The Anonymous Widower

Will HS2 And Northern Powerhouse Rail Go For The Big Bore?

It looks to me that there will be increasing links and merging between High Speed Two (HS2) and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).

This report on the Transport for the North web site, is entitled At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Proposals and possibilities include.

  • NPR will have a Western terminal at a new station in Liverpool City Centre.
  • HS2 trains would access Liverpool and Manchester via a junction between HS2 and NPR at High Legh.
  • There will be six trains per hour (tph) between Liverpool and Manchester via Manchester Airport.
  • The route between Manchester and Manchester Airport is planned to be in tunnel.
  • There will be six tph between Manchester and Leeds.

In addition, Boris has made positive noises about a high speed line between Manchester and Leeds being of a high priority.

So will the planners go for the logical solution of a High Speed tunnel between Manchester Airport and Leeds?

  • There could be a theoretical capacity of perhaps 15 tph, which is the design capacity of High Speed Two.
  • Speeds of up to 140 mph should be possible.
  • Stations could be at Manchester Airport, Manchester Piccadilly/Piccadilly Gardens, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds.
  • West of Manchester Airport, the route appears easier and the tunnel would emerge close to the airport.
  • East of Leeds the tunnel would join up with existing routes to Doncaster, Hull, Newcastle and York.

I believe such a tunnel could be built without disrupting existing rail services and passengers. Remember building Crossrail’s tunnels was an almost invisible process.

It would result in two rail systems across Northern England.

  • Upgraded Classic Rail Routes
  • The Big Bore

My thoughts on the two systems follow.

Upgraded Classic Rail Routes

This could include improvements such as these,

  • Extra passing loops.
  • Selective electrification
  • Improved stations
  • Comprehensive in-cab digital signalling
  • More paths for passenger and freight trains.

Which could be applied to routes, such as these.

In addition, there could be the reopening of some closed or freight routes to passenger trains.

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Network Rail Reveals Detailed £2.9bn Upgrade Plans For TransPennine Route.

It is a comprehensive upgrade that includes.

  • Improvement between Huddersfield and Westtown
  • Grade separation or a tunnel at Ravensthorpe
  • Rebuilding and electrification of eight miles of track.
  • Possible doubling the number of tracks from two to four.
  • Improved stations at Huddersfield, Deighton, Mirfield and Ravensthorpe.

This project would be a major improvement to the Huddersfield Line.

In Sheffield Region Transport Plan 2019 – Hope Valley Line Improvements, I talked about planned improvements to the Hope Valley Line, which should begin in the next couple of years.

These improvements are given in detail under Plans in the Wikipedia entry for the Hope Valley Line.

The Hope Valley Improvements will cost in the region of tens of millions of pounds and Wikipedeia sums up the benefits like this.

These changes to allow three fast trains, a stopping train and freight trains each hour were also supported in a Transport for the North investment report in 2019, together with “further interventions” for the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme.

It seems like good value to me!

So could we see other Multi-million and billion pound projects created to improve the classic routes across the Pennines?

Projects would be fully planned and the costs and benefits would then be assessed and calculated.

Then it would be up to the Project Managers to devise the optimal structure and order in which to carry out all the projects.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the following techniques used.

  • Discontinuous electrification to avoid bridge reconstruction.
  • Intelligent, hybrid diesel/electric/battery trains from Bombardier, Hitachi or Stadler, capable of 125 mph running and changing mode at speed.
  • Modular digital signalling
  • Factory built stations and step-free bridges.
  • Removal of all level crossings.
  • All stations updated for step-free access between train and platform.

The objectives would be as follows.

  • More paths, where needed.
  • Faster line speed.
  • Less running on diesel.
  • Fast station stops.

Hopefully, the upgrading could be done without too much disruption.

Remember though, that disruption to existing users during a project, is most likely down to bad project management.

The Big Bore

The Central Core tunnel of Crossrail between Royal Oak and East London, was virtually a separate project before Crossrail’s stations and much of other infrastructure was built.

I believe that digging the tunnel first gave a big advantage, in that it could be constructed as an independent project, provided that the logistics of delivering the components and removing the junk was done efficiently.

But it did mean that travellers wouldn’t see any benefits until the project was almost complete.

HS2 and NPR are different in that they also envisage upgrading these routes.

  • The Huddersfield Line
  • The Chat Moss Line
  • The Calder Valley Line
  • The Hope Valley Line
  • The Dearne Valley Line
  • The Selby Line
  • The Midland Main Line North Of Clay Cross

Only the Huddersfield Line is directly affected by the Big Bore.

Effectively, the Big Bore will provide a by-pass route for passenger trains between Leeds and West of Manchester Airport, to take the fast trains of HS2 and NPR underneath the congested classic lines.

In Changes Signalled For HS2 Route In North I said this about a tunnel between Leeds and Manchester.

