High-speed train: What exactly are the plans for HS2 and HS3?

The prime minister said the government’s integrated rail plan is “the biggest transport investment program in a century”.

Boris Johnson says he will provide “meaningful transport links for more passengers across the country, faster.”

These are the key questions and answers.

Define “high speed train”?

The UIC, the world railway organization, claims that the era began on October 1, 1964 when the Bullet Train began to travel in Japan between Tokyo and Osaka. Its original running speed was 130 mph (210 km / h).

In the 1970s, the UK was ahead of Europe with rolling stock called high speed trains running on the Great Western Line connecting London Paddington to Bristol and Cardiff. It established 125 mph (201 km / h) as the benchmark for UK intercity rail.

Although the ill-fated Advanced Passenger Train and Pendolino trains on the West Coast Mainline are capable of traveling at 140 mph (225 km / h), there has never been enough capacity to keep them running at full speed in passenger service.

France made the next giant leap on September 27, 1981, when the High Speed ​​Train began traveling at a top speed of 162 mph (260 km / h). This has since increased, with 186 mph (300 km / h) now running on high-speed railways across Europe.

The “high speed train” is now generally considered to be 140 mph (225 km / h) or more on dedicated tracks.

How is Britain doing?

The only line that qualifies by the modern definition is High Speed ​​1, connecting London St Pancras with Kent and the Channel Tunnel.

But in 2009, the last Labor government specified High Speed ​​2 (HS2) to link the capital to the Midlands and northern England.

The project received all-party support, with new Conservative Transport Secretary Justine Greening declaring: “If this country is to compete, produce and innovate against the rest of the world, we cannot afford not to go forward. with HS2.

“Simply put, we need to invest in our transportation network, not in spite of the economic challenges we face, but as a way to overcome them and secure the economic future of our country.

A total of 345 miles of new high-speed runway was planned for the HS2.

Since then, the cost of the project has more than doubled and is now approaching £ 100 billion.

How much faster?

HS2 is rated to run at 225 mph (362 km / h), with the following schedule scheduled (current times are also displayed):

  • London-Manchester: 67 minutes (125 minutes), a saving of 46% on current journey times.
  • Birmingham-Manchester: 40 minutes (87 minutes), a saving of 54%.
  • London-Glasgow: 220 minutes (269 minutes), a saving of 18%.
  • Birmingham-Glasgow: 200 minutes (240 minutes), a saving of 17%.
  • London-Liverpool: 94 minutes (132 minutes), a saving of 29%.

Where will HS2 go?

His first stop is from London Euston to Birmingham. The two-track line follows a more southerly path than the existing West Coast Main Line and the Chilterns Line, traversing rural countryside to a new interchange station in the West Midlands, adjacent to the airport of Birmingham, where the line splits.

The west leg (HS2W) serves Crewe and Manchester. Some high-speed trains will then run on conventional lines to Preston, Carlisle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Meanwhile, the eastern section (HS2E) was to continue to Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds – relieving pressure on the Midland main line (to and from London St Pancras) and the east coast main line (serving London King’s Cross ), and connecting to the existing line to York and Newcastle.

It included a new hub for Nottingham and Derby at Toton, which HS2 says “will be one of the best-served stations on the high-speed network”.

What happened to HS2E?

It has been removed, with a planned spur of the interchange at East Midlands Parkway instead, where high-speed trains will run on existing tracks.

From London to Sheffield, the journey with HS2 was scheduled for 87 minutes, saving 27% on the current journey time of almost two hours. The Prime Minister insists precisely on the fact that this time will be reached.

Currently, the fast trains from East Midlands Parkway to Sheffield – a distance of 44 miles – are expected to take 40 minutes.

The connection from London to Leeds via HS2E was expected to take 81 minutes, a saving of 39% compared to the current journey time of 133 minutes.

Mr Johnson said: “We will also be looking at how to bring HS2 to Leeds, with a new study on how best to get there.”

Between Birmingham and Leeds, the savings promised to be even greater, reducing the current journey from 117 minutes to just 46 minutes, a savings of 61%.

What about HS3?

This was the proposed high-speed link across the Pennines between Manchester and Leeds – known quite interchangeably as HS3 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

The main line and additional projects would significantly increase capacity and speed on the trans-Pennine routes from the Mersey to the Humber and the Tyne.

The 2019 Conservative manifesto promised: “We will build the Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester, then focus on Liverpool, Tees Valley, Hull, Sheffield and Newcastle. “

Journey times as short as 20 minutes have been proposed between Leeds and Manchester, two of the largest cities in the north of England, compared to the current fastest journey of 50 minutes.

In July 2019, Boris Johnson pledged: “I want to be the Prime Minister who does, with Northern Powerhouse Rail, what we did for Crossrail in London. “

This is a reference to the £ 19bn rail link through the capital which connects Reading and Heathrow to South Essex and South East London, but not at high speed. It is currently four years behind schedule and is well over budget.

“Today I will honor my commitment to this vision by committing to fund the Leeds-Manchester route,” continued Mr Johnson.

“It will be up to the local populations to decide what to do next. For me, this is only the beginning of our commitments and our investments. We want all of this to happen.

“I have asked officials to speed up their work on these plans so that we are ready to strike a deal in the fall.

“Don’t hesitate to applaud. “

So everything is clear, then. When can I get on board?

The first HS2 passenger trains could run between London and Birmingham in 2029 – although likely from a West London suburban station, Old Oak Common, as the planned hub, Euston, will not be ready. Links to Crewe and Manchester will follow in the 2030s.

It is now clear, however, that the Northern Powerhouse Rail, along with most of the eastern part of HS2, has been scrapped.

As The independent reported, it will be replaced by some small-scale improvements.

But I read that rail travelers should rejoice?

The government says: ‘Faster train journeys will be delivered up to 10 years earlier under the government’s new Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), with the network’s biggest investment of £ 96 billion ever. railway.

“From London and across the Pennines, the IRP offers identical, similar or faster journey times than the original HS2 and Leeds-Manchester proposals, while doubling or tripling capacity and ensuring that passengers and consumers benefit more quickly tangible changes. “

Ministers said the new plan “delivers the same ambition for better value for money for the UK taxpayer”.

Do the rail experts agree?

No Nigel Harris, Editor-in-Chief of Rail magazine and the rail industry’s top commentator, said The independent: “If you’re not doing HS2E, there’s almost no point in doing HS2W other than a bypass for the West Coast Mainline.

“The biggest profits will have been sacrificed in the name of political slackness and the chronic short-termism of the Treasury: knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing. “

Lilian Greenwood, the Labor MP who is the former chair of the transport select committee, said: ‘If’ HS2 trains will instead be run on the existing track for much of the journey to Yorkshire ‘then surely instead of ‘adding loads of new capacity, will it make things worse rather than improve? ”

Isn’t speed everything?

Correct. HS2’s goal is to alleviate the capacity shortage on the Victorian rail network, by moving intercity services out of the creaky 19th century infrastructure. Speed ​​is just a welcome by-product. The elimination of passenger expresses will dramatically increase options for local and regional trains, as well as freight – with people and freight coaxed from road to rail.

Cutting the journey time between London and Birmingham in half to 45 minutes is a bonus; a brand new line in a very congested country might as well be designed to run at 225 mph to match the best in mainland Europe.

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