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HS2 – Hybrid Solution?

The Government has committed to spending up to £106bn on HS2. It is now essential to ensure that it will be a worthwhile investment benefitting more than just a tiny percentage of the population. The benefits of introducing an additional ‘hybrid’ mode of transport to this HS2 transport corridor are manifold. 

HS2 Train

The Government gave the green light to proceed with construction of HS2 on the 15th April despite the increased cost and significant changes in the behaviour of the travelling public expected as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. While many of us may feel proceeding with this project doesn’t make sense from an economic, user or environmental perspective, the Government has committed to spending up to £106bn on HS2 and the necessity is therefore to ensure that it will be a worthwhile investment benefitting more than just a tiny percentage of the population.

There is a fundamental problem in the limited number of stations and access to them. For anyone living between Birmingham (Interchange) and London that means there is no benefit.

This could change if there were intermediate stations and with no impact on existing HS2 services if it is built as a 4 track network from where the Y joins instead of the current 2 tracks. It is astonishing that the current plan is for only 2 lines when that provides for no redundancy, maintenance or any future capacity issues to be addressed.

However, the main benefit of providing additional tracks will be to better connect road users to HS2. By the time even the first stretch of HS2 is opened, many of us could be driving autonomous cars. In these circumstances, any advantage offered by faster rail journey times will be a poor alternative to the convenience of entering an enclosed pod and putting our feet up while being transported to any destination we choose.

New purpose-built roads are needed to ensure that next gen autonomous cars can run smoothly and unfettered from point A to B. There will be no bottlenecks or traffic jams on such roads as everything will be controlled by software to ensure minimum distances are kept between vehicles and running speeds governed electronically.   

There is a precedent for putting roads alongside railways and the planned HS2 spur to the north east runs almost parallel to the M42. The M1 near Watford Gap is only metres away from the West Coast Main Line and co-exists quite comfortably: 

Railway line and motorway running side by side

An electrified HS2 toll motorway, which in future could be exclusively for use by electric vehicles, will help encourage people to switch to electric cars and remove the need to stop and recharge enroute. The cost of converting even existing roads to electrification could be as little as £1million per mile. A national network of electric motorways could have complete payback in 5 years and result in a 70% reduction in carbon emissions.

Running cars on electrified road not only means that cars will need much smaller batteries but there will be an elimination of range anxiety and tedious long stays in motorway service stations to charge.

This technology is already being piloted in Sweden:

The benefits of introducing an additional ‘hybrid’ mode of transport to this HS2 transport corridor are manifold.  

Timescales for ROI on the £106 Billion investment as is will take us to the end of this century at least. An added toll road could bring a return on investment down to as little as 30 years. M6 Toll currently costs £6.70 to cover 27 miles so £20 should cover the 80 miles from end of existing Toll to the M25.     A return fare of £40 on a guaranteed journey time of 1 hour (no harm in raising the speed limit on a governed system) would be a price that many motorists would consider paying. Especially given the equivalent cost of a standard class peak hour train ticket from Birmingham to London is £196 return.

A new HS2 toll motorway would bring immense benefits to people living within 10 – 20 miles of the HS2 route and most importantly, in combination with additional stations / parking, will greatly raise passenger numbers. It is astounding that the current proposal does not have any means of enabling car users to connect to HS2 anywhere other than Birmingham Interchange. For example, connecting to the M25 could yield an additional 25,000 daily commuters. It could take 7 mins to London Euston. 

It is hard to see how passenger numbers would be greater than 10,000 per day for Phase 1 when the parking at Birmingham Interchange is limited to 7,400 spaces. Additional stations at Lichfield (2,500), Coventry/Leamington (2,500), Brackley (1,000), Aylesbury (4,000) and M25 (25,000) could quadruple volumes. In addition, the Toll road could raise £730 million in annual revenue with 100k daily users.

The latest estimate for opening the first section of HS2 from London to Birmingham are 2028 – 2031. A Toll road by comparison could be open in 3 years. There could be a choice of making it exclusively autonomous, electric or open to all traffic initially. Wind turbines could be used to generate power.

The cost of building a parallel motorway should be very low. The M25 cost £909 million (117 miles), the M6 toll was £900m (27 miles). In this case there will already be groundworks in place and with the economies of scale of a combined project even allowing for inflation it would be unlikely to cost more than £4 – 6 billion for 3 electrified lanes in each direction.

 With the Government ban on sales of new petrol or diesel powered cars coming into effect in 2035, there is no time to lose in developing the infrastructure requirements of the future to support such legislation.

