Lib Dem FightBack

A Better idea for Cross Rail for the North

August 26, 2017

On 22nd August 2017, at the Northern Rail Summit at Leeds, Yorkshire Rail Engineers High Speed UK, presented to Andy Burnham their plans for a High Speed Rail System, linking Sheffield-Manchester-Leeds to the proposed Liverpool to Hull Cross Rail for the North. Our Community action group co-sponsored this proposal, along with a submission to Transport for the North. We call on fellow Liberal Democrats to back the North's demand for High Speed Three and Northern Electrifaction to get proritity over the the ill-concieved HS2 plans in a strategic review. Our HS3 Route would make Sheffield a High Speed hub and replace the current HS2 plans which see Sheffield on a slow spur with a slow loop promised to Leeds.

Press Release : 21/8/17  Crofton Against HS2 Letter to John Cridland, Chair of Transport for the North on the eve of the Northern Rail Summit in Leeds on 22/8/17

Mr John Cridland


Transport for the North

2nd Floor 

4 Piccadilly Place


M1 3BN

August 21st 2017

Dear John

I am writing on behalf of the community action group of Crofton to express our grave concerns at the current HS2 proposals.  Our concerns lie not only with the destructive impacts that HS2 will have on our community, but also at the  huge inefficiencies that HS2  will cause in the development of ‘HS3’ links between the cities of the Northern Powerhouse.  Our letter is directed to yourselves at Transport for the North as the primary authority responsible for developing transport infrastructure across the entire Northern Region.

We believe that the current combination of ill-thought out plans would for HS2 and HS3 would make the worse possible scenarios come to pass, a transport solution which doesn't offer full high speed connectivity for Sheffield and South Yorkshire, which takes resources away from vitally needed electrification and which actively works against a Cross Rail for the North. Instead of being a high speed hub, Sheffield would be bypassed by routes to better-connected Northern Cities.  There is a real danger that HS2 will drain resources from HS3/Northern Powerhouse Rail with a poor route choice with high impacts, hidden costs, low connectivity and low economic benefits. There is a real danger HS2 could never be built to northern destinations other than Crewe because of the lack of a strategic approach which had the true support of communities, causing cost overruns that will lead to the cancellation of Phase 2B.

Our Community proposed a better location for the Rolling Stock Depot than New Crofton in 2017 which both the DFT and HS2 Ltd have adopted, and now we propose a better route which will enable better connectivity between Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester.  The fact that such a route would have 17 times lower residential demolitions matters to us, as we don't want any community to be impacted in the harmful way that the HS2 M18 Eastern Route has affected our 6,000 strong community.


The Needs of Northern Communities

We believe that Northern Electrification and East-West Connectivity between Northern Cities are much greater priorities for Northern communities than the deeply flawed plans for HS2.  These Northern links should precede HS2 which requires urgent strategic review.  This is exactly what former Chancellor George Osborne has called for today (22nd August).

Impacts on people

We believe in a low impact transport network connecting Sheffield and Leeds, and the other vital cities and towns of the North. We have proposed an alternative high speed route connecting Sheffield and Leeds, with a link to Manchester via the abandoned Woodhead corridor, and with a City Centre Station at Sheffield Victoria (a location which has been consistently and wrongly ignored by HS2 Ltd.  Journey times significantly superior to those offered by HS2 could be achieved with fewer residential demolitions, lower construction costs and higher economic benefits. 

An Alternative Strategic Vision for the Northern Powerhouse

Our plans form part of a wider Strategic vision for the Northern Powerhouse which comes from communities so far excluded from official plans.  We are deeply concerned at the current governance of Transport for the North and HS2 Ltd which has given Leeds and Sheffield absolute priority over the views and needs of Doncaster, Rotherham, Wakefield  and other forgotten communities of the North.

We are supportive of the transport aims of the Northern Powerhouse, as set out in the specification for journey times between its principal centres (ie Liverpool, Manchester, Manchester Airport, Sheffield, Leeds, Hull and Newcastle) and in the requirement for city centre stations.  As noted previously, our only proviso would be that the resulting HS3/Northern Powerhouse Rail system should be developed with the necessary integration so that it also serves the ‘second tier’ of rail hubs, such as Wakefield and Doncaster.

Conflicts between HS2 and HS3/Northern Powerhouse Rail

The HS3 concept has only come about because of the total inadequacy of the original HS2 ‘Y-network’, in particular its failure to provide any transpennine connection between the major cities of the North.  It is fair to characterise the original HS2 as a largely isolated system – witness the initial proposal for the New Lane terminus in Leeds – whose sole priority seemed to be to achieve the swiftest possible journeys to London, rather than provide efficient links between regional cites – witness the abandoned proposal for Meadowhall station, 5km from Sheffield city centre.  HS2’s ‘need for speed’ also dictated near-straight alignments which cannot easily be accommodated into an undulating landscape, and which make it impossible for HS2 to avoid communities such as Crofton that lie in its path.

