Independent report

High speed rail strategic alternatives study: update following consultation

A report by Atkins examining the case for conventional rail alternatives to HS2.



This document provides an update to the appraisal of the key Strategic Rail Alternatives to the HS2 proposition. The report outlines the appraisal of the alternatives being considered. It summarises the interventions developed, examines the capital and operating costs, and then details the economic appraisal of the alternatives.

Atkins was appointed by the Department for Transport (DfT) in August 2009, to consider road and rail improvement alternatives to the High Speed Rail proposition being developed by High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd. The main objective of HS2 Ltd at the time was to consider the case for new high speed services between London and the West Midlands. However, in appraising the HS2 business case and in approving the proposed investment decisions, it was necessary for DfT to also appraise a range of strategic alternatives to HS2 as comparators. Atkins therefore developed an incremental range of road and rail interventions on the existing road and rail networks between London and the West Midlands, designed both to increase capacity, and to bring down journey times on this corridor. These were then costed, modelled in terms of the impact on revenue and appraised to allow them to be compared with the HS2 proposals.

Atkins was subsequently re-engaged by the Department for Transport (DfT) in October 2010 to appraise a set of strategic alternatives to the government’s overall proposed high speed rail strategy for a Y-shaped network linking London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. These scenarios were developed by DfT and included enhancements to not only the existing line between London and the West Midlands, but also the East Coast Main Line (ECML) and the Midland Main Line (MML). Atkins’ economic appraisal of these alternatives to the proposed Y network was published as part of the suite of HS2 consultation documents.

Alongside this work, Atkins was also commissioned to update the original economic appraisal of the London to West Midlands Strategic Rail Alternatives, to be consistent with the latest assessment of the HS2 London to West Midlands scheme.

Further to the HS2 Consultation process, further updates of the key Strategic Alternative packages have been commissioned, which are the subject of this report. These updates have concentrated on Rail Package 2, and its variants (including a package proposed by 51M, a grouping of local authorities), as this package was found to offer the most credible alternative to the business case for HS2 between London and the West Midlands and attracted the most comment in consultation responses, and on Scenario B as the most credible alternative to the wider HS2 ‘Y’ Network.

These Strategic Alternatives have been revised, in this document, to take account of:

  • the updated HS2 model (2010 baseline) - which itself takes account of recent high growth in demand on the West Coast Main Line following completion of the West Coast Route Modernisation (WCRM) programme and recent timetable changes
  • feedback from the HS2 Consultation process, and from a report on the key alternatives which was commissioned by the Department for Transport from Network Rail in the light of the interest in these schemes raised in consultation

At the same time and, in parallel, Atkins has taken the opportunity to review some of the assumptions used previously and add greater detail to the modelling, which has in some cases been able to ensure greater consistency between HS2 and the Strategic Alternatives.

Background documents

This document should be read in conjunction with the earlier Atkins reports on the strategic alternatives.