HS2 Stations

I few days ago, I tried to submit the following post as a comment here. The comment failed to submit, but at least it gives me some content for this blog.

The article I was trying to comment on is headed “HS2 station location – it’s worth getting this right” and argues that “more thinking is needed now on the location of HS2’s stations, especially in Yorkshire.”

I’m more concerned about the phase 1 stations in London (Euston) and Birmingham (which I believe is known as Curzon Street).

The Birmingham one is perhaps the most worrying, because it is a dead-end. The environmental case for high speed rail is that it can compete with aviation, which causes huge greenhouse effect. However, a London-Birmingham shuttle does not compete with aviation, it is too short a distance. Therefore the additionally electricity needed to make a train travel at 200mph is not justified. Instead of buffers, the north end of Curzon Street station should have a tunnel mouth, with the station becoming a through station on the route from London to Manchester, rather than a terminus.

The other motivation for building HS2 is that West Coast Main Line (WCML) is, or will soon be, full. However, growth in rail use is expected to increase across the board, meaning that other lines will, sooner or later, also be full. And that’s when HS2’s plans for Euston become a problem. Euston will presumably be at or near capacity with HS2 and WCML traffic, so if additional HS lines are built in future to relieve the East Coast and Great Western lines there would have to be another hugely expensive problem to get them into central London. I would argue that we need to plan the HS network we will want 50-100 years in the future and make sure that what we actually build now has passive provision for that built-in. As I see it, there are two possible approaches:

1. A modification of the ‘Euston Cross’ proposal once featured in the magazine ‘Modern Railways’. This would involve an underground East-West through station in the vicinity of Euston and Kings Cross, with the tracks leading to HS2 at the west end and HS1 at the east end. The modification is that this be built with passive-provision to be a four-track link from Old Oak Common to somewhere near Stratford International. Thus, future high speed lines from Old Oak Common to Bristol (perhaps via Heathrow, and possibly with a branch to Southampton) and from Stratford to Leeds/York (relieving the East Coast and Great Western main lines) could feed into the same central core as services on HS1 and HS2.

2. Try and use the HSR network to rebalance the UK to make London less important. In this case, Euston could remain as planned and no further HSR would be built in London. Instead, an X-Shaped network with Birmingham at its centre could be designed, with HS1/HS2 running Ashford – London – Birmingham – Manchester and HS3 running York – Leeds – Sheffield – Derby – Birmingham – Cheltenham – Bristol with later extension to Plymouth and possibly a branch from Cheltenham to Swansea. I would suggest doing this incrementally, a possible first step being upgrading the direct route between Bromsgrove and Ashchurch for Tewkesbury to high speed (re-routing local services via Worcester) and electrifying the classic lines from York through to Bristol. But the Birmingham HS2 station would need to be built with at least passive provision for these two through routes.

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