

    • Thank you for your comments WT.
      You are just a little ahead of my blogs – the next one is titled ‘is the EU driving HS2’ and I agree with you that one part of the answer is no. However, as you say the Parliamentary briefing paper is useful BUT out of date. What matters is what was pushed along in Tallinn a month ago, and will go to the European Parliament on the 17/19th November. Stay in touch as I take the story forward ….

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