Written evidence from Chris Worker (HSR
AN ALTERNATIVE HIGH SPEED RAIL PROPOSAL
1. I believe High Speed Rail (HSR) is a vital
element in enhancing the capacity and performance of Britain's
rail network to support socio-economic growth over the coming
decades. However HS2 is the wrong approach to HSR, and is narrowing
the scope of the analysis of HSR's socio-economic benefits.
2. HSR calls for huge investment, so Britain
needs to gain the maximum benefit from any such investment. HSR
offers the greatest gains over long distances and where the reduction
in journey-time is greatest. However rail services into London
are already the fastest in Britain, and the distances between
London and the closer key centres (such as Birmingham) are relatively
short in HS terms. Therefore the gains HS can offer on such routes
are, at best, modest.
3. Rail journey times to mainland Europe from
regional centres beyond London are so poor that rail is little
used for such journeys. The challenge of getting across London
(and the congestion zone around it) is probably a far more significant
factor than line-speed. The emphasis for HSR should therefore
be on direct travel between the regional centres of Britain and
mainland Europe passing London. This is what air
travel does, and is a significant part of its attraction. The
socio-economic benefits of such a concept to the regions of the
UK beyond London should be fully examined before HSR is ruled
out. A similar analysis should also be undertaken in respect of
direct freight provision. By offering a new set of routes, such
an approach would increase the market share taken by rail while
reducing transport's overall carbon footprint. Capacity issues
in and approaching London are a separate matter, but would be
eased by diverting through traffic past the capital's "congestion
4. The optimum continuation from HS1 would be
north from Stratford up the Lea Valley, passing north of Hertford
and across the East Coast Main Line (ECML) to a junction just
west of Stevenage. These might be called the HSTrunk and Icknield
Junction respectively. Icknield Jct. would be engineered to the
maximum speed for negotiating point-work (approx 140mph); hence
HSTrunk line speeds could be profiled for steady acceleration
from Stratford to 140mph at Icknield Jct. Such a steady speed
progression profile would be very energy-efficient, and would
minimise track engineering costs.
5. High Speed trains can operate on conventional
electrified track up to the current ceiling of 125 mph if HS-format
platforms and gauge clearances are provided. This has already
been demonstrated on many Continental routes and by the use of
Waterloo International. However, the main lines north and west
of London have much higher line speeds than WaterlooAshford,
and the alignment of the ECML offers considerable potential for
much higher speeds. The "Waterloo crawl" should not
be seen as the only outcome of mixed-mode operation of HS trains.
6. The first function of HSTrunk would be to
join the ECML near Hitchin. This would provide for direct services
between mainland Europe and Doncaster, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh
etc. as soon as HS platforms were built at key stations. The line
could then be progressively upgraded, or new HS tracks built alongside
it, to form HSNorth. This would create the sort of multi-track
route SNCF has recommended. A link to Manchester could be built
from a 140 mph Rossington Jct. (south of Doncaster) through the
continental loading gauge Woodhead tunnel on a steady speed progression
profile similar to that proposed for HS Trunk. This would give,
for example, a ManchesterParis journey time over an hour
quicker than is suggested for HS2, with Stratford as the only
UK stop. HS upgrades would continue north to serve Leeds, the
Tees/Tyne area, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Scots might want to
explore the possibility of an HS extension from Eryholme Jct (south
of Darlington) to a junction near Gretna.
7. From Icknield Jct, a Midlands line (HSMid)
would join the M1 corridor near Luton, initially joining the West
Coast Main Line at Roade Jct (just south of Northampton). As for
HSNorth, this would provide direct services between mainland Europe
and Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Crewe etc. as soon as platforms
were built; HS tracks could be progressively extended. HSMid should
also provide, as a minimum, a single track, bi-directional freight
route between HS1 and Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal
(DIRFT). A conventional line from the Rugby/DIRFT area to Leicester
could carry both freight and HS.
8. A third route from Icknield Jct. would initially
form a spur to Luton Airport and the Midland Main Line (MML).
