No Go-Slow for HS2
The alternative M40 route
In the second and third part of this post Alan Marshall looks at the alternative routes examined, with specific reference to speed. In recent days opponents have attacked the business case for the Heathrow spur at the ongoing judicial review, but this has surely highlighted an obvious divide within their ranks.
There are opponents who seem to wish to stop high-speed rail altogether such as Stop HS2, whereas Cheryl Gillan MP and Michael Fabricant MP, among others, are seeking an alternative route via Heathrow and the M40. There are many more groups who are not clear whether they wish to reroute HS2 or stop all high-speed rail altogether.
Alan Marshall writes:
Chiltern Line and M40 alignment at 300km/h — ‘£3bn more expensive’
This option would have a journey time between Euston and Birmingham of 56 minutes as opposed to 49 minutes. It would encounter a much greater number of major population centres than the now-proposed route — including Gerrard’s Cross, Beaconsfield, High Wycombe and Princes Risborough. “These four locations alone have a combined population in excess of 110,000 people. This would result in unacceptable impacts on communities through major demolitions, severance and noise impacts,” according to HS2 Ltd.
As a result, this route would require substantial sections of tunneling, said HS2 Ltd. “For example, it would need to be tunnelled under Gerrard’s Cross, surfacing to pass through the area around Seer Green before entering a seven-and-half-mile long tunnel under both Beaconsfield and High Wycombe.”
In addition, in running as close as practicable to the M40 corridor the route would need to avoid six motorway junctions through the use of flyovers or tunnels, adding to the engineering complexity and cost, and “there would also inevitably be significant disruption to the road and motorway network during construction over two to three years,” HS2 Ltd said.
“This would contribute to total costs of £19.5 billion, making it a £3 billion more expensive option than the [now-recommended] route which would cost £16.5 billion.”
As a result, the Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) of the scheme would be reduced by 25 per cent or more, HS2 Ltd reckoned, adding: “The seven minute journey time penalty would also apply to all destinations further north, both initially for trains running onto the classic network and later on a wider network . . . Designing a wider network with a similar maximum speed of 300km/h would mean that further additional time would be added to journeys to all cities beyond Birmingham.”