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HS2 and Merseyside

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Rather than provide a specific information sheet for Merseyside, HS2 Ltd has given the county second billing in a combined ‘Cheshire & Merseyside‘ document. Curious, because Merseyside is larger in population, and a bigger market for the railway.

HS2 Ltd, Cheshire & Merseyside infosheet header, 2013

The map in the infosheet focuses on Crewe, rather than Liverpool.

HS2 Ltd Cheshire infosheet, Crewe map, 2013

As with the Leeds, Toton, and Meadowhall infosheets, there is some problematic content.

HS2 Ltd, Cheshire infosheet 2013, 'two trains from Liverpool to London in 1 hr 36 mn'

Journey times* From Liverpool
Destination Current time (mins) HS2 time (mins)
London 128 96
Birmingham 122 70
*Serving regional stations
Journeys to Liverpool from London and the wider Birmingham areas through Birmingham Interchange are expected to be reduced by 32 and 52 minutes respectively when HS2 is up and running.

Crewe and Warrington are expected to experience similar time savings to the faster Liverpool services (around 30 mins). Other regional stations such as Stafford and Runcorn would still see savings, though they will be slightly different as the trains would leave the HS2 line at Lichfield and not Crewe.

The infosheet puts HS2 forward as a ‘crucial capacity lifeline’ for North West England, but the project does not involve any new track being built into Merseyside (so there would be no released capacity benefit for its local services).

And on the Scotland route, the HS2 track would only extend as far north as Wigan, so there would be no capacity uplift for the West Coast Main Line (WCML) in Lancashire and Cumbria. (Fortunately, passenger demand north of Weaver Junction is quite low.)

According to Adam Joyce (@randomravings, apparently a press officer for HS2 Ltd), “The HS2 trains able to run on the existing network will be 265m long, so as long as the extended 11-car Pendolinos…The 200m long rationale is based on Scottish services which would separate at Carstairs. One to Edinburgh, one to Glasgow.”

Merseyside journey details given in HS2 Ltd’s infosheet are not consistent with the company’s January 2013 service pattern concept. The latter shows only one of the twice-hourly Liverpool trains running from London in 1 hour 36 minutes. The other one, routed via Stafford, would take longer.

Furthermore, Mr Joyce’s claim that classic compatible trains “would be 265 metres long” is difficult to reconcile with details provided by HS2 Ltd. Its January 2012 Review of the Technical Specification for High Speed Rail in the UK stated “At this stage, we have only assumed the use of 260m sets for phase two operations to Newcastle services”. And in its January 2013 service pattern concept, one Liverpool classic compatible train is shown as running in combination with a Birmingham Curzon Street service.

HS2 Ltd, Y network Jan 2013 service pattern concept

How could a 265-metre long classic compatible trainset destined for Liverpool, be coupled to a 200-metre trainset bound for Birmingham? The combination would surely be too long for the HS2 platforms at Euston and Bickenhill.

Written by beleben

February 13, 2013 at 10:45 am

Complete and utter blight

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On 16 January 2008 the Liverpool Daily Post reported on the city’s failed Merseytram light rail project, which had seen the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority wasting £70,000,000 of taxpayers’ money without a single piece of track being laid.

In June 2012, years after the government refused to pay £170 million towards it, Merseytram line one was still blighting Liverpool, according to Daily Post contributor Tony McDonough.

As part of the plan for line one of Merseytram, Mersytravel issued compulsory purchase orders in 2005 for more than 1.6 million square feet [148,000 m2] of property between the city centre and Kirkby.

And despite the failure to win funding, the authority served the notices again in 2010.

The CPOs don’t expire until February next year but it seems Mersytravel wants to continue to keeps its options open rather than lifting the orders straight away.

One property developer, Jon Elster, claims the CPOs hanging over properties that he owns in London Road in the city centre are hindering their development.

He says the threat of the CPOs has meant deals for a budget hotel and a restaurant have collapsed.

Former Liverpool Council leader Lord Storey says the CPOs mean the properties affected are “blighted”. He is calling on Merseytravel to finally admit defeat on Merseytram.

“It is time to end this now,” he said.

Written by beleben

July 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm

HS2 Merseygate

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South Warrington Conservatives: 'HS2 a big win for Warrington'Labour shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle has condemned the “sneaky” downgrading of the proposed HS2 service to Liverpool, according to the Birmingham Post. Its story explained that Liverpudlian travellers would have a ‘high speed’ service only between London and Lichfield, with trains switching to legacy track for the remainder of the journey.

And a new proposed timetable shows that other services have also been quietly downgraded.

Proposed services to Warrington, in Cheshire; Wigan, Greater Manchester; Darlington, County Durham, and York, have all been reduced.
[…]
While attention has tended to focus on the prospect of faster journey times between Birmingham and London, with trains running from a new Curzon Street station in Birmingham to London Euston, the economic case for HS2 hinges on plans to create a nationwide network which transforms connections between Midlands and the north as well as London.

