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HS3 doesn't go far enough

Larry Neild on the cross-Pennine coupling that leaves Liverpool out in the cold

Written by . Published on October 27th 2014.

HS3 doesn't go far enough

FORGET the ambitions to create “Manpool” as a way of turbo-charging the economy of the North West. 

A new coupling was announced today - Manchester-Leeds – a powerhouse centred on the two de-facto capitals of northern England.

Liverpool and its far-flung counter-port to the east, Hull, run the very real risk of being literally edged out. 

Nevertheless, Merseyside political leaders today hailed proposals for the so-called HS3 rail link as the realisation of Liverpool city region’s dreams of competing with London and the South East.

In his report, HS2 boss Sir David Higgins reaffirms the original proposals for Phase Two of the £50bn-plus North-South rail link to divide in a Y shape at Birmingham, providing 250mph trains to Manchester and Leeds. Meanwhile, trains from Liverpool to London will chug along the slower West Coast line, picking up HS2 at Crewe.

Speaking in, yes, Leeds, Sir David said the additional east-west improvement (HS3) could directly link the two big northern cities, cutting journey times between the two from 48 minutes to 26 minutes.

It could involve a doubling of trains per hour, with either a new high-speed track and tunnel under the Pennines, or an upgrade to the existing line. 

Just as London/South East dominates everything in Southern England, the LeedsMans hub would become the beating heart of the North.

He told reporters: "If you look at the two huge cities - Leeds and Manchester - less than half a per cent of the people in each city travel to the other city to work.

"So in this competitive world access to skilled people is crucial for cities to compete and a good, reliable, fast rail service will improve that."

Maybe Liverpool would be wise to quickly sign a twinning’ agreement with Hull and join forces to ensure the two key northern sea ports are not left behind.

It was the merchants of Liverpool who, in 1830, had the business sense to create the world’s first inter-city rail link between Liverpool and Manchester. Even earlier, in the 1700s, the need for cross country connectivity was realised with the building of the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

The spirits that created both of those major transport innovations, with Liverpool at the centre of gravity, are needed now in the 21st century.

The danger is there will be a northern "premier league" with just two members and a lower division comprising everywhere else. 

Indeed Wigan, where HS3 is proposed to join the Scotland-bound North West line, would have the edge over Liverpool as things stand. There is even talk today of a phase three to HS2, with the high speed link going beyond Wigan towards Preston and Scotland.  Wigan is part of  Greater Manchester, with Manchester’s dynamic duo Sir Richard Leese and Sir Howard Bernstein in the driving seat of what is a runaway success train.

While the political leaders in the North West are welcoming today’s news, what they should really be saying – loudly – is that a Leeds-Manchester axis is unacceptable, demanding work on better west-east links must start simultaneously at Liverpool and Hull.

They’ll cite the electrification of that 1830 line between Liverpool and Manchester as evidence Merseyside has not been left out.  But the mood music is very much rooted in cross-Pennine links between Manchester and Leeds and North-South links, also centred on Manchester and Leeds.

The rest, including Liverpool, will be accidental beneficiaries. And although the city regions spanning east to west will be encouraged to speak with one voice, those on the periphery will need to shout with a louder voice to be heard.

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29 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

John BradleyOctober 27th 2014.

That team HS2 haven't produced a detailed response to the submission from Liverpool is the real insult. It makes it impossible to address any problems they have found misconceptions that they have. A decent connection to HS2 would with the current Manchester spur provide the Livepool Manc link with high capacity GC gauge trains. Then HS3 plan as put forward is no more than this It doesn't go far enough west what about Holyhead? peterirate.blogspot.com/…/a-pan-northern-railway-or-trans-pennine.html… but without Holyhead. While the minimum they might try and get away with is the electrification of the Chat Moss line, that has just been done, more likely would be the requadding of that line. The benefits for Liverpool will not come from faster link link to Manchester but from faster links to Leeds and Hull. It those journey times Liverpool should judge any HS3. Reestablishing direct connection via Kirkby and Wigan would provide better commuter times between the North of the cities at far less cost. Our connections to East Anglia are also appalling which is why we should be supporting and HS4 from Bristol via Birmingham to Norwich to speed up our access to the South East and South West. peterirate.blogspot.com/…/liverpool-to-norwich-via-1980s.html… Londons success is not just based on fast connections with the southeast but to Everywhere in the UK, that is what we need to push for.

7 Responses: Reply To This...
EditorialOctober 27th 2014.

We knew you'd like this one

John BradleyOctober 27th 2014.

You keep forgetting Holyhead.

