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HS2 can ‘only be as good as local rail connections make it’

It is of vital importance that investment in the conventional rail network continues over the next 20 years during the development of HS2 to ensure that West Yorkshire becomes “truly HS2-ready” and the project’s benefits can be realised from the get-go, regional leaders have said.

In board papers published ahead of a Transport Committee meeting on 24 February, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) argued that the mammoth high-speed programme “can only be as good as our local rail and transport connections make it”.

The region’s own £1.4bn West Yorkshire plus Transport Fund (WY + TF), alongside other transport improvements in Leeds proposed as part of its interim strategy, will help to “kick-start the pathway towards creating an integrated network in a sub-region level”.

But it is fundamental that investment in local networks presses on while HS2 is being built so that its benefits can be fully realised from day one. In its papers, WYCA specifically asks for a “series of enhancements to local services, in terms of frequency, journey time and capacity”.

To support this, it cited the Yorkshire Rail Network Study, produced alongside Sheffield City Region, which highlighted economic benefits of £12bn of enhancing “the rail network for the entire region and beyond”.

“The HS2 Growth Strategy will identify additional capital investment in the existing infrastructure. For example, there are additional benefits to improve connectivity on certain rail corridors to further improve accessibility to the HS2 network,” explained the paper.

“This is not just about access to the stations within West Yorkshire but also, for example, improvements on Penistone line which will help Kirklees and South Yorkshire districts accessing HS2 services via Sheffield.

“Needless to say, the timely delivery of all the committed enhancements is fundamental. These include the improvements committed in the current franchises, the Trans Pennine Route Upgrade and the Northern Hub programme.”

Further modernisation and electrification of core regional rail routes, such as the Sheffield, Calder Valley and Harrogate lines, alongside enhancements on the East Coast Main Line (ECML), will also “help to realise the maximum economic and social value of the HS2 project”, WYCA added, reiterating its defence of quick ECML upgrades previously reported by RTM.

The combined authority also re-ignited Leeds City Region’s calls for HS2 to be “built from the north”, which, in practice, could mean opportunities to phase construction so elements of phase 2b are opened earlier than the whole route. In particular, it should also mean that Leeds station could be redeveloped as soon as possible.

“HS2 provides the prospect of transformational change giving a major boost to our economy as well as creating opportunities to release constraints on our local and longer distance rail networks,” argued WYCA.

“However, given the long timelines and the late start date (2027) of the Leeds phase, bringing forward the northern route is vital to the economy of this region. This will have the additional economic benefits in frontloading construction jobs and delivering the benefits sooner.”

Northern junctions

The authority is also urging HS2 Ltd to consider the various “junctions” that it argues are needed on the region’s rail network, such as the junction between HS2 and the classic Leeds station, the junction east of Leeds and the junction at the north of Sheffield. It added that it would be happy to work with Transport for the North and HS2 Ltd to develop these junctions further so that they could be included in the hybrid bill.

Including these junctions in addition to the consultation route of HS2 serving Sheffield city centre would “bring significant benefits”, it said, such as enabling HS2 classic compatible and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) services to efficiently serve Sheffield, Leeds and places further north.

“Similarly, for NPR to appropriately serve the north, the network needs to allow for fast and frequent services between cities,” the board papers read. “For example, both Leeds and Manchester are both destinations in their own right and are key points on the network through which services need to travel seamlessly onto further destinations.

“The stations in these cities therefore need to be configured for NPR as through stations to allow for good onward connectivity without unnecessary delays in turning trains around.”

Significant enhancements are already lined up for Leeds City Region’s “very capacity-constrained” network through franchise commitments, the Northern Hub programme and the TransPennine route upgrade, but WYCA argued NPR will open up even further opportunities for improvements within and across the area.

Capacity on the east of Leeds was listed as a particular concern for the region, with four-tracking being a vital development as part of the NPR proposal.

Responding to HS2 Ltd’s consultation question with regards to the northern junction in the vicinity of Clayton, WYCA said it supported the principles of the idea “if the new route is taken forward by government” and provided that it minimises the impact of communities and the environment through which it passes.

“The proposed northern junction should be developed in parallel with the South Yorkshire Parkway options so that the proposed parkway can be served by both HS2 and NPR services to maximise the benefits of the parkway station and to ensure that benefits can be distributed more widely in Yorkshire,” it added.