In fact, the continued use (after completion of the Y network) of legacy West Coast tracks for Merseyside services is not a novelty; it was part of the February 2011 Y network proposal. However, in the latest round of changes, Warrington, home of HS2 hitman Pete Waterman, appears to have been dumped from the network, and Wigan appears to have only a connection to Birmingham (not London). The February 2011 diagram (below) showed Wigan as a stop on a Glasgow-to-London HS2 service.

HS2 Y network service pattern, as planned in February 2011

It’s worth noting that neither the February 2011 nor the January 2012 proposals have any provision for HS2-enabled services to places such as Stoke-on-Trent, Stockport, or Weaver Vale (whose MP, Graham Evans, is one of the most vociferous supporters of high speed rail).

The real problem with the current HS2 proposal is that its architecture does not permit the supposed objective of “a nationwide network which transforms connections between Midlands and the north as well as London”. There needs to be a fundamental re-think, but the political straitjacket around the current scheme makes this unlikely.

Written by beleben

February 9, 2012 at 4:01 pm

HS2 and Liverpool

with 3 comments

Under the government’s plan for HS2 stage one (‘HS2WM’, London to Birmingham), various towns in the North West would be served by ‘classic compatible’ trains running onto the West Coast Main Line (WCML). However, in the second stage Y-network (‘HS2YN’), fast services would be switched away from the WCML to new build track, with only Manchester directly served.

Liverpool’s Daily Post reported the Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority‘s concern that this could be to the city’s disadvantage:

LIVERPOOL could lose trade to its Manchester neighbour if a high-speed rail link to London goes ahead as currently planned, it was warned last night.
[…]
Trains would slow to conventional speed just south of Manchester, but would still slash London-Liverpool journey times from 2hrs 10mins to 1hr 38mins.

The journey time from the capital to Manchester will be cut to just 1hr 10mins.

“This will act as a significant incentive to businesses to consider locating in Manchester rather than Liverpool,” Merseytravel said in its official response to the government consultation.

Merseytravel said the timetable to build it over 20 years is too slow and because the line does not come to Liverpool its position relative to Manchester and Birmingham will be undermined.

David Begg’s Biz4HS2 campaign responded to the Daily Post:

August 30, 2011

Last week, we wrote to the editor of the Liverpool Daily Post, in response to their article entitled ‘Liverpool could lose business to Manchester under high-speed rail plans’ on 22 August 2011. Our letter was not printed, but can be read in full below.

Dear Editor,

In response to your article on high-speed rail dated 22 August 2011, it is important to understand the devastating impact for Liverpool if the line were not to go ahead.

HS2 would provide two regular high-speed services to Liverpool per hour, alongside the existing hourly service on the conventional line. As a bonus, journey times to London would be shortened by over half an hour.

However, under the alternative proposal, known as Rail Package 2, Liverpool would see these services halved with only one regular hourly service from London, and one additional service every two hours. There would be no improved journey times and increased chances of delays on a clogged-up Victorian network that is close to bursting.

Only the increased connectivity that HS2 would provide will enable Liverpool to unlock its full economic potential. Research suggests that HS2 would support the creation of 38,900 jobs in Liverpool and 76,600 in the surrounding areas.

It is clearly a no-brainer. The people of Liverpool need to show their support of high-speed rail, and help push through a project that Liverpool will reap the rewards from for generations to come.

Professor David Begg

Director, Campaign for High-Speed Rail

Under HS2 stage one, the journey from London to Liverpool is 110 minutes, not 98 minutes. So the Daily Post article, and Mr Begg’s claim that “journey times to London would be shortened by over half an hour” are incorrect. And Rail Package 2 is not “the” alternative proposal, it’s “an” alternative proposal, designed by the high speed rail lobby (in the shape of Atkins).

HS2 has little to offer Merseyside. In stage one, by running trains non-stop south of the North West, London is reached 20 minutes quicker. But London is the only destination with a shorter journey time.

In stage two (HS2YN), Manchester trains switch to new build track, removing Stockport and Stoke-on-Trent from the fast network. Exactly what would happen to Liverpool (and Warrington and Runcorn) services is unknown, as HS2YN would create a large amount of surplus rail capacity north of the Trent Valley. If Liverpool trains were not routed via the Y-leg to Manchester, the new build line would only be carrying around three Manchester, and two beyond-Manchester, trains each hour.

Whatever happens, it’s highly likely that Liverpool would be disadvantaged compared with Manchester, by HS2. Secondary towns in the provinces are likely losers under Adonis/Steer high speed rail. At the national level, HS2 is London-centric, and at the regional level, it is Manchester- and Leeds-centric. As Greengauge 21’s High Speed Two interfaces states:

The number of stations needed on the HSR network could be as low as one per region.

For the North West Region, “one per region” means a station in Manchester, and no station in Liverpool. If Merseyside politicians don’t like the “logic” of HS2, why support the policy? After all, sensible rail improvement products are available.

Written by beleben

September 5, 2011 at 12:59 pm