High Speed Rail HS2 – good for Liverpool?
HS2 high speed rail is a mixed blessing for Liverpool.
The HS2 High Speed Rail route north of the London to Birmingham section was announced on Jan 28th 2013.
HS2 will eventually halve journey times to the UK capital from Manchester and Leeds, to 1hr 8mins, with Liverpool-London journeys improving from 2hrs 7 mins to 1hr 36 mins, 25% faster than now.
HS2 will make Liverpool’s London rail link a full half an hour faster than now. But HS2 also downgrades relative journey times from their current parity with Liverpool’s neighbour Manchester, to being 50% slower.
So on the round trip, Manchester high speed rail services will be faster than Liverpool’s by an entire hour, leaving Liverpool’s relative position apparently weakened.
Still, the rail experts I have spoken to believe this disparity can be closed to an acceptable level (defined as half an hour slower on the round trip) by relatively modest improvements on the existing approach to Liverpool – and these can happen well before HS2 is finished c.2030.
My contacts have warmly welcomed certain detailed aspects of the line’s structure, including routing it via Crewe, the triangular junction arrangement east of Lymm, and the link to the existing West Coast Main Line at Golbourne near Wigan. These will help tie Liverpool and Manchester to Scotland as well as London.
HS2 High Speed Rail Northern Route Plans:
- The western arm of the Y, to Liverpool and Manchester via Crewe: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69037/hs2-msg-wm0-zz-dr-rt-40014.pdf
- The eastern arm, past Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield to Leeds: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/68988/hs2-arp-000-dr-rt-55001_3-0.pdf
- The Manchester section, with its Airport Interchange and long tunnel in from the suburbs: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69074/hs2-msg-ma0-zz-dr-rt-72801.pdf
Liverpool gets a true high speed rail service as far as Crewe – the run in will switch to the existing ‘classic’ West Coast Mainline via Runcorn for the last 35 miles. This is projected to make the Liverpool-London trip 30 minutes faster than at present, but leave us 30 minutes behind Manchester on completion (because Manchester’s dedicated HS2 line improves journey times by a full hour).
HS2 High Speed rail leaves Liverpool an hour behind Manchester on the return trip
However, there is already significant short term scope for cutting at least 10 minutes each way from the 41 minute ‘classic rail’ Crewe – Liverpool Lime Street run. This is certainly progress on earlier plans, where Liverpool trains left the new high speed rail line at Lichfield, much further south than Crewe.
It’s also commendable the line under Manchester avoids massive housing demolition by running in a long tunnel from the airport to Piccadilly, taking it under Wythenshawe and Longsight. Whether the cost of this can be kept on budget remains to be seen.
The regeneration case would be strengthened were the line to be built in one go, starting from north and south simultaneously, instead of needing two parliamentary bills either side of the 2015 election, meaning we will have to wait over 20 years for the HS2 railway to open north of Birmingham.
Liverpool businesses and civic leaders need to redouble their lobbying efforts to ensure parity with Leeds and Manchester, referencing the work by Professors Sir Peter Hall and Ian Wray.
HS2 High Speed Rail – Good for Liverpool? First Response:
These are Share the City’s initial thoughts, with thanks to NW rail experts David Thrower and Phil Winston:
- Bringing HS2 to Crewe is a victory for and vote of confidence in the Liverpool City Region, and will cut 30 mins from today’s typical 2hr 7 min journey time, a 24% improvement.
- Work needs to be done pushing the business case for closer journey time parity with Manchester, or Liverpool will be left an hour behind on the return trip.
- There is significant scope for ‘classic upgrade’ of the Crewe-Runcorn-Edge Hill route to reduce timings from 41 mins to c.30, which will even out the disparity by a third, e.g. by relocating the carriage sidings (on the curve) to the north side of the tracks at Edge Hill – David Thrower recommends Liverpool should push hard for this.
- The triangular junction arrangement at Lymm keeps open various future route options for a dedicated high speed rail spur to Liverpool, as Phil Winston points out.
- Meanwhile the city regions should work together to press the case for Professor Ian Wray’s concept of a ‘Trans Pendolino’ Northern Cross Rail. This is a relatively inexpensive upgrade to existing trans Pennine lines. Tilting trains could bring the 6m-strong labour markets of Liverpool – Manchester – Leeds (& Sheffield) within an hour, and Newcastle within two.
- We need to get high speed rail moving sooner – 2032 is over 200 years after the original Liverpool to Manchester Railway opened, and too long to wait – the Bill should go through Parliament in one go, and construction should start from the north as well as the south.
- Coupled with electrification of the Chat Moss / Huyton – St.Helens – Wigan lines, the Northern Hub and the Welsh Assembly minister’s launch of a business case for Bidston-Wrexham and Holyhead-Crewe, there is an exciting rail renaissance underway in the Liverpool-Manchester city regions.
The Northern Cross Rail and Hall-Wray plan for optimal HS2 in the North West: http://www.tcpa.org.uk/resources.php?action=resource&id=1051