Sir David Higgins HS2 Report ‘Rebalancing Britain’

Sir David Higgins HS2 Report ‘Rebalancing Britain’

03 November 2014

Following the release of Sir David Higgin's latest report on HS2, Rebalancing Britain, on 27th October, Gren Messham, Chairman of IWA's Navigation Committee, has prepared a summary of its contents.

On 27th October Sir David Higgins, accompanied by various national and local politicians, produced his report updating his first review of HS2, HS2 Plus, released in March 2014. This latest report is entitled Rebalancing Britain - From HS2 towards a national transport strategy.

In this report, David Higgins talks about continuing the work begun in HS2 Plus to better make the case for HS2 as a national asset and a holistic part of a national transport strategy delivering benefit across the whole country. He gives seven viewpoints across the whole project, with varying waterway impacts:

  1. The broad proposal for a Y-shaped route remains correct and necessary to deliver the economic benefit.
  2. The hub stations proposed in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire are broadly in the correct places for the region and existing transport networks. However, the East Midlands hub site is to be reconsidered, looking at sites to the west of Toton with better links to the M1 and Midland Main Line railway. This could change the impact on the Erewash Canal. At the present time, the South Yorkshire Hub is to remain at Meadowhall, whilst recognising that Sheffield is preparing a report on the benefits of a city centre station.
  3. The northwest hub should be at Crewe, and be built six years earlier than planned (as first suggested in ‘HS2 Plus’). The suggested HS2 service to Stoke on Trent is not recommended, although Stoke on Trent, Stockport and Macclesfield could be served by running ‘compatible’ trains on a mix of high speed and normal track (via Handsacre) to improve their services. The route to Manchester should still allow for a station at the airport, although the proposed route northwards that would rejoin the West Coast Main Line and the building of a maintenance depot at Golbourne needs to be reconsidered as to the best location. This may reduce the potential impact on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal from the junction itself.
  4. The terminus station at Leeds will need to be designed to meet the needs of HS2, existing rail routes particularly east- west, access to Bradford and Leeds City’s redevelopment plans. It also should be considered alongside the planned remodelling of Leeds City station. This work could affect the route into the city (currently via Woodlesford, with its impact on the Aire and Calder Navigation) and the waterways in the city near the station (River Aire and Leeds & Liverpool Canal).
  5. Major improvements to east-west rail connectivity in the north are feasible, and necessary. Work needs to continue to ensure the provision of HS2 is exploited fully, alongside other transport improvements. This may have impacts on waterways.
  6. The ‘One North’ group of local authorities reported in August on a programme of proposals to improve transport across the north, to deliver increased prosperity and exploit the arrival of HS2. Currently in addition to the poor rail network, the motorway system is increasingly congested. 'Rebalancing Britain' recommends that "the Government and local authorities build on the work of the One North report by….turning its analysis into a practical plan for the future".  It also recommended the formation of a "Transport for the North" body of local authorities and others to formalise this cooperation, and the early appointment of a Programme Director to drive the process. Again, this extensive infrastructure programme could impact waterways across the region.
  7. HS2 Ltd should use the ‘space’ between Phase 1 and Phase 2 to investigate new designs and techniques to build the second and subsequent phases more quickly and at lower cost.

The report was supported by a document entitled Transport Constraints and Opportunities in the North of England prepared by Stear Davies Gleave, a global transport consultancy claiming to "… plan, design, advise and provide technical expertise to help deliver better transport solutions to everyone, everywhere". This reviewed transport in the north across all modes, to provide a factual basis for the gaps in productivity and economic opportunity that could be reduced by integrated improvements to remove the constraints in all areas.

The report was not intended to be a response to IWA and others’ comments on the preferred route for HS2 Phase 2, which is likely to emerge next year. However, it does give us some information on less likely proposals, as well as presenting the potential for a significant programme of rail and road infrastructure developments around HS2 and the corridor from Liverpool to Hull. We will need to keep an eye on these, whilst waiting for more information on the possible impacts inherent in the east and west HS2 Phase 2 routes. The report is a fairly chunky read, and that from Stear Davies Gleave even more so, however there is further information in there for those that need it.

Download and read Rebalancing Britain - From HS2 towards a national transport strategy (PDF, 3.5MB)

Download and read Transport Constraints and Opportunities in the North of England (PDF, 2.9MB)

Further developments have also been made by Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust, that has concluded an agreement with HS2 Ltd to safeguard the restoration of the Lichfield Canal at Huddlesford  under the plans contained in the Hybrid Bill for construction of HS2. More information is available in IWA's November Bulletin.

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