Published: Monday 27th October 2014 by The News Editor
Plans for an “HS3” to improve east-west rail journeys across northern England are more than just about “eye-catching” journey-time reductions, according to the boss of HS2.
The HS3 scheme, which could cost around £7 billion, was “not just a single project”, said HS2 Ltd chairman Sir David Higgins.
He has put forward the HS3 plans in a report incorporating further plans for phase two of the £50 billion HS2 high-speed rail project.
Backed by Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, HS3 would mean journey times between Leeds and Manchester could almost be cut in half.
Journeys between Leeds and Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield Meadowhall, York and Birmingham and Nottingham to Birmingham could also be reduced by a half or more, and many more journeys across the country substantially shortened.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Sir David said his plans for HS3 were “a start of a conversation”.
He said: “This is not just a single project. It’s more than the eye-catching journey-time reductions. HS3 will give northern England rail services twice the capacity and much more reliability.”
Phase one of HS2 involves a new high-speed line from Euston in London passing through Tory heartlands in the Chilterns to Birmingham, with Sir David saying today that its completion would be in 2027.
Phase two would see the line extended north from Birmingham in a Y-shaped route going to Manchester and Leeds, with Sir David saying this would be completed in 2033 .
The project is strongly supported by the Government but is bitterly opposed by some councils and residents along the phase one route.
Mr Cameron said: “Improving connectivity and reducing journey times between our great northern cities is a crucial part of our long-term economic plan for the north to boost businesses and create more jobs and security for hard-working people. That’s why we are backing HS3.
“I welcome Sir David Higgins’ report, which will help our work to create a northern powerhouse and ensure that HS2 delivers the maximum economic benefits.”
Mr Osborne said: “The vision I set out earlier this year of the northern powerhouse we could build is rapidly taking shape.
“I asked Sir David to look at how we deliver the better transport links across the North that would make a reality of that powerhouse.
“I’m delighted with the rapid response and the report. Today we take another big step forward in delivering both the HS2 links from north to south and the HS3 link across the Pennines.”
Sir David’s report said there was a n eed to take forward both legs of the proposed HS2 Y-network as the alternatives would not bring the same capacity, connectivity and economic benefits;
For HS3, the journey from Leeds to Manchester could be cut from today’s average of more than 55 minutes to somewhere between 26 and 35 minutes and the number of trains could be doubled.
For phase two of HS2 Sir David’s recommendations include:
:: To continue with the planned route into Manchester city centre via the airport – keeping open the option to add a new airport station;
:: Need to review the best station solution for Leeds to include provision for increased east-west services through the city;
:: The HS2 line should be extended to Crewe by 2027 – six years earlier than originally proposed;
:: A new station at Sheffield Meadowhall remains the best way to serve the wider South Yorkshire region, though Sir David recognises Sheffield continues to argue for Sheffield Victoria;
:: That the East Midlands hub should be near the proposed site at Toton but that its precise location needs further work.
Sir David said: “Improving connectivity is vital if Britain is to compete in the knowledge economy in which this country has a competitive advantage, but in which ease of travel is an essential element.
“On the back of new transport infrastructure, science investment and civic leadership, we are well on our way to turning the northern powerhouse into reality.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander also welcomed the report, as did House of Commons Transport Committee chairman Louise Ellman.
She said: “HS2 is important strategic infrastructure but must be linked with improvements in the classic rail network to bring maximum benefit.”
The Rail Delivery Group, representing Network Rail and rail operators, said the report ” underlines how HS2 will become the backbone of Britain’s growing railway”.
Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said HS3 would be even more expensive per mile than HS2.
He added that Sir David’s report “showed that the original plans for HS2 weren’t thought through properly”.
Mr Rukin went on: “Changing the mess that is phase two doesn’t change the fact that phase one is still a complete mess, as is the entire concept of HS2.”
Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said : “Hard-pressed travellers in the North will judge David Cameron on his actions, not words.”
Leaders of councils in northern England welcomed the report, with Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, describing HS2 as “the key to transforming the future economy of Leeds and the North”.
The RMT transport union said it was ” cynical in the extreme that the cheerleaders behind today’s announcement are threatening to devastate (northern railway) jobs and services”.
Published: Monday 27th October 2014 by The News Editor