The additional £12 million from central government, announced at the Conservative Party conference (2 – 5 October 2016), ‘will keep Midlands Connect – the transport partner of Midlands Engine – running until at least 2020’ (wrote Maria Machancoses, ‘programme director at Midlands Connect and director at Midlands Engine’).
[If the Midlands makes the most of HS2, the UK will get most out of the Midlands, Maria Machancoses, RTM, 2016-10-25]
These funds will enable Midlands Connect to implement its transport strategy beyond March 2017. Key to this will be ensuring the Midlands is ready for the arrival of HS2 in 2026. These measures include smart payment systems, additional coaches on trains and regeneration around HS2 stations. Prime minister Theresa May has already openly praised forward-thinking investments such as the £900m commitment to build 4,000 houses at a revamped HS2-ready Curzon Street station in Birmingham City Centre.
For one, HS2 will increase passenger capacity for rail journeys, and we plan to push for 10 extra carriages to each train, helping to relieve pressure on the Midlands motorway grid. Additionally, our recommended improvements for freight transportation via rail will be essential to business in the future.
We are working closely with HS2 and Network Rail to identify schemes that have the ability to unlock economic growth and network capacity. In terms of rail, it is not about the Midlands investing in miles of track. Actions of intent, such as building 4,000 houses at Birmingham’s revamped HS2-ready Curzon Street Station, need to be carried out.
Why is “building 4,000 houses” at Curzon Street station so important that it is mentioned twice in an article about regional connectivity? Is there even room to build “4,000 houses” at Curzon Street? And just how is it possible to “push for 10 extra carriages to each train”?
So far as can be established, ‘Midlands Connect’ is a motley collection of dud projects. It makes no sense to design local transport around ‘HS2 connectivity’, because the vast majority of everyday journeys in the Midlands do not involve travelling to London or Manchester by train.
The special interests who pull the strings of HS2 Ltd are opposed to having Old Oak Common as the terminus for their high speed rail line. But as can be seen from HS2 Ltd’s own illustration, a terminal would be feasible, and the footprint of a 12-platform station at Old Oak would be small, in terms of the overall railway lands and development area. And the costs of relocating the Crossrail depot would be a minuscule fraction of the amount needed to build through to Euston.
The HS2 Ltd estimated footprint can be compared with earlier extreme scaremongering.
If the eastern leg of HS2 were cancelled, the platform requirement, and space needed, would reduce further.
But the best option would be to cancel HS2 altogether, and create a combined Chiltern and Great Western through station, at Old Oak.
Re-routeing the London Underground Central Line to Willesden, via Old Oak, would improve the substandard connections in that part of west London. With platform screens and automation, the train frequency on the city section of the Central Line could be increased to around 40 per hour.
The suburban sections of the Central Line in the east and the west might be better developed as parts of other railways.
- The section to the west of Acton could become part of a tram-train linking Old Oak, Ruislip, and Uxbridge.
- The eastern suburban stretch of the Central Line, which was at one time intended to form part of a Chelsea – Hackney tube, could become part of a ‘national rail’ route to Stansted airport, or ‘Crossrail_X2’.
On 11 October, the House of Lords HS2 LWM committee were advised of the demerits of the flawed ‘Euston Express’ concept for accommodating high speed trains at Euston, by advocates of the flawed HS2 Ltd concept for accommodating high speed trains at Euston.
According to James Strachan QC, Department for Transport Counsel, ‘Euston Express train service options would be very limited, comprising, say, Birmingham / Manchester and Scotland or else the other destinations, but not both’.
[James Strachan QC] 123. […]You could either have a very limited 200-metre-long classic compatible service, with less capacity than the current West Coast Main Line – the benefits wouldn’t actually then justify the cost of the tunnel – or a five-to-six-platform station, which would incur most of the property demolition, an adverse environmental effect and cost,for a much reduced HS2 train station to Euston.
Of course, the “very limited 200-metre-long classic compatible service” mentioned by Mr Strachan, is actually the official HS2 Ltd proposition for trains from London to the busiest Country HS2 destinations – Birmingham and Manchester – during most of the day.