Bill MajorOctober 31st 2014.

John mentions connections between Liverpool and East Anglia. At least there is a direct line to Norwich,at the moment at least. Private Eye reported that next year,there will be a break, passengers will have to change at Nottingham,as there is some regulation about private rail companies crossing boundaries (I don't know how true this is).You mention Holyhead,would this be possible for large container ships?

John BradleyOctober 31st 2014.

The direct route to Norwich is slower than going via London see peterirate.blogspot.com/…/liverpool-to-norwich-via-1980s.html… beyond NOttigham it is quicker to go via other routes, even if you have to change twice to get to Grantham. Holyhead is not suitable for large containers, but it has passenger links to Dublin and the route out to it provides Liverpool with a hinterland to the west which is devoid of big cities.

Bill MajorNovember 1st 2014.

John, is it quicker to go down to London Euston, across by taxi or bus to I think Liverpool street? Or is it King's Cross? Then up to Norwich?

John BradleyNovember 1st 2014.

Yes. If you look at the link I provided it has all the time tables worked out.

John BradleyNovember 1st 2014.

Have a look at the trainline.com first train on monday direct leaves a 6:47 and arrives at 12:15. Going via London you can leave at 7.00 and arrive at 11:50. So you arrive later arrive 25 minutes earlier and have WiFi. See www.thetrainline.com/…/…

AnonymousOctober 27th 2014.

Manchester and Leeds are two of the most traffic-congested cities in the North. The M62 going Manchester-bound in the morning starts queuing just before Warrington. Getting around the M60 to south/east Manchester, Derbyshire or Yorkshire in less than an hour at peak times? Forget it. Liverpool and Hull just don't have that level of traffic going in and out. The M57 and M58 are empty most of the time and the M62 past Leeds the same. Whatever the HS3 intention, there's no doubt it will make travelling by train between northern cities better IF it happens. My feeling is that it's merely a pre-election Tory sop to the North that won't actually happen, as happened in the Scottish referendum,

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 27th 2014.

Its a bit early to be saying Scotland hasn't got what it was promised, and it was promised by all parties not just the conservatives.

mickeydrippin'October 27th 2014.

There have been vague comments in the past by the Transport Secretary, that HS2 WILL be extended to Liverpool when the line to Manchester is complete. Now, the announcement about HS3 refers to the section between Manchester and Leeds with, perhaps, Liverpool and Hull being added later. Therefore, I get the impression that a plan for the North is emerging: to build a high speed triangle linking Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds only, with other towns and cities getting a "few crumbs from the table of economic growth".

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Clive MayOctober 29th 2014.

I have posted a comment in another article about HS3 within Liverpool Confidential. There is so much that can be commented but the chilling part is that the "lines" of who gets what and when are clearly being marked out. It saddens me that it is so obvious that the East West line should start from Liverpool and everyone with the exception of the odd few should be rightly sceptical about whether Liverpool or Hull will ever see any benefit. Liverpool can and should be right in there making it's case but to me it seems that unless the economic case can be made, nothing will happen. Can someone tell me, where is Peel's voice in all this? They have got a massive investment in the new proposed super-port, Liverpool airport and the proposed Liverpool Waters. I wonder how they feel now that the Chinese are investing their money around Manchester airport and I doubt if Liverpool Waters will ever get off the ground now? Surely, they are massive stake-holders in seeing the connectivity improved. So much joining of the dots needs to be done and in principle it should be easy to do so but there seems to be a complete lack of the economic and political will to do so.

ObserverOctober 29th 2014.

Peel's silence is deafening and says an awful lot

mickeydrippin'October 29th 2014.

We have all been waiting for someone to post an anti-Peel comment. In fact they have often spoken out in favour of HS2 because they would like the added track capacity for additional trains to serve their Liverpool 2 container terminal and bulk handling berths You obviously have not been listening.

Clive MayOctober 29th 2014.

Thank you for pointing that out Mickey but I have been listening and following and that's the whole point. I know exactly what you are saying and it makes absolute sense, I am not anti Peel, the complete opposite. I apologise to you and to anyone else if my post suggested otherwise. I've read some of the comments by people on here and other sites about Peel previously and it sickens me that people seem so intent on giving them a hard time - to me they've done more for Liverpool than many private firms have done in the past. The point I make is still a real one, Peel have so much at stake here and all of us who have the best interest of Liverpool and the wider region need them on side and to make an observation over what I think is pretty shoddy treatment of the city and the wider region. I honestly think that Peel and their financial clout/influence could do much here to swing the argument for Liverpool but you know, I cannot help but think a lot of this stuff is political. Another observation, I note that more people have been suggesting that Liverpool & Manchester work together and I am right up there with that view but it looks to me what even after our leaders seemingly working together, that our friends in Manchester would prefer to look to the east in more ways than one.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyOctober 29th 2014.

