Today the Government announced its HS (high speed) 2 route, scything through the countryside from Birmingham to all points north. Well, when we say ‘all points’ we mean Manchester and Leeds, and major cities such as Preston, York, and Crewe. Manchester’s a given, naturally – and it gets two new stations.

Liverpool? It remains silting up on the sidelines again.

When the line’s completed, journey times will be slashed making York and Preston, in effect, closer to the capital.

But it’s not just about times to London, the journey times between HS2 cities will be supercharged too – making, effectively, a two tier transportation system between the north’s major conurbations. For companies with clients dotted around the north, Liverpool will be in the slow lane, a city which is already developing slower than Manchester and Leeds – and, thanks to missing out on last year’s fibre optic broadband grants from central Government, will slow down even more relatively.

After the line’s completion in 2026, Manchester would be 41 minutes from Birmingham and only 1 hour 8 minutes from London, almost halving the current average rail journey times. Leeds would benefit from similarly dramatic reductions, with Birmingham taking less than 1 hour and London 1 hour and 22 minutes.

The stations in Leeds, Sheffield, the East Midlands and Birmingham would each be separated by a journey of less than 20 minutes, making daily commuting easy and providing a high speed line that would integrate their economies as never before.

Manchester Airport would be 32 minutes from Birmingham and 59 minutes from London. The station serving Birmingham Airport would be 38 minutes from London Euston and would gain better direct rail access to Manchester and Leeds. And, with a new station for Manchester Airport, Liverpool John Lennon Airport’s future starts to look ever bleaker.

Last week, Manchester Council bought Stanstead airport. There’s a city that’s really going places – it now owns two of the country’s top five airports (and, in the past year, it’s overtaken us in the number of Easyjet routes). This week, The Governement effectively said Liverpool is less important than Crewe. And why? Because we’re a bridge too far away from the mainline…

In their document, they say:

“We looked first at whether it would be possible to ‘gauge clear’ routes to Liverpool to allow running captive high speed trains there. To do so would be very disruptive to the existing railway. Our high level work found it to be prohibitively expensive, owing to the number of bridges and other structures on the railways into Liverpool, so we did not progress it.

We then looked at whether it would be possible to connect to the existing railways into Liverpool near Warrington, allowing classic compatible trains to run into Liverpool. This could allow a fastest London to Liverpool journey time of 1 hour 26 minutes. It could also allow Warrington to be served.

Our demand model analysis saw an increase in passengers from Liverpool and a near doubling of passengers coming from Warrington indicating the benefit of serving it by HS2. However, the level of benefits would only provide at best a marginal business case for a connection near Warrington because of the cost of the infrastructure to connect (between £390 million and £690 million).”

In the end, the Government has favoured a model that helps support growth in Crewe and North Wales:

“Our modelling showed that these other markets are important in terms of generating benefits and revenue. Crewe, for example, would warrant two trains per hour from London. Although we started looking at how best to serve Liverpool, it became clear that these other markets are an important part of the picture in choosing where to connect to the existing classic network and what stopping patterns to run.”

In summary, our analysis suggests that the strongest economic case would be for a connection at Crewe, giving a faster potential journey time to Liverpool and Warrington, but also allowing intermediate markets including Crewe to be served and bringing benefits to the wider area through its connectivity. The case for this is stronger than that for a connection further north near Warrington as the costs and sustainability impacts would be significant and intermediate markets could not be served by trains using such a connection. The loss of serving those markets would outweigh the incremental benefits to Liverpool and Warrington.”

What do you think? How many bridges would it take for them to turn HS2 away from London, or Manchester? It simply wouldn’t be an issue, would it?

Why do you think Liverpool’s case is only considered to be of ‘incremental’ benefit, yet Manchester, Preston, Crewe and York’s is considered to be of greater importance? Does half an hour here or there make any difference? Or does it, when combined with the hundreds of millions the Highways Agency’s spent on Manchester’s M60 orbital, the same city’s tram extensions and improved connections between Victoria and Piccadilly stations, signal a real shift away from Liverpool and towards our northern neighbours?

A couple of weeks ago, Joe Anderson held a cuts summit in the city, drawing attention to the Draconian slashing of our public funding. An important issue, for sure. But leave Liverpool in the hinterlands of the nation’s transport network and the case for bringing international businesses here (surely our only route to a healthy economic future) looks like it’s stalled just as it’s got itself into gear.