If you agree with the HS2 Hybrid solution why not have your say and complete out short survey. If you like what Transport for Britain stands for and agree with the work we doing to make Britains transport infrastructure the best in the world join our crowd funding program.

Minor changes to the HS2 Route could add value and improve economic viability

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.

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.

    For further details click here.


    HS2 Folly or Economic Necessity

    While we are still in the throes of the Covid-19 outbreak many of us are wondering what the UK will look like post pandemic and how the changes brought about by the lockdown might change our future lives, both good and bad.

    HS2 Artist Impression of station platforms

    For example, with many companies seeing the cost-saving and productivity benefits of office-based staff working from home, it is very likely that this will continue for many, albeit in a reduced form, with perhaps one or two days a week based at home. The result being fewer journeys to and from work.

    There is going to be a reduction in people’s willingness to travel on over-crowded public transport for the foreseeable future. In addition, the need for social distancing will also significantly cut capacity on already overstretched services. These factors will significantly reduce the number of daily journeys on public transport when compared to pre-pandemic levels and is likely to result in more people taking to their cars where they can or seeking an alternative where they are able, such as cycling or walking to work.

    Air travel worldwide has reduced by around 95% with virtually no domestic UK flights. As a result, and with the plethora of new, reliable video conferencing services such as Zoom, 8 x 8 and WhatsApp, the video conference call has come-of-age and will make all of us consider whether a journey is absolutely necessary. It is also very likely that with the economic impact of the pandemic the number of airlines and therefore capacity will be significantly reduced (we have already seen Virgin Australia and closer to home Flybe go out of business with many others on the brink of collapse) making it harder to find suitable flights and easier / more cost effective to get into our cars if we absolutely have to travel.

    We then, of course, have the environmental impact of the pandemic. With two thirds of the world’s population having their movements severely restricted, 2020 will see the greatest reduction in green-house gas emissions ever recorded. While this reduction in emissions is clearly not sustainable – industry around the world will need to re-start – it will serve to further heighten people’s awareness of Global Warming as the most pressing issue of our time and hopefully, our ability as individuals to make a difference. When you combine this heightened awareness with Government obligations to reduce green-house emissions it is very likely we will see more people seeking alternatives to travel or buying electric vehicles. This plays into the hands of Government policy to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2035. This in itself raises a whole set of challenges for Government in terms of charging infrastructure and capacity of our road network.

    We also have the direct economic impact. With a prolonged shut-down, many UK businesses and particularly those in the service industry will not survive, unemployment will rise sharply and the resultant reduction in economic capacity will lead to the country’s worst recession in living memory. In addition, with reduced tax revenues and the highest levels of debt ever carried by Government, tough decisions on investment in transport infrastructure will need to be made. For example, is the £106bn current price tag for HS2 really justifiable, particularly given the likelihood people will be happier and find it cheaper to travel in their own cars when they need to make a journey.

    So in summary, from a transport and travel perspective people’s behaviour is likely to be very different post pandemic. We will all be considering if a journey is absolutely necessary and, when we do make a journey our preference is likely to be by car, bicycle or foot rather than public transport / flying, with more of us driving electric vehicles supporting the need to reduce carbon emissions and following Government policy.

    With recession looming the Government will need to prioritise the funding it has for strategic transport infrastructure projects and consider if giving the green light to projects such as HS2 offer best value. This is particularly the case given the likely changes in travel behaviour and, of course, the need for ever greater capacity on our roads to keep Britain moving.

    At Transport for Britain we would love to hear your views on HS2 – send us a message or e-mail us at info@transportforbritain.co.uk


    Road Projects

    Britains roads are essential to our everyday lives and a healthy economy. Learn how Transport for Britain is facilitating use of the latest technologies to help meet future demand, lower emissions and reduce environmental impact.

    Billions needed for EV Charging Infrastructure

    Transport for Britain urges the Government to develop a coherent national strategy for EV charging infrastructure which not only provides adequate funding to Highways England and Local Authorities for building sufficient public rapid and fast-charge points to help meet the 2035 target but which also seeks to invest in developing new charging technologies as seen piloted in other parts of the world.

    Transport for Britain believes Government would be better investing in new technologies and infrastructure to support the EV revolution and, importantly the achievement of their own targets, rather than fund high price tag, vanity transport projects such as HS2 which will deliver limited benefits to the majority of the UK population. Let us know what you think? For more detail see our news article.


    Electric Roads are Key to EV Revolution

    Roads which charge electric vehicles are going to play a major part in the EV revolution world wide. Both Sweden and Germany are already testing sections of mortorway with different charging systems and several other countries are already planning electric roads building projects including India.