To get a twenty-five minute time between Leeds and Manchester with a ten minute frequency, which I believe is the minimum service the two cities deserve, would be like passing a whole herd of camels through the eye of a single needle.

The Swiss, who lets face it have higher hills, than we have in Northern England would create a new route mainly in tunnel between the two cities, with perhaps an underground station beneath the current Grade I Listed; Huddersfield station.

The transport for the North report suggests Bradford Low Moor station, as an intermediate station, so why not Bradford Low Moor and Huddersfield stations?

Note that the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which opened a couple of years ago, deep under the Alps, is about the same length as a Leeds and Manchester tunnel, and cost around eight billion pounds.

It would be expensive, but like Crossrail in London, the tunnel would have big advantages.

  • It could be built without disrupting current rail and road networks.
  • It would have a capacity of up to thirty tph in both directions.
  • Unlike Crossrail, it could handle freight trains.
  • It would unlock and join the railway systems to the East and West.

I believe, it would be a massive leap forward for transport in the North of England.

It would be a very big project and probably one of the longest rail tunnels in the world.

Comparison With The Gotthard Base Tunnel

But surely, if a small and rich nation like Switzerland can build the Gotthard Base Tunnel, then we have the resources to build the Big Bore between Manchester Airport and Leeds.

Consider these facts about the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

  • It is two single track bores.
  • Each bore has a track length of around 57 kilometres or 35 miles.
  • The tunnel may be deep, but it is direct and level.
  • The maximum speed is 250 kph or 160 mph.
  • The operational speed for passenger trains is 200 kph or 125 mph.
  • The operational speed for freight is 100 kph or 62 mph.
  • It can take the largest freight trains.

To make numbers even more impressive it is joined to the shorter Ceneri Base Tunnel, to provide an even longer route.

Manchester Airport And Leeds Direct

Now consider Manchester Airport and Leeds.

  • The current rail distance is 56 miles.
  • There are stops at Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road, Manchester Victoria and Huddersfield stations.
  • Journey time is eighty minutes.

But the direct distance is only 68 kilometres or forty-three miles.

Surely if the Swiss can blast and dig two 57 km. single-track rail tunnels, we can go eleven kilometres further with all the recent experience of tunnelling around the world.

The lengths of the various legs would be as follows.

  • Manchester Airport and Manchester – 14 km.
  • Manchester and Huddersfield – 35 km.
  • Huddersfield and Bradford – 17 km.
  • Bradford and Leeds – 13 km

Trains running on the various legs at 200 kph, which is the cruising speed of a 1970s-built InterCity 125, could take the following times for the various legs.

  • Manchester Airport and Manchester – 4.2 minutes
  • Manchester and Huddersfield – 10.5 minutes
  • Huddersfield and Bradford – 5.1 minutes
  • Bradford and Leeds – 13 km – 3.9 minutes

Leeds and Manchester Airport would be under thirty minutes apart.

Looking at NPR between Liverpool and Hull, times could be as follows.

  • Liverpool and Manchester – 26 minutes
  • Manchester and Leeds – 20 minutes
  • Leeds and Hull – 38 minutes

Or a Coast-to-Coast time of under ninety minutes.

Train Frequencies

HS2 is being designed to handle fifteen tph, although slower intensive railways in the UK can handle up to twenty-four tph.

At the current time or certainly in a few years time, the theoretical maximum frequency through the Big Bore should be between these two figures. I will assume at least fifteen tph in this post.

The At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail report talks about the following frequencies.

  • Liverpool and Manchester via Manchester Airport – Six tph.
  • Manchester and Leeds – Six tph
  • Leeds and Hull – Two tph

This is all so lacking in ambition. It is like building a new high capacity road and only allowing those with status to use the road.

If Leeds and Manchester Airport can handle fifteen tph, why not use some of it to create an Express Metro under the Pennines?

To me, if the Big Bore is built, nothing short of twelve tph or a train every five minutes is acceptable, at Liverpool, Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds stations.

The extension to Hull could be reduced to perhaps six tph, but with the upgrading of the Hull and Leeds Line to perhaps 140 mph, I’d be bold and create a true TransPennine Express;

Hull and Liverpool every five minutes would be the ultimate Marketing Man’s dream.

The Underground Stations

Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds would all be through stations deep underground.

  • They would be connected to the surface by lifts and escalators.
  • Some entrances to the stations would connect to existing stations and others might emerge in City squares like Manchester’s P:iccadilly Gardens.
  • Most stations would be just two platforms, as all trains would pass through on either side of a large underground concourse.;
  • All stations would have platform edge doors.
  • Passengers would be able to reverse direction by just walking across the concourse.

Stations would build on the lessons learned from Crossrail. But then NPR is closer to Crossrail than a Classic High Speed Line.

The Terminal Stations

The two main terminal stations for NPR and trains running through the Big Bore would be the proposed High Speed station at Liverpool and the existing Hull station.

