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Government reveals £30bn high speed rail plans

Transport secretary Lord Adonis has just announced plans for a new £30bn high speed rail scheme for the UK, which will create an “initial core” network linking London to Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds..

However, high speed trains will run from the outset, on conventional lines, through to Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Adonis confirmed the new high speed network would mimic a Y-shape and will stretch along 536km in total. It will be capable of running trains at up up to 400km/h.

Elaborating on how the new network would hook in to other transport modes he said the new line would also have two interchange stations - one to the west of Paddington for connections to Heathrow airport via Crossrail and the other for Birmingham airport.

The main high speed station for London would be at Euston, said Adonis. This is close to St Pancras station, which serves the High Speed 1 (HS1). However, Adonis said he had instructed Andrew McNaughton, chief engineer of government company High Speed 2 (HS2) to look at the possibility of creating a through service to the HS1 and the continent.

Construction of the network would not begin before 2017 and the first 192km stretch from London to the West Midlands would cost between £15.8bn and £17.4bn, he said. Exactly 10% of the proposed route to Birmingham would be tunnelled but the cost per kilometer would then halve beyond Birmingham.

“The time has come for Britain to plan seriously for high speed rail between our major cities,” Adonis said. “The high speed line from London to the Channel Tunnel has been a clear success, and many European and Asian countries now have extensive and successful high speed networks. I believe high speed rail has a big part to play in Britain’s future.”

Pre-consultation with local authorities and local groups followed by a six month consultation period beginning in the autumn with a view to creating a single hybrid bill for the project in spring 2011.

Heathrow hub rejected

Speaking on one of the most hotly debated issues, Adonis said that HS2 had found that there was only a weak business case for creating a station along the route for Heathrow airport.

He said the additional tunnelling for such a connection would cost “at least £2bn” and the preferred alternative would be to build an interchange station to the west of Paddington in London, which would connect to Crossrail. This would create a connection to the airport with an 11 minute journey time.

Adonis went further and slammed earlier plans by consultant Arup for a Heathrow Hub high speed connection. He suggested that its plans were flawed for choosing a site 3.5km north of Terminal 5 and on a flood plain sandwiched between the M25, the M4 and the Great Western railway. He added that it would not be close enough to any of the airport’s terminals, which would mean all flight passengers would need to take a shuttle.

Arup’s hub would be served by First Great Western services and by Crossrail as well as the proposed Airtrak project to extend Heathrow Express trains to Reading, via Staines, and providing a new rail link to Gatwick airport. However, it admitted that its proposal was not without its challenges.

Arup envisaged a 12 platform station built on the northern boundary of Heathrow, operating direct high speed services to the continent and cities such as Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff.  If it goes ahead, the project would strengthen the case for electrification — and possible upgrading — of the Great Western Main Line to South Wales and the West Country.

However, Adonis added that he had appointed former transport secretary Lord Mawhinney to look again at the issue of an integrated Heathrow airport connection.

Meanwhile, the interchange station close to Birmingham airport, creating a link to the M6 and M42, the West Coast Main Line, the wider West Midlands and the airport itself.

High speed journey times

London to Birmingham: 49 minutes

London to Manchester: 1 hour 20 minutes

London to Sheffield: 1 hour 15 minutes

London to Leeds: 1 hour 20 minutes


Government reveals £30bn high speed rail plans

Readers' comments (5)

  • About time; the sorry saga of the TENs network in the UK is nothing but a catalogue of missed opportunities.

    It is clear that high speed routes need to join up acroaa Europe to offer direct services to business and tourist travel; and the choice of linking in ti HS1 is essential for HS movement across Europe. That Paris and Marseille have regular 3hr scheduled services is the norm. The network is required to function right across Europe to avoid unnecessary unsustainable air/road movements.

    The Alpine low level tunnel links create a further future opportunity to opt for train movement North South. But commercial pressure for exploiting through services now that security and standard Europe wide running is possible need to be explained to the public who is still unaware of what can be done by rail. The announced design and construction times times are reasonable but only if the routes are extended to cover the South West, Scotland and the North as well as the Midlands.

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  • The choice of Euston as the terminal seems to ignore the appalling link between that station and HS1 at St Pancras

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  • It is essential that HS2 is connected to HS1 so that through journeys to Europe can be made without the need to change trains in London.
    Bill Pilkington

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  • 2017 start date seems to be very late I am afraid. Say the whole construction of high speed is going to take another 8yrs maybe? It will be year 2025 when the British people will be able to enjoy our first national high speed train considering the Europeans and even some of the developing asian nations are already taking high speed trains as their daily commute! Britain, we need to catch up fast!

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  • The London terminus must be St Pancras and there must be a link to HS1. The Crossrail station will just slow everything down.

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