die belebende Bedenkung

For and against HS3

with 13 comments

Journeys in the Manchester - Leeds rail corridor, 2007

Journeys in the Manchester – Leeds rail corridor, 2007

At the latest relaunch in Leeds on 27 October, HS2 chief David Higgins backed the construction of a high speed railway across the Pennines, and proposed that a new body called The Northern Way Transport for the North be established to plan transport across Northern England.

The government is now openly using the term “HS3” to denote a future Northern east west rail connection, although it was not too long ago that Patrick McLoughlin was expressing regret that the ‘new north – south rail link’ had been called HS2, because it was ‘not about speed’.

The prime minister estimated on Monday that the new east – west line HS3 could cost as much as £7 billion.

[‘Tories eye £7bn Manchester-Leeds fast rail link’, Kiran Stacey, Financial Times, 27 Oct 2014 (paywall)]

[…] But much depends on what sort of improvements the government decides to pursue and these are still not decided. Options range from upgrading existing lines to building a brand new Manchester-Leeds link involving extensive tunnelling under the Pennines.

[…] One Treasury official said: “HS3 could come before HS2 – these are the conversations people are having right now. This will probably be a decision taken by the next government, but it is a live topic at the moment.”

[…] Richard Wellings, head of transport at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “Northern conurbations are made up of a lot of smaller towns, so it could still take a long time to get door to door from someone’s house to their workplace.”

Improvements to rail infrastructure in the North are long overdue, but if HS3 took the form suggested by ‘One North‘, it would be another scandalous waste of resources. As can be seen from the diagram above, the demand for end-to-end rail travel between Manchester and Leeds is way too small to justify billions of pounds being spent on digging a new trans-Pennine tunnel. Infrastructure improvements should be planned openly, on the basis of maximising economic utility, rather than on meeting the needs of lobbyists.

Written by beleben

October 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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13 Responses

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  1. The maximum economic benefit to the North would seem to arise if ‘HS3’ were built between its two biggest through-stations, Manchester Victoria and Leeds. This 39-mile fast-connector would join the rail system of East Lancs to that of West Yorks, cutting though the economic barrier of the Pennines and opening a Northern Cities Crossrail from as far west as Liverpool to as far east as York and Hull.

    Further time savings would come from track upgrades east of Leeds and west of Manchester and from a second construction stage to add Bradford and Meadowhall to the fast-connector route. See:

    More benefit would arise if construction of HS2 did not start until the Northern Cities Crossrail was open….


    October 28, 2014 at 11:32 pm

  2. Assuming the trains are to be UK gauge, the sensible, commercial approach would be to start with a big list of small projects. Electrification of the whole network should be high up the list.


    October 29, 2014 at 9:26 am

    • Can beleben oblige with a map of the un-electrified main lines north of the North South Divide?


      October 29, 2014 at 9:38 am

      • An updated extract of the 2009 Network Rail electrification map, including schemes approved but not completed:

        Network Rail electrified capability (updated by Beleben, Oct 2014)


        October 29, 2014 at 6:00 pm

      • For those interested in railway history …

        The Southport – Liverpool line (red line on the map) was the first UK line to be electrified in 1904 (by the Lancashire & Yorkshire railway)

        Projects used to start in the north, especially when the decision to go ahead is taken outside London.


        October 30, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      • The map shows 3 of the 4 routes from Liverpool to Manchester. [The 4th was a LNWR route via Warrington and Altrincham closed to passengers in the 1960s and to freight in the 1980s.]

        The L&Y route is 3rd rail electrified from Liverpool-Kirkby (red on map) and it is planned to electrify from Wigan to Manchester, but this will leave a short gap from Kirkby to Wigan, thus forcing 2 changes of trains for passenger using this route.

        The LNWR (ex 1830 Liverpool & Manchester) route is being electrified and is due to complete this year.

        The CLC route is 3rd rail electrified from Liverpool-Hunts Cross (red on map), but there are no published plans to further electrify the route through Warrington to Manchester.

