This week’s government paper on High Speed 2 includes important news on how HS2 will link up to HS1. The two lines will be connected by a short stretch of the North London line which runs east-west a little to the north of St Pancras and Euston stations. This will:
1) allow direct services to European cities for train passengers from the Midlands and the North, and
2) allow direct services to Birmingham and beyond for people from Kent using Ebbsfleet (and others via Stratford).
The first has long been mooted as one of the key benefits of HS2 but the second has only now been confirmed and is a big benefit for the Medway Towns and North Kent. Birmingham and the Northern cities will become more easily accessible for us than for many people living much nearer to them.
As well as our fast service to St Pancras, with the option of connecting to very frequent HS2 services from Euston, we will be able to have through services to Birmingham, without passengers needing to change, or the train even having to go into St Pancras or Euston, and with just one stop at Old Oak Common, the West London Crossrail interchange.
HS2 Ltd and Department of Transport officials briefed me with a further piece of information yesterday not included in the published documents. That is an estimate of travel time from Ebbsfleet to Birmingham Airport of 55 minutes. Officials have promised to firm up this estimate and publish an official figure within a week or two.
Birmingham Airport has ambitious expansion plans and HS2 therefore transforms the debate about airport expansion in the South-East. On HS2 Birmingham Airport will be only half an hour from Old Oak Common, 41 minutes from Euston and 55 minutes from Ebbsfleet, and without any need to change trains at Old Oak Common, as will be necessary for Heathrow until at least 2032.
Birmingham Airport will be easier to get to than Heathrow for millions of people in London and the South-East, let alone those further north, and provides yet another knock-down argument against pie in the sky proposals to build a new airport in the Thames Estuary.