Northern speed


I am all in favour of better transport links to speed faster growth in the northern cities. I look forward to reading an appraisal of the various options for the Leeds/Manchester routes that we hear about this morning. We need a good business appraisal of capacity requirements and the cost of  various options to improve journey times.

We should remember that today the train journey time between Leeds and Manchester is 50 minutes, for a distance of  45 miles ( by road). The train time for the 18 mile journey across London from Ealing to Stratford is also 50 minutes.

The Ealing to Stratford time will be  reduced by Crossrail.  London badly needs both more capacity and faster journey times east to west. The trains are currently very crowded for long periods of the day and evening. The idea behind the exploration of northern options is to offer  improvement to the north similar to  the extra capacity and speedier journeys that Crossrail will bring to London.

In London the 50 minutes from Ealing to Stratford is as good as it gets, as it is a journey on a single tube line. Ealing to Upminster, at 33 miles still less far than  Leeds-Manchester, takes 1 hour 22 minutes by train and at least that time by road.

The growth of London was spurred by the construction of tube lines into the centre. These offered relatively slow trains taking direct routes into the heart of the city and meant people could live further out from the centre but still have a reasonable journey time into the business, shopping  and entertainment districts at the heart of London. Cross London travel prior to Crossrail has never been great. The northern needs are different, as they have  a pattern of segregated cities and the Pennines  in between which has to be taken into account when working out what best transport links can promote their growth. It is good to see some positive thinking on this topic.


  1. Ex-expat Colin
    October 27, 2014

    If the herd is not massively reduced in London then anything new build/modded will be rapidly overtaken.

    I have received a document in Greenwich about a new Thames tunnel recently. Indicated the herd is to be increased I think.

  2. Roy Grainger
    October 27, 2014

    I see that the Labour councils involved seem supportive of HS3 so I suppose there is some political mileage in it. However on the face of it spending a few billion to take a few minutes off the travel time between the centre of Leeds and the centre of Manchester without stopping at any of the places in between looks like a gigantic waste of money. The same money invested in the entire rail network in the north, including the commuter lines into the main cities, would seem more valuable and of more benefit to the general population there, if we have to invest in rail at all.

  3. Iain Moore
    October 27, 2014

    One thing that is not speeding along is English Votes for English laws, having been put in Hague’s hands it has hit the buffers. You might have thought that if Cameron was in favour of it , a campaign would have been taken to the country, but with Hague it is being smothered a birth.

    1. JoolsB
      October 27, 2014

      No doubt it has been parked in the buffers in the longest grass they could find. For all Cameron’s grandstanding on the matter the morning after the Scottish result, it was in response to his own backbenchers and UKIP, nothing to do with being in favour of it. If Cameron was really serious, they would be talking about it at every opportunity and making political hay out of Labour and the Lib Dums refusal to address the undemocratic governance of England, insisting that without EVeL, there can be no devo max for Scotland. After all the Tories have got nothing to lose in Scotland and everything to lose in England.

      It will be interesting to see if they produce an English manifesto alongside their Scottish, Welsh & NI ones, somehow I doubt it!

      1. Iain Moore
        October 28, 2014

        Indeed the Cameron Conservatives seem very concerned about the embarrassment they may cause Labour and the Libdems over English people’s equality, for it is hard to explain the purdah any other way unless of course they don’t give a dammed about English peoples equality themselves.

    2. Iain Gill
      October 27, 2014

      Cameron is just a PR man, he doesn’t really believe in much at all, less does he push anything through. He just wants to win with no real reason for doing so.

      1. lifelogic
        October 28, 2014

        Good he just need policies 180degrees from current on green crap, tax borrow and waste, the EU and a fair deal for th e English. He is quite good defending lunacy much easier for him to defend sensible policies.

  4. zorro
    October 27, 2014

    As you imply, the passenger volumes on the trains from Manchester – Leeds are not within a million miles of what we have to put up with in London….. and yet still they think it is a good idea to make the journey 15 minutes less at massive cost and disruption….. Even with Crossrail (for the distance travelled) it would still be quicker to travel from city to city up North….

    What is the driving force behind this very expensive piece of insanity when there are much more sensible options to deal with any future capacity problems?


