UK HS3 plan for trans-Pennine rail link 24 June 2014
Peter Kenyon, TunnelTalk
Plans for a third high speed rail line linking the northern cities of Manchester and Leeds are proposed by the UK Government.
Proposed new HS3 link between Manchester and Leeds

Proposed new HS3 link between Manchester and Leeds

High Speed 3 (HS3) would span the Pennines - a range of hills that make high speed transport communications challenging - to establish a 45-mile link between the two extreme-most cities at the end of the second phase of the UK High Speed 2 (HS2) Project. According to the Minister who announced the plan, the new line could be built for a cost of £7 billion, and consultation could begin during Sir David Higgins’ review of the second phase of HS2 between Birmingham and Manchester and Birmingham and Leeds.
In a speech delivered at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Technology, UK Chancellor George Osborne said: “Today I want us to start thinking about whether to build a new high speed rail connection east-west from Manchester to Leeds, based on the existing rail route, but speeded up with new tunnels and infrastructure.”
Osborne said that it takes more than twice as long to travel between Liverpool and Hull by rail as it does between London and Paris – even though the distance involved is half the 283 miles between the English and French capital cities.
Creating a high capacity east-west high speed link across the Pennines, which is currently a bottleneck for all east-west rail traffic in the north of England, would effectively join up a number of northern UK cities, including Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull, allowing them to join together to become an economic “powerhouse” that collectively could rival London, said Osborne.
Twin-tracked 4.8km Standedge rail tunnel built in 1898

Twin-tracked 4.8km Standedge rail tunnel built in 1898

At the moment only five “fast” trains per hour service the 50-minute journey between Manchester and Leeds, although this is due to be increased to six as part of Network Rail’s £600 million Northern Hub rail investment plan. The journey offers breathtaking views but the gradients involved in crossing the Pennines, coupled with the number of curves in the line as it negotiates contours between the hill peaks, result in average speeds of under 60mph and a maximum speed of 90mph, a contributory factor to it taking nearly two hours to travel the 65 miles between Liverpool and Leeds.
According to the Chairman of HS2, Sir David Higgins, cost could be kept down by using some of the existing route, but in order to flatten out the curves tunnelling would be required. The route currently features one major tunnel – the 4.8km-long double-track Standedge tunnel, built in 1894, but this would be unsuitable for bidirectional high speed rail traffic.
The planned route of the first phase of HS2 between London Euston and Birmingham is currently waiting final Parliamentary approval, with a decision due in the Autumn. If this is forthcoming construction is scheduled to begin in 2017 in time for a 2023 opening. The second phase of HS2, between Birmingham and Manchester and Birmingham and Leeds, is subject to a review by HS2 Ltd Chairman Sir David Higgins. A preliminary route has been designed, but is still subject to consultation. The UK Government hopes to gain the necessary approvals to enable a 2023 construction start on the second phase, in time for services beginning in 2032. Project scope across the entire 560km of planned high speed network includes 56km of twin running tunnels.
Arguing for the UK High Speed 2 projectTunnelTalk, March 2014
HS2 hybrid bill launched in UKTunnelTalk, November 2013
Making a business case for UK high speed railTunnelTalk, September 2013
UK High Speed Rail 2 needs 56km of tunnelsTunnelTalk, January 2013
New 9km tunnel for UK high speed railTunnelTalk, April 2013
Extra tunnels seal UK high speed rail approvalTunnelTalk, January 2012

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