YP Letters: Do HS2 on the cheap and it will prove an expensive folly

From: Sir Andrew Cook, Chairman, William Cook Holdings Ltd, Parkway Avenue, Sheffield.

Will HS2 be obsolete by the time that it is built?

ALTHOUGH an HS2 sceptic myself, I do not agree with Geoff Shepherd that HS2 will be obsolete by the time it is built (The Yorkshire Post, November 29).

Over the past 200 years since it was first invented, rail has proved to be a fast, durable and effective means of transporting large numbers of people over long distances at high speed.

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The ever-increasing traffic flows on the 45-year-old Paris-Lyon TGV artery and the 65-year-old Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka attest to this. There will always be a place for the face-to-face meeting, whether for business or social reasons, as only this way can full and efficient interaction between people ever take place. There no reason to believe high speed rail will be obsolete any time within the next 50 years.

Where HS2 goes wrong is in the details of the route. This will make the difference between success and failure. I identify three fundamental mistakes.

Firstly, instead of terminating at Euston, one of London’s worst-connected main line stations, HS2 should be served by a new London Central station deep beneath the Euston Road. This station would have travellator connections to Euston itself and King’s Cross/St Pancras, together with their Underground stations.

Secondly, there has to be a Heathrow Loop. It is senseless to expect passengers from Birmingham, particularly those encumbered by luggage, to get off their HS2 train at the so-called Old Oak Common Interchange and transfer themselves, bag and baggage, onto the Heathrow Express. Far easier for them to take a taxi direct to Heathrow from their homes or offices. This Heathrow Loop would again be in tunnel and would interlink with the already-planned Heathrow West Chord, affording efficient interchanging opportunities for passengers who do not intend to catch a plane but whose destinations are to the west and south of London.

Thirdly, the idea of a Sheffield spur is, quite simply, daft. To be of any serious use, Sheffield has to be served by a through station on the main HS2 line to Leeds and it should be built, not at Meadowhall, but on the site of the old Sheffield Victoria station near the city centre.

Yes, all this extra tunnelling and civil work would cost more, but it would still be possible to build an effective HS2 for less than the NHS budget for a single year. So, my message is, get HS2 right at the begining and it will stay right. Do it on the cheap, and it will never be right.