Citizens of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby now know the true cost of High Speed Two. After an endless on/off saga they now know that they will not be able to travel on modern high speed electric trains to the capital and that their Midland Main Line will become the only major route from London that is not electrified.
Critics of HS2 always said that the price to be paid for this multi-billion pound vanity project would be a reduction in investment in our classic rail network, and so it has come to pass. Like people living between Cardiff and Swansea and visitors to Windermere, those in the East Midlands will have to make do with a botched compromise, where inefficient new trains that run on both electric and diesel power will work under the wires as far north as Kettering, before switching to diesel power for the onward journey to Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield.
Electrification is still being extended in the North West and in Scotland and electric traction is the future, being far more eco-friendly than diesel alternatives, yet that argument seems to have been lost in the interest of keeping a few hundred million pounds in the government kitty so that it can then be shovelled into the ever-hungry HS2 fire-box.
It has always been a nonsense in British railway operations that we run diesel-powered services for vast distances on electrified routes. Several High Speed Trains a day on the East Coast Main Line run “under the wires” for almost 400 miles to Edinburgh before heading on to Inverness or Aberdeen, while other HST sets run entirely on electrified lines between London and Leeds.
The Midland Main Line has long been something of a Cinderella trunk route, with re-signaling and introduction of HSTs long after they had taken over on Britain’s other trunk routes from the capital. Now that status is being regained in the interests of funding a route whose whole business case remains highly questionable and whose costs are escalating.
Still, in 20 or so years the people of Nottingham and Derby should be able to jump in their hybrid cars and drive to the giant new park and ride site mid-way between their two cities. Here they will pay a premium fare to travel on one of the shiny new 250mph trains that will whisk them to the capital in only an hour (excluding the cost and time of driving to the station, parking and airline-style check-in of course).