ICE has backed the proposed route for phase two of the High Speed 2 (HS2) railway line, but has urged the government to further consider station locations and connections to the existing rail network.
It also said the line should be future-proofed to accommodate potential future expansion.
ICE further urged the government to move swiftly with plans to connect Scotland to the network.
In its response to the consultation on the proposed route from Birmingham to Leeds, Manchester and beyond, ICE said it supported HS2 as a suitable option for increasing rail capacity, connectivity and access to new markets - and that it was satisfied with the proposed phase two route.
To improve the proposal, it advised the government to:
- further examine the case for providing the Liverpool city-region with a dedicated HS2 branch and service;
- ensure station locations offer the most convenient interchanges between high-speed services, existing lines and other local transport services. It said the proposed location for Leeds New Lane station is remote from the existing hub at Leeds City station and from the city centre. Similarly, the proposed station near Manchester Airport is located west of the M56 motorway, which would not offer easy interchange with the airport terminals or existing rail services;
- consider whether designs are sufficiently future-proofed to facilitate potential expansion of the high speed network. ICE said the proposed stations at Leeds New Lane and Manchester city centre could constrain further expansion due to their terminus configuration; and
- work closely with the city regions benefiting from the parkway stations on the eastern leg of HS2 to further develop ideas for fast and convenient transport links to East Midlands (from Toton) and South Yorkshire (from Meadowhall) city centres.
ICE also recommended that the government:
- ensures options for future expansion of the high speed network to Scotland are factored into the planning and design for HS2, to connect Scotland to the high speed service as quickly
- as possible;
- positions HS2 not as an isolated project but as an integral part of a national transport strategy that sets out a vision for comprehensive, integrated future transport across all modes; and
- engages in further dialogue with stakeholders to examine how regional, local and freight services might be enhanced on the existing railway. ICE said, for example, that timetables on existing lines should be recast or improved to reflect released capacity once HS2 comes into operation. This would enable communities without a direct connection to the high speed network to benefit
- from HS2 investment.
“Increasing capacity and strengthening connectivity for the long term benefit of the UK rightly sit at the heart of this project, so it is important that we get this right,” said ICE high speed rail expert panel chairman Steven Hayter.
“Stations and connections with the existing rail network should be placed to ensure that, once HS2 becomes fully operational, it is part of an integrated railway network, offering maximum benefit to the travelling public.
“The government should also ensure the infrastructure designed and engineered for HS2 is future-proof - or adaptable to changes in demand and travel patterns, as well as economic and urban geography. As Britain’s high speed network evolves, there may be justification for providing further high-speed lines connecting other British city regions,” he added.