What our MPs said in Parliament:

Curiously, Maria Eagle (Garston and Haelwood) is ‘100% behind the project’ and, on the specifics of the route, could only bring herself to say: “will the Secretary of State accept that today’s decision to kick into the long grass how HS2 will connect to Heathrow is a major error?” She didn’t mention Liverpool at all. Not once.

Louise Ellman (Liverpool Riverside) said…

I welcome today’s statement, which represents important investment for the future, but will the Secretary of State confirm that that will be part of investment in an integrated national rail system so that areas that are not on the high-speed line will benefit, too?

In reply, Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire Dales, Conservative) said:

“Indeed I can. I am grateful to the Chairman of the Select Committee on Transport, who I know will probably want to carry out a detailed inquiry into this matter. Although it is true that some areas are not covered by high-speed rail at the moment, it will go up to Birmingham in the first instance and then to Manchester, and journeys will be able to carry on from there, as they do in Kent on the line that goes down to Ashford.”

The MP for Wirral, Alison McGovern said:

High Speed 2 is incredibly important for all of Merseyside and our city region’s development. Further to the answers that the Secretary of State has given already on connectivity, will he confirm that the northern hub should not be the end of better inter-city rail services in the north of England, but the start and that we need to start planning for better now?

Patrick McLoughlin replied:

Yes. I was in Liverpool and met the mayor a few weeks ago. It was substantially easier to get from London to Liverpool than it was to get from Liverpool back to Derby.

And Frank Field (Birkenhead, Labour) added:

I direct the Secretary of State back to the question about construction beginning in the north. Given that London is all-powerful and will see this project completed, if it is in London’s interest, will he take a new stance on the hybrid Bill? If the leaders in Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds could fit in with his timetable, might we have a hybrid Bill please?

Patrick McLoughlin replied:

Of course I will consider the representations, but it is not so much a question of those leaders of cities in the north fitting in with the timetable, but of the other areas we have to address in the proposals. We are out to consultation, and the right hon. Gentleman will have heard that some people are not too happy with the route proposed and would like changes and adjustments to be made. That takes time, and once we have settled on the route—as I said, we are out to consultation, which means I have not settled on one—we will have to carry out environmental assessments and the like, which I am afraid take considerable time. I am keen to get on with this as quickly as possible, but I am constrained by what we need to do.

23 Responses to “Life in the Slow Lane”

  1. Great feature. But there’s a case for both sides – perhaps a high speed link up to the north would just mean Manchester/York/etc become just another London commuter town, rather than the businesses physically moving up this direction? And pushing up house prices?

  2. Laura Brown

    With absolutely no experience in travel other than getting on and off trains and planes is it because Liverpool is an end point rather than a connecting one? (I don’t even know the lingo???)

    On a kind of unrelated musing, listening to the reaction on the radio this morning the thing that jumped out to me was the positive attitude by Richard Leese from MCC. Of course you’re GOING to be positive if you have a generation’s worth of investment as Manchester does but it was very “can-do” as opposed to “ar ey”.

    The focus has to be on improving connections from Liverpool to Manchester, Crewe and Warrington. The Liverpool Manchester line is one of the most shambolic and uncomfortable in the country and it does us no favours to be so difficult to get to by rail.

  3. Excellent but depressing article. Maria Eagle thinks this is a great deal for Liverpool. Unbelievable lack of ambition. Lobbying for a full HS2 service needs to continue and the figures form the DfT challenged. As the West Cost Main Line Franchise fiasco shown they aren’t infallible…

  4. No point whining about a missed opportunity. It was never going to come here, we’re lucky we got them to demand high speed as far as Crewe, the original cheaper plan was for them to slow at Lichfield. This would have made the gap between Liverpool – London and Manchester – London journey times much bigger. With the Crewe spur it’s fairly negliable and shouldn’t effect business too much.

    We’re already a spur from the main line geographically, always have been. The reason Preston and York are on it aren’t cos the Government loves them but because they’re already on the main line onto bigger places, this is why to go to Edinburgh etc most people travelling from Liverpool have to change at Preston. It’s a true also that the engineering to enter Liverpool, not only away from the main line but through difficult terrain, narrow cuttings, we’ve all left Lime Street, which probably does outweigh the cost/benefit for the UK as a whole at this stage.

    Pretty much my entire family work/ed on railways, so trust me I know what I’m talking about. Britain as a whole needs a new high speed railway, most countries if they don’t already have them are in the process of building them. Once it’s built this far we can campaign for an extension, shouldn’t be too hard.

