The debate in the
The insistence on the "necessity" of High Speed lines, the "economic benefits" and the "greenness" of such rail transport makes for a public campaign to convince people that HS rail is inevitable. That together with the remit to design a policy, and a line defined in detail down to "fifty centimetres" all within 11 months means that development on such a line to the West Midlands has been accelerated, building on previous work done. The alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear. Civil servants (and politicians) do not like to have to revise plans and decisions already made. This means that now we are starting to receive the politicians´ arguments to convince us of decisions already made. Always look out for the the same arguments repeated in the media to the detriment of other convincing arguments equally, or more so. The principal points can be looked at in more detail.
1-Choice of line:The West Coast Mainline (WCML) is successful and even more so since its upgrade was finished at the end of 2008. However, the faster the commuter trains run into
2-London terminus: An area "next to Euston" has already been mentioned, even "between Euston and St. Pancras". We presume the herrendously expensive British Library would not be affected so it means a lot of householders are in the firing line (and they talk about not publishing details so as not to cause planning blight - how cynical can you get?) This is a blatant attempt to colour the debate. It ignores that Chiltern already run services into Paddington station from the Chiltern line. It ignores that Crossrail will free up train paths into/out of Paddinton and free up platforms. It ignores the fact that the Heathrow Express runs into Paddington rubbishing the case for a station on the Great Western Mainline (GWML) near (not at) Heathrow airport.
Trains can run out of Paddington much more easily (and therefore cheaply) than from Euston. Another point why this choice has been made is that a connexion can be made from the Euston area to HS1 near Kings Cross relatively easily. It clearly ignores other options. These will be looked at some other time.
Well for starters this terminus should not be built as a terminus(though we will continue to use the term) but as a through station to facilitate the line´s extension elsewhere (presumably northwards) in which case it will connect to the classic lines before any HS line northwards is built. Remember that HS is conceived so that only the height and width of the vehicles are the impediments for travelling on the classic lines when these lines have low bridges and narrow tunnels etc.
One stop that has been mentioned is Birmingham International but it is way outside the city. It can be used as a stopping station on the way but not as a terminus. It has been said that it should be a "Parkway" which attracts one to catch the train - this is self defeating since the whole object is to get people out of their cars and to use public transport which they will only do when they can catch the public transport to where it goes (i.e.the city centre where they usually cannot park their cars easily). Also any ideas about Birmingham International being the alternative to Heathrow are as fanciful as are those that suppose that the London Oxford airport can rationally be an alternative to Heathrow. Like it or not
New Street station is overcrowded at present. It is welcome news that the station is going to be redeveloped but will this solve the inadequacy problems? The best idea seems to be the Birmingham Grand Central station which would use the old
4-Heathrow Hub: Firstly let us make clear that there will be no new station at Heathrow airport. It would be north of the M4 on the GWML - way outside the airport boundaries neither present nor future even with a third runway.
The best bets are that the proposed new station would be situated at or near the present Hayes and Harlington station on the GWML. This would be after Airport Junction on the GWML towards Paddington so that Heathrow Express(HE) trains could stop there transporting passengers to/from the terminals. If there were direct trains from South Wales and the West into Heathrow then a new chord would have to be built at Airport Junction for trains to turn westwards on to the GWML.
An alternative would be at or near West Drayton station so trains could take the loop south past the reservoirs and into terminal 5. Then the problem of transfers would exist in Heathrow between the different terminals making another(at least one more) change necessary to get to terminal
Neither of these options offers a good or realistically economic solution of access.The HE is in place and can offer a rapid service to Paddington from where all trains to the West and
A lot has been written about the blight caused by a third runway at Heathrow but nothing has been mentioned about the blight of a massive new station on the GWML within a largely residential area. Not only would it occupy an inordinate amount of land for new tracks and platforms but also the noise levels would increase tremendously. Through non-stopping trains are noisy but quite bearable as constant sounds. Accelerating and braking trains cause an inordinate amount of noise happening incessantly as all expresses as well as local trains would stop there.
It seems that the original idea about HS2 running through the "Heathrow" hub is losing ground since it would add an inordinate amount of time to any journey from Central London to the West Midlands annulling the benefits of high speed. An alternative on offer are direct trains from Heathrow northwards in addition to the ones from
A connection to HS1, through St.Pancras or not, is proposed without specifying where it would go. This ignores a solution southwards through Gatwick airport to Ashford which would serve that airport for exactly the same reasons as Heathrow (to provide an alternative to flights for cities on the near Continent). It would also provide rapid transport for passengers in
5-Later developments:The general consensus is that HS2 should subsequently go to
The problem with the one line and two line options is that they would replicate the mistakes of the
The case for a high speed line to the
The route to
Both the WCML and the ECML would benefit by having train paths freed up for better services further north up to Scotland. Also the costs of construction would be reduced substantially making the economic case more attractive.
But are we abandoning the idea of high speed travel?: Not at all.
High speed does not mean the same thing to everyone. Anything over the present 200 kph(
Look at the figures provided by HS2 Ltd. itself. If the speed is increased from 200 to 400 kph then (a) the stopping distance is increased 6-fold from 2km to 12km. (b) the minimum radius of a turning circle at that speed to go from e.g. northwards to eastwards (e.g.from Birmingham to Manchester to Leeds) increases 4-fold from 1.8km. at 200 kph to 7.2km at 400 kph. These are just not sustainable figures in this small island. Even the electricity consumption necessary to power the units on the line at such speeds from 200 to 400 kph increases from 4Megawatts (MW) to 20 MW - a 5-fold increase (and we are talking about a "green"!! technology - From where does the power come??). The only genuinely positive figure is the gradient can be increased from 1% to 3% which is hardly surprising as any sprinter would tell you in comparison to a jogger when you attack a hill.
These turning circles and stopping distances (without the rest) are just not possible in this small crowded island unless you want to slice through the landscape and destroy inumerable homes and areas of outstanding beauty. The result is that you can only have continuous high speed if you do not stop at intermediate stations. Thus you aim for the big markets, West Midlands,
When it comes down to the nitty gritty we have to be realistic. The present infrastructure has to be upgraded constantly. Alternatives have to be built when and where needed. Reopening of old rights of way have to be considered. But all should be done with an ongoing strategic idea of what is wanted. Let us think things through and arrive at considered solutions not politically expedient ones.