Revised HS2 Junction at Lichfield could save £1bn+ and offer increased flexibility for the future.
At Transport for Britain we have been closely analysing the HS2 route to see how the project may be improved while saving costs and increasing access to the new service. The first of our proposals is detailed below together with the associated benefits. We would welcome any other considered improvements from readers to add to our proposed revisions to the current building projects.
Our first proposal involves moving the connection to the West-Coast Mainline just south of Lichfield.
The current junction has been designed to provide a link between HS2 and West Coast Main Line about 3 miles north of Lichfield (A). The main HS2 track then continues to run in parallel with WCML until it re-joins near Crewe.
However, it would be a very simple (and inexpensive) task to connect HS2 to the WCML just south of Lichfield Trent Valley where HS2 first crosses over the WCML (B). This junction could be achieved with modest curvature (no more angular than the current projected join near Fradley and within an additional track length of no more than 1 mile.
Not only would this facilitate a good reason for an additional HS2 station at Lichfield TV, but it would also delay (and potentially prevent) the future need of having a Phase 2 track built at all to the North West. At the very least it would reduce the length of the connecting piece by approximately 3 miles which is equivalent to £1 billion savings.
The main benefit of having an additional stop at Lichfield TV though will be to enable connections from the North East i.e. Burton, Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield to utilise Phase 1 of HS2. This connection would initially mean changing trains at LTV but could be further improved from a time/speed point of view to allow tracks to converge (albeit not stopping at Lichfield in this case). In order to facilitate the new justification for allowing HS2 trains to stop at LTV there are the following issues/ considerations:
- The existing working and fully maintained track between LTV and Alrewas needs to be reopened for passengers
- This fulfils the dual advantage of opening up that same track for local services to the National Memorial Arboretum and onward to Burton
- A connecting service from the NE would have to run initially on diesel and therefore would not in any case be compatible with HS2 services
- If passenger demand for HS2 services dictates more capacity/ higher speed then it would make perfect sense to electrify the Cross Country services (one of the worst performing mainline services in the UK) and thus provide the additional benefit of speeding up a large chunk of the Cross Country network
- Electrifying the Cross Country route between Lichfield and Sheffield or Leeds could provide sufficient speed and operating efficiency gains to negate totally the need for HS2 phase 2 to the North East (always by far the weaker case compared to North West due to better/faster existing services). This could lead to savings in the order of £20 billion and provide a better connected service than the current plans for HS2 stations excluding Leeds.