    John Lennon airport was already backward, The Council missed out to Manchester in the 1960s and there’s no going back now, we’re lucky it’s as successful as it is.

    Cheer up, this was the best we were ever gonna get as is good for the North and UK as a whole. The Council should mount a campaign to get Liverpool connected for defo in the next phase. But far more important are the electrification of Liverpool – Manchester line, electrification of Bidston – Wrexham and improvements on the freight lines into Halton and Seaforth.

  5. John Walker

    Appreciate this is not ideal for Liverpool.

    There is some hope for the future linking of Liverpool to the HS line. Noting that the new line heads up much further north to the west of Lymm, before turning east into Manchester, this allows any new route out of Liverpool to connect both to the southbound HS line and eastward into Manchester, and possibly beyond to Leeds (‘Northern Way’) – a greater business case for developing a new line out of Liverpool if ever there happened to be one.. Liverpool generates less than half the passengers to London as Manchester does (see WCML RUS documents), and failed to generate enough passengers to support an air link to London.

    It’s also fortunate the line heads as far north as it does considering earlier plans to run Liverpool HS trains on the conventional WCML from just north of Birmingham. Currently trains to Manchester branch off before Stafford (sometimes just after as well). Had the HS line branched off to Manchester here, it would have left a longer stretch of WCML to run on to Liverpool, and cancelled out the above ‘Northern Way’ option and subsequent business case.

    Linking up the 3-great City-Region economies of the north brings an economic scale comparable to Greater London. Whilst the GL gets Crossrail (£16bn), we would benefit from such a rapid, reliable transport link over a distance 2.5 times greater, and with a considerable physical barrier in the way (those hills). Current Trans-Pennine rail and M62 vehicle options are anything but reliable…

  6. Pretty sure the second phase of HS2 (i.e Manchester/de Norf) isn’t planned to be complete till 2032/33? Not 2026 (which is the Birmingham branch right?) How would that therefore affect the time between Manchester and Birmingham unless it already is 40 odd mins at the moment?

    To be honest this was the best we could expect given what had been drip fed over the past years. It doesn’t mean we should concede defeat, nothing is built yet. If we really want this, which is questionable, make London need to come here, not belittle other towns.

  7. The argument that the cost of bridges required was prohibitive just doesn’t stack up to me:

    a) They’re building a hulking high speed tunnel under manchester in order to bring it to a spanking new station in the heart of the city. You’re telling me that doesn’t cost a heck of a lot more than a bridge over the mersey (and/or leaving manchester’s station at the airport, a la Sheffield)?
    b) We have plenty of dis-used tunnels under the city to handle routing new lines (possibly to new platforms) and it wouldn’t be a big deal to anyone to slow to say 50mph for the final city approach to avoid needing excessive line upgrades.
    c) Importantly, we’re *already* building a new bridge over the mersey, so why not expand it back to accommodate trains (as I believe it was originally intended to)? No need for them to have to chip in more than a mere contribution.

    Some hope of future linking to the HS line is irrelevant – by then the damage will have been done and it’s obvious: Manchester will have soared away in terms of investment. HS2 doesn’t even have to be built, the mere notion of it is enough.

    Generally, while I agree you have to give London a reason to come, there is only so much you can do and if you have a government that controls all the money and infrastructure investment and chooses pointedly to spend it next door, and nothing on you, then all the reasons for London to travel are being given to your next door neighbour, and denied to you. Of course Liverpool has less than half the London train passengers than Manchester – it has less than half the trains. Why should our economic prosperity be held hostage to this treatment? No. We should be treated equally and you’re right to raise it.

  8. HS2 crosses the 1830, straight, Liverpool-Mcr line. HS2 can branch into this line. It drops to 2 tracks at Queens Drive/M62. because in the 1970s the built a bridge there reducing the width. This needs widening. The odd bridge along the way may need widening.

    The expense at running HSR into Manchester is phenomenal with the 7.5 mile tunnel and station, to widening few bridges to Liverpool.

    Liverpool need to mobilize to get HS2 right into the city. It is matter is parity. The city will be greatly disadvantaged. It also needs a station at the airport connected directly to all towns in the region.

    John Prescot was the one who promoted Mcr to be the UKs second city. The Tories liked it as they have a hatred for Liverpool (Geoffrey Howes paper?) – they see the city as a Tory wasteland. Mcr had a Labour Council. Liverpool stupidly voted in the LibDems all the time Labour was in Whitehall, so got no favours. Then when Labour was voted out at national level voted in Labour. What a city! No wonder it lags behind.

