Northern Salvo 314

The Northern Salvo

Incorporating  Weekly Notices, Sectional Appendices, and Northern Weekly Salvo

Published at Station House, Kents Bank, Lancashire-North-of-the-Sands, LA11 7BB and at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU (both Lancashire)


Publications website:

No.     314     October 2023    HS2 Special

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railways, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North.

A special edition of The Northern Salvo, mainly but not entirely about HS2. No photos this time owing to time constraints. Want to get this out to my avid readers……

The Right Decision

Rishi Sunak is still delivering his conference speech as I write but the news we’ve all been waiting for is out. HS2 to Manchester is scrapped, the £36 billion (?) saved will go into regional transport schemes. See the full document (Network North: transforming British transport) at

The devil is always in the detail and it was interesting that the loudest applause he got was the announcement of a string of road schemes. Yet there were some intriguing references to electrifying the North Wales Coast main line and upgrading the Cumbrian Coast route – maybe he’s been watching Portillo’s ‘Great Coastal Rail Journeys’. He emphasized east-west links and the building of a new Trans-Pennine route via Bradford. There was also funding for buses and a continuation of the £2 fare. Further details below with a regional breakdown of public transport projects. Some good ones, it must be said, but an awful lot of roads…..

It’s the end of a long saga in which politicians ignored reality and ploughed on with the scheme first mooted by Andrew Adonis in the dying years of the last Labour Government. A lot of money has already been wasted on a scheme that was over-engineered and badly conceived, with very poor connectivity to the existing rail network. There was a always a risk that far from regenerating the North, it would have sucked wealth further to the south-east and London. Major centres like Stockport, Wigan, Warrington and Stoke would have ended up with a poorer service. As more and more money was being ploughed into HS2 it would have strangled many far better regional projects. I realize many will mourn its demise but I won’t be one of them. Here’s a few more snippets about the scheme, recent and in the more distant past.

What should Labour do?

For a start, drop the soundbite politics about ‘Betrayal of the North’. It isn’t. There’s some good things in the announcement but also a lot that should be challenged, including many of the road building schemes. Where the Government announcement is deficient is the lack of an overall strategy for ‘Network North’ – as it is, there’s a lot of piecemeal schemes (some of which are much needed, undoubtedly). Dumping HS2 means there is a gap in terms of overall rail strategy – below we highlight the importance of a new ‘whole route modernisation’ for the West Coast Main Line north of Crewe. This should be part of an overarching Rail Plan for the North which the proposed ‘Network North’ could drive forward. Castlefield Corridor enhancement would transform the North’s rail network.

