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Project : Domestic and international high speed rail

Article date 28 July 2011
Revised 30 September 2016

Proposal for Aylesbury Interchange on High Speed 2

RailAble wishes to propose Aylesbury Interchange as a station on the High Speed 2 railway line.

Introduction

The diagrammatic map below illustrates our proposal for Aylesbury Interchange (AI) as a station stop on the High Speed 2 (HS2) railway line.

An introduction to Aylesbury Interchange on High Speed 2

A primary role of Aylesbury Interchange (AI) would be to provide a passenger interchange between the conventional rail network and the High Speed 2 (HS2) line. This would provide access to the HS2 line at this point and thereby strengthen the prospects of commercial success for HS2.

Whilst we appreciate the facilities offered by the High Speed 1 (HS1) railway line, it could be said that a weakness is to be found in the lack of integration at Ebbsfleet International with the conventional rail network. Given that St Pancras International offers a good but not perfect range of rail and Underground connections, improved connections to services on the High Speed 1 (HS1) line might, in our opinion, have been offered by greater interconnection with the conventional rail network at Ebbsfleet International, however this opportunity was missed. Ebbsfleet International provides a parkway station but not a rail interchange. In these circumstances, we would like to suggest that provision of a HS2 HS1 link provides the means to extend some existing international services to a new international station Aylesbury International incorporated into Aylesbury Interchange, thereby improving access to the international rail network. In particular, some passengers inconvenienced by the closure of the former Waterloo International station might be amongst those who would find Aylesbury International to be convenient. A second role of Aylesbury Interchange (AI) would therefore be to provide access to international rail services.

A third role for Aylesbury Interchange (AI) would be to provide a railway station for rail-based journeys to London Heathrow Airport. Proposals by High Speed Two Ltd include a connecting line from HS2 to Heathrow. We propose that the role of this line would change to also facilitate local rail journeys to Heathrow. Potentially there would be less emphasis on direct rail services from HS2 to Heathrow. We anticipate that Aylesbury Interchange (AI) with this connecting line from AI to Heathrow would substantially improve the rail-connectedness of Heathrow (footnote 1).

Aylesbury Interchange (AI) would therefore provide access to domestic High Speed rail, to international rail services and to Heathrow.

Aylesbury Interchange (AI) would be designed as both a rail interchange station and as a parkway station. In both of these roles, AI would provide access to domestic High Speed rail (HS2), to international rail services (HS1) and to Heathrow, in the latter case also contributing to a reduction in congestion on the M25 motorway.

To the extent that it is wise to establish a strategy for a rail network capable of withstanding a substantial increase in ridership - for example, as a result of any significant switch from car travel to train travel - AI is envisaged as a key element in the realisation of such a strategy in the London area. AI is designed to form part of a vision for a future-proofed rail network. AI therefore dovetails in with the vision for High Speed rail and provides a key feeder to the High Speed rail network. AI is designed as a major transport hub offering a wide range of connections.

Swindon express link

AI is designed in conjunction with an express railway line westwards linking to the existing line to Swindon and South Wales, with connections from it to Reading, Oxford and Banbury. We are proposing this express line and propose that it is known as the Swindon express link, as illustrated earlier.

The Swindon express link provides access to the High Speed rail network both to the North and to Europe. This link line offers the potential for express services direct from South Wales (footnote 2).

The Swindon express link is envisaged as enabling a new route from the West Country and South Wales to Paddington and Heathrow via AI as an alternative to the route via Reading. This is designed to provide an efficient passenger interchange between HS2 services and services to the West Country and South Wales.

The Swindon express link necessitates upgrades to existing rail infrastructure (footnote 3).

Crossrail

Crossrail is a project to provide east-west rail services by means of a tunnel beneath central London. It is currently under construction.

We anticipate that Crossrail and Underground services would be brought out to AI, although Crossrail services to AI would necessitate a change in service patterns from those currently envisaged for Crossrail.

Aylesbury Interchange and Old Oak Common

An HS2 station at Old Oak Common is currently planned as the HS2 station in London or vicinity prior to the terminus at London Euston.

AI would provide the strategic connections that the station at Old Oak Common would provide, or equivalents. These include an interchange for services to the West Country and South Wales, a Crossrail interchange and an interchange for Heathrow.

AI is designed as a replacement for the station currently proposed at Old Oak Common.

One of the objectives of HS2 is to rebalance the economy. The current plan might however be regarded as London-centric. A station at AI would provide access to HS2 on the north side of London by car and access by rail from London, the South East, Southern England, the West Country and South Wales. AI would therefore facilitate business travel from a large catchment area to towns and cities in northern England and Scotland. We suggest that AI is a superior proposal to the proposed station at Old Oak Common and also better supports the objectives of HS2.