  9. Manchester is having a 7.5 mile tunnel bored to access the city centre directly and a station at their airport. Needless, expensive, “tunnels” are being constructed over flat rural land in the southern Tory shires to placate the Tory NIMBYs, who do not like the noise. The trains were to be in a cutting with noise reducing trees lining the cutting producing little noise.

    Yet when it comes to widening bridges to Liverpool it is too expensive for them. A 7.5 mile tunnel into Liverpool is not even considered. HS2 could come up the Wirral on fields and through a tunnel to Liverpool, and a tunnel not 7.5 miles long either.

    Liverpool need to have the Hillsborough attitude of “we will not give up” and hinder and harry HMG until parity and justice comes about.

  10. The best writing on this issue that I’ve read. Well done Seven Streets. It’s not so much about Liverpool being at the end of the line. Many cities are at the end of the line. It’s about a determination, ever since Prescott’s Pathfinder, that Liverpool should play second fiddle to Manchester. As has been borne out with Media City, the Highways Agency, Trams, Trains, Airports, central government funding. No wonder they didn’t turn up to the cuts summit. They don’t need to. Liverpool has to wake up and realise that the only way it’s going to get out of its economic woes is to make the city the most advantageous to invest in, and that means a big yes to Liverpool Waters and to the mayor’s enterprise zones, and to stronger ties with Shanghai. At least with Anderson we have a socialist who understands and wants to engage with business. The private sector, and the public purse is over. And Manchester has a generations head start, thanks to Hatton.

  11. Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, gave interviews about the HS2.

    He said “that cities like Manchester would benefit from HS2 even before it was extended beyond Birmingham”.

    I wonder how? The times reduced because of the speed from London to Birmingham? Land prices rising in anticipation lining parasite landowners pockets? This is happening along Crossrail right now. Taxpayers money lining the pockets of those who do not pay for the rail lines.

    He said there could be changes to the route proposed.

    “This is a matter of consultation. It’s not absolutely final and we’ll listen to representations that are made and we’ll want to see where we can make some changes where that is possible.”

  12. fairminded

    This might be one of the most stupid things i’ve ever suggested, or possibly one of the most sensible. Could Liverpool not create a direct hovercraft service from London to Liverpool?, No cutting into the countryside, no long drawn out process, we could be up and running long before the train system is in place .
    We are getting back on the map as a cruise destination,so why not use this positivity to use the mersey.
    (i’ve tried googling waterway that you would need to access to get here,but nothing coming up).

  13. John Walker

    Any HS line into Liverpool would spur off from the HS line into Manchester at its northernmost point (east of Lymm), and not enter via the current route (WCML, Weaver Junction, Runcorn), so there’d be no new crossing of the Mersey required, and no new separate line expense from the Crewe vacinity.

    This is not good for Liverpool. Cities with much less to offer the UK are being connected (Sheffield, Derby-Nottingham, and you could argue Leeds too – and I’m from Yorkshire!). It’s full steam ahead for Manchester Airport and it’s Airport City Enterprise Zone, based on pharmaceutical technology…sounds like ambitions for South Liverpool business parks are being undermined? It has a stop yet a Heathrow spur is excluded! Linking Heathrow was a primary driver for HS2 development yet is dropped from plans – what the?

    It’s tragic that Peel’s plans are not being supported, our single biggest long term investor? Wirral Waters International Trade Centre already underway. Liverpool Waters and its associated Govt. sanctioned Enterprise Zone (no idea what business / industry is going in there, have you????). Whilst the Enterprise Zone timeframe is unclear, Liverpool Waters has a 30-year ambition. In 20-years time the HS2 line into Manchester will be opening.

    Just how has our exclusion undermined Peel’s ability to suck in investment to the City, and how do our MP’s in prominant Transport positions feel about this? There is time provided….

  14. John Walker

    Liverpool is planned to branch off the HS2 at Crewe and use the existing WCML into Liverpool. It makes more sense to branch off at the point the HS2 crosses the L’pool-Mcr line and run directly, and straight, into Liverpool. They do not want to spend on widening the bridges on this route. The maps show that the branch line from near Mcr airport is a slower track, yet the details state it is the same speed.

    About Peel. They spout a lot but so far have delivered NOTHING. They are a Manchester based company and do not fully understand deep water Liverpool. OK work has actually started on some projects but will they come to fruition? The project as the West Float in Birkenhead is just another B&Q looking shed. Liverpool & Wirral Waters are cheap and nasty with anytown buildings around the quays.

