This is the first paper of two on Railfuture’s position on HS2. It provides the historical background that led to the development of high speed rail, culminating in HS2. It focuses on lessons learned from these developments relevant to Railfuture’s stance on HS2. These experiences have conditioned our response to HS2, which was initially conceived as a stand-alone project. It is now conceived as a project to enhance the capacity and resilience of Britain’s rail network as these experiences sunk in over time. We have campaigned consistently on this and have been heard.

The general HS2 scheme and its progression towards holes in the ground is also summarised and updated for members.

The article covers considerable discussion and consultations between Railfuture, HS2 and other stakeholders on the potential for each station on the route from London to Manchester.

The scope of Part 1 includes Phase 1 to the West Midlands and Phase 2a to Crewe. The recent government commitment to Phase 2a also invites dialogue on ideas for integrating planning for HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse Rail to increase connectivity and reduce cost. This is also covered in this article. This article does not cover Northern Powerhouse Rail itself.

The government is not saying much about the Eastern leg to Leeds at the moment, so comment here is confined to Railfuture’s general stance on it from earlier discussions.

Part 2 will be issued in due course when the government’s general intentions on it become clearer. Our response under discussion within Railfuture, includes contingency for any delay to the Eastern branch and also proposals for complementary improvements to the associated existing rail network.

It all started in Japan and Japan remains the model for Railfuture’s approach to getting the most out of HS2.

PHO:2020.11.30 - First Shinkansen First Shinkansen

Japan, had a slow traditional narrow gauge (3’ 6”) rail system which was well run and took the technology of narrow gauge railways to great lengths. The Japanese government decided to base its future transport system on a network of standard gauge “new trunk lines” (Shinkansen). The first Shinkansen was opened in 1964 between Tokyo and Nagoya and Osaka, Japan’s three biggest cities (515km), within Honshu, Japan’s largest island.

Since then all five Japanese Railway companies have developed new Shinkansen lines with the overall Japanese National Railways (JNR) system extended and continuing to develop across the whole country including to north island, Hokkaido and Kyushu. The JNR Shinkansen system is now over 2700km with maximum operating speeds of between 150-230mph.

Reliveried JR East E4 series shinkansen set P5 on the Max Toki 316 service from Niigata to Tokyo at Takasaki Station.  Photo by DAJF under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons Lessons from Japan relevant to HS2

High speed rail has become the backbone of travel in Japan, generating high market share and huge numbers of passengers. This requires large trains, generally up to 18 coaches with 1300 seats plus running on infrastructure at up to 3 minute intervals over long distances at high speeds.
Reliveried JR East E4 series shinkansen set P5 on the Max Toki 316 service from Niigata to Tokyo at Takasaki Station. Photo by DAJF under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

JR East Class 925-10 "Doctor Yellow" shinkansen track and overhead line inspection set S2 approaching Takasaki Station from the north on its last day in operation.  Photo by DAJF under CC BY-SA 3.0 & GFDL via Wikimedia Commons. High quality maintenance for this level of performance is critical, resulting in a very high degree of track condition monitoring, including the infamous Dr Yellow track recording trains roving the network continuously. The system is open to passengers daily from 0600 – midnight, with highly mechanised maintenance and renewals.
Photo by DAJF under CC BY-SA 3.0 & GFDL via Wikimedia Commons.

JR East E6 series shinkansen set Z12 on the Akita Shinkansen Komachi No. 16 service from Akita to Tokyo, on the Ou Main Line between Ugo-Sakai and Obarino stations. Photo by Cheng-en Cheng, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons Integration with the classic Japanese rail system

Over time the Shinkansen system has become more and more integrated with the classic narrow gauge network, a highly significant development in terms of geographic reach and achieving high market share. This was initially provided by interchange at key stations, with massive numbers of people interchanging with regional and urban rail services. The demand to be on the Shinkansen network has also resulted in the running of narrow profile trains on the Shinkansen system, normally coupled to high capacity trains for the high speed transit on the main system. These continue over mountainous terrain in the centre of Japan on formerly narrow track gauge routes. The track gauge was changed but the infrastructure was not rebuilt to the larger train profile. This approach together with a series on Mini-Shinkansen lines has brought the benefits of high speed rail to most of the country and essentially, safeguarded the economics of investment in and operation of the Shinkansen lines. The Japanese electrified rail transport system has developed into the safest and most environmentally sustainable transport system in the world, although nuclear power remains controversial, particularly after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
JR East E6 series shinkansen set Z12 on the Akita Shinkansen Komachi No. 16 service from Akita to Tokyo, on the Ou Main Line between Ugo-Sakai and Obarino stations. Photo by Cheng-en Cheng, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Railfuture sees this as the optimum approach to development of high speed rail in Britain. Better integration of HS2 into the classic rail system is a principal element of our campaigning, as members know.