        If the Warrington – Altrincham route was re-opened for freight traffic, and the other 3 routes electrified, a much improved set of Liverpool – Manchester commuting services would be possible.

        To put this into a London context, the distance from Liverpool – Manchester is about 32miles, about the same as Heathrow – Upminster.


        October 30, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      • Beleben: thank you for finding Network Rail’s 2009 map and for your 2014 update of it with the line electrifications since approved: very useful.

        Nearly all the post-2009 approvals seem to have been for OHLE on existing cross-country routes or on the MML north of Bedford. So, if Whitehall likes the idea of a 40 mile Manchester-Leeds fast link (aka HS3), the Treasury will need to budget for both the link and for the line electrifications it will need to create its best catchment, west into Lancs and east into Yorks. Now, where could they make the savings to pay for all that?

        Michael Wand

        October 31, 2014 at 8:11 pm

  3. The lines between Leeds and Manchester are currently at capacity, as are Leeds and the big Manchester stations. So how do you propose a cheap solution to the problem? Road links are also well beyond capacity.

    It has been proven that where you build transport infrastructure the users will come. Rail has boomed in the north recently despite the shocking trains of Northern rail and the appaulling overcrowding on Transpennine Express.

    It is about time that the North had some investment in rail that was worth talking about. Hopefully this can be the catalyst for the rail network that the North deserves.

    Unless you are one of those who beleives the following


    October 29, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    • The lines between Leeds and Manchester are currently at capacity, as are Leeds and the big Manchester stations. So how do you propose a cheap solution to the problem?

      Where is your evidence that the lines between Leeds and Manchester are currently at capacity?

      Road links are also well beyond capacity.

      To what extent would building a high speed rail line, help with road capacity?

      It has been proven that where you build transport infrastructure the users will come.

      Proven by whom?

      Rail has boomed in the north recently despite the shocking trains of Northern rail and the appaulling overcrowding on Transpennine Express.

      The appalling overcrowding on some trains in the North is probably down to the insufficient carriages. The cost of leasing additional carriages, which are effectively only used in the peak hours, is too high.


      October 29, 2014 at 5:26 pm

  4. Having stuffed staffs by doing away with the Handsacre connection and now promoting the Crewe wonder hub, HS2 are now proposing two fast connections to London for Leeds (of all places), one via Manchester and the other twixt Notts and Derby. Perhaps the next phase of this crazy process will not be to ask Y but, as in some tv trivia game call: “give us an S!”
    And how many more citizens will have an uncertain future while this unregulated quango draws lines in the sand as to where it might go next?
    But don’t forget, one of the great benefits of HS2 Manchester is to get Airport passengers to their 2-mile off-airport station in 9 minutes instead of by the current slow route to on-airport station in 18 minutes. “Taxi rank: this way!”
    HS2 “full” by 2027? – at least there will be more empty seats on that crumbling Victorian WCML, subject to the Pacers’ refurbished pacemakers not being subjected to ministerial cutbacks.

    futureproofthefuturewith hs2

    October 29, 2014 at 11:42 pm

  5. Is the SDG report that the diagram is taken from available? The current demand between Liverpool and Manchester is 2m, Leeds and Manchester is 1.2m, and those Liverpool – Manchester passengers have slower average journey times and pay more per mile. So why the spend £7bn gold plating the Manchester line; through very difficult terrain and Leave Liverpool locked-out of HS2 and HS3?

    Andrew Morris

    November 7, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    • Gold-plating the old Manchester-Leeds line would gold-plate too many of its Victorian limitations on passenger growth. If, however, HS3 turns out to be a new fast line from Manchester Victoria to Leeds via Rochdale and the M62 corridor, it would halve rail times between the two city centres and make sense out of serious line upgrades from Liverpool in the west to York and Hull in the east.

      See map at :

      With luck, the Chancellor will get HS3 built first.


      November 8, 2014 at 9:54 am

    • beleben

      November 8, 2014 at 10:57 am

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