Concerning travel into London, there are reasonable prospects for passengers alighting from HS2 services at AI to be able to obtain seats on Crossrail services to London and on services to Heathrow, whereas services at Old Oak Common both to London and to Heathrow would be subject to crowding. Given that HS2 is envisaged as offering a premium-value service, an interchange at Aylesbury offers a compatible customer experience, whereas an interchange at Old Oak Common does not. AI offers better prospects for the commercial success of HS2 than does a station at Old Oak Common.

High Speed 2 to Euston and St Pancras International

It is natural to consider an HS2 to HS1 link via St Pancras International.

The following plan illustrates HS2 to Euston and HS2 to St Pancras International for HS1. A change of direction is necessary at St Pancras International. No existing lines are shown except HS1 and the Midland Main Line. Euston is to be expanded as part of proposals by High Speed Two Ltd and we have included a link to connect the Midland Main Line to Euston. Long-distance services on the Midland Main Line might be re-routed to terminate at Euston instead of at St Pancras (Thameslink unaffected). The purpose of this re-routing would be to simplify the allocation of train paths (space/time slots) for arrival at and departure from St Pancras (footnote 4). It is possible that platforms for Midland Main Line services terminating at St Pancras would be taken out of use, equivalent platforms being provided as part of the expanded Euston station.

High Speed 2 to Euston and to St Pancras International

Services from HS2 to HS1 would call at St Pancras, whether international services or an extension of domestic High Speed services via HS1 to Medway towns.

AI does not require any specific alignment for a HS2 to HS1 link.

Aylesbury Interchange located between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury

We will now turn our attention to the question of the location of AI in relation to Aylesbury.

A possible location for AI on the HS2 railway line is at the point that HS2 crosses the existing railway line from Princes Risborough to Aylesbury, maximising the potential of the conventional rail network in this area. There would reasonably be link roads to the A41 for the M25 motorway and to the A418 for the M40 motorway.

Locating AI at the point that HS2 crosses the existing railway line from Princes Risborough to Aylesbury and with some modest investment enables the roles listed above to be fulfilled.

The following plan illustrates the rail network if AI were to be located between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury.

Aylesbury Interchange between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury

Some investments in the rail network are necessary, in addition to the HS2 line. The primary investment is the provision of a new express line linking to the line to Swindon and South Wales, with connections from it to Reading, to Oxford and to the Chilterns line direct to Banbury. Referred to earlier, we are proposing this express line and propose that it is known as the Swindon express link.

The current line from Princes Risborough to Aylesbury is single track. It would be re-engineered and replaced if necessary to become a dual track line i.e. permitting trains in either direction at the same time. If replaced, there would hopefully still be a service to the existing intermediary stations.

AI needs use of the national rail line past North Acton Underground station to access Paddington and for Crossrail services. At one stage, this line was envisaged in proposals by High Speed Two Ltd as providing access to London Euston by connecting into a tunnel and this would have presented a problem, in that we would have been unable to specify a cost-effective means by which South Wales in particular could benefit from the HS2 proposals without resolution of this problem, since services from South Wales via AI would use the national rail line past North Acton to access Paddington. We believe this problem has been resolved and that services on HS2 to Euston are entirely separate from services using the national rail line past North Acton. We also suggest this national rail line should not form part of an HS2 to HS1 link.

A connection enabling Aylesbury to be bypassed on the southern side of the town would enable services e.g. from Watford via the Croxley Rail Link to Rickmansworth to run to AI without train reversal at Aylesbury. AI can operate with or without this Aylesbury bypass.

The line from Maidenhead to Bourne End, currently single track, might potentially be upgraded to restore the former dual track working and with restoration of the former line to High Wycombe. We might also envisage a connection for services on the Great Western Main Line from Reading. AI could operate without these, however they are designed to cater for future possible substantial growth in rail travel (footnote 5).

We hope to have shown that the investments needed in the rail network to provide the facilities of AI - not necessarily all of the above - are modest rather than substantial.

Aylesbury Interchange located to the north west of Aylesbury

An alternative possible location for AI is to the north west of Aylesbury. This also would maximise the potential of the conventional rail network in this area. Link roads would need to be determined.

Locating AI at this point and with some modest investment enables the previously-listed roles to be fulfilled.

The following plan illustrates the rail network if AI were to be located to the north west of Aylesbury.

Aylesbury Interchange to the north west of Aylesbury

Once again, some investments in the rail network are necessary, in addition to the HS2 line. The primary investment is the provision of a new express line linking to the line to Swindon and South Wales, with connections from it to Reading, to Oxford and to Princes Risborough. Referred to earlier, we are proposing this express line and propose that it is known as the Swindon express link.

