Express & Star

A fully built HS2 could have helped the Black Country enormously - here's how

So that's it, HS2 will not run beyond Birmingham. The trains may carry on north of the city, but they will be fitting into an already overcrowded network which this new line was supposed to help relieve pressure on.

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HS2 will terminate in the West Midlands

It's now 14 years since Gordon Brown's Labour government first announced this Y-shaped network running from London Euston to Birmingham Interchange before northern branches to both Manchester and Leeds, with a separate route into Birmingham city centre at Curzon Street.

It's nearly two years since Boris Johnson cut the eastern leg back to East Midlands Parkway, an interchange station near Nottingham on the Midland Main Line from London St Pancras to Yorkshire, where HS2 trains will join the existing network.

And now, a similar scenario will exist near Lichfield as the link from Birmingham Interchange to the West Coast Main Line - designed to be temporary while HS2's Manchester leg was built - will become the permanent route.

People have often, fairly lazily, criticised HS2 as just being a way of getting to London 20 minutes quicker.

It's true trains would be very fast. With a top speed of 225mph, trains from the capital will reach Birmingham in under 50 minutes. Birmingham to Manchester would have been 41 minutes. But HS2 has been about so much more than that. It's been about capacity on our rail network.

And for people saying 'we need more spent on local train services', this is what HS2 allowed.

The Department for Transport (DfT) report from 2009 explained how the West Coast Main Line (WCML) was "the UK’s most important strategic rail corridor". It said: "This Victorian rail line is the busiest in Europe and suffers from unreliable, overcrowded train services that are holding back the potential of the UK’s regional economies."

The report explained that "the current rail corridor can’t be improved much further and bottlenecks on the WCML can’t be upgraded without massive long-term disruption".

"Only a new line can deliver the goal of bringing the regions closer and increasing capacity on the network."

Express trains need a lot of space. An express train travelling at 125mph has a stopping distances of one mile, with the emergency brake applied. So these services need bigger gaps in front of them so they can run at speed which takes up space in the timetable with local trains having to be kept out their way.

Stopping commuter trains need much less space as they travel at lower speeds and stop more frequently. So by removing the express train - which needs more than a mile of clear track in front of it - more local services can be slotted into the timetable, allowing for a more condense service.