Northern Powerhouse HS2/3

jfy1999

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@Sherburnflyer92

As you can probably guess from previous posts i have made on the topic, i am in favour of HS2 being built in full. I don’t agree that further upgrades to our existing north-south mainlines would be better than building HS2 to Manchester and Leeds.

When the mainlines branch off into Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, these branches mostly have 2 tracks. This means intercity trains are having to share tracks with stopping trains, meaning the stopping trains are less frequent than they could be. This includes some of the most heavily congested commuter lines outside London such as Birmingham to Coventry and Wolverhampton, Manchester to Crewe, Manchester to Stoke, Leeds to Sheffield.

These 2-track branches mean that there will always be points or stretches where fast and slow trains will have to cross over. Consequently, upgrading mainlines can sometimes make things worse for local travellers. While the West Coast upgrade enabled faster and more frequent intercity trains, this came at the expense of local trains on the Stafford-Stoke-Manchester line that had to make way for the greater number of intercity trains. Some stations lost all their services and closed down while others had their service reduced to 1 train per hour.

There’s no guarantee that cancelling HS2 would “free up“ money for other projects. Infrastructure projects often make a loss while under construction, so they depend on government borrowing as well as tax revenue for funding. The government’s willingness to borrow depends on whether they think a project will eventually generate enough money through fares, increased economic activity, etc. for them to cover the interest on the loan. If HS2 were cancelled, this wouldn't give other projects a better value for money - it would still have to be shown that they could pay for themselves.
 

CM.

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Just read an article which claims HS2 won’t be ready before 2041….
 

Carl0927

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Improvement of track and signalling should not impact negatively upon residential, how many were laid pre Beeching and not modernised since?

There are plenty of signalling around, even some of the really old Semaphore signals...ancient.

A line near me the Halton Curve was re-opened not so long ago after years of campaigning. When they did actually open it, they only relayed one track.
 

Sherburnflyer92

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A line near me the Halton Curve was re-opened not so long ago after years of campaigning. When they did actually open it, they only relayed one track.

That therefore is the problem. The U.K. opening a single track for what it sees is sufficient. Rather then two, and allowing the line and therefore numbers to mature and grow. I have no doubt more campaigning will happen when more capacity is needed.
 

JENNYJET

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Being local for this post only, the Birmingham Cross City line operates a service between Litchfield City and Redditch. Much of it is multitrack but there was a squeeze between Barnt Green and Redditch as the line veered into a single track for the journey to Alvechurch and Redditch. It was recently improved to dual track in places to allow an increase in frequency but only in place of a permanent twin track. Local objections apparently scuppered progress. That line used to venture onward to Evesham calling at Studley and Honeybourne before Beeching. A local line confined to history since the site of Honeybourne is now HMP LONG LARTIN
 

Poshgirl

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Aug 2, 2021
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From one local to another! I'm the other side of the Cross City line.

It's multi-track out of New Street as far as Duddeston. Used to be Vauxhall & Duddeston, but don't know why it was reduced to one name. If my memory serves me correctly, Twin track all the way to Lichfield Trent Valley, although I've only been as far as City. Quite a variation in platform lengths too. Sadly, at my local station, Sutton Coldfield, nothing remains to recognise it was once an important part of the Scottish sleeper service. The notorious tunnel still remains (over which the station is built) and the Station Hotel became the Town Hall (sounds grand but wasn't). Most of it is now luxury apartments.

Can't remember if there were any vociferous objections to electrification, so I guess not! Will soon be time for the Leaf Fall timetable.....
 

Carl0927

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That therefore is the problem. The U.K. opening a single track for what it sees is sufficient. Rather then two, and allowing the line and therefore numbers to mature and grow. I have no doubt more campaigning will happen when more capacity is needed.

I dare say, and likely wait years again for it to be doubled . Of course it could all have been done at the same time when they were laying the single track, but that would have involved some more money and some forward thinking !
 

HPsauce

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The problem with HS2, of which there are many, is that it has consistently been 'Red Flagged ' by independent audit companies. I.e. they consider it will never achieve break-even. With the latest costing forecast put at £150 billion and rising, and work yet to start on four stations, which will also add costs to the figure. Ever since PM Gordon Brown first decided to pursue the project, costs have steadily soared. Throughout the project so far, HS2 Ltd have 'dressed up' the benefits of high speed rail, and have been accused of misleading Parliament on many occasions, much to the exasperation of many MP's, many of whom have constituency's on the route. In the early years it was all about speed. Then, when it was discovered that trains would not achieve 250mph, as first promised, the focus turned to freeing up capacity on existing lines. An increase in freight traffic is also touted on existing lines, with a decrease in the current four trains an hour to London, to two. Meanwhile in the north, passengers cry out for better connectivity between Liverpool/Manchester/Sheffield and Hull. There are many other issues that HS2 raises, including environmental damage, the huge amount of electricity it needs to operate, lack of connectivity at local levels, and failure to offer realistic compensation to homes and businesses lost.
It will be interesting to see how it fares when operating in 2030.
 

Sherburnflyer92

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I just don't understand why people cannot see it for what it is. If we need new railway lines building why can they not be done at a very local level? For example here in the North it's no secret we need something new across the pennines. A HS3 if you will, connecting the North East to Liverpool. 100% no secret however we don't seem to be getting that at all. Everything is very much centred around London without the understanding that the economic power that can be unlocked if any politician unlocked the north.

As you say @HPsauce I'm, rightly, fearful of the unnecessary environmental damage done to local communities etc. Let alone the fact we are heading to a power crises as it is because this country lack of forward planning and thinking and our reliance on power. How they heck do they expect to power the HS2 with the current infrastructure.
 

