Despite billions of pounds spent over the last decade to modernise the West Coast Main Line, it is struggling to cater for a mix of intercity, local and freight trains. The Government is examining the case for expansion of the roads and runways: expanding these would have much worse impacts than HS2. But there are also potential positive benefits to consider. HS2 would free up existing lines by removing many of the non-stop long distance trains, allowing these railways to be reclaimed for extra local services and more rail freight. The alternative of adding more seats to existing trains simply would not do this.
Although we support the principle of a new north-south railway, we’re worried both about the way HS2 is being planned, as well as the impacts of the proposed route itself. What makes things more difficult is that, at the moment, there is no national, long term transport strategy for HS2 to be judged against.
The trouble is, the prospect of major changes to the route is limited because of the very high speed that HS2 is being designed for and the Government's timetable to deliver it. The range of routes considered was constrained because inflexible objectives were set early on without any public consultation. In particular HS2 has been designed from the start to meet a theoretical top speed of 400km/h (250mph) and to link into out-of-town interchange (parkway) stations in the Green Belt.
CPRE wants to see HS2 and broader government policy changed so that there is:
- better protection of the landscape, its character and tranquillity, if need be by reducing the speed HS2 is designed for
- scrapping of the out-of-town stations proposed in the Green Belt and focus instead on planning for HS2 to regenerate brownfield land in northern cities
- a shift from road and air to rail by focusing major transport investment on better urban and rural railway networks rather than a major new road-building programme.
We have petitioned Parilament to request that the Government changes HS2 and wider policy to addresss our concerns.
Soundbite reacting to launch of HS2 Design Panel (November 2015)
Along the route
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