HS2 design has built-in obsolescence
Network Rail’s draft Freight Network Study (August 2016) was developed “in collaboration with a range of stakeholders, including freight operating companies, The UK Governments, the Rail Freight Group, the Rail Delivery Group, and the Office of Rail and Road”. The study noted that as the “proposed new HS2 line from London to the North is not expected to provide for rail freight services”, the freight industry has an ‘aspiration’ to ‘enable new rail freight market flows by enhancing a selected number of (classic) routes to European gauge standards, specifically UIC GB1+ gauge’.
Implementing this ‘aspiration’ would entail the massive disruption and cost of extensively rebuilding the entire West Coast Main Line between London and Crewe, and the Transpennine North route to Leeds. Its feasibility and fundability looks minimal.
On the other hand, if an all-new railway from London to the north were being planned, it would be perfectly feasible to design-in dual passenger and freight capability, with an ‘outsize’ loading gauge (capable of carrying lorries on flatbed wagons, for example).
But HS2, a planned all-new railway from London to the north, has not been designed for potential railfreight use. Its gradients would make cost-effective goods movement a highly unlikely proposition, and its structure gauge is too small for an efficient ‘rolling motorway’.
Furthermore, the GC vehicle gauge specified for HS2 confers no meaningful passenger capacity benefit. It would not permit comfortable 3+2 seating layouts, or spacious double deck carriages.