“There is an alternative to the costly HS2”
Despite widespread opposition from Conservative M.P.’s / Councillors & others, the Government is expected to give the go-ahead for a new £32billion high speed rail route
from London to Birmingham (and beyond) – HS2.
The recent report by Network Rail (N.R.) into alternative solutions to the construction of HS2 -including expanding capacity on existing lines, further electrification and
longer trains said “that patchwork upgrades to the existing rail network will not resolve the huge capacity challenges we face.” This of course makes major assumptions
about a continued massive growth in long distance rail passenger travel, with construction of the proposed HS2 line taking 8 years (until 2026 to Birmingham & 2032 to Manchester!). We are also told that “in just over a decade the West Coast Main Line ,Britain’s busiest-will be full, with no more space to accommodate the predicted growth in demand”.Again based on major assumptions ,with I.T. development /Video-Conferencing deflating future growth?
What seems a glaring omission in all this HS2 hype is just where in these economically stretched times will the money to pay for this “white-elephant” project come from?
As journalist Christian Wolmar (RAIL magazine 661) says “concentrating on a desire to have a prestige line to match those in Europe” (HS2) “isn’t what’s required”
Also, with existing main rail routes between London ,the Midlands and the North crying out for infrastructure investment why build a totally new route across an unspoilt landscape in an already grossly overcrowded country that England has become?
Their are already 4 existing main rail routes between London and the North (with 2 to Birmingham) so why do we need yet another?
We in the North West English Democrats feel that all this emphasis on developing further passenger capacity misses the point,as what our Country really urgently needs is
the means to expand our manufacturing exports , with grossly congested roads hampering growth. Only rail can provide the solution to allowing a re-balancing of our economy
to occur. Unfortunately, our politicians have a blind-spot regarding Rail-freight -hence HS2! Ironically, if they developed a new dedicated High Speed Rail-Freight Route to serve the Midlands/the North and beyond using an expanded/upgraded line (Midland Main Line-orMML) most if not all long-distance Rail -Freight could be diverted off our existing Main- Lines freeing-up paths for future passenger train growth -thereby destroying the case for HS2!
To quote Lindsay Durham, Freightliner Head of Rail Strategy on the House of Commons Transport Select Committee Report”Priorities for the investment for railways” RAIL
magazine638 Feb2010 – “Sometimes the importance of Rail- freight to the U.K. economy can be overlooked, as containers don’t vote”
So what do we propose?
Instead of committing huge amounts of public money we don’t possess on an environmentally disastrous prestige project,we would work with the Private Sector Rail- Freight industry to develop a High Speed Rail-Freight Route to connect the existing HS1 line in London (recently passed for International Rail- Freight traffic) via a short spur line into the MML. Northwards from here an expanded/upgraded i.e. electrified dedicated rail-freight route via Leicester/Nottingham/Derby/Sheffield & on to Manchester using a
re-opened Woodhead Tunnel. Further links using existing routes passed for larger containers from our major ports (Felixstowe/Southampton/London Gateway/Mersey etc.)
and the proposed East-West Link to the MML,would enable a large proportion of long-distance rail-freight to use the dedicated HSRFR.
By agreement between the HSRFR CONSORTIUM and Government owned NR a project could be financed by the Private Sector,NR only providing the routes trackage i.e. at no cost to the Taxpayer (unlike HS2!).
The MML would be electrified earlier and again at no cost to the Taxpayer! At a later date it would provide the option of a Privatisation of the MML, meanwhile this HSRFR would finally enable our neglected Rail-Freight Industry to thrive,allow our manufacturers to expand much needed exports and England’s environment to greatly improve!
As the (then) new Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said on his first day on the job June 2010- “We must learn to do things differently because the era of easy public money is over” “we must sweat the assets much better than we have done to extract as much value as possible for the taxpayer and rail user”,”new and innovative ways of funding would be needed because public money was going to be tight”
So why January 2012-HS2? and why not a privately funded High Speed Rail-Freight Route?
For further details check out our Greater Manchester link at the top of this page and select the council in you area.