High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Community and Regional Planning Services (HSR 78)


1.  Community and Regional Planning Services is pleased to submit this evidence. Our evidence is not confidential.

2.  Community and Regional Planning Services is an independent planning consultancy operating throughout England and offering a full range of planning advice and resources to both public and private clients at national, sub-national and local levels. We have particular experience in responding to development plans including strategic plans, and have represented clients at a number of Examinations-in-Public. We also undertake studies, research and policy advice for NGOs and statutory agencies. We provide training in the planning system through seminars and workshops. Through all our work runs the thread of a high level of environmental awareness and commitment together with community sensitivity.

3.  We do not purport to represent any particular clients or other interests in responding to the Committee's Call for Evidence, but do so from the perspective of our lengthy experience across a wide range of land-use planning issues including strategic planning. In particular, we do not have interests in or clients with interest in land or property along or near the line of the route.

4.  We are not specifically requesting to give oral evidence.


1.  We are aware of the Committee's wish to concentrate on the strategic issues and not to examine the detailed line of route or the effect on individual landowners, residents or businesses along the line of route. We have therefore concentrated our evidence on four basic topics.

2.  Since these cut across more than one of the Committee's specific Questions, we have submitted them on a topic-by-topic basis.

3.  This Evidence:

—  draws attention to the lack of a strategic options consultation on the route for Stage 1 of HS2;

—  recommends that "passive provision" be made for an intermediate station between Old Oak Common and Birmingham;

—  raises matters relating to the Old Oak Common interchange, particularly with Crossrail; and

—  discusses the question of gauge and of accommodating on HS2 trains bound for destinations beyond the HS2 network.


Strategic options

4.  We are aware that HS2 Ltd has looked at many options for the route and that this process has been described in the full Consultation Document. Fig B2 therein shows the full set of route options initially considered and Fig B3 the "shortlist". However, there was no public consultation on strategic options for the route. The first true public consultation is the current one, which defines the route precisely and in full detail. We contrast this with that for HS1 for which, we seem to recall, there were three strategic route options on which the public were invited to comment before the present route was finally selected.

5.  We are not necessarily disputing that the chosen route is the best option. Also it would not have been unreasonable for HS2 Ltd to have carried out an initial sifting process, in order to discard impracticable or very expensive options or those which offered extended journey times, as indeed it did. But a consultation process on a shortlist of strategic route options before making the final recommendation would have increased public "ownership" of the final result and raised public awareness of the engineering, commercial and other issues to be faced.

6.  The Government may even be leaving itself open to legal challenge on this point given that, as we understand it, the requirements the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive require an options consultation stage.

Intermediate station

7.  The HS2 proposals include no intermediate station between Old Oak Common and Birmingham Interchange. We are aware of the possible negative effect on running times of intermediate stations (although not all trains would need to call there) and of potential additional costs. Also, until the high speed line itself is extended beyond Birmingham the existing network is likely adequately to be able to serve passengers from intermediate areas between London and Birmingham with no time advantage by using HS2. However, once high speed services extend further north to Manchester, Leeds and eventually beyond to Scotland, a whole swath of the northern home counties and south Midlands (Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes, southern Northamptonshire and north Oxfordshire—a sub-region earmarked for considerable growth) will be unable to take advantage of the new service: for them, travelling into London first would negate all potential advantages of the new line.

8.  An intermediate station at which not all trains called would have to be located on a "loop", with a single platform for each direction, both to enable non-stop trains to overtake and for the safety of passengers waiting on the platform. However, it is understood that the maximum speed at which trains can safely turn into a loop from the main line at the junction is approximately 225kph, whereas the maximum design speed of HS2 is to be up to 400kph. This means that stopping trains would have to slow down to the junction speed, which costs line capacity inasmuch as following trains could be delayed or greater headways would be required.

9.  However, not all trains would call at such an intermediate station between Old Oak Common and Birmingham Interchange. Trains from London terminating at Birmingham would not need to call since the existing "classic" network would suffice for passengers destined from Birmingham. It would be important for HS trains serving destinations north of Birmingham, once Phase 2 was completed, to call at the intermediate station northbound in the first part of the morning and southbound in the late afternoon and evening in order to provide an out-and-back-within-a-day service for its catchment area. At other times, the station could be served, say, hourly at the most. In this way the station would provide maximum benefit for the least running-time penalty.