Many European countries had quite good rail networks, largely electrified. This included quite a well developed network of fast passenger services over quite long distances such as Paris to the South of France and in Italy and Germany. It is not surprising therefore that high speed rail developed later in Europe as obsolescence didn’t catch up until later. Trains such as Le Mistral to the south of France and later, Le Capitole to Toulouse were seen as exemplars of modern comfortable rail travel, but for the few who could afford high fares. People became aware of developments in Japan and the potential for long distance rail travel to become obsolete when set against developments with other modes of transport.

Original classic design SNCF TGV pictured are London St Pancras International in Postal livery. Photo by Ian Brown for Railfuture Original classic design SNCF TGV pictured are London St Pancras International in Postal livery. Image: Ian Brown.

The first high speed line in Europe opened on 27 September 1981, between Paris and Lyon (425km), 15 years later than the first Shinkansen in Japan. The French government emulated the initial Japanese approach but failed to learn the subsequent lessons from Japan regarding integration with the classic system and regional rail services. The initial concept was dedicated lines with intermediate stations, often cited in poor locations for passenger distribution. These were the LGVs (Lignes de grande vitesse) and the trains were marketed as TGVs (Trains a grand vitesse).

Lessons learned

The TGV services were a fantastic success and like Japan the LGVs developed into a network quickly, radiating from Paris. The policy of assuming that access to the network would be by car to parkway stations was not a success. Initially it was felt that people would only travel on a train for about 3 hours for high market share so a dedicated system was fine at the start.

It was soon realised that there was a commercial case to emulate the Japanese model to the whole of France. The track gauge difference in Japan did not apply to France, so the strategy moved to a situation of longer distance trains by through TGVs operating directly onto the classic network, with the TGV trains increasingly integrated into regional services. This assisted the case for, and practicality of, incrementally adding sections of new high speed line so gradually increasing the capacity of France’s rail system and the competitive reach of TGV services to the whole of France and into adjacent countries.

PHO:2020.11.30 - Spanish Alvia A CAF 120 Alvia train that can change track gauge on the move in order to leave the high speed standard track gauge network and run through to classic broad gauge network stations. Image: CAF.

Other countries followed the same pattern. Spain, starting almost from scratch in terms of market share on its classic system now has a superb high speed rail network. Spain has pursued this for all the reasons discussed but has also seen high speed rail development as key to regional economic development in low population areas. An example of this is the opening of a new high speed line into Galicia and the Portuguese border region just a few weeks ago. Nevertheless Spanish high speed trains can and do use the classic system despite the track gauge difference in Spain, particularly to serve intermediate towns as they were determined to learn the lessons from France. The politics in Spain wouldn’t allow this anyway. Spanish manufacturers (CAF and Talgo) have developed regional and long distance trains which can change track gauge on the move.

Germany and Italy implemented high speed schemes but focussed on new high speed sections between cities, using conventional infrastructure in many cases to gain access into cities and importantly to regional and city systems. Germany has the most integrated high speed rail system in Europe as a result.

The European Union tried to make sense of all these developments

The EU has recognised the economic and environmental aspects of using high speed rail as the backbone of an integrated transport system and has promoted technological harmonisation of rail systems, including signalling/safety control, interoperability and the vision of a European high speed network – The TENs network. A particular emphasis taken by the EU is to ensure that less developed economic regions get the benefits of an evolving European High speed network. The inclusion of Galicia on the network is a good example. The TENS network is planned to include all European countries (except Cyprus served by a ferry connection).


Currently the largest and fastest developing high speed networks are being built in Asia, particularly China and Thailand but also India. These are investment driven led by China. The lesson here is that the fastest growing economy in the world is investing in high speed rail on almost purely economic grounds. The difference in viewpoint from HS2- a huge investment cost for Britain, versus a huge investment opportunity for China, might explain some of the difficulties in funding HS2.

