HS2 and London Midland commuting, part two
On 4 February 2014 the Financial Times published a story setting out the government’s plans to relaunch the HS2 rail project (paywall).
[“HS2 relaunch to focus on benefits to commuters”, George Parker, Mark Odell and Andrew Bounds, FT, 4 Feb 2014]
The HS2 high speed rail project will be relaunched next month, with a public relations offensive highlighting benefits to commuters and the north of the UK.
There are also plans to cut the £50bn price tag by speeding up construction work.
Ministers have backed a new sales pitch for HS2, abandoning a previous emphasis on intercity speed and focusing instead on the role of the line in cutting overcrowding on commuter routes.
The recent rebranding of the project as the “north-south railway” will also be accompanied by a much sharper focus on the project as part of general rail improvements to connect northern cities.
Of course, HS2 would not connect any Northern cities to each other (unless Meadowhall counts as a city, in which case it would connect Leeds and ‘Sheffield’). And so far, there is no sign of ‘cutting the £50bn price tag’ by speeding up construction work (or by any other means).
But what of “the role of the line in cutting overcrowding on commuter routes”?
On the evidence available, the overall long term commuter benefits of HS2 would be negligible. And during the HS2 construction phase, there is a strong likelihood of negative impacts on commuting on the West Coast Main Line, because of the massive disruption from rebuilding Euston station.
All the available evidence suggests that HS2 would not provide benefits for most Euston commuters. Only those travelling from Leighton Buzzard, and beyond, into London would be advantaged by HS2 released capacity.
A far cheaper way of achieving the same capacity for Milton Keynes commuters would be to connect the city to the Midland Main Line by means of a new chord (see Diagram 2 above).