10.  It is not proposed that the station should serve London commuters. Through trains to the Continent via HS1 could also usefully call in order to provide a through service from the intermediate station, in order to eliminate cross-London interchange to St Pancras International.

11.  The idea of an intermediate station between Old Oak Common and Birmingham Interchange is mentioned briefly in the box on p. 87 of the full Consultation Document. However, this appears only to have been considered before the final line of route had been selected, since it suggests that Bicester or Milton Keynes were possible candidate locations: these were on two of the "shortlisted" routes but on not the final one.

12.  It is desirable that an intermediate station should serve as large a population as possible, within a reasonable access time. Use of this station would generally be preferred by prospective customers of HS2 travelling to destinations north of Birmingham rather than first travelling to Euston or Old Oak Common if the overall journey time from the origin location was shorter by whatever combination of travel modes were used.

13.  The principal towns and cities in the catchment area include Aylesbury, Banbury, Bedford, Bicester, Hemel Hempstead, High Wycombe, Luton/Dunstable, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford. It should be remembered, however, that even the rural areas between these places support substantial populations in smaller towns and larger villages.

14.  A marginal case can be seen at Hemel Hempstead, which is on the West Coast main line into Euston and so would have easy interchange with HS2 there. Trains from Oxford to Paddington would be likely to call at Old Oak Common but even after electrification this is likely to result in an uncompetitive journey time compared with use of an intermediate station on HS2. Banbury and Northampton may best be served by conventional train direct to Birmingham International (typical journey times 43 min and 47 min respectively) where interchange with HS2 will be available, although currently trains from these towns are not very frequent (typically every 30-60 min).

15.  Less weight may therefore be accorded to accessibility to the intermediate HS2 station from Banbury, Hemel Hempstead and Northampton, although some users may still prefer it to travelling via Birmingham or London where a time allowance for interchange would also be necessary.

16.  Given the final choice of route, there would appear to be four possible locations for an intermediate station: Aylesbury, Calvert, Finmere and Brackley. These are identified on the map at Fig 1. Given the strategic nature of the Committee's Inquiry, exact sites are not specified, merely approximate locations.

17.  Further analysis of these four options is given in the Appendix to this Evidence. We conclude that the Aylesbury area would provide the greatest benefit, having a higher level of advantages over disadvantages.

18.  All that would be required for the intermediate station at Stage 1 would be what is called "passive provision". Essentially this would be the purchase of (or an option on) land adjacent to the line, free of permanent structures such as bridge abutments and electrification masts, such that construction of the station and the necessary loops could be carried out at Stage 2 or later without disruption to HS services already running under Stage 1. Ideally, the inclusion of switches (points) for the turnouts in the Stage 1 running lines, together with additional signalling capacity, would make construction of the station at a later date even easier. If any loops were to be provided as part of Stage 1 for maintenance trains or emergency purposes, then the site of the future intermediate station would be an ideal location for these.

19.  It is now being regretted that an intermediate station was not provided on HS1 on the outskirts of Chatham or Maidstone for use by South Eastern high-speed domestic services. The Medway towns have really lost out because of this: such HS services as they do have operate using the much slower route via Gravesend. It would be prohibitively expensive to add such a station now. Let the same mistake not be made with HS2.

20.  Incidentally, the promise of a future intermediate station on HS2 might also de-fuse some of the local authority opposition in the area, and there is even the potential for the eventual station to be part-funded by developers of the site or of a wider local area, as is happening with Crossrail, depending on the chosen location.

Old Oak Common

21.  This station on HS2 is to be provided as an interchange with Crossrail and with trains to/from Heathrow, local services to Reading and Great Western main line services to the west. Fig 5.3 of the full Consultation Document shows a map of the location and outline of the stations.

22.  It would appear from Drawing 09080 that the HS2 station is to have four platforms: this would provide maximum flexibility. The station must be able to be served by trains bound to/from the link line to HS1.

