Updated Green Party proposals on HS2 route
Mar 22, 2010
While the Green Party encourage better public transport generally, the proposed route of HS2 raises many difficult questions. The Chiltern Green Party support the national Green Party view that other routes could be considered; but the environmental impact must be taken in to account and weighed up against any advantages. There should also be further investtment to get all our existing train lines running smoothly.
Here is an overview of the Green Party's view on HS2 from Alan Francis, Green Party Transport Speaker 23 March 2010
Alan Francis, Green Party Transport Speaker
HSL was a company set up by the government to produce a report on HS2, which it submitted to government in December. The Command Paper is the government's response to the report. The Command paper basically echoes the recommendations in the report. HS2 Phase 1 only specifies in detail the route from London to Birmingham. There are unspecified HS routes going further north to Manchester and Leeds in phase 2.
While HS2 is not our priority for expenditure we do support it in principle. Our first priority is for local transport schemes, such as safe routes to school, and schemes which will reduce CO2 emissions.
We want to increase the capacity of the UK rail network so that it can carry more passengers and freight. HS2 would increase the capacity of the UK rail network. However our first priority for rail expenditure would be schemes to relieve bottlenecks on the existing network and schemes to provide more people with access to rail services. HS2 should not take away funding from such schemes.
Not only would it provide very fast journeys between London and Birmingham but journeys to Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow would also be faster, even with just the first phase. It increases the capacity of the UK rail network. The existing north-south lines are all at or near full capacity and so cannot accommodate more trains. It would also free up capacity on existing lines for more regional and local passenger services and freight trains. Initially this would be on the WCML but later on the MML and ECML as well. Should get a lot of cars off motorways, particularly M1, M6 and M40. Phase 1 should see some reduction in domestic flights but phase 2 should significantly reduce domestic flights between London and North/Scotland.
We welcome the apparent commitment to rule out major new motorways and domestic aviation expansion. However the statement on aviation does seem to be at odds with the Aviation White Paper, which proposed several new runways and significant expansion.
1.The design speed is 250mph (400kph). This should be reduced to 186mph (300kph) or 200mph (320kph) similar to HS1. The higher design speed requires straighter alignments, which are more difficult to fit into the landscape. A lower design speed would enable it to follow existing transport corridors and contours more closely. The lower speed would also reduce the energy required to operate the trains. It would only add about 5 mins to journey times between London and Birmingham.
2.We support the general corridor running NW from London but have concerns about details of the route.
3.London terminal. Euston. That makes sense. It would need a passenger link to St Pancras and Kings Cross, some form of people-mover like a travelator, possibly under Phoenix Rd and Brill Place. Euston station is proposed for demolition and redevelopment with larger footprint, expanding west and south of the existing station. This would involve the demolition of a number of blocks of flats and some commercial buildings. Even if HS2 were not proposed Euston would still need major redevelopment to handle increasing number of passengers.
4.Should HS2 go via Heathrow? Report recommends not, we support that recommendation. That would be too much of a diversion for majority of passengers who would be travelling between central London and the Midlands/North. Many lobbyists and Torys want it to serve Heathrow directly. Government proposes a further study by Lord Mawhinney. Our position; Don't bother.
5.Access to Heathrow. There should be an interchange station at Old Oak Common between HS2 and Crossrail. That would allow passengers from HS2 to reach Heathrow, West End, City and Docklands with just one change. Report recommends this and we support it. During the planning process for Crossrail we argued for a Crossrail station at Old Oak Common which would also have interchange with the North London Line and the LU Central Line.
6.Link to HS1. There should be a link to HS1 (aka CTRL) so that there can be through trains between Birmingham and Paris/Brussels and later between the north/Scotland and Paris/Brussels. The Command Paper only mentions this as an aspiration and the specified route does not include this. It should do so. The report considers three options for this link but all involve long tunnels from Old Oak Common, at least 7km in length, and so are expensive. Other options with shorter tunnels and far lower costs should be considered. For example a link at Primrose Hill from the HS2 line to the North London Line need only be about 1km in length. This would require a junction in tunnel but since this would be the HS2 tunnel under construction anyway there would be no disruption to services.
7.Route through the Chilterns. Very controversial. Least disruptive would have been to follow former Great Central line. HS2 only does this in part. The old route went via Old Oak Common, South Ruislip, High Wycombe, Princes Risborough, Calvert, Brackley, Rugby. HS2 follows this to Ruislip and then crosses Chilterns, part in tunnel part on surface, to Aylesbury. Then follows old GC to Brackley, then new route to station near Birmingham International, then loop via Water Orton into central Birmingham.