The Government announcement

This was published earlier this afternoon, October 4th, and fleshes out what ‘Network North’ would – or could – mean. But read carefully, it’s saying that the money ‘could’ be used to fund the named projects, e.g. Metrolink to Bolton…The schemes below are a summary of the announcement, I haven’t included all the road schemes. Each region gets the £2 bus fare extension and funding for smart ticketing. It’s all here in full: –
North West
  •  Improving connectivity in all six Northern city areas: Nearly £4 billion to improve connectivity, which could pay for schemes such as the extension of the Manchester Metrolink to Heywood, Bolton, Wigan and Manchester Airport and bus rapid transit corridors in Manchester.
  •  New fund to transform rural travel: A brand new £2.5 billion fund to transform local transport for smaller cities, and towns. This new money could pay for new stations, further electrification, bus corridors and new integrated public transport networks.
  •  Energy Coast Line between Carlisle, Workington and Barrow upgraded: Improving capacity and journey times, enabling trains every 30 minutes between Carlisle, Workington, and Whitehaven
  •  Contactless & smart ticketing: £100 million will be shared across the North and Midlands to support seamless travel by enabling contactless or smartcard payment.
  •  £2 bus fare will also be extended: Will run to the end of December 2024 instead of rising to £2.50 as planned. This will mean passengers on a bus journey from Lancaster to Kendal will save £12.50 every time they travel.
  •  £700 million bus funding package in the North: More buses and more frequent routes, including a new service to Royal Blackburn Hospital, doubling the service between Northwich and Chester and more buses to industrial estates and business parks.
  •  £1.5bn for Greater Manchester: Comes from the City Regional Sustainable Transport Settlement 2 budget
  •  Nearly £1bn for Liverpool City Region: Comes from City Regional Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) 2 budget, plus a further £600 million on top – funded from HS2.
North East
  •  Reopening stations: Communities in the North East will be reconnected, including a new station at Ferryhill, Co Durham. The Leamside line, closed in 1964, will also be reopened.
  •  Funding for contactless and smart ticketing: Supporting seamless travel by enabling contactless or smartcard payment.
  •  £1.8 bn for the North East from the City Regional Sustainable Transport Settlement 2 and HS2 funding.
  •  £1 bn for Tees Valley.
Yorkshire & Humber
  •  £2.5 billion West Yorkshire mass-transit system: Better connections to Bradford and Wakefield. Leeds will no longer be the biggest European city without a mass-transit system, with up to seven lines potentially created as part of a transformed network, eventually linking Leeds to Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, and Wakefield.
  •  Hull brought into Northern Powerhouse Rail network: Reducing journey time to Leeds from 58 minutes to just 48. The number of trains between Hull and Sheffield. Journeys from Hull to Manchester will drop from 107 to 84 minutes, enabling two fast trains to Leeds.
  •  Sheffield-Leeds line  electrified and upgraded:  Giving passengers a choice of three to four fast trains an hour with journey times cut from 40 to 30 minutes. A new mainline station for Rotherham will also be added to the route, boosting capacity by 300 per cent.
  •  Hope Valley Line between Manchester and Sheffield electrified and upgraded: Cutting journey times from 51 to 42 minutes, and increasing the number of fast trains on the route from two to three per hour, doubling capacity.
  •  Reopening train lines: Communities will be reconnected, including through the restoration of the Don Valley Line between Stocksbridge and Sheffield Victoria, and new stations at Haxby Station, near York, Waverley, near Rotherham, and the Don Valley Line from Sheffield to Stocksbridge.
  • Nearly £4 billion to better connect all six Northern city areas: This could pay for schemes such as bus rapid transit corridors in Bradford and Leeds.
  • £2.5 billion fund to transform local transport in 14 rural counties: This new money could finance projects like more electric buses in Harrogate and better bus-rail interchange in Scarborough.
  • £1.4 bn for South Yorkshire from savings from HS2 and the City Regional Sustainable Settlement.
  • £1.3 bn for West Yorkshire. This includes a £500m downpayment for the West Yorkshire Mass Transit.
West Midlands
  • Reopening closed Beeching lines: including the Stoke to Leek line and the Oswestry to Gobowen line, with a new stop at Park Hall. A new station will be built at Meir, Stoke-on-Trent, on the existing Crewe to Derby line,
  • £2.2 billion fund to transform local transport: Rural counties such as Shropshire, smaller cities like Leicester and towns such as Evesham will receive funding which could pay for smaller, more demand-driven buses in rural areas as well as funding the refurbishment of Kidsgrove and Longport stations, near Stoke-on-Trent.
  • £230 million for more bus services: Increased  frequency of bus services in the Midlands, which could be spent on new bus stops around Telford and park and ride upgrades elsewhere in Shropshire and new bus lanes in Herefordshire.
  •  £1 billion more for local transport funding in West Midlands:  This includes £100 million to deal with ongoing metro and Arden Cross cost pressures, £250 million to accelerate local transport projects over the next five years.
East Midlands
  • Increased rail capacity: The number of trains between Leicester and Birmingham will be doubled from two to four per hour.
  • £1.5 billion for East Midlands City Region Mayor: Transforming transport for 2.2 million people living in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. This is an average of almost £1000 for everyone in the two counties. The new Combined Authority could use the funding to extend the Nottingham Tram system to serve Gedling and Clifton South and connect Derby to East Midlands Parkway with a Bus Rapid Transit System.
  • Reopening Beeching Line stations: Including the Ivanhoe Line between Leicester and Burton, connecting 250,000 people across South Derbyshire and North West Leicestershire, with new stations en route.
  • Funding for the Barrow Hill Line: Between Chesterfield and Sheffield Victoria, with a new station at Staveley in Derbyshire.
  • Fixing two major pinch points on the A5: Funding a stretch of road between Hinckley and Tamworth, linking the M1 and M6, that serves more than one million people. Funding will also be provided for improvements to the A50/500 corridor between Stoke and Derby, cutting congestion for the 90,000 drivers who use the road each day and ensuring smoother journeys for drivers and freight around Rolls Royce, Toyota, Magna Park, and other major local employers.
  • £2.2 billion fund to transform local transport: Available in every part of the Midlands outside the mayoral combined authority areas and the new East Midlands combined authority – rural counties such as Shropshire, smaller cities like Leicester and towns such as Evesham.
  • £230 million for more bus services: Increasing frequency throughout the Midlands and the popular £2 bus fare will also be extended until the end of December 2024 instead of rising to £2.50 as planned.
  • The East Midlands will get a brand new the City Regional Sustainable Transport settlement of over £1.5 billion as it embarks its new status as a Combined Authority next year.

