die belebende Bedenkung

Billions more, straight afterwards

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Transport for the North’s “preferred option” for Northern Powerhouse Rail “would have seen the government spend billions upgrading the conventional line between Leeds and Manchester – and then tens of billions more, straight afterwards, building a second line between the same two places” (according to page 8 of the government’s November 2021 ‘Integrated Rail Plan’ [IRP]).

Actually, there are already two conventional lines between Manchester and Leeds – the Standedge line, running via Stalybridge, Marsden, and Huddersfield, and the Calder Valley line, running via Rochdale, Todmorden, and Bradford.

So the government’s preferred option, as enunciated in the IRP, would see it spend billions upgrading ‘the conventional line’ between Leeds and Manchester – and then billions more, straight afterwards, building a third line stretching about halfway between those same two places. This third line, between Manchester Piccadilly and ‘Marsden’, being the remnant of what was once known as ‘HS3’.

Construction of the ‘Marsden’ HS3 remnant would mean there were ‘two and a half’ lines between Manchester and Leeds. In the diagram of lines from the IRP (reproduced above), the portion of the Standedge line between ‘Marsden’ and Manchester is absent, presumably to obscure that bizarrerie.

On 19 November, the Guardian online published a story titled “Government planning ‘to put HS2 on stilts through Manchester’”, but a more accurate title might perhaps have been ‘Government planning to put HS3 on stilts through Manchester’.

The Guardian online story, Government planning ‘to put HS2 on stilts through Manchester’, 19 Nov 2021

HS2 would approach Manchester in a tunnel, before running into new surface level dead-end platforms at Piccadilly station. The IRP proposed that this terminus would be shared with HS3 platforms, but metro mayor Andy Burnham demanded that the station be built underground, and with through platforms. The Guardian reported the government as saying that Mr Burnham’s preference would cost £4 to £5 billion more than a surface kopfbahnhof.

Needless to say, that could be a substantial underestimate.

Regular readers of the Beleben blog may have gathered that the concentration of services at Piccadilly over the last 50 years is one of the principal causes of railway congestion and malperformance in Greater Manchester, and the station in effect faces the wrong way for the job it is being expected to do.

So the pertinent questions include:

  1. is HS3 – or more accurately, ‘half of HS3’ – necessary?
  2. how exactly would HS3 get from central Manchester, to ‘Marsden’? How much in tunnel? How much on stilts? Or what?
  3. what is its carbon footprint?
  4. what are its opportunity costs?
  5. and, why should Piccadilly be the principal regional station in Manchester?

Written by beleben

November 21, 2021 at 10:42 am

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