Integrated Rail Fail

So I’ve actually read it, appropriately enough while travelling from Lille to Sheffield via Eurostar/LNER/Northern, I must say that it addresses a lot of the concerns that Greens have had about HS2 – that it has too big a land take, that it doesn’t serve the right places, that the journey time improvements don’t justify the expense, that decarbonising the existing network should be the priority, etc. For the East Midlands, instead of building a new interchange at Toton, it makes use of under-used East Midlands Parkway via a new High-Speed line from Birmingham (So the newspaper headlines that Phase 2b has been “axed” is a little bit inaccurate).

However, the new line won’t go into Birmingham itself so we will continue to rely on Cross-Country for that journey.  Parkway stations generate motor traffic, so the prospect that the trains will then be able to access Nottingham and Derby has to be a good thing. Arrival at Sheffield will be at the existing station. The report suggests that journey times would be similar to those predicted via a new High Speed  line throughout. There is however a focus on journey times in the report and not much on capacity – if we are to get more freight onto rail we need that extra capacity that HS2 would have brought. 

The Midland Main Line will be fully electrified – at last! Much is made of the decarbonisation aspects of this. They suggest that HS2 benefits can be brought to the region much more quickly by this option.The electrification stops at Sheffield though. It will be interesting to see whether the local improvements we have been promised come to fruition – Stockbridge, Barrow Hill etc. 

Doncaster, York etc would continue to be served by the ECML which is also to get some upgrades

So not too bad for Sheffield & the East Mids then. Not so good for West Yorks. The report says they will “look at” how the line can best be delivered to Leeds.  There was speculation that a high speed line would  be built between Sheffield and Leeds (I think most likely via the Dearne Valley) but I have yet to see that in the report. 

Leeds is to get, at long last, a mass transit system (the report doesn’t specify whether this will be bus, tram. Metro or something else)

Northern Powerhouse Rail instead of being a network of high-speed routes across the North, becomes an upgrade to the existing route, which was supposed to happen anyway, and the report suggests that under the previous plan they would have just finished that upgrade and then started building another line. Sheffield would have been connected to NPR that opportunity has been lost. 

Bradford loses the prospect of a through route under the city, although there was already some controversy over the siting of the station for this. The line from Leeds to Bradford via New Pudsey is to be electrified – I’m not sure what benefits that brings, since the trains using that route continue to Manchester via the Calder Valley and I’ve seen no hint that line is going to be electrified. 

Manchester & the North-West pretty much get what they were expecting  but the Mayors have been good enough to pile in to support those areas that are losing out.

So what do the pundits say? Christian Wolmar grudgingly seems to admit that it’s a pretty good plan, but doubts that we can trust Boris to deliver it, with some justification I feel. Paul Salveson thinks that HS2 is fundamentally flawed anyway, mostly for being too London-centric  However, we can blame the Romans for Britain having a London-centric transport system and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Nevertheless, Northerners are seeing this as another betrayal from a government of serial liars who were never serious about “levelling up.”


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