We would comment that if HS2’s only priority were to connect Leeds and Sheffield to London and other cities on a general north-south axis, and if there were genuine immense value in every minute shaved off existing journey times to London, there might be some logic in the present HS2 proposals.  But the advent of the Northern Powerhouse demonstrates clearly that neither proposition can be true.  The HS2 scheme has now been modified so that the stations in Leeds and Sheffield are both located at the existing city centre hubs, to better integrate with developing ‘HS3’ proposals.  However, the effect of abandoning the Meadowhall scheme has been to drive HS2 so far to the east that there is no possibility of integrating HS2’s north-south route with HS3’s transpennine route.

It is regrettable that rather than challenge HS2’s established routes, Transport for the North has accepted them as basic building blocks in the development of HS3/Northern Powerhouse Rail.   You will hopefully appreciate the fundamental illogicality of basing a scheme intended to deliver step-change improvements in transpennine connectivity upon elements that were designed with no thought for transpennine connectivity.

Superior Performance of Alternative High Speed UK Scheme

Our concerns as to the proper and optimal development of Northern Powerhouse routes are fully confirmed by the research undertaken by High Speed UK in support of their own HSUK scheme for a national network of high speed lines.   HSUK is a fully engineered scheme, with horizontal and vertical alignments prepared for the full length of its routes linking the principal centres of the Northern Powerhouse.  HSUK’s designers claim that high speed rail services on their new routes will meet all the key journey time requirements, and our discussions with the designers give us confidence that their claims are fully justified.

HS2 and HS3 - Lost in the Transpennine Triangle

We would refer you particularly to the enclosed document prepared by High Speed UK (an extract from the HSUK report HS2 : High Speed to Almost Nowhere). This describes a sequential process by which the established HS2 route, passing to the east of both Barnsley and Wakefield, has naturally been adopted for the Northern Powerhouse route between Sheffield and Leeds.  Attention has then turned to upgrading the route between Leeds and Manchester to achieve the specified 30 minutes journey time.  And finally, at some point in the future, the requirement for accelerated journeys between Manchester and Sheffield will be addressed.

HS2 and HSUK Performance in the Transpennine Triangle (Diagram 5.42 from HS2 : High Speed to Almost Nowhere)


The resulting 'transpennine triangle' of routes linking Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester might seem an obvious solution to connect the three cities at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse.  However, its disadvantages can be readily appreciated from the fact that it requires 2 separate transpennine crossings, each with major lengths of tunnel.  It may also take a very long time to implement in full.  The sequential manner in which the solution has been developed has prevented holistic consideration of the basic problem, of connecting Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester by the most efficient and cost-effective means.   No attention has ever been given to the self-evident alternative solution adopted by HSUK, of a Sheffield to Leeds route running to the west of the M1, and connecting to a single transpennine route to Manchester following the abandoned Woodhead corridor.

£5.5 Billion - the Cost of Getting It Wrong

This represents a massive design failure, and the extent of the failure is revealed by comparison of HS2 and likely HS3 routes with the alternative HSUK proposals.  The HSUK routes linking Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester are 79km shorter, 23km less tunnel is required and the construction cost is estimated to be around £5.5 billion less.  The HSUK report goes on to outline a wide-ranging list of other defects in the developing HS3/NPR scheme, all of which appear to arise from HS3 having been effectively predetermined by the established HS2 scheme.  The text of HSUK’s report provides detailed explanations of how all of these defects can  be avoided by HSUK’s more integrated and holistic design approach.  These are all major advantages;  and from the perspective of the Crofton community, an almost equal advantage is that none of the routes selected by HSUK need to go anywhere near to our village.

Needless Blight on Crofton and other Affected Communities

You will doubtless appreciate our concern, that our community is being blighted by ill-conceived proposals which plainly fail to provide the efficient intercity transport links that the Northern region requires if its economy is to prosper.  We are firm in our belief that our region deserves the best possible transport system, and we would join with HSUK in their challenge to the transport establishment, to demonstrate that the established HS2 and developing HS3 proposals represent the optimum solution.  If this challenge cannot be met, then it is clear that the current HS2 proposals cannot be sustained.  Other solutions must be found.

We see it as a matter of urgency that we meet with you, to explain our concerns in greater detail.  We will contact you shortly to make arrangements for this meeting


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