20 November 2009

Officially unofficial!

A few weeks ago, we produced an entry that looked at the likely route planned for the new High Speed 2 line, currently being worked on by the ad hoc quango, High Speed 2 Limited. We said that the company had given clear indications that it favoured a diamond shape route in Northern England, encompassing the East Midlands, joined to London by a linear route south of Birmingham - right through the middle of the Chilterns.

We hadn't dreamed this and then awoke to believe it was reality and then written about it!

Last weekend, High Speed 2's Chairman, Sir David Rowlands, outlined a totally different route in mind when interviewed on the BBC's Politics Show. This time, Sir David spoke of a line from London to Birmingham, via the Chilterns, and then mirroring in places the West Coast Main Line to service Manchester and on to Glasgow. Additionally, another line is to be suggested, bifurcating at Birmingham to Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle.

Sir David said: “There’s clearly a business case to build what might be the first phase of a network as far as the West Midlands, going into Birmingham and joining back to the West Coast Main Line.....There’s also a clear business case to go beyond with a network that goes all the way up to Scotland.... My own personal view is that if all the Government wants to do is build a high-speed line to the West Midlands and no further I wouldn’t bother.”

Giving hints of previous unofficial briefings, Sir David went onto say that the bone of contention is the route taken north of Birmingham, with a line to Manchester omitting the East Midlands and South Yorkshire and vice versa. Clearly, a diamond shape route, which we believe quite strongly to have been considered - and maybe even proposed - by High Speed 2, would cover all these bases, though is currently out of favour.

Next month, High Speed 2 will hand over its findings in a report to the DfT, who will publish the details for public consultation next March. (GL)