Meet or move towards
Transport for the North has commissioned Network Rail and HS2 Ltd ‘to identify options to meet, or move towards meeting the Northern Powerhouse Rail vision‘.
[from The Northern Transport Strategy: Autumn Report, Transport for the North, November 2015]
We have commissioned Network Rail and HS2 Ltd to identify options to meet, or move towards meeting the NPR vision. They are now carrying out a series of studies to establish the scale of investment that each option would require. This includes looking at making use of the HS2 network where possible, upgrading existing routes, and the construction of brand new railway lines. We are also assessing the investment needed within cities, both at stations and on cross-city routes, to enable the fast through journeys that will make up a coherent network rather than a series of point-to-point links.
Emerging findings from this work show that entirely new lines, or in some cases major bypasses and cut-offs, may be needed to deliver the connectivity vision in full, and we are developing these route options. In certain locations, HS2 will play a part in delivering the transformational NPR vision. On the existing network, express, semi-fast, local and freight services run on the same, often two-track railway, limiting its capacity to deliver transformational changes in speed or frequency. We are also increasing our understanding of the major challenges in meeting aspirations for NPR at some city centre stations.
Between Liverpool and Manchester, there may be the potential to use the proposed HS2 infrastructure to cover approximately half the distance between the two cities. Our initial work indicates such an option would also require a new line from Liverpool to the proposed HS2 route, as we have found little or no scope to achieve our vision for journey times and frequencies through incremental upgrades to the existing rail routes. Such a new line could also permit faster HS2 services between Liverpool and London.
On routes between Manchester and Leeds and Manchester and Sheffield, our work so far suggests that very significant sections of new line would be needed to achieve the vision for journey times and service frequencies. However, if provided, these could free up capacity for additional local passenger services, better serving key intermediate centres and rail freight. The proposed HS2 route offers significant potential to provide a fast link between Leeds and Sheffield.
For Newcastle and Hull, packages of upgrades to existing lines, electrification, and faster trains could improve journey times and service frequencies between the North East and Humber areas and the rest of the North. We are exploring the potential to make more intensive use of the HS2 eastern leg connection to the East Coast Main Line to address the key constraint of line capacity east of Leeds, as well as options on the East Coast Main Line to Newcastle and routes to Hull.
Needless to say, extending HS2 into Liverpool would cost billions, and the potential journey time saving over the existing Chat Moss route for travel to Manchester would be minimal, especially if trains stopped at the poorly-sited Manchester Airport HS2 station. Furthermore, Manchester Piccadilly HS2 has been designed as a dead-end, which is obviously very awkward for notions of running trains from the Mersey to the other side of the Pennines.
Given the need to fix all the antiquated and unsatisfactory transport infrastructure in the North, it is astonishing that money is being frittered away on nonsense schemes like this.