A new scheme which combines parts of High Speed 2 (HS2) and Northern Powerhouse Rail proposals has been tabled by engineering consultants Expedition Engineering.
Led by former HS2 independent design panel member Alistair Lenczner, the proposal - dubbed HS2 North - uses existing rail infrastructure to better connect Leeds via Manchester with Birmingham, replacing the need to build large sections of HS2.
Lenczer is now taking the proposal to the National Infrastructure Commission and the Department for Transport for consideration.
Current plans for HS2 phase 2 start at Birmingham and branch into two Y-shaped lines, dubbed phase 2a and phase 2b. While phase 2a connects Birmigham with the North West and Crewe, phase 2b extends to Manchester Piccadilly and Leeds, and was originally allocated £24.8bn in the 2015 Spending Review.
Under Expedition Engineering’s alternative plan, the eastern leg of phase 2b connecting Leeds and Birmingham would be scrapped.
Instead, Manchester Piccadilly would be turned into a through station with the tracks extended in a tunnel towards Leeds (see route comparison below). The line also borrows from Northern Powerhouse Rail plans to connect Leeds and Manchester via Bradford.
An alternative route to Leeds and further north would also be provided by upgrading the existing line between Birmingham, Derby, Sheffield and Leeds to a high speed line.
A new station south of Bradford on the new high speed connection would serve towns such as Dewsbury and Halifax as well as Bradford. Sheffield, which would have been directly served by the eastern leg of phase 2b line, would not lose out, benefitting from the upgraded existing line.
Speaking to New Civil Engineer Expedition Engineering director Alistair Lenczner said: “Before any final commitment is made on plans for new rail projects in northern England, the opportunity to build new infrastructure that can be used by both HS2 and regional TfN trains should be properly explored,” said Lenczner. “Appropriately designed shared infrastructure is likely to provide the best outcome in terms of value for tax-payers money.”
Lenczner said there were no technical barriers to the new proposals with Antwerp, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Madirid and Brussels stations as examples where a terminal station had been remodelled into a through station to give greater connectivity.
“For the sake of future generations in northern England, it is vital that the right network diagram is adopted if we are to avoid reproducing the poor network connectivity and inefficiencies that the 19th century rail networks created,” he added. “Evidence from recent continental European rail projects shows that that any major new city centre station should be designed as a through station and that terminus stations are outmoded.”
Speaking at an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure (APPGI) debate, National Infrastructure chair Sir John Armitt backed the idea of through stations saying that terminus stations were not practical anymore.
“If you look at European railways, they do not run into terminials they run through them,” said Armitt. “A T junction in Leeds beggers belief.”
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