The first high speed line in Britain – HS1

Photo by Ian Brown for Railfuture The first public Eurostar ran from Waterloo on 6th May 1994 as an awayday to Calais for the opening ceremony by HM Her Majesty the Queen and the French President (who came in his own train from Paris). The French President’s return train to Paris was the only non stop international train to travel via England ever! (Calais - Eurotunnel terminal loop, Folkestone- Paris). Image: Ian Brown.

This article is about lessons learned which have conditioned our approach to campaigning on HS2. HS1 cannot be ignored in this context although writing it up is almost as painful as reading about it.

Eurostar The Channel rail tunnel opened in 1994 as did French Railways LGV from Calais to Lille and Paris, the section to Brussels followed shortly afterwards. Britain did not initially build a high speed line from London to the Channel Tunnel, so the trains were constructed to the smaller British loading gauge, capable of operation on the British dc suburban system. Finishing off dinner on the Catford loop on a Eurostar at 60mph was an esoteric experience (the maximum speed of a Eurostar in Britain was 100mph further south in Kent). HS1 opened in stages and eventually completed to St Pancras, replacing Waterloo. The first Eurostar ran into St Pancras on 6 March 2007, 13 years later, although an initial southern section was opened in 2003 still requiring operation over the suburban railway into Waterloo.

PHO:2020.11.30 - HS1 map The 67 mile HS1 line was however constructed to the standard French Railways LGV specification using TVM430 signalling (no lineside signals) with trains operating at 186mph ie a fully specified high speed railway. One extremely good lesson learned here, both in England and France, was that the relative low volume sections from Lille to London could be used to operate domestic trains (and some freight services) so increasing the line’s viability. In Britain a domestic service was provided from Kent coast destinations, Ashford and Ebbsfleet to Stratford and London. The case for this was to address the economic issues of many Kent Coast towns by providing fast access to London. This service started up slowly but is now seen as a commercial success. All these trains run off the HS1 route to North Kent coast destinations at Ebbsfleet and to Dover and south Kent coast destination at Ashford. An important lesson or opportunity here is that this operation has transformed the viability of HS1, also bringing far wider economic benefits to South East England. Railfuture therefore advocates similar application to low utilised sections of HS2 such as Manchester Airport to Manchester City Centre, Liverpool to Manchester etc.


HS2 is a government sponsored project initially proposed by the British Labour government in 2009. Following review, HS2 Ltd was set up to develop the scheme. The go ahead for consultation by the Conservative-Liberal coalition government was given in December 2010. This was for a route from London Euston to Birmingham branching to Manchester and to Leeds.

In January 2012 the government announced that HS2 would go ahead in two phases, each with a hybrid bill to provide parliamentary powers to build it. The High Speed (London-West Midlands) Act 2017 was passed and received Royal Assent in February 2017. Phase 2 was subsequently split into Phases 2a and 2b. The Phase 2a High Speed Rail (West Midlands – Crewe), seeking powers to build HS2 to Crewe, was introduced in July 2017. This Bill also sought to ‘make decisions’ on the remainder of Phase 2b.

The Oakervee Review

A concern throughout the development of HS2 has been escalating costs. A further review of the scheme was ordered headed by Doug Oakervee. Work continued on preparation for HS2 Phase 2a whist the review was taking place. The original rationale, important to Railfuture, that HS2 should provide capacity and reliability on the rail network, was restated as it seemed to have been forgotten by the HS2 team.

The recommendations were in the form of a series of issues to keep costs within the funding envelope. This included modelling for a reduced train frequency of 14 trains per hour. Railfuture challenges this potential loss of frequency.

The most significant recommendation was that the scheme should go ahead in its entirety and that Phase 2 should be constructed alongside Phase 1.

Two other important service recommendations were also included. These were terminating at Old Oak Common in London initially, if the terminus at Euston is not ready by line opening. The other was that improvements to classic services in the Midlands and Northern England should be delivered in advance of the opening of Phase 2b. It was not specified how this should be achieved, nor is there much evidence that the advice was heeded (except for the grade separated junction north of Stafford at Norton Bridge which has been built).

Phase 2b would be delayed whilst better connectivity opportunities were investigated. This is a key Railfuture campaigning issue and the consultation and dialogue on it is ongoing. Railfuture sees this as an important aspect of the potential to bring the benefits of HS2 to whole regions by better integration with the classic rail system. The overseas experience described above suggests that Britain was slow to recognise the true potential of the project but more recent developments, discussed later, are starting to recognise this.