    1. stred
      October 27, 2014

      I have lived in Manchester and the West Riding. I noticed that the Mancunians have a belief that they are superior to their eastern neighbours, who they describe as … thick in the head. They also think that Manchester rivals London as he most imoprtant city in England, and seem to have forgotten Birmingham. While in Yorkshire, only Yorkshire born count as Yorkshirepersons and they remind everyone that it is by far the biggest and most important county and a 6 mile push to the West at the top LHS side would cut the country in half.

      It is hardly surprising that, when Mancunians take control of influencial bodies, such as the BBC, they try to move the operation to the scenic parts of the conurbation such as Salford. Having done so, the next step in the plan is to drive a very long tunnel through the hard rock of the Pennines to the next suburb, Leeds. While the towns high on the Pennines will be able to reinvent their coal mining skills, digging deep shafts to deep underground stations, watching the high peed trains whizzing past and waiting for the next slow one to Leeds.

    2. Lifelogic
      October 27, 2014

      Indeed it is total insanity. We are crying out for more road space and bridge capacity on nearly all the main routes in the South East and nothing has been done. Motorists pay for everything yet get nothing returned.

      HS trains are less efficient than cars (and even than slower trains). They do not go door to door, are less convenient, need staff and stations, have endless annoying announcements, make fewer stops, need longer connection journeys, are hugely expensive, need new tracks, destroy homes and businesses, take years to build and are empty much of the time anyway anyway. They are not even good for C02 emissions (even if you do still believe the absurd exaggerations and the positive feedback hell on earth drivel).

      If they are so efficient why is a single ticket for one (and very heavily subsidised) still more expensive than sending 7 people in a car door to door when that is heavily over taxed?

      The only HS train we need is one from Gatwick to Heathrow with an additional runway at both ends.

      The BBC who have the arty (emotion over science) public transport, bikes, walking good cars, planes, trucks bad duff religion are largely to blame for filling the mind of the public with complete drivel.

      Remove subsidy and let the markets decide. Electric cars and daft subsidies (with current technology) are a total nonsense too.

      The greenest thing you can do is usually to keep running you old car running rather than buying and thus building a new one. (Unless perhaps it is a Jaguar or Aston Martin like Prince Charles/Vince Cable/two Jags/do what I say not what I do, types use).

      Remove the tax/subsidy for trains and let them compete let the market decide. If any rail is to be build build it where the demand is do not try to move the demand it will not work.

    3. Hope
      October 27, 2014

      The EU plan to have rail links to all major cities in the EU. Cost and views of nationals irrelevant.

    4. Victor
      October 27, 2014

      It might possibly have something to do with the majority of the northern city leaders saying what a good idea and Osborne claiming that the north needs a city to compete with London. Combining Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Hull is a pretty big city in UK terms.

  5. Ian wragg
    October 27, 2014

    Where’s all this money coming from to finance the vanity of politicians? By the time it’s built it will be obsolete and most of the money will have gone to mainland Europe.
    I see the academically challenged Davey says we have the most secure power supply in Europe. God help the others. Is there no end to Westminster stupidity. I think the P in PPE stands for pratts

    1. Excalibur
      October 27, 2014

      Indeed. Interviewed on Sky, the Transport Secretary seemed to think that the next one-hundred years would be the same as the last one-hundred years……

      1. lifelogic
        October 28, 2014

        They do like to solve yesterdays problems and
        not tomorrows.

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    October 27, 2014

    Daily Mail: “Plans for another high-speed rail line in the North will go ahead, say ministers – but they admitted last night they had no idea how much it would cost…….However, the Chancellor has in the past speculated that such a line could cost as much as £6-7billion – leading to claims that further money was being wasted on what many believe is a misconceived and unaffordable project.”

    Whatever happened to your party of fiscal prudence? Be frank, the three main parties currently in Westminster are at root the same – tax, borrow, spend and waste.

    1. lifelogic
      October 28, 2014

      Indeed, tax, borrow and piss down the drain.

  7. Alan Wheatley
    October 27, 2014

    Here we have yet another tactic without a strategy. But this comes as no surprise as trains are the DfT’s cherished mode of transport, despite rail being of the nineteenth rather than the twenty-first century, and anything that can be seen to be big and fast is ideal for ministers to understand and subsequently declare “open”.

