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Knott in gley public interest

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On June 22, The Guardian Northerner Blog’s political commentator Ed Jacobs asked how the HS2 project could be made more ‘relevant’ to people.

Talking in generalisations about economic growth may sound good, but it doesn’t address the day-to-day transport problems that we have to endure in the north. So, for those advocating the route, here are four questions that could do with being answered:

1. What would High Speed Rail to northern England do to ease the UK’s unenviable position of having the most expensive rail fares in Europe?

2. How would the project address the problem of trains persistently running late?

3. Will HS2 do anything to relieve frequently overcrowded trains?

4. Would HS2 do anything about the train fare system which so many people cite as being too confusing?

I don’t think HS2 could help much with these issues. Fares are high because the railway is inefficient and less subsidised than its Continental cohorts. The fare structure could probably be rationalised in a couple of years, if the government pushed for it. Trains run late because the railway is inefficient and less modern than its Continental cohorts. And crowding is ultimately tied up with tidal peaks, and willingness to pay.

The government’s timescale is for HS2 track to reach northern England around the year 2032, so its short term relevance for Mancunian and Leodensian commuters is minimal. And over the medium to long term, HS2 would play the role of attention thief and competitor for funds against the classic network.

Rail writer Nick Kingsley’s response to Mr Jacobs’ article (Northerner Blog, 26 June) alluded to commuter benefits for Northwich

The Cheshire town of Northwich might seem an odd place to start a discussion about the case for High Speed 2, the government’s proposed fast rail link between London and (eventually) Manchester and Leeds. Between 7am and 8.30am each weekday, three trains leave Northwich to carry commuters the 30 miles or so to Manchester. Trouble is… only one actually gets there, the others unhelpfully decanting their passengers at Stockport.

[…]The Northwich case is just one of many examples of too many trains being squeezed on to too little railway; and the railways around Leeds and Manchester remain a somewhat haphazard web of routes that have developed only piecemeal since the mid-19th century.

and Knottingley (the ‘Pontefract Line’).

As one senior transport official in West Yorkshire told me in April:

‘Pontefract and Knottingley won’t get a proper service into Leeds until we sort out the East Coast bottlenecks using HS2.’

I’d venture that rail capacity and connectivity in northern cities is better addressed by scalable, smaller schemes that can be implemented in shorter timescales.

Northwich

Northwich - Manchester rail diagram

Northwich – Manchester rail diagram showing ‘Metrolink Max’ direct access via MSJ&A

Only the mad world of British planning would produce a situation where rail travel from Northwich to Manchester entailed a change of train in Stockport. And detouring trains via Stockport reduces capacity on the approach to Manchester Piccadilly, used by expresses from London.

So why not incorporate Northwich into a ‘Metrolink Max’, and route its Manchester services over the Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway (MSJ&A, now part of the Metrolink tramway)? That would shorten the journey, and decongest the Piccadilly approach.

Knottingley

Leeds, Castleford, Knottingley rail diagram

Knottingley and ECML Leeds trains: potential conflict only in vicinity of City station

At present, through trains between Knottingley and Leeds take about 40 minutes, calling at Pontefract Monkhill, Glasshoughton, Castleford and Woodlesford. They do not approach Leeds using the East Coast electrified line from Kings Cross, so it’s unclear to me how HS2 would help with decongestion.

Like Centro in the West Midlands, West Yorkshire ITA misrepresents HS2 as freeing up significant capacity on its local rail network. However, its draft Railplan 7 did include some good development options for the Pontefract line, including platform lengthening. As the site for the HS2 station in Leeds has not been revealed, it’s not possible to discuss the capacity and connectivity implications.

Written by beleben

June 28, 2012 at 8:34 am

Posted in HS2, Leeds, Manchester

Tagged with , ,

One Response

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  1. As I lived in leeds for a few years and studied the surrounding plethora of old railway routes, I am very interested to hear what the proposal will be.

    Leeds has suffered under-investment in transport infrastructure for years, the only notable exception being guided buses. However, these actually make the journeys worse for cars, so why not just build a tramline instead?

    Oh that’s right, the government at the time dismissed the “Supertram” scheme in Leeds as too expensive. Not surprising given the fact that it required lots of demolition and went down one of the most congested roads in the centre, Otley Road. That’s not to mention that Otley Road/Headingley/Hyde Park already have incredible bus connections to elsewhere in the city.

    Only now are they thinking of the tram-train option from Harrogate and building a spur to the airport. Something I suggested to WYPTE about 8 years ago when finances were apparently good.

    Leeds has grown organically without too-much forward planning (even the inner ring wasn’t constructed exactly as required) but if I remember correctly, how are you ever going to make progress when the council has mostly been split between parties?

    I just hope that the engineers of HS2 chose the site and not anyone from Leeds City Council.

    CommuterRant

    July 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm


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