Rail Reform Group prepares a vision

The last few weeks has seen some serious thinking within the Rail Reform Group (an independent network of rail professionals) looking at ideas for how a post-HS2 vision could look like. A very pertinent comment was:

“The key challenge is not to over-analyze but to deliver – to make good use of the massive sunk costs in HS2 but improve local services as well.  HS2 was very good at arguing that it needed its own route to avoid impacting on the current network – but there are massive direct impacts on the current network at Euston, Old Oak Common, Handsacre, Crewe and lots of other areas which they claim is not their problem – Manchester approaches, West Coast Main Line North  …”

The West Coast Main Line north of Crewe is life expired after the BR ‘total modernisation’ in the early 1970s – and is a massive constraint on freight and passenger services now as well as slow for modern passenger use. Work is happening now, based on renewals, but the vision needs to be wider with both capacity and line speed increases. It must be all the way to Glasgow and Edinburgh.

A key focus must be on Manchester – particularly the Castlefield Corridor, with quadrupling between Deansgate and Piccadilly and similar enhancement south of Stockport, where there is insufficient capacity for the current services and planned HS2 services over the existing infrastructure.

What was wrong from the start?
  • Over specified – speed was too high at 400 kph, trains will only be 360kph, while most high-speed railways in other countries manage with much lower top speeds. This is important –it makes it really difficult to fit the railway into our crowded environment and reduce impact on people and places.  This has resulted in miles of tunnels which are there for environmental purposes rather than to get through the topography – with massive costs
  • Over engineered – all the tunnels – the parallel access road, slab track, platform doors…station design  was similarly over-ambitious.
  • Not integrated into the existing network – with its expensive terminal stations (Leeds, Piccadilly, Birmingham Curzon Street) which did not link into the existing networks. And not connected to HS1 (an early casualty of the project).

Looking back, five years ago…

This article was written for Chartist and published in April 2018

Fast line to failure? The HS2 Conundrum

The traditional left likes big infrastructure projects. They create jobs and provide long-term infrastructure for the nation. So whether it’s a new motorway, airport (or new runway), railway (slow speed or high-speed), they are almost by definition ‘a good thing’. In addition, it’s often asserted that major infrastructure projects can assist economically disadvantaged areas. Environmental campaigners tend to be inherently distrustful – wary of extra pollution through car or air traffic, as well as opposed to the environmental damage which new roads or railways cause. The new high-speed railway from London to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester – HS2 – exemplifies the divisions. Labour and the unions seem broadly in favour of the scheme, with local authorities in the main cities seeing it as a tool of urban regeneration. Most environmental campaigners are against it.

