At a time of cuts, it is amazing that HS2 is going ahead without proper consideration of the alternatives. The cost of the scheme is soaring, and there are major design problems. We need city-centre stations, not the the out-of-town parkways currently proposed at Toton (between Nottingham and Derby), Birmingham International, and Sheffield Meadowhall.
Birmingham already has three routes to London. The need for a high speed line is questionable. The proposed terminus at Curzon Street is 10 minutes walk away from the main hub at New Street. A dozen years of disruption is in prospect at Euston.
High Speed UK looks a much better-thought-out scheme that directly addresses the network connectivity that is so missing in the current plans for HS2.
Christian Wolmar, National Rail Expert and Journalist
While the development of a new high speed line presents an exciting opportunity for the UK, sadly ministers have not made a convincing case for the HS2 proposals they appear to be proceeding with. On closer scrutiny, particularly given the £50 billion price tag, it is clear that HS2 is expensive, disruptive and will take a significantly long time to build. Government must rethink its plans, and in my view the HSUK proposals are much more cost effective and bring more benefits to both commuters and businesses. HSUK is £20bn cheaper, more environmentally friendly and delivers better connectivity. It is not too late for government to change course and I would seriously urge ministers to consider the HSUK plans instead.
Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North-West
HS2 Ltd has designed the fastest railway in the world – but it won’t give the UK the network it needs. No-one at HS2 Ltd understands the real problem – to develop a better-connected UK rail network that will improve all journeys. This is what we’re doing at High Speed UK – our timetable, based on detailed design of nearly 1000km of new railway, shows how 21 of our principal cities can be linked with direct high speed services, operating at hourly or better frequencies. Our timetable also shows average intercity journey times almost halved. HS2 cannot get close to this performance.
The route proposed for HS2 cuts through London, the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and rural Warwickshire, and would cause decade-long disruption in its proposed expansion of Euston Station. It needs more tunnelling than the Channel Tunnel… just to get to Birmingham.
It’s not too late for the Government to pause the HS2 bill, rethink the UK high speed rail initiative, and replace HS2 with something much better that will be cheaper, better-connected and quicker to implement.
Colin Elliff, Civil Engineering Principal, High Speed UK
This is a once-in-a-century opportunity to rebalance the economy, improve the environment, and give Britain the railway system it deserves.
HS2 is not properly connected to the existing network. It does not connect directly to airports such as Heathrow, nor to medium-sized cities like Coventry, Leicester and Stoke. And within the Midlands, HS2 offers no worthwhile connections between the major cities of the region; instead, cities such as Coventry and Stoke are projected to see significant cuts in existing intercity services.
What’s more HS2 fails to connect the big northern cities, resulting in the government proposing yet another scheme, HS3 at an additional £10bn.
Quentin MacDonald, Systems Engineering Principal HSUK
It’s not too late to bring alternatives to the table for discussion and it is important that High Speed UK’s proposal is properly considered. It has huge potential advantages. It is cheaper, connects many more people and is much less damaging to the environment.
Andrew Coulson, Chair of the Birmingham Fabian Society, Academic and Former City Councillor
More from Colin:
HSUK will transform the UK rail network from a largely London-centric system into a genuine network – almost a grid – in which all the critical centres of the UK economy will be fully interconnected, both to each other, and also to Heathrow and the key regional airports. This will transform the way we do business, with massive economic benefits for all.
HS2 Ltd has totally failed to get hold of the environmental agenda. Not only will HS2 chew up vast tracts of unspoilt countryside, but it will also fail to deliver significant CO2 reductions. HS2 Ltd has missed a huge opportunity, to use high speed rail to improve the rail network, and to improve most people’s journeys – so people will keep using their cars, and pushing out the CO2. So while the politicians are in Paris, saying the right things on CO2, back home HS2 (extremely) Ltd is failing to deliver.
The North-West might believe that they’re at the focus of HS2’s planning – but the reality is that the region is at risk of being placed at the end of a very long high speed siding, only giving useful links to London and (possibly) Birmingham. The Government has woken up to the huge environmental and engineering problems of the projected extension of HS2 from the North-West to Scotland, and plans for this route have now been dropped. There are still no coherent plans for the HS3 ‘Northern Powerhouse’ link across the Pennines. And under whichever plans, Liverpool is very much the poor relation to Manchester.
The North-West will gain far more from HSUK’s plans. Manchester and Liverpool will enjoy direct high speed services to all other major UK cities, and also to Heathrow. HSUK will also provide a direct high speed link between Liverpool and Manchester, with journey times of around 20 minutes and at least 5 trains per hour. And HSUK’s proposals for improved trans-Pennine communications will result in radical improvements for railfreight and even a Channel Tunnel-style lorry shuttle between Manchester and Sheffield to take lorries off the critical A628 Woodhead Road.
All this is fully in line with the Government’s Northern Powerhouse objectives – but HSUK has the fully engineered proposals that no-one else seems to have.
Colin Elliff, Civil Engineering Principal, High Speed UK