Meeting the challenges issued by HSUK
When the HSUK consortium developed their own alternative to HS2,
they issued a challenge to HS2 Ltd in the form of a series of
questions that highlighted the official HS2 plan's shortcomings.
Although a consensus was quickly reached that the HSUK alternative
was not the best solution, their questions were still valid and
went unanswered. But the Track11 version of HS2 has addressed the
flaws that remain in HS2 Ltd's version. Therefore Track11 has
risen to the challenge and answered the questions on design
principles and connectivity:
Design Principles Challenge
1. Please explain how and why the decision was taken for HS2 to
operate separate from the existing network, with no consideration
given to the alternative of fully integrated operation (as
exemplified by successful ‘ICE’ operation on German
This question is not applicable as the Track11 variant of HS2 is
fully integrated with the existing network.
2. Please explain how and why the decision was taken for the HS2
route to be designed for 400km/h operation.
Track11 does not have the resources to redesign the whole of the HS2
route, and does not consider it to be sensible to redesign HS2 from
scratch when the plans are already satisfactory for most of their
length. Thus the Track11 variant of HS2 uses the route developed by
HS2 Ltd and its precursors except where it is environmentally
acceptable or fails to properly integrate with the existing
infrastructure. Therefore designing most of the line for 400km/h
operation was not Track11's decision.
However, the Aylesbury Vale section is an exception to this. It was
designed for 400km/h operation because there did not seem to be any
significant savings available from designing it to a lower
specification, and because Track11 recognises that the ability to
run above the normal maximum service speed is important for service
reliability, as it would allow delays to be counteracted.
3. Please explain how HS2 will optimise Heathrow’s rail
connectivity, and at the same time optimise its functionality as
an intercity railway.
Trains from The North would leave HS2 near Calvert, and run to
Heathrow and Gatwick via conventional railway lines. Therefore
although Heathrow would gain direct services via HS2, it has not
impacted on the Track11 high speed route selection.
4. Please explain why HS2 development has been predicated on
enhancing low-volume flows to regional airports, to the detriment
of adjacent major communities which will see reductions in
intercity service levels.
There are significant advantages to running high speed railways via
airports: they're generally not as built up as city centres, so
finding a suitable alignment is easier. Railways increase the
catchment area of airports, giving other places on the line the
benefit of convenient access to more overseas destinations and
reducing the need for connecting flights to domestic destinations.
And crucially, running to airports enables a significant portion of
the cost of the railway to be funded by landing fees.
However, the assumption that the adjacent major communities would
see a reduction in intercity service levels is dubious. Because HS2
would free up capacity on the existing lines, places such as
Coventry and Stockport are likely to get an increase in service
frequency, albeit with a slightly longer journey time due to the
trains making more stops. And those passengers who are in a great
hurry to get to London would have the additional option of going by
rail to the airport where they could transfer onto a high speed
Of the 528 city pairs considered by HSUK, they claim 183 currently
have direct trains linking them. Under the Track11 HS2 plan, many
more would be gained, but only one of them (Luton to Nottingham)
would lose its direct service, as the trains would run via Milton
Keynes and Northampton instead.
It should be noted that what direct links are timetabled is largely
an operational matter, which is why Track11 has not predicted the
exact number of direct links gained. Conversely it is possible that
operational decisions could remove some direct links (e.g. they
could decide to terminate Oxford services in Birmingham, requiring
passengers on up to 11 city pairs to change at Curzon Street).
5. Please explain how HS2 Ltd evaluated alternative network
configurations to determine the optimum solution.
At the southern end, they didn't! They treated the requirement to
serve Old Oak Common as absolute, and refused to consider any
network configuration that bypassed it. Aidan Stanger of Track11
pointed out this flaw in their methodology during the public
consultation. HS2 lost his submission, and when they eventually
found it a few months later they stated that it had not changed
their opinion (though they gave no reason for that).