It is possible that the Swindon express link would make use of the former Ashendon link. This ran more or less parallel to the existing line from Princes Risborough to Aylesbury on an alignment further to the north west (footnote 6).

Other possible locations for Aylesbury Interchange

An alternative location for AI might be to the north of Aylesbury, as distinct from to the north west of Aylesbury. In this case, it would seem realistic to consider realigning HS2 to pass to the east of Aylesbury. This could have beneficial effects for the (opens in new tab or window) Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty .

What rail services might we envisage at Aylesbury Interchange?

In no particular order, we list here some possible services from AI.

A Crossrail service providing access to Central London from AI.

Underground services Jubilee and Metropolitan line running from AI as express services towards Marylebone, then connecting onto existing Underground lines (footnote 7).

Shuttle service to Heathrow from AI. Also possible light rail with many stops within the Heathrow complex, not requiring full rail infrastructure, with possible inspiration from the tram-train pilot in Sheffield.

Services to Birmingham, the North and Scotland via HS2.

Service to Gatwick Airport, possibly via Heathrow, possibly via Reading and Guildford, or via an HS2 HS1 link to St Pancras.

Service to Southampton Airport Parkway and Southampton, possibly via Heathrow, Woking, Basingstoke, possibly via Reading West, Basingstoke. Our article Camberley : coming in from the cold suggests a route via Reading, Wokingham, Camberley, Farnborough, Basingstoke.

Express service to Paddington - from South Wales or West Country. Services to South Wales, West Country.

Stopping service to Paddington via Didcot and Reading.

Possible light rail to Milton Keynes with multiple stops in Milton Keynes - probably as an extension of light rail to Heathrow - not requiring full rail infrastructure within Milton Keynes. This service facilitates employment opportunities for those living in the expanded Milton Keynes at AI, also at Heathrow.

Chilterns Line diversion of some services e.g. Banbury, AI, Marylebone.

Alternative diversion of some services e.g. Banbury, Oxford, AI, Marylebone.

Stopping service to London Waterloo via Didcot, Reading.

Extension of domestic High Speed services on HS1 to AI via an HS2 HS1 link.

International rail services to Europe.

Travel to Luton Airport would probably be by bus. Article : Aylesbury Interchange to Luton Airport.

Travel to Stansted Airport might be by bus : AI, Leighton Buzzard (WCML), Dunstable, Luton (Midland Main Line), Stevenage (ECML), Bishops Stortford, Stansted Airport. Concerning a possible rail service, there is an existing connection on to HS1 at Stratford International from the Temple Mills depot and used for Eurostar empty stock workings. This would seem to offer a potential route from AI to Stansted Airport via St Pancras and HS1.

Motorail services potentially including international.

Platforms at Aylesbury Interchange

A provisional list of platforms is provided, from west to east. Tracks would be aligned on approach to the station to allow for future growth in the number of platforms, both at the western and eastern ends.

Platforms 1 to 10. Reserved for future use, the space being used e.g. for car parking or as a service area.

Milton Keynes by light rail, if required.

Milton Keynes (conventional rail).

Heathrow by light rail, if required.

Heathrow (conventional rail), with limited stops at Heathrow.

Chiltern line services.

Swindon, Bristol Parkway, Cardiff, Swansea.

West of England.

Paddington express service.

Crossrail.

Although AI is designed to cater for expansion, the infrastructure for an International area is quite distinctive. Therefore we propose future possible expansion is built into the International area from the start.

Set down only (future services to South Wales, North of England, Scotland) or not in use.

Two or four platforms : international services terminating at AI.

Boarding only (future services from South Wales, North of England, Scotland) or not in use.

Possibly, additional platforms reserved for future use e.g. by alternative operating companies.

We now return to platforms for domestic services.

HS2 domestic services : Birmingham, the North, Scotland.

HS2 domestic services : London.

Underground services - Jubilee, Metropolitan lines.

Domestic High Speed services via HS1.

Other services commencing/terminating at AI.

Space reserved for 10 additional platforms. Thus far, we have assumed no connecting services to the WCML (other than by changing trains at Milton Keynes), Midland Main Line nor ECML.

In our estimation, there could be 50 platforms at AI.

In addition, there would be two pass-through lines for non-stop services.

Aylesbury Interchange as a transport hub

AI is designed to offer a wide range of connections including to London, the South East, Southern England, the West Country, South Wales, Heathrow and routes via HS2 and HS1. In our opinion, AI can be considered as a major and strategic transport hub.