“We would be grateful if WYCA could be involved and consulted in the development of the northern junction together with the development of HS2 services specification beyond Sheffield.”

(Top image c. Joshua Brown)


Andrew Gwilt   17/02/2017 at 15:03

I do think that HS2 will bring better rail connections and better rail journeys for the North of England as HS2 is due to start construction from possibly 2018 and to be completed by 2026 with major English cities including Manchester and Birmingham that will benefit a brand new high speed railway that will not only link those cities as well the North of England but also will link with London and continental Europe via HS1 and the Channel Tunnel.

Graham Nalty   17/02/2017 at 15:24

At last some common sense is being talked about HS2. certainly the best way for South Yorkshire districts to access HS2 is via Sheffield and the least expensive way of doing this is by having the HS2 station at Sheffield Midland. And that it is important that the HS2 stations in cities such as Leeds and Manchester are through stations for services to travel seamlessly on to further destinations. With this sensible thinking, it would be much better to start building HS2 in the North with the first leg from Leeds to Sheffield Midland. From there trains could go on directly to London, Birmingham and Nottingham. But also surely it is time to drop the idea of a South Yorkshire parkway that will only benefit London and Leeds and will not attract business into South Yorkshire.

John Burns   17/02/2017 at 15:29

This article hit the nail on the head. Without good connections to the surrounding city regions HS2 will not be used as well as they think. Leeds and Manchester HS2 stations are not well connected to their immediate city regions. Manchester has street running trams with Leeds mainly having buses. Hardly optimum and 21st century. Liverpool, having its own metro, Merseyrail, is very well connected to its city region, far better than Manchester and Leeds. With the reuse of the Halton Curve now near enough a green light project, fast trains will be brought in from North Wales and Chester and stopping along to the way to Lime St making it even better. Also what would make matters better again at Liverpool is an underground travelator from Liverpool Central Underground to Lime St station, connecting the two near adjacent stations. If the one third of the metro that was dropped in the 1970s was eventually completed (the tunnels and trackbed still await trains) their connections would be vastly superior again. As it stands only London beat Liverpool for city centre station connections, but Liverpool could match London if their metro is finished and even expanded. But in their wisdom, Liverpool, a city region of 2.2 million, was omitted from having a direct HS2 link. You couldn't make this up.

Jimbo   17/02/2017 at 21:03

@Andrew Gwilt - phase 1 of HS2 to Birmingham is scheduled for completion by 2026, phase 2a to Crewe by 2027 and phase 2b to Manchester/Leeds is 2033. The link between HS2 and HS1 was removed from the plans in 2012 due to costs and because of concerns from Camden Borough. @John Burns - Liverpool is not omitted from HS2, and is scheduled to have 2 tph from HS2. It is just that the last few miles will be via classic lines. This is normal practice for most high speed lines - city centre terminus's are very unusual.

John Gibbons Webster   18/02/2017 at 08:55

The recent WYCA Report makes interesting reading as I have always maintained that the terminal stations planned for HS2 at Manchester and Leeds would be difficult to serve HS3 in the future and should have been planned as through stations so as to serve Liverpool and the West Coast to the west and York etc and the East Coast to the east. If the HS2 stations go ahead as planned I see no future for HS3 for decades to come due to cost of providing additional stations at Manchester & Leeds.

John Burns   18/02/2017 at 13:46

@Jimbo Not one nut and bolt of HS2 will go within 20 miles of Liverpool. There is NO direct HS2 connection, Most of the time on the London-Liverpool trip will be on classic track from Crewe 40 miles away. While Manchester next door is having a very expensive 7.5 mile gold plated tunnel, complete with expensive "S" shaped HS2 track circumventing Tatton (Osborn's seat), which slows up the trains to classic line speeds into Piccadilly station, which faces the wrong way. Liverpool to Birmingham is all on very slow classic track while Manchester to Birmingham is all on HS2. Liverpool, a city region of 2.2 million, is being treated as if it is a small town.

