October 26, 2017
The route geography for HS2 has been finalised together with the location of connecting spurs to the national network. A follow-on from the decision is the need to identify opportunities for HS2 connectivity as a result of its use by conventional services.
The UK Government has provided Transport for the North (TfN) with a fund of £300 million to ensure the potential for service improvement is exploited. This is not unlike the initiative that resulted in the use of HS1 for domestic services operating between St Pancras International and destinations in Kent. Here the length of the journey undertaken on HS1 justified the provision of a fleet of trains capable of running at 140mph before switching to the existing 3rd rail network to reach destination stations.
TfN is at an early stage in plans for HS2 connectivity but has already identified that a transformation of the service between Leeds and Sheffield will be possible. Trains between Leeds and Newcastle will also be able to make part of the journey over HS2 using the connection that is to be provided near Church Fenton. As the distance for operation over HS2 is relatively short it is unlikely to justify the provision of 140mph rolling stock as in the case of HS1.
There is also the aspiration to provide new high-speed infrastructure between Liverpool and a suitable point on the HS2 Manchester spur as well as a revival of the HS3 proposal that would link Manchester and Leeds via Bradford.
Routes that will not benefit from HS2 connectivity such as lines radiating from Hull to Leeds and Sheffield are earmarked for a significant upgrade as is the rural route through the Hope Valley that links Sheffield with Manchester. Here the plan is to provide additional track so that slower stopping services can be passed.
Railway forecasting expertise provided by FCP can support the optioneering process taking place where many variables have to be melded into an operational plan.
Similar planning is taking place about the structure of future services from the proposed Crewe hub station which will be reached in 55 minutes from London in 2027. HS2 connectivity will be provided by two trains per hour which will divert on a cut-off to call at the station and go forward to Liverpool calling at Runcorn, and to Preston calling at Warrington and Wigan.
A new option is to provide an additional platform located on the Manchester Independent line which is primarily used by freight trains to avoid the existing station and will allow services to avoid crossing the national network routes running north.
The idea is that the platform will be of sufficient length to allow two units to be coupled. This would enable the Liverpool and Preston services to run as a single train as far as Crewe which would generate an additional path on the high-speed infrastructure that could be used to provide Stoke-on-Trent with HS2 connectivity via Stafford.
A consultation exercise has been conducted with stakeholders about the priorities that should be afforded. At present for Phase 2a the destinations are Birmingham Curzon Street (3 trains per hour), Manchester Piccadilly (3), Glasgow Central (1) Liverpool (2) and Preston (1). Frequencies for the Phase 2b line that terminates at Leeds with connecting spurs to Sheffield and York are yet to be finalised.