Part of the problem is that the original brief said Manchester and Leeds and so that is what was produced, the brief wasn't well thought out, but to change it now will play into the hands of the antis. The minimum useful proposition is to get Classic Compatibles in via a different route, which allows high speed running for longer and frees up existing track space on WCML and Liverpool Spur. That involves reinstatement, electrification and removal of level crossings. The next step up is GC gauge access which allows bigger trains and requires a lot of station work. Very little new track but, quite a bit of gauge expansion. If that is the route to be taken planning it should start as soon as possible so that the future works on the lines server to complement this aim not obstruct it.

John BradleyOctober 29th 2014.

The other thing about Peel is we have people complaining about Joe shooting his mouth off, without thinking and also complaining about peel not doing the same.

Katie54October 30th 2014.

John, there's a difference. Peel is a private company. it pursues and represents its own interests. It does this to make money. End of. Anderson is a politician who happened to be the Labour candidate in an election in which the Labour candidate was always going to win whoever he or she was. So he won, but it certainly wasn't because of him personally, or his track record, because he didn't have one. Now he does, and it's pretty awful. He is supposed to represent Liverpool and promote its interests. Given his antics to date, we have every right to complain.

Clive MayOctober 30th 2014.

The interests of a private company are always going to be the driver of what they publicly say and what they actually do. There must be many people on here who run a business. When your business, it's investments and ultimately it's future are being decided by persons or organisations not directly connected to you, than you have to stand up and be counted. When a response or comment is not forthcoming, one is right to ask that question, regardless of who or what the organisation is or stands for. Now, Uncle Joe was first out of the box and in my view he was 100% right to make his comments and is also right to push as hard as he can for Liverpool connectivity. Maybe he & I are over-reacting but I don't think so. Apart from Hatton who destroyed Liverpool and sent quality business in to the grateful arms of Manchester, Uncle Joe might be the only one that is truly fighting the corner. When I first came to Liverpool in 1979, the world was changing big time and no one in Liverpool could recognise it and get ahead of the game. Our trade axis was shifting eastwards, and as such Liverpool was in the wrong place and did not do enough (at that time) to capitalise on it's North American links, this is changing hence Peel's investment in the deep water terminal. Sea trade continued to shift to Southampton & Felixstowe but the powers that be woke from their slumber when it was too late, do we want that to happen again? Liverpool has a strong business case for better rail connectivity, it benefits everyone and in my lifetime, I would like to see Liverpool on that map again and showing the world what a bit of vision and self-belief can do.

RobertOctober 30th 2014.

Lets be honest, there remain doubts as to Peel's ability to fully capitalise on the new post-Panamax size ships / port facilities. There's also a contradiction with Peel's business case that the Govt have noticed. Ships of the 8000-12500 TEU nature cost around £70000 - 90000+ to operate per day. Divert one away from the main route through the Channel (Le Harve, Southampton, London, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Bremerhaven, Hamburg), and add the 24 - 48 - 72 hours turnaround / return sail (about 2000 containers per day can be removed by port handling cranes) and look at the break even issues? Were 4000 containers to come off thats a minimum £240k cost to divert a ship over conventional superports on the south coast, and then you've got internal transport costs to reach final destinations. West Midlands traffic would be very similar in price to current entry points / routes. The contradiction comes from Peel taking away train loads of containers coming up from Southampton / Felixstowe, thereby adding capacity to the WCML / rail freight network. In stating the case for HS2, their plans to reduce demand pressures on the rail network will have been noted. And given the portcentric focus of their plans, this freight would not be travelling by rail to Lancashire / Yorkshire / West Midlands for the break even distance is too short by some way. Peel have had to add their weight to the HS2 debate given the ports potential / lack of business case coming out of the city, yet it is not at all clear cut a case. HS3 from Liverpool to ECML / North East would be the ticket. Still, I recall Dave Cameron ahead of the last General Election promising an upgrade of the A1 to Motorway standards....and there are no plans to deliver that to date. If Liverpool is struggling / cannot come up with the business case to connect to HS2 via a mere 20 miles of track, then serious engagement questions must be asked of our local public partners / LEP board. Unfortunately Joe needs to calm the rhetoric and powerplays, for he is merely reinforcing a local political stereotype, the like of which no Under Secretary of State / political mandarin will entertain, and it is such positions / people that trangress Governements of any colour, and hold the real positions of influence and power in Whitehall.