John Burns   18/02/2017 at 14:22

@John Gibbons Webster It must be cheaper to close down Piccadilly terminal station (keep the through platforms outside the main train shed) and enlarge Victoria to a much more useful 'through' super-station giving one point for all connections in Manchester. Perfect. Terminal stations are not necessary in inland cities. The two stations are now connected via the Ordsall Chord, so trains from the south can easily reach Victoria. Once a 'terminal' station is converted to a 'through' station it can deal with the same level of passenger traffic with one third of the platforms. The trains switch back outside the city or town. Trains stop long enough for passengers to depart and alight, not sit there hogging platform space. Modern signalling also means the throughput of a 'through' station is much higher again. Berlin eliminated terminals to great success, with many crossrail lines created giving far greater connectivity and choice for passengers. Remember them? Passengers. Nearby Liverpool did this by demolishing Central and Exchange terminal stations, dropping the platforms underground and linking the two via tunnel, creating a north-south crosssrail. All trains entering Manchester from the north, west, north east, Birmingham and London can go via 'through' station Victoria taking most of the traffic. The lines into Manchester from the south would carry little in comparison. The Ordsall Chord will get the trains from the south into Victoria. It may require some tunnelling under or around Victoria to get the proposed by TfN new HS3 Liverpool to Manchester line in. This HS3 line can act as the access to HS2 for both cities - common sense. But it will be a well used 24/7 through tunnel not a poorly used 7.5 mile long dead-end branch tunnel running into outdated Piccadilly as HS2 propose. Also Liverpool and Leeds trains, and maybe from North Wales in the future, must run right through Manchester at full line speed. Terminal stations are a wasteful Victorian legacy. This is the ideal opportunity to get the mess, that is the rail network around Manchester up to date and greatly serving the people of Manchester and the whole of the North of England as well.

John Jefkins   18/02/2017 at 18:49

Good article and great comments. The worst example of a terminal station on HS2 is Euston. We should instead be creating through platforms to/from HS1 in the space between Euston & St Pancras (and over the planned Crossrail 2 station). Over half the HS2 trains would then run on to East London, Kent, Essex or Europe, with just some terminating at the existing long St Pancras platforms currently used by Eurostar. The Eurostar trains themselves are better used running up to Birmingham & Manchester (with 3/4 their seats filled with DOMESTIC passengers) instead of sitting idle for 90 to 120 minutes as they do now at St Pancras platforms. In that idle time they could easily do a Birmingham round trip. And platforms either side of the train can be used to exit domestic passengers, check the train is empty and then load international from the other side (or vica versa). That does mean bag checks (as all high speed trains have in spain), but it also means £4 billion saved on a smaller Euston rebuild, less new trains, depots and staff.

Michael Wand   18/02/2017 at 23:37

For Andrew Gwilt: The HS2 package makes no attempt to improve today's interchange penalties at Euston. It makes no attempt to fast-connect the east-west chain of cities of the Northern Powerhouse.
 It will not have a cross-platform interchange with HS1, nor a central London interchange with Crossrail and it makes no attempt to gather rail passengers from south of the Thames. Time for a review of the whole.

Chris M   19/02/2017 at 04:21

I suspect many posters on here have not followed the subject in detail. Time for some realism about HS2 folks - there will be no HS1 links, no subsurface London platforms, no Eurostars to Birmingham, no use of St Pancras, no more project reviews. All of these fantasy ideas (and many more) were considered in great detail and rejected several years ago. The phase 1 hybrid bill has already been approved by both the Commons and the Lords with whopping majorities. Royal Assent is imminent and the main construction contracts will be awarded within weeks. The infrastructure will be built to the precise designs presented to Parliament by the promoter, HS2 Ltd. Phase 2 is not yet defined by a hybrid bill, but the basic east and west branches outlined last July are what will be covered by this legislation. There is scope for more connections to be added to other railway lines and for minor route deviations to be added, but the basic 'Y' route will not change significantly. Any other new lines under Manchester or to Liverpool for example will have to be sponsored by Transport For the North and paid for from different budgets - it will not be included within the HS2 legislation