Mr Strachan claimed that the benefits of the Euston Express tunnel works ‘wouldn’t justify their cost’. But far more trains would use those tunnels, than would use the ridiculous, and hugely expensive, HS2 Ltd tunnels proposed in south Manchester.
During a disastrous appearance on yesterday’s BBC tv Marr show, transport secretary Christopher Grayling MP was questioned about airport capacity, and the cost of HS2.
[…Andrew Marr, asking about the cost of HS2:] My real question is, “Is this a blank cheque? Is there a limit?”… Is there a moment when you say, “I know it’s a big prestige project… I know there are a lot of egos are at stake here, but this is now too expensive, and it cannot cost… – and you actually pull the plug”?
[Christopher Grayling:] No, there isn’t.
On 11 October, Professor Andrew McNaughton, the government’s “technical expert” on high speed rail, more or less told the House of Lords HS2 LWM committee that Old Oak Common could not be the terminus for HS2.
One of the unconvincing reasons put forward by the Professor was the limited connectivity of the Old Oak site.
[House of Lords, MINUTES OF ORAL EVIDENCE taken before the HIGH SPEED RAIL COMMITTEE on the HIGH SPEED RAIL (LONDON – WEST MIDLANDS) BILL Tuesday 11 October 2016[…]
IN ATTENDANCE: […] Sir Tim Lankester and John Neve (Albert Street North Residents’ Association) Professor Andrew McNaughton (Technical Director, HS2) […]
Oral evidence – High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill – 11 Oct 2016]
165. [ANDREW McNAUGHTON:] The one thing I would say is the single mode failure, which is – and I’ll use probably an unfortunate term here – but a person under a train in the area of Crossrail will bring Crossrail to a stand. At that point, there is no connectivity for anybody on High Speed 2 if the only station available is Old Oak Common. We don’t wish Crossrail to have a suspension of service, but there will be occasions when it does, because that’s what happens with railways. At that point, not only will the Great Western be stopped, but High Speed 2 will be stopped. Depositing people at Old Oak Common and asking them to wander up the road to Acton underground station seems not something you’d plan as a passenger operation.
166. SIR TIM LANKESTER: 800 metres to North Acton underground station isn’t unbearable in extremis. Likewise, I believe there’s going to be a station on the London Overground by 2026.
167. PROF MCNAUGHTON: I will leave you to your own judgment of what is reasonable to ask long-distance passengers to undertake, with their luggage and their children and their mobility needs. I’ll leave it at that.
HS2 is being designed for 400-metre long trains – and platforms. People at the London end of a Birmingham-bound train would face a platform walk of up to ~400 metres, on arrival at Curzon.
In Birmingham, the distance between the classic platforms at New Street station, and the entrance to the HS2 platforms at Curzon terminus, would be (at least) 400 metres.
So an 800-metre walk, or thereabouts, would an everyday feature of HS2 interchange in Birmingham.
Apparently then, in the view of Prof McNaughton, an ‘everyday’ 800-metre walk in Birmingham would be reasonable, but an 800-metre walk ‘when-Crossrail-is-down’ in London, would be unreasonable.
Improving local transport links to places in west London – such as Old Oak – would make much more sense, and offer much better value for money, than building HS2 between Old Oak and Euston.
One ‘no-walk’ option would be to build a branch of London Underground’s Central Line from east Acton into Old Oak, and perhaps beyond.
Philip Rutnam, head of chumpery at the Department for Transport, has revealed that ‘cancellation costs to the public sector of up to £15m combined with “sunk costs of around £13.5m committed by DfT and £22m by Tfl” mean that more than £50m will be lost’ if London’s Joanna Lumley memorial bridge fails to go ahead, the Observer reported last weekend (15 October).
Apparently, Mr Rutnam is now claiming ‘he has long had serious concerns about the bridge’s viability’.
“After examining the business case for the project in summer 2014, my judgment was that the transport benefits of the project were limited and came with a relatively high level of risk to value for money.”
Does that mean Mr Rutnam is going to try to wriggle out of responsibility for the ailing high speed rail project, by suddenly claiming he has ‘long held serious concerns about the viability of HS2’?