Before any WHITE PAPER appears from Whitehall about the route of High Speed 2, we would like to present our preliminary conclusions.
Any new route has to be looked at as part of a strategy for the country´s rail services. Even if, initially, we are talking about a route from London to Birmingham, then we know it will be extended further north - but where and why?
We know that the the railway fathers did not build the best routes in the best manner for the 21st century.However, that does not mean that they did not build good routes in a competitive environment. We should construct on top of that inheritance.
The rumours suggest that the Chiltern route from London to Birmingham is the prefered route to lay down a ultra fast line rail line presently know as HS2. These days we have to take into account the environmental factors before deciding on a definitive right of way. We suggest that this can be done using the "old" Chiltern rail route corridor taking into account the M40 motorway corridor which will thus produce a lower environmental impact.
North of Leamington Spa the line can connect to the present WCML lines into Birmingham and/or further north. The problem of an overcrowded station in Birmingham has to solved , and not just for the High Speed line. The best solution we have seen is the idea of a Grand Central station which would re-use the site of the old Curzon Street station.
The entrance into London can be done along the present tracks (improved) from the Chiltern Line into Paddington. Directing the line into Euston or a new terminus at Acton solves nothing. The Paddington terminus is a viable proposition (a) since Chiltern Trains already run into that station (b) since the surburban lines into Paddington will be directed on to Crossrail when that project is completed thus freeing up platforms (c) the necessary connection already exists into Heathrow from Paddington without any added costs of a special "hub" on the GWML.
A lot has been written about the connection from HS2 to HS1 and thus services into the Channel Tunnel and onwards to other cities in near mainline Europe. We reject the idea of funnelling more traffic through London when broader more beneficial solutions can be applied. For that reason we suggest the SOUTHERN HIGH SPEED LINE (SHSL) from Reading to Ashford through Heathrow and Gatwick. This provides the possibility of any needed connections from both Heathrow and Gatwick to mainline Europe as well as the essential link between the two airports. It can also improve tremendously the regional services in south and south-east England.
Any long distance services southwestwards, westwards or northwards can be run or connected through the major important hub of Reading either directly or through an interline change. Extended thinking brings us to the conclusion that other beneficial services can be provided for the benefit of the air over our heads and the possibilities to lessen the traffic on our roads (such as we illustrated by taking the Irish traffic off the roads on to rail from Fishguard).
We support the electrification of all principal radial routes from London. This means that the GWML electrification can be and should be extended to Fishguard and to Plymouth taking advantage of the original Brunel routes to upgrade to High Speed status. The MML offers the possibility of offering alternatives to Manchester and Leeds through some new construction. Thus on the radial routes the traffic can be more widely spread freeing up capacity on the ECML and WCML.
However, not all traffic is radial from London. The East - West and South West - North East routes, not least the Transpennine routes and the Bristol-Birmingham-Newcastle route, are also of vital importance and should not be forgotten. We mentioned the Birmingham - Oxford - Reading - Southampton route which can be infilled easily after the GWML electrification, at least to Birmingham from Oxford.
To be brief we can simplify the principles to be applied for the strategy of high speed lines.
1-All the lines should be electrified - thus faster acceleration, lighter vehicles, less noise, more efficient use of energy resources.
2-All principal radial routes from London to be considered high speed lines with the corresponding upgrades to be programmed.
3-Where new construction is necessary for track alignment, use should be made of the same corridors as the classic lines, or even motorways, so as to lessen the environmental impact.
4-The rail corridors will thus become four-tracked in their whole length, or even, six-tracked in parts.
5-Serious consideration should be ensured to include the possibility of high speed travel for the greater number including more large towns and cities than has been suggested to date.
6-Freight traffic has to be given its share of the line capacity to ensure a significent transfer of freight traffic from road to rail. Its possibilities are not just a sop to the green lobby.
7-Realistic goals should be laid down rejecting building for building´s sake to satisfy the whims of some politicians and the professional egos of some engineers. The area to be considered is not all of Great Britain just the part from Central Scotland down to the Severn/Thames line. This means the great sweeping curves to ensure the maintenance of high speeds are not possible in all of GB just in a few limited parts. We should not be imprisoned by our own objectives - high speed does not mean the same in every country or urban area. The higher the speed the better but it is not an end in itself.
In a lighter mode but still quite serious. Take into consideration the naming of the lines. The present nomenclatures can be maintained e.g. ECML, GWML, MML etc.
or the number system can be used as it is for the trunk roads and motorways. In this case would it not be better for the lines to use the same numbers as the roads in their corresponding corridors? Following the suggestions we have already made this would mean.
HS1 London-York- Edinburgh
HS2 London-Ebbsfleet- Chunnel
HS5 London-Birmingham-Chester-North Wales
and so on.
Let us now see what the White Paper has to offer.