Wednesday, November 16, 2016

News: Economic case for new HS2 route

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HS2 Ltd has published its economic case for the £55.7 billion North-South high speed train link which now takes into account the proposed changed route through South Yorkshire.

The Government has now said that, in line with the Sir David Higgins route proposals from July, it proposes that "HS2 should serve Sheffield with a connection to the existing station with the main route be moved further east." Consultation is taking place before a final decision is made next year.

In reaching the "minded to" decision, the Department for Transport (Dft) said that the new route provides direct access into Sheffield city centre with HS2 services between London and Sheffield taking a spur off the high speed line and travel directly to the existing Sheffield Midland station using the existing railway line.

It added that previous work by HS2 Ltd was unable to identify an affordable way in which high speed lines could be built into the city centre. Estimated costs for a through route to Sheffield Midland or Victoria were deemed too expensive.

A Sheffield City Council spokesperson said: "Numerous studies demonstrate that stations located in city centres drive more jobs and growth, as the Government's own figures show, and we know that this will bring much bigger economic benefits not just to Sheffield but to the whole city region."

The DfT adds that the route has the potential to serve additional markets with the southern connection providing the opportunity to provide a new HS2 service at Chesterfield. This reflects the regional demand picture and enables areas where there are higher levels of demand for long distance rail journeys to be better served, particularly south west Sheffield and Chesterfield.

Journey times between Sheffield Midland and London are assumed to be between 85 and 87 minutes. The spur east of Rotherham will also reduce journey times for HS2 services heading to Leeds and not stopping in South Yorkshire.

It is admitted that "whilst not as close to Barnsley and Rotherham [as the previous location at Meadowhall] it continues to allow for good access to HS2 from there via a change at Sheffield Midland."

The Government's strategic case for HS2 is that it will enable faster journeys between Leeds, Sheffield, the East Midlands and Birmingham, as well as between London and Manchester, Preston and Scotland. "Building the Northern route ensures that the benefits of HS2 are spread as widely as possible, helping to rebalance our economy and making HS2 truly national in scope."

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HS2 Ltd has used complex models to highlight the economic case for the route reaching the North. The changes mean that it has had to assess the impact of serving Sheffield Midland with two classic compatible services per hour via the spur.

The two services could include the third Leeds train splitting in two at the East Midlands station and the addition of a new service using one of the paths previously reserved for a Heathrow service.

The analysis suggests this service would produce "additional benefits over the Meadowhall Route of £2.1 billion including wider economic benefits, and an increase in revenue of £1.2 billion. At the same time, a reduction in capital costs (£1.2 billion) and an increase in operating costs (£1.5 billion) combine to increase the overall total costs for this option by just under £0.4 billion compared with the Meadowhall Route."

The DfT agrees that the M18 route "reduces the line of route impacts: the mainline would avoid much of the challenging topography, mining risk and densely populated urban areas associated with the Meadowhall route; resulting in fewer direct property demolitions. It also has less interference with watercourses and provides an overall reduction in anticipated noise impacts."

The analysis adds that committing to the the high level of benefits accruing from the M18 Spur Route "comes, however, at the cost of increased operating and rolling stock costs, the opportunity cost of committing to using one of the spare paths now, and enhanced risks that it might be difficult to timetable or run the service reliably."

The spur route also has the potential to meet aspirations for city centre to city centre connectivity if a link on to the HS2 line north of Sheffield was to be built, thereby providing a high speed link to Leeds and beyond. The consultation is looking at the potential to "loop" the spur back to the HS2 line at Clayton which could support a number of service options, including connections between Birmingham and Sheffield, and between Sheffield and Leeds.

The analysis looks at this loop option but does not include any rolling stock costs. It found that it would "produce additional net transport benefits over the Meadowhall Route of £2.0 billion including wider economic benefits, and an increase in revenue of £1.1 billion. In comparison with the Meadowhall Route, the M18 Loop would likely give an incremental reduction in capital costs of around £0.9 billion and an increase in operating costs of £1.7 billion.

"The option of a northern loop connection will incur additional cost over the M18 Spur and our indicative assessment puts the additional capital costs at just under £0.3 billion and operating costs at just under an extra £0.2 billion."

Overall, the comparisons between the Meadowhall route and the M18 route show that the new route slightly improves the business case for the HS2 project. As the consultation continues into 2017, further development is expected by Transport for the North to examine the benefits of providing additional services between Leeds and Sheffield as part of the Northern Powerhouse Rail business case.

HS2 Ltd website

Images: HS2 Ltd


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