20 Miles More Challenge HM Gov & Transport for the North to Commit to Building Liverpool’s High-Speed Link In Parallel With HS2
20 Miles More has eagerly awaited the publication of the Government’s response to the consultation into Phase 2b of HS2. Now we’ve seen it, it’s clear that the route hasn’t changed substantially – at least not in a way favorable to the Liverpool City Region.
20 Miles More has consistently supported Phase 1 of HS2 – physical work on which should start next year. We believe that the enhanced speed and capacity provided will be beneficial to the main cities of the North, including Liverpool. We also welcome the decision to bring forward Phase 2a, which will extend HS2 as far as Crewe to the benefit of the whole North West.
It is Phase 2b that has always been the most contentious as it will extend the route directly into the city centres of Manchester and Leeds but provide no enhancements to the Liverpool service. This disparity in transport investment will result in uncompetitive journey times to our city region and, as our trains will be restricted to 200m long classic compatibles rather than 400m captives, much lower capacity.
We have evidence that this decision is already harming business investment decisions in our city region.
Fortunately, there is a solution. The potential to build a new 20 mile high-speed track from the HS2 main line to serve Liverpool as the first phase of a high-speed rail route linking Liverpool to Manchester Airport, central Manchester and beyond to Leeds and Sheffield was recognised in the 20 Miles More consultation response report. More recently, it has formed the basis of the Northern Powerhouse Rail proposal – a high capacity rail route linking the main cities of the North of England.
Consequently, we are very encouraged that the Government response to the HS2 consultation recognises the benefits of providing passive provision into the design of the route to allow the Liverpool spur to be constructed. This provision will ensure that a junction can be constructed with minimum disruption to the HS2 service. We consider that this is a significant victory for the Liverpool link campaign of which 20 Miles More forms a part.
We strongly believe that the construction of a link from Liverpool city center to the main HS2 route should form the first phase of the proposed route. It will be relatively cheap to construct and achieve the double whammy of a direct Liverpool spur to HS2 and a modern, fast link between the two cities that pioneered the railway age. It will allow the expensive Manchester spur tunnel to be more fully utilised and give Liverpool fast access to the medium and long haul flights from Manchester Airport. There will be the added benefit of freeing up capacity on the existing West Coast Main Line for new inter-city services and freight traffic serving the developing Liverpool2 SuperPort and Scotland.
As significant engineering work will be required on the approaches to Manchester and at Piccadilly Station, we believe that it makes sense for Phase 1 of Northern Powerhouse Rail and Phase 2b of HS2 to proceed at the same time.
We, therefore, present this challenge to national Government, the Liverpool City Region, Merseytravel, Transport for the North and HS2 – to construct the first phase of Northern Powerhouse Rail and Phase 2b of High-speed 2 concurrently so that both open on the same date in 2033.
We have 17 years in which to plan, consult, design and build these two projects. All that is necessary is the political will to see them through.
£15bn of benefit from just 20 miles more of high-speed track to Liverpool
HS2’s latest report Changing Britain: HS2 Taking Root is released today, 31st of October 2016. It previews how HS2 will serve those places not directly on the HS2 line, such as Liverpool. In tandem, research by Merseytravel, confirms findings made by 20 Miles More in their January 2014 submission to the HS2 Phase 2 consultation:
20 miles of new high-speed train track between Liverpool and Manchester, connecting to the planned HS2 network, has the potential to deliver:
1. £15 billion GVA boost to economic growth
2. 20,000 new jobs
3. 10,000 new homes
4. 2.9 million extra visitors per year
5. 150 million less HGV freight miles a year
6. 21 minute Liverpool-Manchester journey time
7. 16 minute Liverpool-Manchester Airport journey time
8. 1 hour 14 minute Liverpool-London journey time
Brexit means high-speed rail to Liverpool and the North is now a political and economic imperative
The Brexit vote sent a shockwave through the political establishment and as the dust settles, its message for HS2, “HS3” and the Northern Powerhouse is emerging. Now is the time to invest in a transport network that uses HS2 to irrigate the regions, not drain them, says Andrew Morris, Chair of 20 Miles More.
In the thirty years since the Big Bang deregulation of financial markets, “the City” has become the de facto centre of international financial markets. Successive governments have become increasingly mesmerised by its charms, to the exclusion of the rest of the nation. London generates great wealth, producing as much tax revenues as the next 37 largest UK cities together each year . That wealth is highly concentrated in London and has created a dangerously imbalanced economy. It is difficult to find another major country that is so economically imbalanced. Canada, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Japan, and Spain have multiple wealth-creating cities. Whilst in the UK only 6 companies in the FTSE 100 are based north of Birmingham, down from 10 in 1984.
Currently, London is the not just the economic centre of the UK, it is also the legislative, judicial, media, cultural and transport hub – despite being tucked way in the south-eastern corner of a long, narrow island. The blinkered focus on London has led to a mindset that everything of any importance is there, and the corollary that if it’s not in London it’s unimportant.
The North of England has suffered in particular over the last 30 years. It has been strip-mined for assets by the City. High-value industries have been subsumed into London or sold off to the highest bidder. The North’s world-leading industrial companies were just an opportunity to realise their breakup value. Patents and products bases were sold off by corporate raiders to foreign rivals as the companies were starved of finance.
Transport investment is an area of inequality that stands out. More money will be spent on one London project, Crossrail, than all of the transport projects in the North of England put together. This investment chasm urgently needs to be bridged and high-speed rail is one policy that should be amended to achieve this.
