Commuters and communities in the East Midlands and North have been waiting for proper investment in their transport infrastructure and without HS2 and NPR, other promised improvements won’t deliver their full potential.
The eastern leg of HS2 would connect the West Midlands to Leeds providing vital additional capacity to a region that suffers from lack of connectivity and poor quality rolling stock. The eastern leg is a core part of the plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail. Without it, promises to improve transport across the region are meaningless.
Instead of investing in HS2, the government has promised piecemeal investment in patches of rail across the region, mainly in Conservative constituencies.
But without HS2, even this cash wont deliver the returns the government would like.
Rail system at capacity
Despite the misleading title, the main benefit of HS2 will not be its speed. The main benefit will be providing a separate line for intercity trains, freeing up capacity across the rail network. The basic principles are simple. You can only fit so many trains on a line at one time. At present, high speed intercity trains share the line with slower local trains. That means we must run fewer services than we would like, because we have to leave a big gap between the local and the intercity services to stop a fast train catching up with the local service ahead of it.
HS2 would take those intercity trains onto a separate line, a line that could also run more services because you need smaller gaps if all the trains would be running at the same speed.
There are hard limits to how much capacity a single line can take. Improvements to signalling technology, and electrification mean you can get closer to those limits but they can’t get you passed them.
The fact is, without the eastern leg of HS2 a lot of the promised improvements under Northern Powerhouse Rail become impossible.
A bold plan for the north
Instead of a stripped back NPR and half-measures on HS2 we need a bold, ambitious plan for the north.
That means a new station for Bradford, a city of half a million people that still doesn’t have a station on a major line.
It means High Speed connections linking Liverpool with the North East that enables a smooth connection between the Western and Eastern legs of HS2. This would massively expand capacity and improve connectivity across the region. A massive boost to the economy and people’s lives.
And it means delivering the promised new underground station at Manchester Picadilly which would have allowed 8 NPR services a day - a key piece of the East – West connectivity that the region needs.
The government has missed its chance to improve the economies of the North, to help meet its climate commitments and to really invest in the transport infrastructure the whole country needs.
We need investment that delivers a HS2 route all the way to Leeds, enabling capacity increases across the network. This would increase transport between the Midlands and Yorkshire, and a new East Midlands hub station which could help Nottingham and Derby development into a single economic area.
We need it paired with a Northern Powerhouse Rail that Transport for the North estimates could take 58,000 cars off the roads everyday, create 100,000 new jobs.
And we need the government to deliver on its promises, or the whole country, not just the north will pay the price.
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