Waterdale rather than Old Oak Common.
(Not getting out of London by tacking 20 miles westwards through North London and then turning north in the Colne Valley to go through the Chilterns, all highly objectionable and expensive, but rather getting out of London on viaduct over the M1 to a new main station at Waterdale, the junction of the M1 and M25.)
The route we now know as “HS2’s route was a “good idea” in the railway magazines for many years. It tacked westwards through North London into “open country”. I don’t think “where to next?” was thought through; at any rate I can’t see the thinking. It seemed attractive because the big difficulty for new road and rail routes is to get into town centres without unacceptable demolition. A motorway doesn’t need to go all the way into the city centre, but a railway does need to, and a route on the surface side-by-side with the Central Line through Ruislip and Northolt out into “open country” seemed to offer a good solution. HS2 thought there should be little objection, but there was far more objection than HS2 expected and the adopted plan is now very expensive. Going this way leads the route straight into The Chilterns. More objections!
The Government of the day asked HS2 to investigate the possibility of taking HS2 via Heathrow, but HS2 rightly decided against it because it would mean a lot of tunnelling and add distance, and therefore time and expense to domestic travellers, who will far outnumber airport traffic. As a sop, a stop was created at Old Oak Common to give interchange with Crossrail and faster access to Heathrow Airport.
A stop at Old Oak Common is a trivial benefit; a passenger would need to stay on Crossrail only another 8 minutes and change onto the underground for a journey of only 6 minutes to get to Euston station which I round up to a total of 20 minutes. For passengers on the east side of the Pennines it adds 20 miles onto each journey.
Over the London – Birmingham leg of their route, HS2 plan to run 18 trains/hour, stopping at parallel platforms at Old Oak Common, and in this mode all trains must stop; unlike in Shinkansen mode of 12 trains/hour, which allows selective stopping. Stratford International station on the east side of London has been a great disappointment; International trains don’t stop there, but there are plans for huge investment to make Old Oak Common a success. There will be cultural facilities, new shopping, old housing will be upgraded and “affordable housing” too… at Old Oak Common. In chapter 4 of the Old Oak Common development plan, out of date links envisage diverting various local and regional rails routes to the Old Oak Common HS2 station to improve its connectivity. It might be a very good idea to bring suburban and regional routes to a suburban hub like this, but it is hard to think that HS2 would add significantly to its traffic. Will folk from the north make a journey to Old Oak Common, rather than to Euston or St Pancras? I don’t believe it! This is the tail wagging the dog!
The discussion of alternative routes in HS2’s prospectus “High Speed Rail” (Cm7827) is very trivial; the simplest calculation has not been shown. Reading it, it is obvious that HS2 have not really looked for alternatives to their first choice. For example Cm7827 para 6.33 says that any other route would be “less direct”, but their route and my route, the þ-shaped route, take the same distance 175 kms, from London to Birmingham.
My proposed alternative route, with a station at Waterdale
The þ-shaped route starts at the east side of Euston right next to St Pancras, thus allowing through journeys to the Channel tunnel. The route goes in tunnel the short distance to West Hampstead. From there it goes on viaduct over the M1 or the parallel railway to where it crosses the A41. Over the railway it could straddle the tracks in a Π shape, or a T, over the M1 it would look like this:-
Shields Rd viaduct of the Tyne-Wear Metro, with a train on it.
This is a very ordinary bit of urban architecture. We could all drive along it or live near it.
There is no need to worry about noise from the trains. What we do have to worry about is noise from the motorway underneath. Sound is bounced off flat surfaces very much in the way that light is reflected off metal and glass. To replace the angled surfaces of the viaduct above by a flat surface at 45 degrees would be the worst possible solution; the filet should be sloped at 60 degrees so that road noise is reflected up into the sky.
The þ-shaped route goes past the junction of the M1 and M25, a place whose only name seems to be “Waterdale”. There could hardly be a more strategic place on the British road network. It would be far more useful to London and the country for HS2 to stop here than at Old Oak Common! It can be a focus for bus routes and have massive park and ride. It will become an out-of-town centre in its own right.
It could also be rail-connected. There could be a route along operational or recently disused track from Rickmansworth, to Watford, Bricket Wood (with connection to Waterdale, maybe a cableway), St Albans, and Hatfield or Welwyn. Waterdale would serve a large arc of the Northern Home counties and a large part of London served by the M25. That is a huge additional catchment area for the route.
From Waterdale the þ-shaped route runs side-by-side with the WCML which has been a main line route for 180 years.