Inevitably, AI as a major transport hub will give rise to a perspective as regards other aspects of the rail network. In particular, we note the lack of rail connectivity from AI to Cambridge/East Anglia and to Stansted Airport. The East West Rail Consortium is considering rail links in the Oxford to Cambridge arc and originally intended to plan links both to Cambridge/East Anglia and to Stansted Airport. An early decision was made to omit Stansted Airport from the requirements. We hope plans for the Oxford to Cambridge arc will enable connections from AI to Cambridge and to at least parts of East Anglia. Related article : East West rail (Oxford to Cambridge) : introduction.

Public consultation

We responded to the initial High Speed 2 public consultation in July 2011. This article is an update to that public consultation response. (Our public consultation response was : Response to HS2 public consultation (July 2011).)

Footnotes
  1. This proposal for a line from AI to Heathrow potentially offers better value for money than the proposed line from Reading to Heathrow. Direct services from South Wales or the West Country via AI to Heathrow would seem to be a possibility.

  2. The existing line via Swindon to Bristol Parkway and South Wales is made use of by limited-speed freight services. We have not investigated the extent to which an express line to South Wales might make use of this existing line. Factors to take into account would include the anticipated frequency of express services to South Wales. It is not known whether such services would pass through Swindon station.

  3. The Swindon express link necessitates upgrades to existing rail infrastructure. Passengers interchanging between HS2 and the West Country and South Wales would make use of services via Swindon. Use of the existing chord between Tilehurst and Reading West would enable services to additional destinations : we believe this chord is not currently in use for passenger services.

    The line from AI to Paddington/Crossrail joins the Great Western Main Line at Old Oak Common West Junction. This junction would require upgrading. It is located in the vicinity of the proposed Old Oak Common station.

  4. Without a link from the Midland Main Line to the expanded Euston station, capacity on the HS2 to HS1 link would seem to be limited. Services on the HS2 to HS1 link would need to share track with Midland Main Line domestic services terminating at St Pancras. Bearing in mind also that services on the HS2 to HS1 link need to change direction at St Pancras, the implication would seem to be difficulties in the allocation of train paths, therefore with the potential for delays. It seems this scenario could be simplified by the provision of a link from the Midland Main Line to platforms provided as part of the expanded Euston station specifically for services from the Midland Main Line. Aside from platform availability at St Pancras, services using the HS2 to HS1 link then only need to dovetail in with services on HS2 and services on HS1. The HS2 to HS1 link can then be considered as a dedicated part of the High Speed rail network.

  5. Services from the West Country and from South Wales via Swindon currently run via Reading to Paddington. The new route via AI to Paddington would be used by selected services, others remaining on the route via Reading. In the event of future possible substantial growth in rail travel, at least some services from the West Country via Swindon might be routed via Reading and Maidenhead West to AI and then return home without running to Central London at all. This offers the potential to reduce congestion at Paddington. In place of such a circular route, such services might simply terminate at AI. However, this would require additional platforms at AI since change of direction does not occur quickly. A new station Maidenhead West might be added, alternatively western platforms incorporated into a western extension of the existing Maidenhead station. However services stopping here would be running in an anti-clockwise direction only, which suggests there would in fact be no station stop at Maidenhead. Concerning Heathrow, the BAA Airtrack proposal - if implemented - includes a stopping service from Heathrow to Reading via Egham. Perhaps this could be extended past Didcot to AI and Heathrow, to become a circular service.

    With its large centres of population, we assume South Wales would remain a priority in terms of economic development and indeed this is a reason for proposing an express link via Swindon to AI and Paddington with an interchange to the HS2 network and the potential for international services. Therefore we would expect services from South Wales via AI to continue to Paddington, even in the case of substantial growth in rail travel. It is only services from the West Country for which we are proposing possible service termination at AI or a circular route via Maidenhead West. Hopefully this situation would prove to be no more than hypothetical : we have at least attempted to plan for it.

  6. The Ashendon link was located north of the village of Ashendon and south of Wotton Underwood and Grendon Underwood.

    A connection from the Swindon express link to Princes Risborough might be based on the former connection from the former Ashendon link to Princes Risborough. This connection would enable a service from Marylebone via Princes Risborough to AI and Aylesbury, perhaps continuing to Marylebone to provide a circular service, running both clockwise Princes Risborough to Aylesbury and anti-clockwise Aylesbury to Princes Risborough. A service on the Chilterns line diverted to run via AI might reasonably continue to Marylebone via Aylesbury, that is, not returning to use the route via Princes Risborough and High Wycombe. The first of these two services implies that the existing line from Princes Risborough to Aylesbury would no longer be needed for connections between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury, a service being available via AI. The remaining purpose of this line would be to serve the intermediary stations. It would also be used in one direction only by any circular service in the event of future possible substantial growth in rail travel (footnote 5) from the West Country via Reading to AI returning to the West Country. The line might remain as single track.

  7. These Underground services may require new rolling stock capable of achieving higher speeds prior to joining existing Underground lines.

 

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