Track11 took the view that a WCML based alternative was best because
it enabled staging of construction (as with HS1 where trains
initially used the conventional railways between Gravesend and
London). Track11 also recognised that for airport services,
connectivity is generally more important than very high speeds, and
that making Heathrow a branch means it can also be integrated with
Track11 is in favour of a Y shaped network of high speed lines
because that is what best addresses the inadequacies of the existing
railway network. It would not be overly focussed on London – many of
the trains would start at Birmingham instead, and there would also
be airport link services branching off at the southern end. It does
make sense to concentrate on the biggest cities because that's where
demand is highest, but there would also be some high speed trains
branching off at the northern end to serve smaller cities.
6. Please explain why HS2 has been developed with no overall
design coordination to ensure that the new high speed lines and
the existing network function together as an integrated and
This question is not applicable to the Track11 variant of HS2.
Indeed integrating HS2 with the existing network was one of the
objectives of Track11's work on HS2.
1. Please explain how HS2 offers the best solution to increase
UK rail capacity.
Track11 acknowledges that trying to make a single railway solve
every problem is a recipe for failure. But on the issue of
addressing capacity shortfalls on Intercity lines, it makes sense to
concentrate resources on the busiest sections first. The Track11 HS2
variant does this.
2. Please explain how HS2 will achieve inclusive coverage
accessing all major UK communities, and avoid the obvious perils
of a 2-tier, 2-speed Britain.
Britain already has, and always will have, a lot more than 2 tiers
and speeds. High speed lines are only justifiable where demand is
highest, but railway improvements are justified, and indeed needed,
in all parts of the country. So are road improvements, and a better
outcome could be achieved by considering all transport improvements
together rather than divided by mode. By being comprised of smaller
stages than HS2 Ltd's plan, the Track11 HS2 plan is more conducive
to being viewed as a series of parts of the list of transport
improvements that Britain needs, rather than as a completely
separate project which could be used as an excuse to deny funding to
other transport improvements.
3. Please explain how HS2 offers the best solution to reduce UK
intercity rail journey times.
The Track11 variant of HS2 would be very well integrated with
existing lines, with most (initially all) of its services using
conventional railway lines for part of the journey. By having long
stretches of 360km/h running, HS2 would slash journey times on the
routes it serves, and by connecting to three main lines (and some
branches) the benefits would be spread to many routes. But Track11
regards HS2 not as the solution, but as part of an ongoing
process of improvements.
4. Please explain how HS2 offers the best strategy for
interchange between high speed and local services, to access all
All of its stations except East Midlands Airport and Toton would
interchange with train services on existing lines. Both those
stations could be connected to Nottingham by light rail, and busway
connections to Derby are also a possibility. Because Birmingham
Curzon Street station would incorporate Moor Street station and
platforms on the New Street lines, every train that goes to
Birmingham would stop at Curzon Street, greatly improving
5. Please explain how HS2 offers the best solution to transform
UK intercity connectivity.
Airport Link services would transform connectivity. Starting at
Gatwick and stopping at Reigate, Leatherhead, Byfleet, Heathrow
Terminal 5, High Wycombe and Calvert, the trains would then run via
HS2 to Birmingham International and beyond, linking both to cities
and to airports including Manchester, East Midlands, and possibly
eventually Robin Hood and Teesside.
The main high speed services would also increase connectivity by
bringing down journey times, making previously impractical journeys
practical. It would also directly serve Meadowhall and result in
more long distance trains stopping there, introducing new journey
opportunities. But the biggest connectivity benefits are likely to
come from the trains that use the eastern HS2 branch and
conventional lines to reach underserved destinations in West
More connectivity benefits will come from places bypassed by HS2,
such as Milton Keynes. With HS2 removing the need for trains to go
through without stopping, the capacity would be available to improve
the services it gets. The Track11 plan also includes a Northampton
to Leicester line, restoring some of the connectivity that was lost
in the second half of the 20th century.
6. Please explain how HS2 offers the best solution for robust
and reliable UK intercity railway operation.
Most of HS2 will be designed for higher speeds than used in normal
operations, to enable recovery from any delay. And monitoring
systems will be fitted to trains to spot potential problems early so
that they don't result in failures.