    Where is the strategy? Does it make any sense to move ever more people from place to place faster and more frequently? Are all these anticipated journeys really necessary? Could the objective of the journey be achieved far more cost effectively by other means?

    It seems to me that infrastructure investment that does make sense is data communications. We should be moving to a situation where ALL premises are connected to a very high speed cable network, enabling video conferencing and all the other benefits that come with it. This will, of course, not replace rail and road travel, but it will take away the demand to increase its capabilities.

    There are two further advantages to increasing data communications: it can be rolled out to everyone, not just those in places chosen to receive government largess; there will be no protest pressure groups.

    1. Iain Gill
      October 27, 2014

      yes we should have fibre optic cable to all end customers premises

      its such an obvious decision

      and it will pay for itself much quicker than a vanity train set

  8. Richard1
    October 27, 2014

    A very weak defence of HS2 was offered by its head this am on Today. Its worth spending £45bn because with a one hour train journey you won’t need a whole day eg to go to a football match in manchester. What about getting to and from the stations? All sorts of spurious claims were made about fast railinks spurring growth in German cities. Its all far too glib. There is great scrutiny in other areas of public spending – we hear the army is to be cut again for example – but on HS2 and now HS3 (to which there is a very obvious and cheaper upgrade option) all rationality is thrown out the window. I assume its really about a gesture to the ‘North’. this doesn’t speak well for this govts control of public spending.

    1. Richard1
      October 27, 2014

      Correction: I gather HS2 is to cost £73 billion.

      1. lifelogic
        October 28, 2014

        Cost is what you pay value is what you get. Perhaps 10% of that in value at best.

  9. stred
    October 27, 2014

    Sir David did all that would be expected for somone on a salary of over half a million. Don’t forget that when an Australian stand an argument on his head here, it is really the right way up.

  10. Mick Anderson
    October 27, 2014

    The chap in charge of HS2 thinks that HS3 is a good idea. Hold the front page….

    I completely oppose HS2, on grounds of cost and environmental damage. I also suspect that it will do economic harm by pulling any business into London rather than allowing it to spread out.

    There is some small sympathy for the idea behind HS3, because it will recycle some existing routes. It also won’t make business more difficult in the North (unless they are actually asked to fund it), even if it doesn’t improve things. However, it’s far too expensive, and it still doesn’t need to be high-speed.

  11. margaret brandreth-j
    October 27, 2014

    The comparison highlights the congestion in London and the need to divert some business from London to the North to relieve the present already packed focus.

  12. acorn
    October 27, 2014

    Don’t you just love these pre-election periods? All sorts of crazy ideas come out of the woodwork to be unconditionally endorsed by politicians desperate for votes.

    HS 2; HS 3; City Regions and you just know they are never going to happen in a lifetime. Ah but, the man has been and sprayed paint around the potholes in our local main road!!! Is this a sign of things to come?

  13. Andy
    October 27, 2014

    As I live ‘up North’ and use the train between Leeds and Manchester (usually going to Manchester Airport) it does badly need greater capacity. The trains are very often packed. By contrast the East Coast service (which is rubbish when compared to GNER) to London is very often empty unless you travel on the very early trains or those leaving King’s Cross between 5pm and 6.30pm. Whether HS2, HS3 are necessarily the answer is a matter of debate. I certainly feel that they should examine reopening the old Great Central Mainline which would give more capacity on a line that could be high speed.

  14. alan jutson
    October 27, 2014

    HI speed only works effectively over long distances.

    The shorter the distance, and the more stops (stations) you put into the system, the less effective it is at saving time.

    Similar argument against an expensive and high performance motor car which is being used only for use within London and its Traffic congestion with all of its stops and starts.
    May do 0-60mph in 5 seconds, but then spends 5mins waiting at lights.

  15. English Pensioner
    October 27, 2014

    Let’s pay off all our debts first.
    Then the interest saved will pay for these projects
    Otherwise we will build up even more debt with no hope of ever paying off the capital.

  16. oldtimer
    October 27, 2014

    As you point out in your opening paragraph, any such proposal needs to be backed up by a business case. Merely stating a reduction in journey times does not amount to a business case – helicopters would make make the trip even quicker and might even be a better method for those situations where time really does cost money. More relevant questions requiring an answer would include the purpose of the travellers, how many there are, where do they start and finish their journeys, expected changes in future travel patterns and what is driving them, current capacity, alternative options to HS3 and so forth. We await convincing answers on these questions with respect to HS2. Todays puff sounds like displacement activity.