But what of the influential but fragmented ‘rail lobby’, comprising the industry and its suppliers but also the large number of campaigning groups who have succeeded in shifting much Government policy towards a much more pro-rail stance, compared with the road-obsessed approach of the 60s and 70s? It’s very divided. Unsurprisingly, rail industry suppliers are all in favour, with the prospect of multi-billion pound contracts for rolling stock, signalling equipment and actual construction. Some rail campaigners are in support, seeing any rail investment as automatically positive. Yet a large number of experienced industry professionals, as well as lay campaigners, think the whole thing is ill-conceived. This is an interesting group: knowledgeable and pro-rail and not instinctively against ‘high-speed rail’ as seen in mainland Europe, China and Japan. I include myself amongst their number.

So what’s wrong with HS2? The scheme is for a 400 km/h railway starting at Euston and running via west London then out through the Chilterns to a major interchange south of Birmingham. The route then splits, with a branch terminating at a new station at Birmingham (Curzon Street). Phase 2a continues to Crewe and will eventually continue joining the existing West Coast Main Line near Wigan with trains continuing north to Scotland. In Phase 2b there will be branches to Manchester and another line heading to Leeds and the East Coast main Line, with a line joining up with the existing East Coast main Line near York. As with Birmingham, both Leeds and Manchester stations will be dead-ends. There is also serious consideration being given to a Northern east-west route – HS3 or ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ linking Merseyside, Manchester, Leeds and the east coast.

There are a number of big issues with HS2 as it’s currently conceived which should make Labour MPs and local authorities pause for thought. Above all, it’s a hugely London-centric scheme which will benefit the economy of London and the expense of other regions, particularly the North. It will suck wealth further into London, with only some localised regeneration benefits in the areas around the three termini (Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester). At £56 billion (a very conservative estimate and challenged by several commentators, including internal government sources) it’s a very high price to pay to bring a few more jobs to cities which are already doing pretty well. The benefits to large towns which are currently struggling are minimal. And it won’t link to HS1, allowing through trains to mainland Europe, and neither will it serve Heathrow which would help reduce the number of highly polluting domestic flights.

The maximum speed that the line is engineered for is very high – at 250 mph it is much more than European high-speed operation and has consequences for where it goes and places it serves. It is engineered to get from A to B as quickly as possible and misses out large towns and cities in pursuit of the very high-speed holy grail (which is hugely environmentally damaging, both in terms of route and energy consumption). Ironically, it doesn’t do what any sensible high-speed rail project should do and serve the country as a whole, including more distant cities which currently tend to use aviation rather than rail. Above all, this means Glasgow and Edinburgh, but Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea should be included in a strategic approach to a British high-speed network, which is fully integrated with the conventional network. HS2 is neither. Interestingly, the new trains for HS2 which are compatible with the conventional network can only go at a maximum speed of 115 mph, unlike the existing Pendolinos and ageing HST fleet which can run at 125 mph (in the case of Pendolinos they have a design speed of 140 mph but existing signalling limits them to 125). So new ‘high-speed trains’ post 2033 (that’s the target) will actually be slower from Preston northwards.

The new route south of Birmingham will free up capacity on existing routes, though mainly for longer-distance suburban services into London. It will do nothing to provide extra capacity into the major northern or Midlands cities. It won’t help the rail freight industry, whose main spokespersons (including Labour peer Tony Berkeley) are strongly opposed to the current scheme.

I haven’t dwelt much on cost. Even the official estimate is very high and likely to be exceeded. A final figure of around £100bn isn’t unrealistic. You could get an awful lot of good quality conventional railway for that, with money left over for schools and hospitals. There’s still time to reconsider.

What were the true costs?

Michael Byng, an experienced railway engineer, has made the following comments in a letter to the BBC recently, following a discussion between Sir John Armitt and Lord Berkeley:

For those who heard the discussion involving Sir John Armitt and Lord Berkeley this morning on the programme, I regret that your Interviewer failed to establish the base date for the costs being cited. Sir John Armitt inferred that the £180 bn (£182.10 bn actually) was at 4th Quarter 2019 prices, where it is at 2nd Quarter 2023 prices. The estimate of cost at 4th Quarter 2019 prices was £125.52 bn, from independent assessment and supported by ‘Whistleblowers’, within HS2 Limited and its supply chain.