    HMG stated HSR was all about “capacity” and speed second, but that is nonsense, as it is all about speed to London for four cities: Leeds, Mcr, Brum and Sheffield. All large important cities have underground urban rail networks. Not one of those above has one – Liverpool has one.

    What has not been in Liverpool’s favour is the dillying for near 15 years about two new stadia for LFC & EFC and the not needed Merseytram fiasco. Also having no station at the airport. The city should have been hard on getting the station. The city does itself no favours. Manchester got their trams and new stadium built pronto.

  15. “John Lennon airport was already backward, The Council missed out to Manchester in the 1960s and there’s no going back now, we’re lucky it’s as successful as it is.”

    The CAA did a survey on airports and concluded that Liverpool is by far the best for expansion. The planes mainly fly over a wide estuary reducing noise pollution. Runways can go into the river on causeways. Pretests will be minimal, unlike everywhere else which can delay expansion for decades. Manchester airport cannot be expanded. Not having a HSR link to John Lennon is madness for the UK, not just Liverpool.

  16. John Walker

    Understand the plan is to branch off at Crewe and run on conventional tracks into Liverpool over the Runcorn bridge. If a HS line is going to come into Liverpool then trains would run right upto the Lymm junction at 250mph, and head in from there. It’s logical to not construct an expensive separate HS line up from Crewe to Liverpool. As from Lymm into Liverpool there’s a fairly obvious open corridor already identified or the possibility of upgrading one of the two lines that run into the city. I hope it happens in future, we need it to not be put at an economic disadvantaged.

  17. John Bradley

    The more I have seen of this the more obvious it is we have been snubbed.

    The talk of gauge clearance doesn’t make sense the “classic compatibles” will be what is run on the Crewe Liverpool link, they are designed to fit in the existing gauge and also to run at full speed on the HS2 line. The line from Crewe is fairly straight what would stop the high speed is the lack of in cab signalling used on HS2 but as that is ETCS Level 3 it can be implemented on the spur. The other problem is the stopping trains getting in the way. Well quadrupling at suitable points along the route would allow them to act as passing loops, and the stopping trains could be be sped up somewhat. The other problems are the lack of airport connectivity and the shortness of the platforms at lime street. There is more at stake here than just HS2. I have written some of it up here.

  18. as someone who grew up on merseyside and now lives in Leeds I’m sympathetic to the situation the city of Liverpool finds itself in. However, I think its important that we dont get too carried away with wailing and gnashing of teeth. It is a fact that the reduced journey durations are a ‘side benefit’ of HS2 where the primary benefit is that of increase capacity. Liverpool finding itself 30 minutes further down the line than manchester from london isnt going to be a deal breaker for business looking to locate (or relocate). It can take much longer than 30 minutes to commute from outer suburbs to city central stations. Of much more importance to those businesses will be local infrastructure (of which liverpool has the potential to have a great urban and suburban metro system in merseyrail). Business rates, ready supply of well educated/trained workers. All of which is within LCCs gift to provide or manage (unlike national infrastructure projects). The northern hub project currently underway is of immense importance in reducing journey times between the great northern cities. This is much more important in the rebalancing of the countries economy than building a north south HS line that in all likelihood will simply serve to reinforce the economic advantages that London currently enjoys. Ask yourself why the government isnt offering a billion each to Liverpool,Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield etc etc to allow those respective cities to develope world class local transport infrastructure? The answer is that it doesnt serve to increase the south easts economic advantage to do that.

    Finally, thank your lucky stars that you arent Nottingham, Derby, or Sheffield who have all been provided with ‘parkway stations’ which mean that to travel from the city centre using HS will actually take longer than current journey times.

    A piece on a Leeds blog ‘the culture vulture’ sums up what we in the north should be thinking quite nicely…..

  19. “But it’s not just about times to London, the journey times between HS2 cities will be supercharged too – making, effectively, a two tier transportation system between the north’s major conurbations.”

    But this isn’t even really true. If only. The route would mean that Birmingham and London are connected to whole network, but because of the spur after Birmingham splitting the line to the serve the North and East Mids/Yorkshire cities, actually all these places won’t even be better connected to each other. Never has public money been spent in quite such an obviously London-centric manner.

  20. As it stands Liverpool is at a clear disadvantage. The city of Liverpool should lay down an ultimatum. We get a direct HS2 link or we actively oppose HS2. Opposition is strong, Liverpool lining up against HS2 may tip it so it is scrapped.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.