    As with all emerging technologies there are a number of electric road systems currently available. The Swedish system uses twin tracks laid just beneath the road surface while the system being used in Germany uses overhead cables similar to trams and electric trains. Both these systems require a physical connection to enable charging however, newely emerging induction charging offers a truely wireless option. Induction technology is currently being piloted in London by Transport for London to charge stationary taxis.

    Transport for Britain believes electric roads offer a viable enviromentally sustainable solution for all road users without the need to stop and charge and we believe there development and construction will be critical in helping the Government meet its emmissions targets and specifically in getting logistics companies to switch to EV’s in the coming years. Investment now in the right electric road technology for Britians is needed. Support Transport for Britian in getting Government to add electrification of our roads to their national road infrastructure development strategy and plans.

    Rail Projects

    Britains railways have suffered from decades of underinvestment while passenger numbers have pushed the network to breaking point. Transport for Britain is working to facilitate major investment in our existing railway infrastructure to help increase capacity and service reliability.

    £4.8bn needed for our Railways - Government announces £500m Investment

    On 20th January the Government announced £500m funding in support of reopening stations and sections of track closed as a result of the 1963 Beeching report. Critics were quick to point out that such a small sum could only fund the reinstatement of around 25 miles of track at today’s prices and that billions would need to be pledged by the Government to deliver worthwhile projects. In a recent report and guide,  The case for expanding the rail network, Campaign for Better Transport calls for a £4.8 billion expansion programme to bring an additional half a million people within walking distance of a train station and allow an additional 20 million passengers journeys a year on the network. Working with Railfuture and with support from the Department for Transport, Expanding the Railways takes local authorities, developers and communities through the process from having an initial idea for a rail project right through to running the first train.

     The Government has already invited bids for reinstatement projects and following this first round (further rounds will follow) has selected 10 projects out on an initial 50 bids submitted to receive funding for evaluation / viability. These projects are:

    • reopening Meir Railway Station between Stoke-On-Trent and North Staffordshire
    • passenger services on the Barrow Hill line between Sheffield and Chesterfield
    • passenger services on the Leicester to Burton (Ivanhoe) line
    • reinstatement of branch lines on the Isle of Wight
    • reinstatement of passing loop between St Albans Abbey and Watford Junction (Abbey Line)
    • reopening of Wellington and Cullompton stations
    • passengers services on the Bury-Heywood-Rochdale lines
    • regular passenger services on the Clitheroe to Hellifield railway line
    • reinstatement of rail access to Devizes via a new station at Lydeway
    • passenger services on the Totton-Fawley (Waterside) line

    To read the Expanding the Railways click on the link above. Message us on social media to tell us which stations and lines you would like to see open to rail traffic.

    Cycleways and Footpaths Projects

    The health and happiness benefits of cycling and walking are well documented while only 6% of people cycle and 14% walk to work. Transport for Britain is lobbying for greater public funding of cycleways and footpaths across the UK.

    Sustained Investment Needed in Footpaths and Cycleways

    Transport for Britain welcomes the Government’s recent announcement to invest an extra £23 million to rejuvenate cycling and walking across England. However, given the enormity of the Governments commitments to reducing emissions and improving the health and wealth of the UK population we believe many more millions will need to be invested in our footpaths and cycleways to make them the transport option of choice for those who currently rely on the convenience of their cars for short / local journeys such as the school run. It is also critical that this and any future investment is made as a part of a wider integrated transport infrastructure strategy which includes investment in our existing road, rail and public transport network making them smarter, greener and more energy efficient.

    As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic we have a once in a life-time opportunity to permanently reduce emissions and improve the health and wellbeing of the British people. We can help do this by making our footpaths and cycleways the best in the world, by incentivising their use and by making it more costly and / or less convenient to travel by private petrol / diesel car for those shorter journeys. To make our cycleways and footpaths the best in the world and make them the ‘go-to’ choice for short local journeys we need to invest hundreds of millions rather than tens of millions – if you agree let us know!

    More Dedicated Cycleways Needed

    Safety is one of main reasons people are often reluctant to cycle rather than use their cars for those shorter journeys. Clearly the answer to this in our cities is more dedicated cycleways separated from other traffic by a purpose built barrier / curb which send the right kind of message to both cyclists and car drivers. It might restrict cars somewhat but it is undoubtedly safer than sharing a single carriageway. So how do we best create those dedicated cycleways and footpaths between urban centres and through our beautiful British countryside?


    One answer would be to analyse traffic usage and then allocate seldomly used roads and back lanes which are often unsuitable for users other than farm traffic or cyclists anyway as dedicated cycleways. These would only be added where the existing National Cycle Network shares busy roads or where there are no cycle routes at present.

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