But one other terminal station is being created; Edinburgh.

I have been going to Edinburgh station to and from England for perhaps thirty years and the capacity of the station has constantly increased.

Recent developments are extended Platforms 5 and 6, that can take the longest LNER trains.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that with the application of digital signalling, that there is capacity for at least eight tph between Edinburgh and Newcastle.

There would certainly be capacity for at least two tph between Liverpool and Edinburgh via Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, York and Newcastle.

In the East the other possibilities for terminals are Doncaster, Newcastle and York.

  • I would discount Newcastle, as it lacks capacity and its location would make it difficult to add more.
  • Doncaster has good connectivity and space, but do Leeds and Hull offer similar connectivity?

So that leaves Hull, Edinburgh and York, as the only Eastern terminals.

In the West, there is probably a need to connect to the Northern section of the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

Glasgow Central is probably the obvious terminal, but it would need an extra connection at the junction of HS2, NPR and WCML at High Legh.

If necessary Preston could be used, as it has space and lots of connectivity.

Integration Of HS2 and NPR

The At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail report is proposing this and it looks that the following HS2 services could be possible between Euston and Manchester.

  • Two tph – Euston and Hull via Old Oak Common, Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds
  • Two tph – Euston and Edinburgh via Old Oak Common, Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, York and Newcastle.

Note.

  1. Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds would all have four tph to and from London, by the Western arm of HS2’s Y.
  2. If in addition there were two tph between Liverpool and Hull and Liverpool and Edinburgh, this would mean four tph from the Big Bore of NPR to both Hull and Edinburgh.
  3. None of these core services need to terminate in the Big Bore.

I very much feel that integrating HS2 and NPR is the way to go.

Could We See A High Speed Northern Metro?

If we assume that the Big Bore could handle the HS2 frequency of at least fifteen tph, then it would be possible to create a service across the Pennines with the following frequencies.

  • Liverpool and Hull – 4 tph
  • Liverpool and Edinburgh – 2 tph
  • Glasgow and Hull – 2 tph
  • London Euston and Hull – 2 tph
  • London Euston and Edinburgh – 2 tph

This would result in the following frequencies

  • Liverpool – 6 tph
  • Glasgow – 2 tph
  • London Euston – 4 tph
  • Manchester Airport – 12 tph
  • Manchester – 12 tph
  • Huddersfield – 12 tph
  • Bradford – 12 tph
  • Leeds – 12 tph
  • Hull – 8 tph
  • York – 4 tph
  • Newcastle – 4 tph
  • Edinburgh – 4 tph

What would these frequencies do for train travel in the North of England?

Freight

The Gotthard Base Tunnel has been designed so that both freight and passenger trains can use the route.

There is a need for extra freight capacity across the country and I wonder if freight trains could use the Big Bore.

I estimate that the Big Bore would be 68 kilometres if bored straight and level between West of Manchester Airport and Leeds.

Lets assume it is seventy kilometres or 43.5 miles.

So times, through the tunnel at various average speeds would be.

  • 125 mph – 21 minutes
  • 110 mph – 23.7 minutes
  • 100 mph – 26.1 minutes
  • 90 mph – 29 minutes
  • 80 mph – 32.6 minutes
  • 62 mph (Gotthard Base Tunnel speed for freight) – 42 minutes.

Could it be mandated that freight trains can use the tunnel, if they could maintain a particular speed?

Consider.

  • A 125 mph train with stops at Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds would probably take thirty minutes to transit the tunnel.
  • A freight train running at 90 mph would take more or less the same time.
  • Fifteen tph would mean a train every four minutes.
  • Automatic control of all trains in the tunnel would be a possibility. It appears to work on the much more complicated Thameslink.

I think with the following conditions, one or even two freight trains per hour, in addition to the passenger trains, can pass through the Big Bore in each direction.

  • The locomotives have the performance of at least the Class 93 locomotive, which is currently being built.
  • Freight trains can be hauled through at a minimum speed, which could be between 90 and 110 mph.
  • The passenger trains and train and platform staff work together to produce very short station dwell times.
  • All passenger trains are identical.
  • Station platforms are designed so that passengers can leave and enter the trains rapidly.

It will be a Big Bore with a capacity to match!

What About Sheffield?

I haven’t forgotten Sheffield, but I think it could be linked across the Penines by another route.

Under the upgrades for Northen Powerhouse Rail, it is proposed that services between Sheffield and Leeds become 4 ton in 25 minutes along the Dearne Valley Line.

Does Boris Know More Than He Lets On?

The headline on the front cover of Issue 885 of Rail Magazine is Boris Backs New Pennine Railway.

There is also a sub-heading of PM commits to Leeds-Machester line.

Boris didn’t apply any substance to the speech, except to say that it will be funded.

I believe that my naive analysis in this post shows that something is possible and I just wonder, if Boris has been briefed about a much better plan?

August 25, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments