Saturday, 2 February 2013

This blog is running late.

Route by Cnbrb
I'm sorry for this late update but I, along with a significant portion of the population of Liverpool and Merseyside, have been rolling around on the floor since Monday's HS2 announcement, clutching the most sensitive parts of our anatomy. The only major exceptions seem to be the politicians who seem to be of the opinion that nothing is amiss. Take this from the Luciana Berger "Good News on High Speed 2" a woman I have great respect and indeed lust for, but you'll notice no comments allowed on this one.
There has been some noises from some parts of the local media such as Larry Neild in Liverpool Confidential. The Liverpool Echo even managed a question mark on some of its adverts  but was still rather muted in "Business leaders push for high-speed rail link direct to Liverpool" what they don't seem to have noticed or have the guts to say is that Liverpool Politicians have failed, yet again, to secure an adequate result for Liverpool.
The best result would have been a direct link like Manchester, which went via the airport to a new station in the city centre but there are alternative packages of work which Liverpool needs and which would be directly relevant to HS2. The great and the good of Liverpool should now be trying to get some of these built in the 20 years we will be waiting for HS2.

Spur on

One option will be the conversion of the West Coast Main Line spur, from Crewe to Liverpool, to ETCS level 3, this will move the speed of the line up to at least 150 mph, an increase in top speed of 20%.  If we imagine that this can raise the average speed from Crewe from 64.8 mph to about 77.8mph, knocking 8 minutes off the 35.65 mile journey. This  would get the current journey time down to just under 2 hours and make the post HS2 down to 1.5 hours.
This was originally proposed as part of West Coast Route Modernisation: Feasibility Study this was eventually cancelled when it proved too complex, however this spur is far simpler than the entire line so should be practicable. It would save time as soon as it came into service even if HS2 never happens.
The problem of transitioning to and from an ECTS will have to be tackled for HS2, so it will not present a new technical problem. Though it would mean the upgraded of all vehicles using the spur to in cab signalling, but as this should be a long term goal it does not represent wasted expenditure,  the entire network should at the very least be upgraded to ECTS Regional, which would be cheaper to maintain than traditional signalling systems. Network rail is already installing GSM-R the communications system required, over the entire network.

A Platform for the future

Class 373 at King's Cross by Tagishsimon
This is not the first snub that has been sent Liverpool's way from the railway industry, one of the first was the omission of Liverpool from the Regional Eurostar plan, this would have seen services to the European Mainland direct from regional cities but excluded Liverpool, this was in part due to the lack of a sufficient length platform to take trains of the minimum length to use the channel tunnel. This entire plan was put on hold, though the trains required where built, as it wasn't considered economic.
It has been speculated that with the WCML speed being raised to 125mph the case may have changed somewhat. The introduction of HS2 will make the case even more favourable but Liverpool will still not have a long enough platform and we can be sure that the new Manchester station will have long enough platforms to accommodate the 394 metre long trains.
To extend Lime Street means either extending across Lime Street,  digging into the hill or placing the platforms in a tunnel beneath. This later option seems like the simplest solution. This would be considerably cheaper than the 7.5 mile tunnel. It may be possible to use the Waterloo Tunnel to provide a single platform with moving walkway connection to Lime Street and to the cruise terminal, though that would lack any expandability beyond 2 platforms, with a great deal of addition work.

Airport Link

A proposed Airport Link by the author
The failure of MerseyTram left the Airport semi detached from the rest of the Merseyside communications system, the new direct link for Manchester airport will provide better rail access than any airport in the UK and it is unlikely it will stop Metrolink wanting, and getting, a line to the airport.
As it is the WCML spur passes not far from Liverpool John Lennon and while constructing a diversion for heavy weigh trains would be expesive, a Tram-Train system could be added relatively easily and as there are already several sets of points between Woodend Avenue and Liverpool South parkway there would need to be no addition speed restrictions. The tram section would travel from the points near Speke Hall avenue, down the avenue to the airport and then return to via the rail triangle behind the vine yard street, the total length would be between 2 and 4 miles depending on the route picked. The use of flying or burrowing junctions would minimise any additional delays. Arranging the track like this would allow trains trams from both east and west to access the Airport so that if a small bay platform was added at Runcorn access to the Airport could be provided from there. Additionally a connection could be provided to Warrington Bank Quay via Widnes South, using the existing line, giving access to those coming south on the WCML for places further north, it might even be extended to a station on HS2.

A. N. Other

It is not like there is no other work that needs to be done on Merseyside's railways to bring them up to scratch, there is plenty, see here, but these 3 are directly relevant to HS2 and our lack of it. They all have benefits beyond HS2 the local politics should have been able to leverage HS2 to get some or hopefully all of them done, but in the end they got nothing. The proposal is a massive snub for Liverpool, the country as a whole would have benefited more if instead of the branch into Manchester the cost of that had been used to extend the line further north towards it eventual destination in Scotland. With Manchester getting a link like Liverpool's with ETCS speed upgraded and Metro Link gets a link to the airport from somewhere like Altrincham, even then Manchester with its longer platforms would have been at an advantage when it comes to direct European trains.

Silence?

So why the silence from our local politicians not a whimper of dissent? Is it because all 3 big parties have signed up to HS2 and they want to minimise those objecting to this plan, in which case are they our politicians? This is a typical failure by central government but a colossal betrayal by local politicians who's silence should have been bought with something that we can all see, one of the above would do but we get nothing not even the sound of gnashing of teeth. It is pitiful. I have contacted several local MPs for responses and got nothing, how many pieces of silver did they get?

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