Inflation, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) “All Construction Index”, between 4Q 2019 and 2Q 2023 is 20.33%, which adds £25.51 bn to the estimate before the events in the last 4 years, see below, are considered. In the last 4 (four) years, additional costs arising from the problems at Euston caused by the suspension of the works, Contractor’s claims for Loss and expense arising from Extensions of Time to the original 2017 – 2026 programme and advice from “Whistleblowers” about the “sunk costs” for property acquired and design work done on the, now abandoned, East Midlands to Leeds section, increase the cost to £182.10 bn

Lord Berkeley quoted the current estimated cost correctly, £180 billion at current, 2nd Quarter 2023 prices (my emphasis – ed.).

In August 2018, Sir John Armitt said that “the extra £43bn is needed to prevent “inadequate transport links” for those using public transport in cities across the country, not just those on the HS2 route.” Applying ONS Index to that figure, the further cost, over and above £182.10 bn, of additional connectivity, is £53.13bn. There was no mention of these additional costs in the discussion today.

If Sir John Armitt’s statement made in August 2018 is accepted and taken into included, the cost of the whole connected project is now £235.23 billion!

My comments are in my own area of expertise, construction costs. I understand from railway managers that HS2’s revenue, for whatever extent of reduced system is built, are at least as dubious as the misquoted cost figures. They ask, what is this actually all for?”

Rest of the Salvo……………………

The Community Railway Library and Reading Room make progress

The last issue of The Salvo mentioned some embryonic ideas for the railway library at Kents Bank. Things have moved on a bit and the idea of a publicly-accessible resource, specializing in local/community rail, is coming along. It will be initially based on my own collection, which comprises around 3,000 titles, though I’ve never got round to counting them. It is now shelved at Station House, Kents Bank.

The various categories are being refined but will include sections on railway social history, the unions, railway literature (including poetry), children’s railway books, engineering (civil and mechanical), railway policy and politics, narrow-gauge and miniature, international…and more. There will be space for books on other forms of transport including cycling, trams, buses and shipping.

A community interest company is being formed, with charitable objectives (eventually it may become a registered charity). The collection will be bequeathed to it. It will also be open to other donations. We’ve already had several offers of books from Salvo readers – thank you!

An informal preview of the library will take place on Saturday October 21st, from 13.00h but ‘open house’ for the afternoon, with light refreshments available. All Salvo readers welcome (and donations very much welcome!). The Beach Hut Gallery, next door, has plenty of good stuff on view, and is open Thursday to Sunday 11.00 to 16.00h, so will be open on the 21st.

Plans for a monthly meeting with a guest speaker are also coming along but no date fixed for the first session yet. If you want to be on a dedicated mailing list for the library and ‘railway book club’ events/talks, let me know.

Railway Pigs, Donkeys and other Animals

This idea seems to have got legs (ouch). In the last Salvo I mentioned an embryonic idea to write something about local branch lines that have survived in the popular imagination – like The Pilling Pig, Delph Donkey and Burton Dick, and have their own local name. Things have moved on and those nice people at Platform 5 Publishing in Sheffield have agreed to publish an A4-format book for next summer.

I’d like to get a good geographical coverage across Britain. The key criteria is that the particular line must have evidence of it being remembered today. It could be a photos in the local pub or village hall, a memorial plaque, or even an occasional event. It would be good to get some lines that are still open, such as The Marlow Donkey. The aim is to get about fifteen lines covered So please send your nominations, but remember there must be some present-day evidence that the line still has some local visibility, in whatever way.