  17. Bert Young
    October 27, 2014

    I can think of a number of worthwhile projects where infrastructure investments would be better applied than either HS2 or HS3 . The equally stupid arguments that allege “huge” financial benefits from these projects are flawed . If there is economic sense then it should be left to the private sector to explore and invest – I would not put any money into them .

  18. Bigneil
    October 27, 2014

    For any regular traveller to London, any so-called time benefits on HS2 or HS3 are entirely dependant on where you live in relation to your present station/ the new HS2 station – and the actual train times themselves. If you live within 10 minutes of your “normal” station, but, if your nearest HS2 station will be another 20 minutes driving North (i.e AWAY from London) then you will actually have to leave home earlier to catch the HS2 (assuming both types of train would leave their stations at the same time). So, if the actual HS2 journey “saved” the same amount of time you have just spent driving further to the station, your actual “whole” journey (home- London – home)could take LONGER. So the people who will have used god knows how much money to build the monstrosity will have benefitted a few people,( their business friends) but destroyed countryside and houses and made their own political party VERY unpopular.

  19. Atlas
    October 27, 2014

    … Hmm, does everybody in the North live in the centres of Manchester and Leeds? I think not. So what about factoring in the time to get to these terminii as well?

  20. Lifelogic
    October 27, 2014

    In short spend £100 billion on something worth perhaps 10 billion while causing huge disruption. Pay for it by taxing and borrowing off people and businesses who have far better things to do with it.

    We are governed by complete idiot or people with their fingers in the till. There is no other plausible explanation is there?

    Outside a few special,situations trains and wind turbines are obsolete technology kept alive only by idiotic government subsidy. Let the markets decide on a level playing field.

    1. Lifelogic
      October 27, 2014

      Robot door to door cars, taxis, buses and coaches will be here before it is even finished.

  21. Alte Fritz
    October 27, 2014

    Yes, trans-pennine rail travel needs improvement. The M62 is frequently like a car park. Between south Lancashire and Yorkshire there are two rail routes in use and one link which could be restored . One route in use is very underused. Rolling stock is very overcrowded.

    As with HS2, what needs to be achieved could be done better at lower cost by using and improving what we have and achieved more quickly.

    1. lifelogic
      October 28, 2014

      Build a bigger M62 then. That is clearly what is needed look at demand and supply it. Demand despite tax subsidy bias for trains.

  22. behindthefrogs
    October 27, 2014

    In addition to the economic effects of these proposed improved rail lines there are other factors that need to be taken into account. For example I believe that Hull has a problem with high unemployment levels. This should mean that the link to Hull of the proposed HS3 is given high priority, not left as an add on at the end of the project.

    October 27, 2014

    Travelling east to west in the North is a problem. Even the S.East to N.West within the North.

    Casting away your maps and sat navs which is advisable because even so-called satellite images are misleading and plain wrong from evidence on the ground, you will find driving from say 30 miles north of Hull to Leeds in winter months after… noon presents a Matrix-style anomaly.

    The advice to British airmen was beware an attack from a plane coming “in the sun”. A compass will reveal on the journey I indicate you spend a miraculous amount of time actually driving south with the low-horizoned sun whiting over your windscreen only to face a similar low-level white-out as you eventually travel west onwards to Leeds. Oh and as photographers are aware there is a difference between the light of a sunrise and that of a setting sun, the latter creates more blinding white-out.

    In point of fact, the use of a compass at all times by drivers will reveal such anomalies the length and breadth of England.

    It is to be hoped that persons looking at the options for building a Leeds-Manchester travel-way will not have faith in map and satellite imaging but will somehow walk if necessary the whole journey with compass in hand to make absolutely certain the plans for the link lack a certain creativity ( for one reason or another ) and therefore do not add decades of needless and costly fuel consumption and vehicle wear.

  24. Iain Gill
    October 27, 2014

    If it was Sunderland to Liverpool, or similar, that would be a real cross Pennine route. As it is it just looks like a route dreamt up by the lazy Southern elite that doesn’t understand the North at all.
    My own view is given the national debt we cannot afford it. That’s the top and bottom of it. I am surprised to see you say anything else John.