Prime Minister indicates government commitment to going ahead with HS2. Image: HS2 Ltd The current situation after even further reviews is that HS2 is going ahead from London to the West Midlands (Phase1) and onward to Crewe (Phase 2a).

Commitment to the whole project remains on paper and connectivity is being developed both around Crewe and in Manchester in terms of potential cost-saving synergy with what is referred to as Northern Powerhouse Rail ie a route from Manchester to Leeds.

The Eastern HS2 branch via Toton to Leeds is likely to come under later scrutiny and Railfuture has to be prepared for a series of options as costs continue to rise. The process for this will be the subject of Part 2.


Railfuture’s policy position on HS2 remains to support the project whilst actively and indeed being heard campaigning for better connectivity. HS2 must be commercial but its potential regional economic and classic railway capacity issues must be maximised. This suggests the need for complementary enhancements to the classic network, such as the electrification on the Midland Main Line. Our branches are actively engaged on these issues.

Some of the more strategic concerns, opportunities and failures are summarised below. For more detail there is a wealth of information, including particularly on regional integration plans, held by our branches.

Some strategic issues of concern to Railfuture

Many people say HS2 should have started in the North working southwards. This has some merit although given the projected nature of the development of this project, opportunity has surfaced to give more adequate time to address the more complex integration opportunities in the north. Railfuture also sees the project as a wider one geographically, with more emphasis on bringing HS2 benefits to North Wales, North West England (Lancashire and Cumbria, North East England (North Yorkshire, Durham and Northumbria). Railfuture also contends that directly serving Scotland should be a key component of the scheme and that short term capacity issues (such as service frequency capability) should not pre-empt such development. The argument in evidence here is the growth in both market share and total volume on classic Anglo Scottish service via both the West and East Coast routes over recent years.

On balance it was probably right to start from the south but Railfuture still contends the starting point should have been a continuation of HS1 westwards from Stratford International.

Environmental considerations

Railfuture is not an environmental protest group but is acutely aware of the potential role in mitigating environmental emissions from transport by developing our railways, the most sustainable form of transport. The principal ways of maximising the contribution railways can make is by modal shift to rail and the electrification of the rail network. Railfuture contends that to make such a contribution really significant at least a doubling of the capacity of the rail network is required in a post Covid recovery world. HS2 is an important component of this, significantly increasing the overall capacity of the rail network for passengers and particularly, freight. The current rail network is increasingly suffering from congestion, resulting in freight transit times over double that can be achieved by a truck, so losing productivity and hence competitiveness. We need a high capacity freight railway achieved by freeing up capacity, particularly on the West Coast Main line.

The Green Journeys organisation has recently published its report on why full delivery of HS2 and NPR is critical to decarbonising our transport system, written by Henri Murison (Director Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

An extract is reproduced here verbatim: Let’s consider a few facts that the Green Party and other environmental groups seem to continuously overlook. HS2’s carbon emissions will be seven times less than passenger cars and 17 times less than domestic air travel. Travelling 500 miles on HS2 will use the same amount of carbon as 70 miles in a car and just 29 miles by plane. HS2 will unlock capacity to carry 2.5 million lorries worth of cargo each year while producing 76% less carbon emissions than by road.

Any construction project has environmental downsides, although not constructing projects such as HS2 has many more in the long term. HS2 has become a blood sport in terms of protest bringing a concern that genuine environmental concerns are potentially drowned out by more self interested lobbies latching on. This is a shame. HS2 Ltd have implemented much mitigation to address genuine concerns, leading to a lot of the concern regarding cost escalation as the project went through the parliamentary process. The result is probably too much tunnelling. Railfuture has not entered into this debate but looked at HS2 objectively, particularly in terms of its long term overall contribution.

Phase 1

London and the South East

London is by far the biggest concentration of population on the route, but over half the population live south of the Thames, much more if the whole South East catchment area is taken into account. HS2 should not be just about access to Central London from the Midlands and the North, it should bring considerable benefits to these regions by northbound travel originating from the London and South East area.

The scheme as originally tabled was, and still is, to build a new station alongside Euston to serve HS2. It was recognised from the start that walking along Euston Road (itself probably illegal in terms of pollution levels) to get from HS1 to HS2 is hardly optimal, particularly when compared with Berlin where the new Hauptbahnhof has been built to form the centre of the German, and indeed the European rail network. Berlin has just opened, albeit 10 years late, the new airport at Berlin Brandenburg for exactly the same strategic reasons, as the future key airline hub in Europe. Britain has missed the opportunity to create a mega rail complex by integrating Euston into the existing Euston/St Pancras International complex.

