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HS2 Stoke Route launched

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Oct/Nov 2014

High speed transport specialist Dr Alan James, project director of HS2: The Stoke Route, outlines the benefits of the proposed alternative route via Stoke, and his disappointment that HS2 Ltd appears intent on sticking with the Crewe ‘super-hub’.

The business case for the proposed Stoke Route for phase 2 of HS2 has been published, making the case for the western leg to be constructed via Stoke-on-Trent, the only city between the end of phase 1 at Handsacre and Manchester.

The business case has been developed by a team of top rail, engineering, environmental and economics experts, including Interfleet, Volterra and The Railway Consultancy, and has been put forward by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and a powerful coalition of business and public sector supporters.

The Stoke Route was first tabled in January 2014 as a response to the government’s formal consultation on phase 2. The strategic economic benefits of routing HS2 via the major ‘Greater Stoke’ conurbation of 470,000 people (twice the size of Milton Keynes) significantly outweigh the case for the originally proposed ‘Consultation Route’ with its tunnel under Crewe.

The Stoke Route lets HS2 do what it is actually supposed to do – generate growth. With the Stoke Route, HS2 can serve the only city with the shovel-ready development capacity to absorb a third city the size of Milton Keynes, largely on uncontentious brownfield land within the existing urban area. And when that city is only 55 minutes from London, 20 from Birmingham and less than 30 from Manchester, the economic transformation will be on a nationally significant scale. It’s not just great for Stoke, it’s exceptional value for the taxpayer.

The Stoke Route provides a 1h20m London to Manchester journey in 2026, at a capital cost at least £2bn lower than any scheme that takes HS2 through Crewe. Journey times via Crewe would also be slower, at around 1h34m, and the proposed new Basford Parkway station would have to be built, and the existing station demolished, both whilst WCML remains live in the vicinity. Crewe has the potential to make the WCML Upgrade disruption at Rugby look like a stroll in the park.

The ‘Accelerator’ configuration of the Stoke Route is designed to become operational at the same time phase 1 to Handsacre opens.

It has the following main features:

  • Follows the first 32.6km of the originally proposed ‘Consultation Route’ to a point northwest of Stone, then sweeps down, avoiding impact on Stone, to pick up the brownfield corridor 4km later at the former Meaford power station site. North of Meaford, the alignment lies immediately adjacent to the existing North Staffs Network Rail line, effectively recycling this readily available rail brownfield corridor through the heart of Stoke-on-Trent.
  • Stoke-on-Trent station is retained, to serve as a key node on an enhanced local and regional rail system, exploiting the classic network capacity released by transferring fast services to fully segregated 330km/h HSL (High Speed Line), which reaches as far north as the Britannia Stadium. Potential new classic line stations near the stadium and at Trentham are included, to enable local trains to serve new housing and commercial developments.
  • A 230 km/h alignment is provided through the heart of Stoke, with new HS2 plus classic rail station, with cross-platform interchange and good road access.
  • In the 2026 ‘Accelerator’ configuration, classic compatible HS2 units would join the Network Rail line just south of Harecastle Tunnel and would proceed to Manchester via Macclesfield and Stockport (both bypassed by the Consultation Route).
  • By redoubling 4.8km of the Kidsgrove – Crewe line, the Stoke Route allows HS2 trains to serve Crewe as well. Railway geography means an HS2 train can route, for instance, Euston – Old Oak Common – Stoke – Crewe – Liverpool. But junctions facing the wrong way mean an ‘other way round’ service routing from the south via Crewe then Stoke to Manchester would be impossible.
  • Upgrade, electrification and resignalling of the Heaton Norris to Guide Bridge line enables north-south HS2 trains using the Stoke Route to offer through-services on to the existing trans-Pennine line (or whatever ‘HS3’ is eventually called) to link the major ‘Northern Powerhouse’ cities.
  • By 2033, the planned opening date for full HSL to Manchester, the 2026 system would be extended into its ‘Ultimate’ configuration, providing a further 20km of new build HSL, leaving Stoke-on-Trent via a 3km, 230 km/h tunnel under Talke (Consultation Route: 5.4km of 400 km/h tunnel and 1.8km of deep cutting).
  • This line rejoins both the original Consultation Route and WCML near Occlestone Green, 10km north of Crewe, thus extending fully-segregated HSL to the most northerly point where HS2 trains can access WCML for the Weaver Junction route into Liverpool.
  • North of Occlestone Green, Stoke Route trains would use the original Consultation Route to reach Manchester and other destinations, although the ‘Accelerator’ routes to Manchester, Crewe and West Yorkshire remain in use too, allowing classic compatible units to continue to provide highly useful services in addition to those on the HS2 main line.

Despite the many advantages claimed by proponents of the Stoke Route, Sir David Higgins appears intent on sticking to his preference for a new ‘super-hub’ station at Crewe. Stoke-on-Trent City Council is insisting a full, fair and transparent competitive appraisal of the relative merits of Sir David’s Crewe scheme and the Stoke Route, using metrics which fully take into account the strategic economic benefits of the proposed routes, in addition to their relative costs and environmental impacts. If this does not happen, and the Crewe scheme is somehow ‘nodded through’ by Sir David Higgins, Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Mohammed Pervez has made it clear the city will keep all its options open to ensure the right decision is made, in line with government’s own stated view that HS2 should maximise economic benefit.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Nonsuchmike   12/12/2014 at 15:19

When you read about the benefits of a Stoke hub route in detail and you understand the flexibility of it to interlink with other centres like Liverpool, the NW, North Wales, Scotland, Crewe itself and Yorkshire, too, one wonders why there is such negativity towards the idea. The economic benefits the whole re-organised structure would bring to so many different regions encapsulates the whole concept of growth regeneration in the NW and West Midlands over the whole Trent/Mersey triangle. In addition, I am excited about the extra education, training and skills the Stoke route would generate from the get-go, so giving both youth and young adults a debenture stake in the improvement to the infrastructure of the area, which in due course would undoubtedly uplift the wealth as well as the standard of living of all inhabitants. For me this is a win-win situation for both Stoke, Crewe and other cities and towns beyond them both.

Graham Nalty   02/01/2015 at 16:04

When the latest figures for station usage were published, I had a look at the 'entries and exits' figures for parkway stations and also for the nearest city centre stations. It is difficult to be precise, but a parkway station 2 miles outside Crewe cannot realistically be expected to attract more than about 1,500,000 'entries and exits' compared with 2,500,000 at the present Crewe station. This figures might be less if inter-city trains also called at the existing Crewe station. If we assume that rail traffic during the first year of HS2 would be twice that of today, we would expect the Crewe 'hub' to have 3,000,000 'entries and exits compared to 5,000,000 if the HS2 interchange were at the present Crewe station. If the HS2 interchange was at Stoke and all high speed trains to Scotland routed via stock, the increased connectivity of Stoke, coupled with its much larger population would generate close to 10,000,000 'entries and exits'. In addition having HS2 at Stoke would create many more jobs than at either Crewe or Crewe 'hub', because the many more service industries such as banking, marketing, design located at Stoke would help new and existing businesses to grow. By contrast, trying to lure new industries to a greenfield site with no service industries would tend to attract only those industries that do not need good rail communications to grow. This is why routing HS2 via Stoke is such a brilliant idea.

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