John Burns   19/02/2017 at 09:51

@Chris M HS2 phase 2 is a long way off any Royal assent. In fact the design is not even finalised yet. The northern tips of the HS2 "Y" are to merge with west to east HS3, whatever form that ends up as. "High-speed" HS3? I doubt it. Maybe a new line from Manchester to Liverpool as TfN want, which the Port of Liverpool needs to alleviate lines for freight, and the rest a tart up of existing lines. TfN and HS2 are to "cooperate" on connecting of the HS2 and HS3. High-speed for the North of England? Let's all dream on! If a new west to east line was to be built across the south of England it would definitely be high-speed. Anyone objectively looking at this shambles would just drop any planning on HS2 phase 2 until HS3 is nailed down. This will end up a cludge as usual, as HS2 phase 2 and HS3 should be designed as one under one body, all pointing the same way. Connecting HS3 into the "existing design" poor design of HS2 is just pure amateurism. HS2 phase 1 should never have seen the light of day. Having high-speed trains in Birmingham not at New St, the main station, where the prime connections are (the prime point of this article) is downright madness. The proposed HS2 station is about half a mile from New St. Who thought of this nonsense? Any names? Also the phase 1 design is not nailed down at the London end either. The MPs who voted for this amateurish cludge should be ashamed of themselves as they voted without knowing the whole design. But hey! This is a train spotters dream. As long as pointed fast trains go from somewhere to somewhere very fast with few people on them, who cares.

John Burns   19/02/2017 at 10:29

@Michael Wand Excellent post. And you only hit "some" of the negative points of this shambolic railway design. Manchester airport's proposed HS2 station needs a bus to get to the air terminal, similar with East Midlands. We could all go on and on about this nonsensical design. Those for this shambles keep saying with glazed eyes, "capacity, capacity", like a stuck record. The city with the best connections to its mainline station by far is Liverpool, which can also be improved even better without too much effort. Of course this large city region was left off direct HS2 track. HS2 needs a foreign, impartial, full assessment before we any further. I am sure they would come up with a far superior broad brush design.

Lutz   19/02/2017 at 11:51

So, what they are saying is that the budget allocated for the Yorkshire spur of phase 2 is inadequate, and that the HS2 project is under budgeted by GBP 12B. That would kill off the project in the real world. It is ridiculous to be making these demands for additional funding saying that they are vital. If the HS2 project can not stand on it's own as is, it needs shutting down before it goes any further otherwise we will end up with an open ended commitment for funding it will not be possible to satisfy. These people should also be aware that there is a real problem with funding both HS2 and CR2 in the proposed forms, and that is before costings for the failed electrification projects are reviewed for CP6.

Lutz   19/02/2017 at 12:09

@John Burns: Unfortunately there was no economic benefit in taking HS2 into Liverpool, and any such extension would not save Liverpool. Manchester is the regional capital, and to achieve the benefits for the north, economic investment must be concentrated there to induce the desired agglomeration effects. Liverpool will continue to develop as a satellite of Manchester. @John Jefkins: There was never any value to be had from running Euro services north of London, and the service may become economically unviable as we leave the EU anyway.

John Burns   19/02/2017 at 14:58

+Lutz "Unfortunately there was no economic benefit in taking HS2 into Liverpool" That is total nonsense. The Liverpool city region is 2.2 million strong. It can equally be said that there is no economic benefit to taking HS2 into Manchester or Leeds then. Liverpool needs extra lines into the city fro its new Superport. KPMG, hired by HS2 Ltd, even stated that Liverpool will be economically harmed by HS2. Manchester is getting amazing favourable treatment for a city of its size and economy. A big pusher of HS2 in its current warped form was George Osborne, whose seat is not surprisingly on the edge of Manchester. The likes of experts like Christian Wolmar, state there is no need for HS2 at all, they have convinced me. Upgrading the existing mainlines by removing bottlenecks and introducing state-of-the-art trains can give similar journey times from London to these cities. Times to and from London is the metric. The MML is not even fully electrified, with the southern part acting as a commuter line for Thameslink. The capacity is currently spread over THREE mainlines - with HS2, when fully finished, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds Sheffield, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, etc, trains all converge onto one 2 track line south of Birmingham. It is not going to cope. If these three are up to scratch with state-of-the-art trains on them HS2 is just not needed. Any new lines should be local and regional to remove slow trains from the mainlines. Then they greatly serve millions of people on a day to day basis. The UK is short of proper commuter/metro lines. HS3 is a different thing to HS2, which should be designed and built ASAP. All economist state it will create economic growth, unlike HS2. @Lutz "There was never any value to be had from running Euro services north of London, and the service may become economically unviable as we leave the EU anyway." Will you back all that up for us with some references? I doubt you can.

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