In the longer term, HSWest could be built from Luton along the
Vale of Aylesbury to the Great Western Main Line (GWML) just west
of Didcot, taking advantage of the GWR's broad loading gauge to
provide for services to Cardiff, Bristol and beyond. Electrification
and speed enhancement of GW lines west of Didcot might thus become
an HS project. As with the ECML, the superbly engineered Great
Western track formations have considerable potential for higher
speeds. A chord between Luton and Hitchin could provide a direct
HS link between The South-west and The North, bypassing London.
9. Developments described in paras 6 to 8 should
be subject to rigorous market and economic benefit testing against
journey times already achieved; 200mph should not be the presumed
target for all cases.
10. Stratford International (enlarged) should
be the principal station for long-distance traffic passing London.
This would minimise journey times for the longest distance travellers.
Links between Stratford, The City and Canary Wharf/Docklands are
already good and could readily be improved. Most of the benefits
of Crossrail identified in the HS2 consultation would apply equally
11. A chord north of Stratford would make St
Pancras International the central London terminus for trains from
the Midlands and North. Such trains would stop briefly before
returning, or continuing onto HS1.
12. The advantages of completing Crossrail to
Continental rather than British specifications should be considered.
If this were adopted, trains from HS1 could join Crossrail at
Stratford, serve central London, and terminate at Heathrow. This
could provide a link to the electrified GWML in the shorter term.
13. An HS line could be built from Ashford to
Gatwick (HSSouth) mainly alongside the (dead straight) Ashford-Redhill
line. Services from Waterloo International could then be re-started
via Gatwick. Links could be progressively extended to the west-facing
main lines at Guildford, Farnborough etc.
14. As aviation fuel costs rise, the demand to
shorten flights between N. America and Europe will increase. Manchester,
Birmingham, Luton, Heathrow and Gatwick airports could take advantage
of this trend if they had good HSR services direct to mainland
Europe. Without such HS links, Paris will probably become the
entry point of choice, and British business opportunities would
15. In terms of funding, I believe building LondonBirmingham
is far too big to be a single phase of work, and the long-term
debt burden accrued would hold back further progress. Each phase
should be small enough for realistic funding over a few years,
and should be put to work earning revenue from mixedmode
services before the next phase begins. Stratford ECML is
a realistic first phase, Icknield JctLuton a second, Icknield
JctWCML a third, and so on. It is unfortunate that at least
ECML Stratford could not be constructed in time for the
16. The strong Continental links of this proposal
would offer greater potential than HS2 to attract funding from
the EU. Stations beyond HS railheads might be part-funded by
local, regional and devolved financing initiatives, thus broadening
17. Great Britain's HS routes should be an integral
part of the Trans European Network, able to send trains deep into
Europe and host trains from there. We should embrace the idea
of seeing, for example, German and Spanish HS trains in Cardiff
and Exeter, or Scottish HS trains gliding to a halt in Rome and
Budapest. Of course short-haul trains between London and the regions
could operate between these, but the basis of operation must be
TransEuropean. HS2 lacks that vision, and is basically
a stand-alone "middle-England shuttle" with a link to
HS1 as a retro-fitted afterthought. Its revenue and economic performance
could end up reflecting that poverty of vision.
18. Future economic growth will depend heavily
on efficient, sustainable movement of products and consumables
across the EU. The rising cost of diesel fuel and climate change
concerns will increasingly put Britain at a disadvantage both
internally and across Europe unless provision is made for switching
to sustainable long-distance freight transport on land. Freight
route development should be integrated with HS provision, both
for conventional traffic and for transporting HGVs "piggyback".
The latter is common across North America, and is increasingly
used in Europe, eg the Gotthard Base Tunnel and the Channel Tunnel
itself. There should be a number of "piggyback" depots
across Britain; indeed Great Britain might lead the way in opening
up longer distance routes across Europe. This would have significant
road safety benefits by reducing the number of tired long-distance
HGV drivers on British roads.
19. After much deliberation, HS1 was mainly built
along existing transport corridors, thus achieving a good financial
case and reducing environmental and 'blight' costs. The great
railway engineers of the past followed the lie of the land wherever
possible, thus minimising gradient and engineering challenges
and the financial, human and environmental cost of cutting through
landscape features. We should not lightly supersede these principles.
In addition, wherever practical, land use and structures for HSR
should incorporate electricity generation (wind, micro-hydro etc)
landscape and nature conservation benefits.