    Reply I say examine the business case for better transport – all this relates to spending for the period after the deficit has been eliminated.

    1. Iain Gill
      October 28, 2014

      Come on John I am not a lazy BBC journalist. We both know when the deficit gets to zero we need to start paying the debt off.

  25. Vanessa
    October 27, 2014

    With the additional nearly 2 billion pounds we now owe the EU and I have no doubt they will come asking for more each year, how is it that we can afford to throw £50 + billion at a railway line which runs through the “garden of England” to save 10 minutes off a journey?

    Added to that our deficit is still growing and our debt has doubled in the years of this tory government. Does money grow on trees now ?

  26. dbarry
    October 27, 2014

    I’m a Northerner originally but I don’t know what to make of this. I’m certainly not sure that the North’s claim to have been neglected stands up to scrutiny. At least not to the extent that some people claim. The Humber Bridge was the world’s longest suspension bridge for 16 years but hasn’t revived Hull to any extent. The M62 reduced driving time across the Pennines but doesn’t appear to have brought about the hoped for revival on either side. Tram systems have been built in Manchester and Sheffield.

    Crossrail is still three or four years off and I still have unhappy memories of the consequences of poor investment for years in the tube and the SE commuter network. Heathrow still only has two runways and Gatwick only one.

    I’m not saying that HS3 should not go ahead but I can’t help feeling that more modest upgrades over the wider northern network would be more beneficial and, perhaps more important, much quicker.

  27. Lindsay McDougall
    October 28, 2014

    Much of the projected economics benefits of HS2 and HS3 are value of time benefits. Such benefits can be converted to fare box revenue by raising fares on the improved service. However, I don’t hear this argument very often from supporters of HS2 and HS3. Perhaps such fare box revenue would not be big enough to justify the huge expenditure on infrastructure and rolling stock.

    There is one downside to Crossrail. It will enable wealthy people working in the City to live west of London, pushing up house prices there. To people who tell me not to be selfish, my response is: stop immigration and I will be.

    Reply The case for HS2 contains substantial benefits from time savings

    1. lifelogic
      October 28, 2014

      The is no case economically for hs2 you can work on trains anyway and for it to be fast means fewer stops and longer connection travelling.

    2. lifelogic
      October 28, 2014

      Remove the subsidy and fiscal bias for trains against cars and see what the real demand is.

  28. Pedro
    October 28, 2014

    No doubt, this Euro tax has been badly handled by the Treasury so thanK you for going on DP just now John. Bravely done especially as you were against a German MP who was given the first and last word and the presenter.

    What I can’t understand is why no one questions that part of this tax is based on the positive effects to the economy of both prostitution and drugs. Neither of which are legal, audited and therefore assessable in the UK!

    Typical BBC, the DP also talked about upcoming energy failure (due to focus on Green Crap) with the hapless Matthew Hancock and finished the show with an anti-franking section.

  29. Ale Bro
    October 28, 2014

    The journey time between Manchester and Leeds may be 50 minutes at the dead of night, but during commuting hours the trip will be take at least double the length of time.

    This means that it is not possible to live in one city and commute to the other.

    Decreasing commuting times will benefit northerners as they will have a much larger pool of potential employment opportunities, and will also benefit businesses who will be able to access a greater pool of talent.

    The transport infrastructure in the North is incredibly slow and poorly integrated, with local authorities unable to effect change. Transforming the North isn’t a bad idea – there’s votes hidden in those hills somewhere.

    Reply 50 minutes is the train time

  30. Michael Wand
    November 5, 2014

    If this new fast link were built between Manchester Victoria station and Leeds station, cutting through the economic barrier of the Pennines, it would also fast-connect the rail system of East Lancs to that of West Yorks and open a Northern Cities Crossrail from Liverpool in the west to York and Hull in the east.

    Add to this a Bradford-Mirfield-Sheffield fast link and the electrification of more supporting lines in East Lancs/West Yorks and there would be a joined up northern economy half as big again as that of Birmingham.

    There would be greater benefit to this single northern economy if construction of HS2 did not start until the crossrail had opened; and more still if HS2 were parked even longer.

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