die belebende Bedenkung

HS2 and Stoke-on-Trent, part six

with 4 comments

Part five

In the document “Stoke and Staffordshire can be key HS2 beneficiaries – as well as Crewe” (August 2014) Greengauge 21 (a.k.a. Jim Steer) claimed that the Stoke Route for the high speed railway (proposed by Stoke-on-Trent city council) would mean

  1. losing the advantages of directly serving Crewe, with its unrivalled rail catchment
  2. the consultation process would have to be re-started
  3. risking worse environmental impacts — because of the need to create an as yet little defined route northwards from Stoke-on-Trent across rural Cheshire to the West Coast Main Line.

According to Mr Steer, the Consultation Route could offer much the same benefits to the Potteries as the Stoke Route. It is not necessary to discard the preferred (Consultation) route for Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford to be provided with an hourly (or possibly half hourly) HS2 service to London, via the connection at Armitage with Handsacre.

[Greengauge 21]

The route to be used would be London Euston HS2 – (via Handsacre junction, the original northern limit of Phase 1) – Stafford – (via the junction at Norton Bridge which is currently being improved and grade-separated and Stone) – Stoke-on-Trent and onwards to Macclesfield and Stockport. Services could be terminated at the planned new HS2 terminus alongside the existing station at Manchester Piccadilly. Fast HS2 trains to/from Manchester would use the route via Crewe.

Furthermore, bringing forward completion of HS2 to Crewe (as proposed in HS2 Plus) would

  • release capacity for railfreight and local passenger trains, and result in fewer lorry movements across Staffordshire
  • enable the section of the West Coast Main Line between Colwich Junction and Stone to be taken out of use. Pendolino services currently using that section of track would be replaced by the HS2 services from Stoke-on-Trent operating via Stafford.

    [Greengauge 21]

    The advantages and opportunities locally would be for local communities to assess. The not insubstantial villages of Little Haywood and Great Haywood could gain direct open access to the Trent and Mersey canal and its amenities, for example. The disused track-bed could be used to create a useful off-road long–distance cycle path, as has been achieved with many older railway line closures. Noise nuisance from passing trains at places such as Shugborough Park, Weston and Stone would be reduced. This is important because the planned HS2 route (whether it goes to Crewe or Stoke) passes through this area. The line closure approach could therefore bring some important environmental mitigation benefits.

    There are also some wider benefits from line closure. Three road level crossings would be eliminated, enhancing safety and reducing delays. The junctions at Colwich and Stone would be eliminated, and in the case of Colwich, this should allow a useful increase in line speed on the West Coast Main Line, shortening journey times, (including for the proposed HS2 services to Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent) and reducing track maintenance costs. There would be similar savings at Stone where it may be possible more easily to implement the platform extensions needed to enable Cross Country services on the Stoke-on-Trent–Stafford route to make stations calls that are currently not possible. And the materials retrieved from the line (track, ballast etc) should be re-usable on other parts of the network as replacements fall due.

Closure of Colwich to Stone railway proposed by Greengauge 21

Closure of Colwich to Stone railway proposed by Greengauge 21

[Greengauge 21]

The unextended Phase 1 plan allows for an additional ten railfreight trains/day to operate over the West Coast Main Line.

The capacity gain would be much higher with the extension northwards to Crewe. This is because the constraints at Colwich Junction and between there and Stafford would be bypassed by most HS2 services, using the Crewe extension freeing up the existing West Coast Main Line for more freight.

[…] It is likely that the full aspirations of the rail freight sector to secure additional train paths on the busy West Coast Main Line could be met once HS2 is in operation as far as Crewe. A report by WSP suggested that HS2 could take 500,000 HGV lorry journeys off the M1, M40 and M6 motorways each year leading to environmental benefits worth over £45 million per annum and saving over 65,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per annum from reduced lorry movements.

It is plausible that the unextended HS2 Phase 1 plan would allow for an additional ten railfreight trains per day to operate over the West Coast Main Line (as HS2 Ltd claim). But the monetised value of that benefit is very low. And how commissioning the Crewe section of HS2 would increase WCML freight throughput is far from clear; the Greengauge 21 report provides no quantification.

The West Coast Main Line is mostly four track from London to Crewe, so there should be little difficulty in running a local passenger service through Staffordshire on the Slow Lines without building HS2. All the same, it might be better to run bus services to places like Wedgwood, given the low demand and the energy costs of stopping 170-tonne multiple units.

The Consultation route has “the advantages of directly serving Crewe, with its unrivalled rail catchment”. But in the service pattern used for modelling, hardly any HS2 trains would stop there. The economic benefits of stopping HS2 trains in Crewe (and Manchester Airport) are bound to be low.

In the Consultation proposal, captive HS2 trains would pass beneath Crewe’s existing station, in a tunnel. Crewe was once an important railway junction, but its connections are not actually very good. For example, the line to Stoke-on-Trent is partially single track.

Presumably, the reasons for routeing HS2 into Crewe are:

  1. Pete
  2. Waterman.

Written by beleben

September 5, 2014 at 3:44 pm

4 Responses

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  1. May I ask a couple of questions of beleben about …release capacity for railfreight and local passenger trains…?
    As I understand it, transferring the majority of intercity passengers, along an HS2 route, to HS2 allows classic rail intercity services to be cancelled (released capacity), the subsidies saved going to the HS2 business case. But who pays for the trains that claim the released capacity?
    Presumably, railfreight is private sector, like road haulage, and pays for its trains. (Your blog has always implied that railfreight is unable to make much use of released capacity.) But if local passenger services claim the released capacity, there is no subsidy saving, unless the intercity services were especially inefficient.
    Currently, it seems that local authorities are required to fund any additional rail services, but do not have the funds. The HS2 consultation documentation implied that Midland & Northern Councils were all against releasing capacity. I gather that post-HS2 service details are vague. Am I correct in this?


    September 5, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    • The HS2 consultation documentation implied that Midland & Northern Councils were all against
      releasing capacity. I gather that post-HS2 service details are vague. Am I correct in this?

      Post-HS2 released capacity and service details are indeed very vague (as can be seen from the dearth of facts in the HS2 Ltd factsheet), and it’s something that the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee should look into. HS2 Ltd’s economic case relies on large savings from running fewer trains on classic lines, yet the government aims to “ensure that all towns… which currently have a direct service to London will retain broadly comparable or better services once HS2 is completed”.

      Midland and Northern councils do seem to be against releasing capacity, because they seem to want more local trains to run on the classic lines, while also retaining fast trains on those same lines (see The Journal story, 18 July 2014).

      Railfreight is private sector, but according to Pteg’s “Heavy load to bear?” report, substantial track damage costs caused by goods trains are ‘largely ignored’ to make railfreight competitive.


      September 10, 2014 at 8:32 pm

  2. In the last HS2 economic case to be published (October 2013), it has been estimated that savings of £8.3 billion will be made on classic rail. This will be achieved by running fewer classic trains – it is expected that there will be a reduction of 20.8 million timetabled kilometres per year. See appraisal spreadsheets, phase one and full network costs.

    In the Assumptions Report published as part of the economic case, indicative post HS2 schedules were included which could be compared with an indicative schedule without HS2. On ten typical commuter journeys into cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield no additional train services were shown. See sections 5.1 and 6.4.

    “Released capacity” is building hope, but there may be no foundation.

    More details here:


    September 10, 2014 at 11:34 am

  3. […] Part six/ […]

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