Trains: Ditching HS2 ‘would mean 14 years of weekend closures’

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Failure to go ahead with the HS2 rail link would lead to 14 years of weekend closures while existing lines were upgraded to provide the additional capacity, according to a Government-backed study.

A report prepared by Network Rail and management consultancy Atkins has concluded there would have to be 2,770 weekend closures – totalling 144,000 hours of work – on the East Coast, West Coast and Midland main lines, which serves Kettering, Corby and Wellingborough, if it was to replace the intended capacity of HS2.

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The study, which will be published tomorrow as part of the Government’s strategic business case for HS2, warns that, during a typical weekend, the journey time from London to Leeds could more than double from two hours 10 minutes to more than four and a half hours.

The Guardian quotes the report as saying: “Network Rail’s judgment is that the scale of service closures involved across three main lines makes the alternatives very unattractive.

“While some works could be programmed to coincide in terms of network downtime, this scale of work on the existing network would entail 14 years of weekend closures to allow the necessary upgrade works to be carried out.

“With work on multiple (parallel) routes, the scope to use adjacent main lines for diversionary routes is also diminished.”

Robin Gisby, Network Rail’s managing director of network operations, said that any attempt to upgrade existing lines would inevitably lead to “very heavy disruption” to services.

“We saw that with the upgrade of the West Coast over the last decade,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“If you think of the route from London through the Channel Tunnel, that used to go into Waterloo – supposing we had upgraded the line from Waterloo all the way through the middle of London commuting out to the Channel Tunnel instead of building High Speed 1 – it would have been very difficult.

“I think the same applies north of London. What we need is more fresh capacity.

“Doing that by cannibalising some of the existing routes doesn’t give you give you the long-term balance and causes considerable disruption in the meantime.”