23.  Given that HS2 would run at a lower ground level, interchange at Old Oak Common should be as seamless as possible. It should be remembered that passengers will be interchanging in several directions: HS2 with Crossrail to/from Central London and HS2 to/from Heathrow and destinations further west. Interchange passenger volumes are expected to be high, particularly before the HS2 link to Heathrow is constructed.

24.  Passive provision should be made in the Crossrail layout for Old Oak Common station when Crossrail is first constructed, even if the HS2 platforms are not built until HS2 itself is constructed. This would considerably reduce disruption to Crossrail at a later date at little if any additional cost.

25.  Old Oak Common could be the terminus for those Crossrail trains from the east that were initially proposed to terminate at Paddington. (Only a proportion of Crossrail services are planned to operate west of Paddington on current plans.) This would ensure a sufficiently frequent Crossrail service into Central London for HS2 passengers wishing to change at Old Oak. Ideally, terminating "bay" platforms would be provided in the centre of the Crossrail tracks, similar to those at Dalston Junction on the London Overground line. This is an important matter for HS2 in order to ensure a sufficiently high Crossrail frequency for interchanging passengers.

Train gauge

26.  The proposal at Stage 1 for trains using HS2 from London which then continue beyond Birmingham towards Manchester and Scotland is for them initially to join the existing rail network north of Lichfield.

27.  Although it is understood that European-gauge trains will operate the London-Birmingham route from the start, the operation on the "classic" network of trains bound for more northern destinations would necessitate new UK-gauge stock being procured for HS2 use which would become progressively redundant as the HS2 route is extended northwards (although in the case of services to Scotland, this could be some time away).

28.  In order to maximise the use of capacity on the classic network and to provide overall competitive journey times, trains coming off HS2 to continue to Manchester and the West Coast route to Scotland would need to have tilting capability, similar to the existing "Pendolinos". This appears to be a very expensive solution, unless these trains can be cascaded on to the classic lines once they are no longer required on an extended HS2 network. Only the West Coast Main Line is currently equipped for tilting trains, although scope may exist in the future for other electrified lines to benefit from tilt capability.

29.  The alternative of diverting existing "Pendolinos" on to HS2 would put residual users of the West Coast Main Line at a disadvantage, as well as under-utilising their tilt capability.

30.  Trains coming off HS2 bound for destinations other than on the West Coast Main Line (if any are planned) would not need tilt capability, but whilst only HS2 Stage 1 were operational there is likely to be no competitive advantage in using HS2 for destinations such as Leeds, NE England or the East Midlands.

31.  The Consultation Document appears to have very little to say about this subject, and yet the question of gauge and tilt capability is fundamental to the overall planning (i) of HS2 itself, (ii) of the use of the line for trains serving destinations north of Birmingham and (iii) of rolling stock investment strategy.

16 May 2011





—  Adjacent to large and growing urban area.

—  Easily served by public road transport to/from a variety of destinations.

—  Possible synergy with Aylesbury Vale Parkway Chiltern Line station, less than 1km distant (if HS2 station located to the west of the town).

—  Potential for developer contributions.


—  Distant from Banbury and Northampton.



—  Interchange with proposed East-West Rail providing fast access to Oxford, Milton Keynes and Bedford.

—  Possible developer interest.


—  Rural location.

—  Poor road access.

—  Difficult to serve by road-based public transport.

—  Distant from High Wycombe and Luton/Dunstable.

—  Potential conflict with proposed HS2 Infrastructure Maintenance Depot.

—  Possible environmental impact.



—  Served by (existing) express bus service to/from Oxford, Bicester, Buckingham, Milton Keynes and Bedford.

—  Close to A421 trunk road.


—  Rural location.

—  Distant from Hemel Hempstead, High Wycombe and Luton/Dunstable.



—  Close to A43 trunk road with good access to Bicester, Northampton and Oxford.


—  Distant from Hemel Hempstead, High Wycombe and Luton/Dunstable.

Table 1

AylesburyCalvert FinmereBrackley
Aylesbury---21 3539
Banbury6039 2817
Bedford5757 5557
Bicester2716 1017
Hemel Hempstead2949 7781
High Wycombe2769 6769
Luton/Dunstable3660 6165
Milton Keynes3027 2832
Northampton6145 4735
Oxford4635 3335

Fig 1


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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011