Two schemes did emerge to link HS1 with HS2. The first was a linkage north of St Pancras which has the disadvantage of avoiding a commercial stop in Central London, the equivalent of running a train service across Birmingham without stopping at New Street. Not viable.

The second approach was the Euston Cross scheme which Railfuture actively supported. The scheme got wide publicity but the government wanted to keep HS2 separate. The argument for Euston Cross was that a four platform through station just south of Euston station would reduce the footprint of the Euston HS2 station considerably (important given the many local residents’ concerns.) It would also far better integrate Euston with St Pancras providing a massive improvement in connections southwards via the 24tph Thameslink. The HS2 Ltd team were well wedded to planning Euston by then. This scheme was also firmly rejected. It is ironic that a similar approach to Manchester has now emerged.

The most compelling argument was that (on the assumption of improved North to South links) the potential split of potential HS2 traffic West London (Old Oak Common)/Central London (Euston)/ East London (Stratford International) was roughly in percentage terms 30/50/20. A direct service from Stratford servicing East London plus Kent via HS1 Javelin services was seen as material.

Railfuture firmly contends that rail connections south are inadequate and that capacity improvements are necessary to the Underground Northern and Victoria lines to provide for better if rather local distribution. The scheme now includes integrating Euston Square Underground station into the complex, replacing the walk along Euston Road. Many members will miss the trudge along Euston Road to Euston Square tube, but will still have the opportunity to do this to gain access to the Kings Cross/St Pancras complex or walk through the local housing estate. Railfuture will be considering ways of mitigating this strategic weakness.

This may explain the potential later phasing of Euston HS2 station, as demand may well be suppressed by lack of a strategic approach, although to be fair, at TfL’s insistence, improvements have been made to London Underground access capacity at Euston.

Railfuture will continue to campaign for the best interchange possibilities at Euston, but options are limited despite the vast north to south capacity available at St Pancras with Thameslink.

Old Oak Common (West London)

This will become an important interchange point on HS2. The station is designed to integrate with a new station on the GW main line and on Crossrail at Old Oak Common. Considerable commercial development is planned around the site, which would improve its utility as a destination where little exists at the moment.

PHO:2020.11.30 - HS2 connections at Old Oak Common map

Map showing the HS2 interchange with the proposed Great Western Main Line and Crossrail adjacent station at Old Oak Common. Also shown are the proposed London Overground stations strongly advocated by Railfuture giving connections to a wide area of London. Image:TfL.

Linkages east and west have been considered. A spur off HS2 was initially considered running into Heathrow. The conclusion, following the Brian Mawhinney Review, was that this would not be viable as individual trains would have very low loadings. Unless the HS2 route itself was diverted via Heathrow, valuable HS2 paths would be lost. The time penalty of such routing would negate some of the benefits, so was rejected. Serving Heathrow will be far better achieved by interchange with all HS2 services at Old Oak Common, particularly as Heathrow has 5 Terminals and Crossrail will serve them all directly. An HS2 terminal at Heathrow, in addition to being high cost, would involve interchange to reach individual terminals.

Given the relatively poor access to Euston, Old Oak Common is seen as the HS2 station for much of Central London with multiple Crossrail stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street and Whitechapel, in addition to directly serving Canary Wharf and Stratford, also accessing the North Kent branch of Thameslink via Abbey Wood. This will potentially increase the journey proportion at Old Oak Common versus Euston. It would be wrong however to abandon Euston as a Central London terminus despite its access limitations.

The key issue remaining for Railfuture at Old Oak Common is direct linkages to south London. Good interchange with new stations on the London Overground line to Clapham Junction and also the other Overground Line to Richmond are essential. These two new Overground stations potentially also give good access to North London via Willesden Junction and Highbury, although Crossrail will be the principal access for Stratford and further east.

Birmingham Interchange
Image by HS2 Ltd Birmingham Interchange HS2 station exterior. Image HS2 Ltd

The HS2 station is a separate facility from the national network Birmingham International station located at the 'Hub', in Solihull near the M42. The conglomeration consists of separate facilities at Birmingham Airport, Birmingham International rail station, the National Exhibition Centre and the Birmingham Business Park (including Jaguar Land Rover).

