Two for the price of Three
Today (30 November 2015) the government released command paper 9157 outlining its plans to accelerate delivery of a section of HS2 Phase 2 between Fradley and Crewe. That section, to be known as Phase 2a, is now scheduled to open in 2027, six years earlier than previously planned. The government has also published updated analysis on the business case for HS2, and an “interim report” on the siting of the Leeds high speed rail station. However, the exact routeing of Phase 2 itself has still not been finalised.
In ‘The Yorkshire Hub: An interim report on the redevelopment of Leeds station’ HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins presented three options for the siting of the Leeds high speed station.
[gov.uk on the Leeds HS2 station siting]
[…] After continued engagement with Leeds City Council, local authorities across West Yorkshire, the Leeds City Region LEP, the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, and Network Rail, a clear consensus around a single preferred option has emerged.
This interim report is being submitted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Transport to consider, as a recommendation from HS2 Ltd. A full route decision on Phase Two of HS2 is expected later in 2016.
[…] The original New Lane [Leeds station site] proposals fulfilled HS2’s brief, but did not sufficiently take into account the changing nature of the wider factors, either in terms of existing and future services or the Council’s plans for the city centre. The danger was that the proposed station would have been too detached from the existing station and too isolated from the city centre. The sum would have been lesser than the parts. The hub effect would have been diminished.
Following representations from and detailed engagement with the Council, the Chamber of Commerce and representatives from the wider region on a range of potential approaches, HS2 selected three options from a longer list to prompt further discussion and analysis.
Option 1: Approaching from the east, with HS2 platforms parallel to existing platforms [at City station]
Option 2: Approaching from the south, with HS2 platforms reaching directly into existing Leeds station, creating a common concourse between services
Option 3: Approaching from the south, with HS2 platforms creating a new station south of the river, requiring passengers to transfer by foot to the existing Leeds station
David Higgins, Chairman, HS2 Ltd
The process of engagement we have gone through, in partnership with the region, to decide the best option for the Yorkshire Hub has been a model of its kind.
Quite rightly, local and civic leaders made clear their view of the limitations they saw in our original proposals, in particular its failure to connect local, regional and HS2 services and to connect into the existing city centre, and the plans for its expansion.
Given the physical constraints of the existing station, and the rising level of demand for services, coming up with a solution that meets all those needs has not been easy. But thanks to the efforts of the Council, the city region and the Chamber of Commerce, as well as HS2 and Network Rail experts, we have reached a consensus.
In short, because of both the heavy and growing demand and the constricted site – particularly at the station entrance – Option One was seen as not sufficiently flexible to cope with both HS2 and the anticipated increased traffic the Northern Powerhouse will deliver in the longer term. Whilst this more compact solution was superficially attractive, it does not stand the test of time, as the medium to long-term impact would be a limit on the ability to further extend or enhance the station to handle increased pressure on local services. The result would be detrimental to the transport needs and the wider economic aspirations of the city and the region, as would the disruption of construction in the midst of a working station.
Option Three, on the other hand, while feasible, was seen to suffer from drawbacks at the other end of the spectrum as there was too great a distance between HS2 and local services with passengers being exposed to a longer walk, often in bad weather and the lost opportunity to create a common concourse for the first time. It was not seen as an improvement on the original HS2 New Lane proposal.
Option Two, however, was seen to offer:
* easy access from HS2 to local services, and vice versa, on a par with that experienced at any other global transport hub;
* a common concourse creating the space for seamless passenger movement, and for retail and service facilities;
* easy access to the city centre, the South Bank and the waterfront helping to make the combined station an integral part of the developing city, rather than an adjunct;
* much easier car and bus access linking up to the urban and motorway hub, allowing the station to become an integrated transport hub for Yorkshire and the wider region;
* the capacity to allow local services to grow as HS3 and the Northern Powerhouse develops;
* the ability to allow through trains for local services and Northern Powerhouse rail services to improve links to York, Newcastle and Hull in the East, as well as Manchester and Liverpool in the West, and Sheffield and the Midlands to the South.
* the opportunity to create a landmark architectural statement, fitting with the role of Leeds station as a piece of national infrastructure, that Leeds, the city region, Yorkshire and the nation can be proud of.
In essence, the new Option 2 is a reworking of the previous Option 3 terminus proposal, with the dead-end platforms moved a few yards to the north. Presumably, the cost of Option 2 must be considerably higher, otherwise it would have been adopted at the outset.
But how real is the ‘consensus’ around Option 2? In July 2015, West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce stated that “A station which is able to accommodate HS2 and/or TransNorth rail services running through and onto the East Coast Mainline towards Northeast England and Scotland is essential“. In other words, the Chamber thought that a through high-speed station was a necessity.
Of Option 3 (New Lane), David Higgins said ‘the lack of a shared common concourse with local services would make moving between them and HS2 more difficult and make the HS2 station more isolated from the city centre’.
But of course, that is exactly the situation proposed for Birmingham, where the HS2 Curzon station site is remote from New Street, the main station for regional trains.