So at long last we were able to see the proposed route for the second phase of the HS2 “Y Network” this morning. And it isn’t just a finger-in-air and quick sketch on the back of an envelope job: it’s all there, right down to locations of connecting lines, gradients, tunnels, bridges and viaducts. Locations of stations are set out, and so the arguments have now commenced.
The trains could look like this ...
There will inevitably be winners and losers: Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent, Macclesfield, Stockport, Wilmslow and Warrington are at present served by Virgin Trains’ Pendolino services to and from London’s Euston terminus. None will be on HS2. Likewise Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Chesterfield and Wakefield on the eastern arm of the “Y” will miss out.
Thus the compromise: high speed rail means long distances between station stops to maintain that speed and use less energy in acceleration and braking. There will still be Inter-City services on the lines to and from London’s St Pancras terminus, as present operated by East Midlands Trains, and those stations on the western arm of the “Y” will still be served, although service frequency may change.
... but then, they could look like this
And the winners include Crewe, although the town is not to be directly served by HS2. The new line, however, will feature a connection to the existing network south of Crewe to enable trains to Liverpool and Chester to run (by the time HS2 is open, electrification should have reached Chester, and hopefully Holyhead). It will be just as beneficial as being on HS2. A maintenance depot will also be built nearby.
There has been a less than rapturous reception to the route news from politicians in Scotland, but the new network will connect to both East Coast and West Coast main lines, so offering faster journeys. Not every destination can be served from the get-go. Elsewhere, both CBI and TUC have responded positively, as have business leaders in London, Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds.
And the folks at Manchester Airport must think all their birthdays have come at once, with the prize of an HS2 station of their own. That, together with another HS2 stop near Birmingham Airport, means more traffic and more growth in the local economy. But there are, inevitably, detractors, such as the Stop HS2 campaign, which has already resorted to pejorative language and clichés rather than engagement.
That tactic has also been employed by the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, but they have already sprayed their credibility up the wall by attempting to undermine the HS2 business case by pretending that all the cost of Crossrail 2 should be attributed to it. Thus another group that has foregone constructive opposition in favour of fiddling the figures – as is its wont with much of its output.
Meanwhile, all major political parties are in favour, so for now, HS2 moves forward.