8.We are concerned about impact on landscape and residents around Great Missenden and Wendover
from the surface section over the top of the Chilterns. This section runs parallel to, but not adjacent to, the Chiltern rail line and A413. It should be re-examined to see if new line can run much closer to those existing transport routes to minimise environmental impact.
9.A tunnel of 1km is proposed near Little Missenden. This could be lengthened to about 5km, which would place the northern portal beyond Great Missenden, somewhere in the vicinity of Havenfields. This would remove the adverse impact on Great Missenden. HS2 would then be more level with a summit at about 150m OD in tunnel rather than 185m OD on the surface. From the new Missenden tunnel portal to the north edge of Wendover the new line would be at a lower level and so be in a cutting rather than on an embankment and viaducts. Between the new Missenden tunnel portal and the south edge of Wendover it would be closer to A413 than the proposed route. It would pass under the Chiltern line and A413 rather than over them. Putting the line in a cutting rather than on an embankment would considerably decrease the impact on Wendover.
10.This longer Missenden tunnel and lower summit would also have the operational benefit of removing the need for a steep gradient on the line between Little Missenden and South Heath. The longer tunnel would increase the cost but since that section on the surface requires a lot of cuttings and a viaduct and the tunnel boring machines will be in the ground anyway, the difference should not be too great. It would greatly reduce the environmental impact in the Chilterns area.
11.The proposed HS2 station at Birmingham Interchange is too far from the existing Birmingham International station. It would be over a mile (1.8km) away. Even with some form of people-mover, which is proposed, this is too far apart for satisfactory interchange. The new station should be relocated closer to the NEC and existing Birmingham International station. One possible location would be adjacent to the west side of the M42 between it and the Pendigo lake (NEC) where there are currently surface car parks. If maximum speed cannot be maintained through this station for non-stop trains, because of the curvature, then a bypass line could be built on the proposed straighter HS2 alignment with the station on a loop line off the main line. In order to avoid extra traffic and even more car parks there should be good local access to this station from the surrounding areas by rail, coach and bus.
12.The proposed route into Birmingham via Water Orton is very indirect and is several miles longer than the direct route, thus taking longer. We suggest that the Birmingham branch of HS2 should run alongside the existing Birmingham International to Birmingham line, which has no tight curves. This would need to be widened from 2 tracks to 4 tracks. The report considered this as an alternative link to Birmingham. It suggests that this is possible with another pair of tracks on the north side of the existing line. HS2 trains serving Birmingham could then use the existing Birmingham International station rather than a remote Birmingham Interchange station. There would be a junction between HS2 and the existing Rugby to Birmingham line, possibly at Berkswell where they are proposed to cross. These 2 new tracks could be one on each side of the existing 2 tracks rather than both on the north side. The new tracks could then also be used by fast trains on the classic route between London and Birmingham, eg Pendolinos.
13.With the route to central Birmingham along the direct corridor there would be no need for the complicated and expensive delta junction proposed near Water Orton. HS2 trains from Birmingham to the north would run on a new HS2 line from central Birmingham to Water Orton as proposed in the report. There would then be a simple grade separated junction with the HS2 main line to the north near Hams Hall which would allow higher speeds than the delta junction proposed in the report.
14.The proposed new Birmingham Fazeley St station would be accessed by two HS lines, one from Birmingham International and one from Water Orton. They would meet at the station throat. There would thus be a triangle of HS lines in the Birmingham area with the apexes at Fazeley St station, Birmingham International and Water Orton.
15.Initially, beyond Birmingham Interchange it is proposed that HS trains would join the WCML at Lichfield and run on the existing lines (recently upgraded to 125mph) up the Trent Valley to Manchester, Glasgow et al. This is sensible. Consideration should be given to a connection from HS2 to one of the classic lines between Birmingham and Derby so that HS2 services could continue to places such as Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds. Such a connection could be near Water Orton or near Lichfield. In Phase 2 HS2 would be extended to NW/Scotland and EM/NE with a 'Y' formation, branching to the north of the delta junction near Water Orton.
16.The report considered two other routes for HS2 between London and Birmingham, one parallel to the WCML at the southern end passing close to Berkhamsted and the other roughly parallel to the M40. Both of these would also have a serious impact on the Chilterns.
17.The report indicates that HS2 phase 1 would be roughly carbon neutral, with it possibly being slightly positive or negative. However this appears to assume the existing mix of generation sources for electricity. If more electricity is generated from renewable sources it would be carbon negative.
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