Clive MayOctober 30th 2014.

Robert, I always felt that when the confrontation was taking place between Thatcher and Hatton that there was only ever going to be one loser & one winner. Liverpool was the loser and the legacy still remains, the winner? It wasn't Thatcher, it was Manchester. Fair play to our cousins, they knew that the demographics and economy were changing forever and all they had to do was sit back and watch that idiot Hatton destroy Liverpool, the jobs and any semblance of future prosperity fell away and continue to do so. That is where my job ended up on Portland street. As much as I preferred to be back in Liverpool, I had to take my hat off to the thought process of Manchester's movers and shakers, they knew what they had to do then and the same applies now. In essence, like you say, no central government likes their cages rattled and the secret to getting what you want or need is to play the game just like they've learnt to do up the motorway. A bit of foresight and vision back then might have meant none of us having to lament what is with us now and what the future may hold going forward. Let us all hope that the economic case for the success of the super port comes around right, certainly if a Euro exit happens, it might just benefit Liverpool but regardless of that happening, we need vision and courage.

ObserverOctober 30th 2014.

Enjoying this debate very much.

Bill MajorOctober 31st 2014.

Ideal deep harbour facilities are being built in Liverpool, so I read, Liverpool is in an ideal position for the gigantic container ships that are coming from China, Korea, etc via the widened Panama Canal. Liverpool would be ideally situated to unload these containers bound for Europe. They could then go straight onto rail to Hull. If they were on to road transport to Hull or Manchester the already ridiculous motorways around Liverpool and Manchester would grind to a halt. Anyone tried to get to Manchester airport? The containers would go via Southampton or direct up the overcrowded English Channel to Rotterdam. We may not like the idea of giant tankers and thousands of containers per ship, but they are coming.

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyOctober 31st 2014.

You shouldn't forget rail links to Europe via the Channel Tunnel. And additional tunnel designed for freight only would be far cheaper to build than the current one. Far less safety features needed, run it at low speed with long trains, plus the building technology has moved on.

Bill MajorOctober 31st 2014.

Clive May ends his interesting posting with the proposition that in case of a Euro exit, a super port Liverpool is what we need. I'm not an economist but I think that England's raison d'etre is as a distribution point to mainland Europe. Out of the EU England will be bye passed by giant Chinese containers and the rest of the world's economies probably(I'm referring to England as I'm assuming that Scotland would have a re run of the referendum,& vote to leave and Join EU?).

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousNovember 3rd 2014.

Scotland are unlikely to have a rerun any time soon, and Europe on account of Spain and Belgium's vetos are unlikely to agree to let a separatist region into the EU.

Clive MayNovember 2nd 2014.

Bill, as you have highlighted, goods can be moved from Liverpool across country to Hull and then fed into Europe. Therein lies the twist as at present we seem to be reliant here in the north with feeders from Antwerp/Rotterdam or with the goods coming in via the south and then on road to us from the likes of Southampton. That could all change. It is ultimately why the link from West to East is so important to Liverpool and not just for the shorter commuting times that are being talked about. I do not believe for one minute that Peel are daft and they will have recognised the basics of how things could change once the super port has been built. As a mention, ACL are building their HQ here in Liverpool, says something that shipping linked directly to Liverpool carries that kind of commitment to the city? Maersk are already here and their ships are the some of the largest container ships plying the seas. I came to Liverpool as I worked for United Arab Shipping who's european office was in Tithebarn street - many years ago!

RobertNovember 5th 2014.

Sorry to throw a spanner in your works gents, but the idea of Liverpool being at the head of a land bridge to Europe via CTunnel or East Coast port is well know to be utterly unattainable in terms of space required, capacity, costs of extra handling, time pressures etc All the big shipping players will attest to that and if you could get a reply from Peel, they would say the same. If you asked the ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp or Hamburg they would just laugh at you. Once again, dont shoot the messenger.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Katie54November 5th 2014.

The EU doesn't think it's unattainable, and has put its money where its moth is, funding the electrification of the Liverpool-Manchester link because it is part of one of the "core network corridors" for transport through the EU. Our one is this: "The North Sea-Mediterranean Corridor stretches from Ireland and the north of UK through the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg to the Mediterranean Sea in the south of France. This multimodal corridor... aims not only at offering better multimodal services ....but also better interconnecting the British Isles with continental Europe." The East Coast port is Felixstowe, There's loads more detail on the EU website: ec.europa.eu/…/index_en.htm…

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