HS2’s major deficiency is its London-centricity. There is only one hub on HS2: London. The three other cities on HS2 are branches off the main line. It is a hierarchical design from a bygone era, not an interconnected network for the information age. Sir David Higgins was quick to recognise this when coming onboard HS2 Limited . How high-speed rail should serve the North needs to be redressed. “HS3” must go beyond a command-and-control solution connecting just two points in the North to London. High-speed rail needs to mesh together the great cities of the North and to connect them with the Birmingham and London, and onward to Edinburgh and Glasgow. It is imperative that a route map is planned, leaving no doubt about all future destinations for potential investors, business planning and city development.
20 Miles More proposed a solution to solve this problem in January 2014 . By adding just 20 miles more of high-speed track, the largest city not on HS2, Liverpool, can be linked. This route would run west to east from Liverpool to Manchester connecting to the HS2 route. Not only would this boost the business case for HS2 by £8bn, it would form the first phase of an “HS3” network extending from Liverpool and Manchester to Bradford, Leeds, Hull spanning the North.
The Brexit vote has been a rude awakening for the political establishment. The public has voiced their anger with the status quo. The shock result wasn’t just about the settlement between the UK and the EU but also the settlement between metropolitan London and the rest of the country. The Government needs to address this sense of alienation with policies that will rebalance an unstable economy and build the nation’s wealth across the Nation. High-speed rail can benefit the North, but HS2 needs to be adapted to do so. With the Chancellor’s autumn statement approaching we have reached a key turning point, will HS2 irrigate the North or drain it?
- 10 years of tax, Centre for Cities, July 2016
- Lure of the south too strong for northern businesses, Financial Times, 15 March 2015
- Transport Secretary urged to close £1,600 per person London-North spending gap, IPPR, 8 August 2016
- HS2 Plus: A Report by David Higgins, Department for Transport, 17 March 2014
- 20 Miles More: A Counterproposal for Liverpool and HS2, January 2014
Liverpool needs a link comparable to other core cities
On 30th November, the Government announced that HS2 would be extended to Crewe six years earlier than originally intended. The initial plan was for HS2 to open in two stages: Phase 1, London – Birmingham to be completed by 2026 and Phase 2, Birmingham – Manchester/Leeds (the ‘Y’) by 2033.
The revised plan is for the first section of Phase 2, from Birmingham to Crewe, (Phase 2A), to open one year after Phase 1 in 2027. The remainder of the Y to Manchester and Leeds (Phase 2B) will open in 2033 as previously planned.
On the opening of Phase 1 in 2026, an HS2 passenger service will be introduced between London and Birmingham using dedicated ‘captive’ trains.
‘Classic compatible’ services (HS2 trains capable of travelling on the conventional rail network) will be introduced between London and the North West and Scotland. These trains will travel at the HS2 linespeed of 360km/hr (230mph) as far as Lichfield, north of Birmingham, where they will switch to the classic West Coast Main Line (WCML) and proceed at conventional speeds to Crewe, Liverpool, Manchester and on to Scotland. This will mean a major reduction in journey times to all cities on the network.
Phase 2A, opening one year later in 2027, will extend the high speed line from Lichfield as far as a new junction with the WCML south of Crewe – a distance of 58 kilometres (36 miles). The effect of this new section of high speed line will be another major reduction in journey time to the North West and Scotland.
The current proposal is for Crewe to be served by classic compatible units that will travel on to Liverpool and Warrington. However, the proposed ‘Crewe Hub’ will introduce a new station on the HS2 line interchanging with a relocated Crewe station – possibly at Basford Hall, south of the town. A decision on this proposal has yet to be made but is expected shortly.
Phase 2B, opening in 2033, will extend the HS2 line north east from Crewe to Manchester via Manchester Airport and construct the ‘eastern arm’ to Leeds via Sheffield and Toton. At this stage, both Manchester and Leeds will be served by dedicated HS2 ‘captive’ trains. Liverpool and destinations further north will continue to be served by classic compatible units.
What this means for Liverpool
Phase 1 will have a major impact on journey times from Liverpool to London. The present average of 134 minutes will be slashed to 106 minutes. Phase 2A will reduce journey time further – to 92 minutes. This can only be a good thing for the city and city region and so the decision to bring forward HS2 to Crewe is to be welcomed.
Phase 2B, by contrast, will offer no journey time improvements to Liverpool but, by introducing dedicated high speed captive services to Manchester and Leeds, will markedly reduce London journey times from both cities. So, Liverpool will find that its main commercial rival, Manchester will be 25 minutes closer to the capital despite enjoying near parity today. Both Manchester and Leeds will also enjoy new high speed services to Birmingham that the lack of a direct link will deny Liverpool.
As classic compatible trains will be only 200m long, as opposed to the 400m maximum length of captive trains, there will not be a major increase in passenger capacity on the London route. In fact, should Merseytravel’s aspiration of two hourly 260m long Pendolino trains to London be realised, capacity will actually be reduced on the introduction of HS2!
Far from increasing the rail connectivity of Liverpool, the routing of the proposed Phase 2B western arm will not relieve currently congested stretches of track such as between Crewe and Weaver Junction and on the approaches to Lime Street. This will hinder the development of new passenger services from Liverpool and rail freight access to the new Liverpool Superport.
The Northern Powerhouse initiative, which seeks to improve connectivity between the major cities of the North has recognised that a new high speed link from Liverpool to Manchester will be important in improving future travel between the two cities as existing lines will not deliver this aspiration.
Such a route, by incorporating sections of the proposed HS2 Manchester branch will be achievable at low cost and with minimal environmental intrusion.
We at 20 Miles More believe that the only solution is the construction of a dedicated high speed link from Liverpool to HS2. This link will not only give Liverpool a link to London comparable to that enjoyed by other core cities but will also form the first stage of a new trans-North Northern Powerhouse rail link. In so doing, it will ensure that HS2 achieves the government’s intention of rebalancing the economy of the country.