Salvo Shorts

To Workington and Millom

Our mini Autumn Holiday took us to places such as Bassenthwaite Lake to sample the excellent station restaurant, housed in the film set for the Orient Express. We had a pleasant ride up the Cumbrian Coast Line to Millom before heading back to Workington. Millom impressed – a town that has gone through hard times but seemed to be on the up. The new art gallery and museum was taking shape down by the harbor and the temporary location had plenty to see. The station itself has some great displays about the town’s history, particularly its Roman past. What tempted us to visit Workington was the excellent artwork on the station which we noticed on our way up. “Let’s see what Workington has to offer!” we decided. The answer is, once you’ve visited the station, not a lot. Yet the historical displays at the station are brilliant and well worth a visit. The town itself has seen better days though the 1920s bus station is worth a visit.B eyond that, I’d struggle…but maybe we missed something. We also stopped off for a drink at the 1970s-heritage Railway Club next to the station which was warm and welcoming.

…and Barrow Hill

It’s a while since I visited Barrow Hill Roundhouse at Staveley, near Chesterfield – so I was looking forward to my trip last Saturday. There was a very practical purpose: to collect garden railway loco 99.6001 following extensive repairs at Nottingham Works, and to collect an antique bell. The bell is intended for Station House, replacing a similar one that disappeared in the late 19th century.  Not sure of exactly where it will go, but working on it. Does anyone know of any other surviving station bells? Barrow Hill is a classic railway community (see below) complete with an ‘Allport Street’ and ‘Midland Terraces’. I’d love to go back and explore further. As it is the Roundhouse is wonderful, and nice to see the Midland Compound no. 1000, GC ‘Director’ Butler Henderson’ and other fibne machines including the three Deltics in the adjacent shed.

Railway villages

Another idea taking shape in my head is a book on ‘railway villages’. No, I don’t mean railway towns, like Crewe, Doncaster or even Horwich. I mean smaller settlements, villages, Barrow Hill being a great example. To qualify as a village I suppose it needs a bit more than just a row of houses, and ideally include shops, schools or church. But not necessarily. Some larger places, including cities, have several railway villages within them, including Carlisle, which has at least four examples (Currock, Durranhill, Kingmoor and Upperby) reflecting the different companies presence in the border city. Woodford Halse would qualify, and there’s a good Oakwood Press book about it. There must be lots scattered around London, e.g. perhaps Bricklayer’s Arms, Camden, Kentish Town. Suggestions please!

Lancastrians: Mills, Mines and Minarets

My book on Lancashire history and identity seems to be doing pretty well. I;ve done half a dozen talks on the book so far and always had good audiences. The next one is at Bolton Family History Society, followed by Grange Photographic Society. More to follow in Preston, Rochdale and Nelson. It isn’t a ‘conventional’ history and covers different theme sof Lancashire history, including sport, culture, politics, industry and religion. It explores the Lancastrians who left for new lives in America, Canada, Russia and South Africa, as well as the ‘New Lancastrians’ who have settled in the county since the 14th century. There are about forty ‘potted biographies’ of men and women who have made important (but often neglected) contributions to Lancashire.

It’s available, published by the highly-respected publishers Hurst whose catalogue is well worth a look at it. See

The book is hardback, price £25. Salvo readers can get a 25% discount by going to the publisher’s website ( and enter the code LANCASTRIANS25 at checkout.

Book Talks

Still in Print (at special prices)

ALLEN CLARKE: Lancashire’s Romantic Radical £6.99 (normally £18.99)

Moorlands, Memories and Reflections £15.00 (£21.00)

The Works (novel set in Horwich Loco Works) £6 (£12.99)

With Walt Whitman in Bolton £6  (9.99)

Last Train from Blackstock Junction (published by Platform 5 Books). A collection of short stories about railway life in the North of England. Salvo readers can get the book at a specially discounted price, courtesy of Platform 5 Publishing. Go to Enter LAST22 in the promotional code box at the basket and this will reduce the unit price from £12.95 to £10.95.

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (published by Crowood £24) – can do it for Salvo readers at £16

See for full details of the books (ignore the prices shown and use the above – add total of £3 per order for post and packing in UK)