Government claims made about the potential gains from HS2 for the nation look highly questionable, now that the proposed route for the entire high-speed rail project has been revealed.
Announcing his preferred route, the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, said: “The full HS2 route will be a game-changer for the country.”
Yet not only are South-West England, Wales and East Anglia bereft of benefits from the £56bn project — people in many towns and cities on or close to the proposed route will get all the inconvenience of high-speed trains without the chance to travel faster themselves.
In France and Spain, local opposition to the high-speed network is typically assuaged by punctuating the lines with stations serving scattered rural communities. For example, while Meuse TGV station on the new high-speed line between Paris and Strasbourg is served by only three trains a day in each direction, the district south of Verdun appreciates the chance to reach the capital in an hour.
Britain is a much more crowded and compact nation, and adding stations would have significantly higher benefits. Yet on the first stage of HS2, there will be no stations between London and Birmingham.
“There are a handful of stations on the entire HS2 line,” says the Stop HS2 campaigning group, “because they slow the railway down too much.”
The line passes barely a mile from the centre of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, population 60,000. The standard journey time of 65 minutes for the 45-mile journey from the town to London could be reduced to as little as 20 minutes.
In Warwickshire, the line is planned to cut between Coventry and Kenilworth, close to Warwick University — again, with no benefit to the community. Indeed Coventry may be served by fewer fast “classic” trains to and from London than the present three-per-hour service.
North of Birmingham, on the newly announced map of HS2, a station is planned at Manchester airport, even though this involves a difficult dog-leg and routes the line through the heavily built-up southern suburbs of the city rather than taking a less intrusive line to the west.
Yet the eastern arm of HS2 is now planned to go almost past the front door of East Midlands airport — without stopping. More than 10,000 passengers a day use the airport. A short way north, the citizens of both Derby and Nottingham will be annoyed that they have to share a “Hub” station rather than one or the other city benefitting.
In Yorkshire, Barnsley and Wakefield are bypassed by the proposed line, while the status of Sheffield is still uncertain; it appears spur to the city using existing lines via Chesterfield will connect it to London and Birmingham, though possibly not points north.Reuse content