HPsauce

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I appreciate all that you say. Sherburn flyer 92. Connectivity across the North should have priority. Environmentally where i am, on the eastern edge of Birmingham, we have seen major destruction of green land, woodland and properties. This on top of several new Motorways and A roads over recent years. While we have to progress as an ever growing nation, we seem to be quite happy to concrete over valuable green belt, yet we are told how green a country we are?. As you mentioned, there is a danger that people will be attracted to London, rather than evening things up in the Midlands and North. One of my concerns is that many people will have to travel many miles just to find a station to use HS2.
 

jfy1999

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@HPsauce and @Sherburnflyer92

I wouldn’t describe myself as an expert but i do follow a lot of online railway discussion and i took it upon myself to do some digging to address the points you have raised.

Firstly, i don’t think the main purpose of HS2 has changed. Gordon Brown’s original announcements from 2010 state that capacity is its primary purpose, but it lists multiple other reasons besides. Maybe all of these reasons have been offered to the public at different times because of bad PR?

https://assets.publishing.service.g.../uploads/attachment_data/file/228887/7827.pdf

MP Andrew Bridgen has said it will cost £150bn, but I am extremely sceptical when MPs come out with their own facts and figures, particularly when other sources say different things. According to the public accounts committee, the budget for London-Birmingham is £44.6bn, and the total budget including Manchester and Leeds will be somewhere between £72-98bn. Whether that is still value for money, depends on what the relevant bodies think about the cost/benefit ratio.

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5802/cmselect/cmpubacc/329/report.html

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority issue red ratings as warnings that projects may be impossible to complete on time and within budget. The benefit/cost ratios will be worse than before, but i don’t think the red rating means a project will never pay for itself. It might mean that parts of it will have to be scrapped, but the IPA has also given red ratings to projects that got delivered in full, like the Hitachi trains. Obviously if there are other groups issuing their own ratings, then I’d have to look and see what they say.

Unfortunately it seems to be the rule in the UK that the initial budget for infrastructure projects is overly optimistic and budgets are continually being adjusted upwards as designs and contracts are finalised. The sheer timescale of projects means that inflation drives up the numbers as well. An example i found on UK Rail Forums is Wigan-Bolton electrification: back in 2013 the projected budget was £37m, now it is £78m with building work not yet started.

However, a lot of these increases are due to the budget estimates being unrealistic to begin with, and the costs are also spread out over many years. In 2019/20, £12.6bn of the DFT’s budget was allocated to the existing rail network while HS2 was allocated £2.9bn. So assuming that we don’t have disastrous inflation, I don’t think money will be a barrier to building HS2 (phase 2) and new Northern lines simultaneously. HS2 (phase 1) and East-West Rail are already being built simultaneously.

As far as upgrades to northern rail are concerned, Wigan-Bolton electrification just got the go ahead, Leeds-York electrification, Transpennine electrification are happening. However, if no new branch lines are being opened, or if no existing lines are having more tracks added, then that is probably because the city centre stations don’t yet have enough platforms to handle more trains and will require the new lines to be built before existing ones can be upgraded.

It is unfortunate that new railways mean more countryside being built over: even reopening sections of old railways on East-West Rail (Oxford-Cambridge) is causing quite an upheaval. If a new railway is built between Leeds and Manchester, it would have to go through a National Park. I still believe these are all necessary projects: without them, i don’t think we can realistically prevent demand for new roads, as our cities just keep growing.

What i think needs to be asked is whether building new railways is acceptable if they are accompanied by projects to improve the quality of the countryside immediately around them. So for example, rewilding projects are happening at the location in Buckinghamshire where HS2 and East West Rail will cross over, on land that used to be farmland. There should also be opportunities for planting trees, wild flowers etc on embankments. I just hope these things don’t fall victim to value engineering.

Finally, I don’t think jobs will be sucked down to London as long as businesses are looking for places with lower rents than London, but with fast access to London. BT, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, HMRC, PWC, Deutsche Bank, KPMG and others have recently set up Birmingham offices. Some have even relocated London staff. I think the real issue here with HS2, or HS3 if that ever gets built, will be ensuring that jobs from the likes of Bolton, Coventry, Bradford, Huddersfield and so forth won’t be sucked into the neighbouring big cities: Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. That, i feel, is a much bigger danger to “levelling up”.

Anyway, congratulations if you made it to the end of this post, I probably wont be posting on this topic again for a while as this post required a lot of trawling through rail forums and news articles to find the relevant info….
 

TheLocalYokel

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Thank for that exposition, jfy1999. A lot of research clearly went into it for which I'm grateful. I'm sure other members are too.
 

jfy1999

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Apr 25, 2015
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I have no doubt, this article paints a bleak picture for rail investment. However, these reported cuts and delays are A) not confirmed yet and B) if they are confirmed, it won’t be because we can’t afford it, but because of the Government and/or Treasury’s desire to be seen delivering short-term solutions and “saving” money in the eyes of the electorate.

Here are some comments from another forum which i think put things into context.

The recent drip-feed of media stories show that the dead hand of the Treasury still has huge influence, and the covid borrowing bill has given that reactionary institution all the cynical excuses it needs to limit public funding of infrastructure projects for another generation. Annoyingly HS2 could be completed in full and NPR [Northern Powerhouse Rail] could have been spectacular had the government seen fit to spend just 0.5% of GDP over thirty years.

The evidence we've got so far are some vague statements from government ministers and a single article written by a non-transport specialist seemingly based on the anonymous report of an aggrieved regional stakeholder. We can infer some things from those sources, but it's far too soon to be making the kind of definitive statements people have been about exactly what will and will not be included in the integrated rail plan, let alone argue about why certain elements have or have not been included.
 
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