High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Maurice Hopper (HSR 196)

There are three topics that seem to be missing from the (public) debate about High Speed 2. The debate lacks an international dimension (1 below), the consideration of loading gauge (2) and the lack of economy in working terminal stations (3).

(1)  High Speed 2 seems to have been conceived as an isolated piece of high-speed railway only serving the United Kingdom north of London. Where is the planning that would integrate it into the European rail network with a direct high-speed connection to HS 1, the Channel Tunnel and Europe? This would link Birmingham to the rail network of North West Europe allowing direct connections to Lille, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam and Cologne and beyond. Such a connection could provide attractive through journey times from Birmingham to Paris of about 3 hours or Birmingham to Cologne of 4 hours 30 minutes, city centre to city centre. As HS 2 is presently planned such journeys will require a taxi, a bus or a walk down the Euston Road and another extended check-in at St Pancras, putting the UK rail network at structural disadvantage for years to come when competing for international traffic. No air transport development would have such a restricted view of the potential routes, operation and increased connectivity.

(2)  It is a statement of the obvious that the new high-speed line needs to be built to the Berne loading gauge to allow French TGV and German ICE trains to make through journeys. Consideration also needs to given to the requirement for larger loading gauge freight traffic to help realize the full potential of the Channel Tunnel and high-speed lines for night time freight movement, including piggyback lorry trains and other long distance European traffic, without the need for non-standard, smaller rolling stock. The resulting removal of large numbers of lorries from the roads, by opening up the UK rail network to such traffic, would make a strong case for the new construction not yet articulated.

(3)  It is well known that city terminal stations are operationally less efficient than through stations. This is widely recognised across Europe as indicated by station developments in Brussels (1949-52), Antwerp (1998-2007) Berlin (2002-06) Leipzig (2004-09) to name just a few. The concentration on Euston (or Old Oak Common) as a terminal brings many problems of large numbers of people changing trains at the same location. If there were a number of stations on a through line under London, points of congestion would be greatly reduced. Such a line could also be used as a second Thameslink, say linking Euston to Victoria, Waterloo and beyond, carrying both high speed and regional trains, thus integrating HS2 into the wider UK rail network.


The isolationist vision described by the media (both railway and popular) and indeed the UK Government of High Speed 2 linking London to the North is only part of the true economic potential of this project. It would be sad to see initial investment being overtaken by events (reduced availability of international air travel) with a repeat of the financial waste and the poor image of railway investment displayed by the Government and the rail industry at Waterloo International (£130 million for a ten year operational life). This mean-spirited substitute resulting from the initial lack of HS 1 was hardly an indication of serious strategic thinking in railway infrastructure development. It is so typical that one of the finest modern railway buildings in the country, Waterloo International, now stands unused.

Please do not allow this important project to repeat so many of the mistakes made in railway planning and investment in the UK since the earliest days of the industry, many associated with poor routing,[468] in-built high operating costs[469] and ridiculous restrictions.[470]

25 July 2011

468   The historic lack of support by UK governments for the construction of a coordinated railway network, when set against vested interests and land ownership, often leading to higher operating costs and long term inefficiency. Back

469   For example in the case of HS 2 the suggested route via London Heathrow that would increase route length, and therefore both building and operating costs while linking to a potentially declining destination Back

470   The Royal Commission of 1846 decided that mainline stations should not be allowed inside the ring of terminal stations around central London, effectively closing down any thought of establishing proper connectivity for the mainline rail network across London. Back

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Prepared 8 November 2011