Details of phase 2 northern section of HS2 announced
Ministers this week threw their full weight behind high speed rail, announcing that planning of phase two of High Speed 2 (HS2) will be accelerated by a full year while revealing their preferred route for the line north of Birmingham.
Prime minister David Cameron said Britain must “seize the unparalleled opportunity” presented by the HS2 rail network to generate jobs, rebalance the economy and “secure the country’s future prosperity”.
The preferred route for the 340km long phase two includes new stations at Manchester, Manchester Airport, East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds.
“Linking communities and businesses across the country and shrinking the distances between our greatest cities, high speed rail is an engine for growth that will help to drive regional regeneration and invigorate our regional economies. It is vital that we get on board the high speed revolution,” said Cameron.
2013 Public consultation on preferred route, stations and depots for phase two
End of 2013 Hybrid Bill for phase one submitted to Parliament
End of 2014 Government announces final decision for route, stations and depots for phase two
2015 Target date for Royal Assent of phase one
2016/17 Construction of phase one begins
Next Parliament Hybrid Bill for phase two submitted to Parliament
2022/23 Construction of phase two begins
2026 Phase one opens
2032 Phase two opens
Project promoter High Speed Two Ltd estimates the cost of phase two to be between £15.7bn and £18.7bn with this section due to open in 2032. The total cost of the 559km scheme stands at between £30.9bn and £36bn.
The government has pressed ahead with its preferred route announcement even though Justice Ouseley has yet to conclude his judicial review into phase one of the project heard shortly before Christmas (see box).
Significantly, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has asked that consultation for the route - originally planned for 2014 - be brought forward to this year.
“The plan was for this to be done in 2014 but we were asked to bring it forward to 2013,” said HS2 Ltd technical director Andrew McNaughton.
McNaughton explained that this will allow HS2 Ltd to work up detailed designs and produce environmental impact assessments for the preferred route by the end of 2014.
Aecom, Hyder, Jacobs and Mott MacDonald are lined up to carry out engineering design for phase 2. Arup, Temple/RSK and Mott MacDonald will do environmental work.
This work will allow McLoughlin to make a final decision on the scheme in about two years’ time before the next General Election.
“This route is the government’s initial preference,” said McNaughton.
“It allows for a year to make final adjustments before the secretary of state makes a final decision.”
The route choice itself is not without contention.
While HS2 Ltd has opted for city centre stations at Manchester and Leeds, Sheffield will be served by a parkway at Meadowhall and Nottingham and Derby will be served by a single parkway station at Toton.
McNaughton explained HS2 Ltd had to balance the advantages of putting a station in the city centre with the impact it would have on construction and on the timetable for the rest of the network.
“With the East Midlands and South Yorkshire stations, a city centre location would have reduced viability for Leeds and the North East because journey times would be extended,” explained McNaughton.
But independent consultant and former Arup rail director Mark Bostock said the plans placed too much emphasis on speed to the detriment of connectivity.
“I don’t understand the obsession with speed,” said Bostock, who led plans for HS1.
“We are a very small island and you need to look at the overall origin to destination. It must link in with classic rail at every opportunity.”
McNaughton disagreed with Bostock, adding that the planned stations in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire would be “hubs not parkways”.
“It will be very heavily integrated with existing rail,” said McNaughton.
He said the South Yorkshire station would be within 100m of the M1 and served by two conventional rail lines as well as a tram stop.
As with phase one, the route will be heavily tunnelled. The spur to Manchester will have 17.1km of tunnels - mainly on the approach to Manchester city centre - while the spur to Leeds will have 8.8km of tunnel. Phase one between London and Birmingham needs 28.1km of tunnel.
Earthworks will be a major feature of the work in phase two, with just 23km of the route at grade. A hefty 133.9km of the route will be in cutting, 108.6km on embankment and 48.2km on viaduct.
“That’s just the nature of the route,” said McNaughton.
The government has also deferred its decision on whether to build a Heathrow spur - originally planned as part of phase two - until the Davies Commission on airport capacity in the South East publishes its report in 2015.
The Department for Transport will also take forward a study to examine high speed rail connectivity to Scotland.
Network Rail chief executive David Higgins said building HS2 is the only way to provide much needed capacity on the busy West Coast route.
“Without HS2 the West Coast Main Line - our busiest and most economically important line - will be full in a little over a decade. This is a rare chance to stop playing catch-up on capacity.”
Sheffield fights for city centre station
Sheffield City Council said it would continue to lobby for a city centre station for High Speed 2 (HS2) after the government opted to go for a cheaper parkway station at nearby Meadowhall.
The council said that the extra £1bn it would cost to build a city centre station would be more than outweighed by the benefits. Sheffield City Council cabinet member for business, skills and development Leigh Bramall said a city centre station would bring at least £2.5bn in economic benefits.
Bramall said a city centre station also had the backing of the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive along with local rail companies, adding it would only add six minutes onto journey times to the North East. He also said Junction 34 of the M1, which is close to the proposed Meadowhall station, would require upgrades not currently included in HS2’s project costs. Junction 34 is on the elevated approach to Tinsley Viaduct, and upgrades would be complex and costly.”The junction is already at breaking point and would require a significant upgrade,” said Bramall.
HS2 Ltd considered two locations in Sheffield city centre - the existing railway station and the disused station north of the centre at Victoria. Both options were ruled on the cost benefit ratio.
A connection to the existing station would have required long tunnel approach.