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Two for the price of Three

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HS2 Leeds-station Options 2 and 3, November 2015

HS2 Leeds station siting, Options 2 and 3, November 2015. The previous ‘Option 3’ proposal has been ditched in favour of ‘Option 2’

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.

[ 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.

West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce's proposal for a Leeds HS2 through station

West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce’s proposal for a Leeds HS2 through station, July 2015

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’.

Birmingham New Street and Curzon Street: connectivity badly compromised by design

Birmingham New Street and Curzon Street: connectivity badly compromised by design

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.


Written by beleben

November 30, 2015 at 9:07 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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HS2 and decreased connectivity, part three

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The HS2 post-2026/2033 documentation does not say much about sleeper services between London and Scotland. What is the likelihood that such services would continue post-HS2?

When France’s TGV network was expanded, classic night trains were progressively cut back, and on some routes, completely withdrawn. Relations affected included: Paris — Bretagne; Lyon — Bordeaux; and Paris — Strasbourg.

Written by beleben

April 26, 2013 at 10:48 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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HS2 and decreased connectivity, part two

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HS2 Ltd, August 2012: the intention is to curtail ECML main line services at Edinburgh

HS2 Ltd’s “Updated economic case for HS2 (August 2012): Explanation of the service patterns” also demonstrated the intention to terminate East Coast Main Line services from London at Edinburgh. (It’s worth bearing in mind that the Intercity Express Programme was largely dreamed up to allow through service to places beyond Edinburgh.)

In the Rail Package 6 concept, pendular trains would run at up 225 km/h from London to Edinburgh in around 210 minutes — and continue to other destinations (i.e., no change of train needed at Edinburgh). Compared to HS2, Aberdeen electrification costs are trivial.

So, compared to the Rail Package 6 concept, HS2 would result in slower and less convenient journeys to and from points such as Dundee, Falkirk, Aberdeen, and Perth.

Written by beleben

April 26, 2013 at 10:38 am

Posted in HS2, Planning, Politics

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Clean nuclear HS2

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homer-at-the-nucular-stationCleaning up nuclear sites is an expensive business. Britain’s National Audit Office anticipates the total future costs for decommissioning just one site, the Sellafield nuclear complex in Cumbria, will be £67 billion. So it’s curious to find republishing Andy Milne’s January 2011 article in which he claimed HS2 “trains drawing power from a clean nuclear electric power station… will always be much more environmentally efficient than private motoring.”

Mr Milne also claimed that –

  • the price tag was £30 billion (it’s nearer £40 billion, when rolling stock and connectivity packages are included)
  • HS2 would allow for ‘more much needed suburban services and give a hearty boost to rail freight’ (it could not release significant capacity on the existing network)
  • linking with Heathrow Airport and High Speed One will obviate the need for increased domestic and French short haul flights (HS2 Ltd’s forecasts say it would be too slow to compete with air for most destinations in France and Europe).

Written by beleben

February 13, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Posted in HS2

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Modelling the inferior

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Writing for the Stop HS2 weblog, Andrew Bodman noted that MVA’s April 2012 Demand and Appraisal Report (HS2 London – West Midlands) for HS2 Ltd included a downgraded passenger service for Northampton post-2026.

Northampton is a busy station on the WCML with 2.5 million passengers in the last year. That represents a 13% increase on the previous year. Between London and Northampton, only Euston, Milton Keynes and Watford Junction stations handle more rail passengers. Currently there are 54 trains each way between Northampton and Euston per day, and some of these at peak times are sufficiently full that some passengers have to stand for part of their journeys.

The ”Demand and Appraisal Report HS2 London – West Midlands” published earlier this year outlines the anticipated schedule for classic trains on the WCML after the introduction of HS2. Rather than providing additional trains for Northampton, this schedule indicates that there will be only 42 trains each way between Northampton and Euston per day. So this will be a reduction of 12 trains per day in each direction. See Tables A2 and A3:

Demand for travel between Northampton and London is likely to increase between now and 2026 when HS2 is scheduled to start operation. So trains will become even more crowded rather than less crowded and with a reduced frequency there will be longer to wait between trains.

When such shortcomings are put to HS2 evangelists, the answer is always something like “That service level is for modelling purposes only”. But if HS2 ‘frees up capacity for more local, regional, and freight services’ why is it necessary to model inferior service patterns?

A response from the councillor responsible for transport at Northamptonshire County Council on the subject of Northampton’s future train services contained the following views:

“I am well aware that the service level for Northampton contained in the published proposals for HS2 falls short of both the reasonable aspirations of the town and the importance which ministers have attached to serving the area post-HS2. This is something of which all county councillors have been made aware in the reports we have considered on the subject. I have made this point myself to ministers on several occasions, and along with my officers have repeatedly made the point to officials from both the Department for Transport and HS2 Limited. While they have acknowledged that their published proposals are not really fit for purpose, I have been disappointed that no better proposals have been forthcoming”.

There is a huge difference between the claims for what ‘HS2 could deliver’, and what it would actually deliver.

Written by beleben

November 27, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Birmingham city bus stop overloading, part two

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Birmingham bus stops around St Martins, September 2012

Birmingham city council’s ‘Big City Plan‘ and ‘Vision for Movement‘ were supposed to create an attractive, connected, and walkable city centre, but seem to be failing miserably. The southern end of Park Street — a bleak place to have to stand about — has been made a principal pickup point for no fewer than twelve outbound bus services.

Birmingham's Park street outbound bus stop 'PA3'

The northern end of Moat Lane would make for a better bus pickup point for shoppers, but its stop ‘MK6’ is designated for setting down only. The outbound stop on the southern side of Park Street has no shelter and no functional real time information, and the pavement is so narrow that people waiting for buses block general pedestrian movement.

Written by beleben

October 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm

HS2 and inter-regional travel

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In its briefing on the government’s high speed rail white paper, the pro-HS2 Campaign for Better Transport noted that rail has just 4% of the Manchester — Birmingham market. According to HS2 Ltd, high speed rail would cut the Manchester — Birmingham rail journey from 1 hour 31 minutes, to 41 minutes; and the Leeds — Birmingham rail journey, from 2 hours 1 minute, to 57 minutes.

So could HS2 transform connectivity and initiate modal shift in Britain’s regions?

Although its title referred to ‘HS2 London — West Midlands’, the April 2012 Demand and Appraisal Report produced by MVA Consultancy included usage estimates relating to the Leeds / Manchester Y network concept, including a year 2037 estimate of rail travel between some regions.

MVA Consultancy for HS2 Ltd, average weekday rail demand between selected regions in 2037

MVA’s report suggested that HS2 would produce an 18% increase in rail travel between the West Midlands and the North West, which, in absolute volume terms, is not significant. Between the West Midlands and the region of Yorkshire and the Humber, the report suggested a 94% uplift from HS2 (though starting from a much lower base). Even so, in volume terms, a 94% increase from not-very-much, is still, not-very-much.

HS2 Ltd’s official journey time comparisons nearly always cite those few places with stations actually on the Y network, rather than other origin-destination pairs (e.g. Birmingham to Liverpool, Coventry to Rochdale, Wolverhampton to Stockport, Birmingham to Hull, Nottingham to Bradford, etc).

A fundamental weakness in the HS2 concept is the limited number of access points, which increases local leg and interchange penalties. In Britain’s economic geography, a HS2-like rail scheme is very bad for connectivity, providing minimal or negative advantage for the origin-destination constellation in Yorkshire and the Humber, North West England, and the West Midlands.

Written by beleben

September 26, 2012 at 4:52 pm