Image by HS2 Ltd Birmingham Interchange HS2 station exterior. Image HS2 Ltd

Image by HS2 Ltd Automated People Mover. Image HS2 Ltd

Railfuture sees this as an excellent location, but the West Midlands Railfuture branch is conducting ongoing discussion with stakeholders to ensure that an automated people mover has the capacity necessary to fully integrate these facilities into a proper hub. The HS2 level of service provided is not sufficient to maximise this opportunity as it stands, nor provide sufficient journey opportunities northbound. Linkages between the West Midlands and the north have been stressed throughout the consultation process.

There are various ways to maximise the opportunity for distribution from the “Hub” using Light Rail and main line rail, under active discussion between the branch and stakeholders.

Although Phase 1 is fixed and going ahead, this does not prevent active discussions on the provision of these complementary distribution facilities, which are essential to the success of this HS2 station.

Birmingham Curzon Street HS2 station

Image by HS2 Ltd Curzon Street HS2 station showing high quality urban realm design. Image HS2 Ltd.

This, in the form of a terminal almost adjacent to Birmingham Moor Street Station, is less satisfactory. Clearly there is no scope to build an HS2 station in or over New Street Station. All space is constrained at New Street particularly train length, so even displacing other trains there to accommodate HS2 is not feasible.

Image by HS2 Ltd Curzon Street HS2 Light Rail Interchange - Railfuture strongly advocates good light rail links from HS2 at Curzon Street. Image HS2 Ltd

The key is ensuring the best possible linkages from Curzon Street into the city centre by a light rail extension, together with providing an increased role for Moor Street station for Regional services. The West Midlands branch is actively involved with stakeholders on the development of a strategic plan for the West Midlands, hugely increasing rail’s potential in the form of an integrated light rail/main line network.

Image by HS2 Ltd Moor Street station showing pedestrian link to Curzon Street HS2 station. Image HS2 Ltd

Additional platforms at Curzon Street for regional services and a direct pedestrian link to Moor Street station would considerably enhance access to HS2 in Birmingham.

Phase 2a Birmingham to Crewe (North West leg)

Railfuture responded in detail to the consultation on the role of Crewe as a potentially serious catchment area for HS2. The consultation included many brownfield sites in the Potteries north of Stoke on Trent and the potential there to meet UK housing targets.

The result is that Crewe is to go ahead as a key element of the HS2 project with an integrated HS2 station, with potential to provide HS2 connections to Chester and North Wales and other North West destinations. Linkages are to go ahead to provide for HS2 trains to run onto the West Coast Main Line, and there are options north of Crewe for prolonging HS2 northwards in order to alleviate capacity and speed constraints in the Warrington area on the existing West Coast Main Line alignment. Properly integrating Crewe HS2 into the rail network with potential for through trains to Lancashire, Cumbria and Scotland is a huge step in providing an integrated high speed rail network for Britain.

Phase 2b Crewe to Manchester

The plan as originally conceived is for Phase 2b to continue to Manchester, serving a new HS2 station at Manchester Airport and also at Manchester Piccadilly. The Manchester Piccadilly station is planned to be situated alongside, to the East of the existing Piccadilly station. Manchester’s light rail Metrolink system will serve the HS2 platforms by a realignment of the light rail route under the combined station.

The current plan is for the station to be a terminal station.

Manchester Airport is already well developed commercially and it was recently decided, following consultation, that the HS2 station is to be enlarged. Railfuture contends that HS2 should, as a minimum, carry an airport shuttle to Manchester Piccadilly, but that there are far more potentially exciting developments.

Integration with Northern Powerhouse Rail

Railfuture has vigorously contended that HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) line should be strategically examined in Manchester, both to reduce costs and also improve connectivity, particularly given the existing capacity concerns along the Castlefield Corridor, so prejudicing the potential exploitation of the only just completed, £85m Ordsall Chord. Railfuture has also produced a strategic plan for freight trains currently using the Castlefield Corridor. This has been well received by stakeholders as providing a cost effective solution to congestion on this link across the west side of the city centre.

The need to link HS2 into a more strategic rail solution for Manchester is now recognised and consultation is commencing on how best to achieve this. This is a major step forward. There are various ways of doing this including a proposal to leave HS2 untouched but construct a West to East Northern Powerhouse route interchanging at Piccadilly station.

Railfuture’s approach has been to suggest equipping Piccadilly with through platforms akin to Antwerpen Centraal, in Belgium, where they have done this, and continue the HS2 route onwards to Leeds as a single continuous route. This would provide for through NPR trains to Manchester Airport (an important component of the existing Trans Pennine service, now depleted on account of Castlefield Corridor constraints.)

