26 July 2010

Heathrow loses out

You might remember the Tories taking the unfortunate position of not accepting the findings of the official government High Speed 2 Report, which was given to the then Transport Secretary Lord Adonis at Christmas. He published the report in March. Not wanting any part of the 152-page document, the Tories' then Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers largely dismissed the finer points of Sir David Rowlands' report, because the Tories want the new north-south route to operate via Heathrow at all costs.

HS2 Ltd's report suggested that the most cost-effective and beneficial route would be to omit Heathrow, as the line heads north-west from London Euston, but for a spur to be built at Old Oak Common for connections to/from Heathrow which would take 10 mins. This would ensure those travelling between London and Birmingham could enjoy a 49-minute journey time and further afield, London-Glasgow in just over 3 hours.

BAA - owner of Heathrow, British Airways and civil engineers were dead against the original report's findings. Lord Adonis commissioned an independent report into the Heathrow element and appointed former Tory MP Lord Mawhinney to chair it. The findings were made last week and they comprehensively back the original report.

During the early stages, with HS2's construction being up to Birmingham, there is 'no defensible, economic or business case' for Heathrow to be included on the main route. When HS2 reaches Manchester and Leeds and beyond, then the spur should be built - but only a spur, which by this time will be the only option since HS2's route will not be deviated when operational!

LEYTR Comment: As laymen to the building of railways, neither of us could fathom why the Tories were dead set on routing HS2 via Heathrow when the number of internal flights the line is likely to offset being tiny. This would have an increase in journey times and therefore be detrimental to everyone else. They played down the "HS2 via Heathrow justifies cancelling the third runway" angle when it became clear just how ridiculously minuscule the affect of HS2 would be on flights from Europe's busiest airport.

Lord Mawhinney makes another recommendation that is not related to Heathrow: that HS2's terminus in central London should be at Old Oak Common and not at the re-built Euston! Travel between Old Oak Common and central London would be made using Crossrail, which of course would be operational by then. This has the potential to alienate more people than routeing HS2 via Heathrow. The whole point, surely, is to make High Speed rail as accessible to as many people as possible. What will be more convenient? Jumping on a Virgin Pendolino at Euston for travel to Glasgow in 4 hours or lugging all your cases down two escalators to Crossrail and then transferring at Old Oak Common (where more escalators will surely be encountered) onto HS2 for a 30-minute time saving - not to mention the premium fares HS2 will charge.

Mawhinney's reasoning is that since no link between Euston and St. Pancras is planned and thus HS2 will not link-up with HS1, there seems very little point in Euston being served by HS2, though to assume the only people travelling will want to additionally use HS1 to France or Belgium *in the same journey* is incredibly presumptuous to say the least.


... said...

I think it is too easy to assume Euston=London when it comes to surmising passenger flows on the WCML. From a connectivity basis, Euston isn't fantastically blessed. Direct Tube links are limited to the overburdened Northern and Victoria lines. Assuming that as a passenger from the West Midlands or North West you want to travel to Canary Wharf, the West End or the City, a cross platform connection onto a fast Crossrail service is at least as convenient and easy as mucking about on the existing tube network. In addition, not rebuilding Euston and its approaches will prevent another half decade of severe disruption to the WCML, as well as saving a considerable amount of funds.

LEYTR said...

Valid point. Our understanding is that such is the lack of space in central London that only Euston possessed any potential whatsoever and since the original brief was for a central London terminal, it was chosen. Just a shame St Pancras & HS1 is very close but annoyingly too far to expect passengers to wander with cases.

Peter Davidson said...

It seems rather bleedin' obvious to this layman that HS2 should link directly to HS1, despite the additional cost.

Most of the UK population understands only too well the manner in which a London-centric focus pervades every aspect of British society but to have this malign phenomenon thrust in our faces in such a brazen fashion is rather like a thief stealing your large screen TV and then ringing up the next day asking you to post on the instruction manual!

It seems to have escaped the attention of our esteemed leaders that HS1 and its splendidly refurbished St Pancras terminus were only made possible courtesy of funding via the central exchequer (as in contributions from all UK citizens) so if the UK remains an allegedly homogeneous nation extending the benefits of a 21st century "state of the art" rail infrastructure should accrue more universally to the whole population.

There is of course an easy explanation for the ridiculous plan to exclude new UK based HSR infrastructure from direct connection with HS1 - it's called Schengen or should I say yet another glaring example of the UK's inherent bunker mentality, which means the UK still refuses to countenance an open borders/free movement policy in partnership with the rest of Europe.

If you want to see evidence of the direct consequences of the UK's 19th Century [fog in the channel, continent cut off] approach to relationships with its near neighbours, I suggest a visit to either Gard Du Nord in Paris or Lille Europe where you can board (ticket in hand of course) High Speed trains departing for all corners of our continent more or less at will without let or hinderance unless you happen to be travelling to dear old 'blighty' where you'll discover the relevant platform surrounded by a high security envelope and numerous checks upon your identity and right to travel.

It's this exact same paranoia in reverse as you travel out that the UK govt. thinks would be a good idea to remain concentrated at St. Pancras thus denying a significant majority of the UK population the opportunity to join the rest of Europe's population in enjoying direct and unfettered connections to the continent's burgeoning High Speed Rail network - direct service from Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Newcastle et al to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam or even further afield - think again my fellow British citizens!