Railfuture’s North West branch is proposing that a delta junction is provided where the Manchester HS2 branches of from the northbound HS2 line. Such an approach provides a high speed route from Liverpool to Manchester also serving Manchester Airport, in effect a bonus high speed route. The map below shows how this can be achieved.

PHO:2020.11.30 - HS2-NPR route map

This map shows how Railfuture sees the potential for linking HS2 in Manchester with Northern Powerhouse Rail onwards to Leeds. The proposal also gives a high speed route from Liverpool to Manchester Airport and Manchester City Centre. Image: Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Now the principle has been established, our branches in the North will be engaging in the discussion of what is most practical and what can be afforded.

This strategic approach makes no mention, at this stage, regarding the eventual route of NPR between Leeds and Manchester and is largely neutral to it, regardless of whether NPR is constructed as a new line or takes the form of an upgrade to the existing Trans Pennine routes. Railfuture, through its Yorkshire and North West branches will be actively engaged with stakeholders on the NPR project.

The debate is starting and Railfuture will be a part of it - exciting times for members to be involved.

The Eastern HS2 leg from Birmingham to Leeds.

None of these developments in Manchester obviate the requirement for constructing the Eastern HS2 branch to Leeds. The current consultations do not include the Eastern leg so are not treated here but will be in due course, as Part 2, as options emerge in more detail, including any further changes envisaged by government.

There are unsatisfactory elements of the Eastern leg, although Railfuture is pleased that HS2 has confirmed that the Leeds station is to be constructed almost adjacent to the existing station rather than further south. Additionally HS2 has also confirmed that there will be linkages constructed to gain access to the Midland Main line, to provide direct HS2 access to Chesterfield and Sheffield, as well as a limited capacity link into Leeds existing station to provide the potential to serve other regional cities and towns in West Yorkshire.

There is much to be done on this and the branches concerned, including the East Midlands branch, are developing a series of proposals. It is becoming clear that a package of measures will be required including completing electrification of the Midland Main line, better regional rail links into Toton and further capacity upgrades of both the Midland and East Coast Main lines. These are required in the context of the Eastern leg whether further delayed or not.

The linkage onward to York and the East Coast Main Line to Newcastle and Scotland remains in the Eastern leg scheme as currently envisaged.


The original HS2 proposal did not seriously consider Scotland although it did, and still will, provide a link to York and the East Coast Main Line, subject to the Eastern HS2 leg going ahead as planned. The proposals as described for Crewe and connections with the West Coast Main line, both south and north of Crewe, present an excellent opportunity to provide a Scottish HS2 service via the West Coast Main Line. Several enhancements to the line speed and capacity on the WCML are starting to be considered and can probably be justified even without HS2 services. The business case for a good HS2 service to Scotland is strong and evidenced by sustained growth on both East and West Coast services to Scotland in recent years.

A principal argument for HS2 south of Crewe is to provide increased capacity, including facilitating growth of freight capacity on the WCML. To accommodate HS2 services to North West England (Lancashire and Cumbria) and to Scotland, additional capacity is required if HS2 services are to continue to be shared, particularly with freight and intermediate passenger services, on the already saturated double tracked route between Lancaster, Carlisle and Carstairs. This includes changes at Carlisle to ensure HS2 trains can be accommodated without reducing capacity for through services from Newcastle, the Settle and Carlisle Line and the Cumbrian Coast line, important routes for freight and engineering diversions. Significant new stretches of HS2 line will be necessary through Cumbria and between Gretna Junction and Carstairs, both on grounds of providing necessary capacity and to decrease journey time for HS2 services.

Detailed examination of these proposals by Railfuture Scotland will feature in our response to the just announced Union connectivity review into UK transport Infrastructure led by Sir Peter Hendy.

What is absolutely essential is that the number of paths available to HS2 must not be de-scoped, as discussed by government at the London end, down to 14tph from a planned business case total 18tph. Railfuture will strongly campaign to ensure that HS2 has the capacity to realise its true potential. Additional services to Scotland are dependent on this.

Railfuture will continue to be a serious contributor to the ongoing debate on HS2 to the benefit of the British economy, our environment and our passenger and freight rail network capacity and critically its users.

High Speed 2 Review

HS2 connectivity

High Speed Rail