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The Case for the Upgrade and Electrification of the Midland Main Line and a link to HS2

City Region
St Pancras Station

CHAPTER 1.0 Main Findings

INTRODUCTION AND MAIN FINDINGS There would be significant benefits from connecting HS2 to the
MML and running high speed rail services from London to the
Introduction Three Cities and Sheffield.
This report by Arup with Volterra sets out the main benefits that • Journey time savings. A link between the upgraded and
would be generated by connecting the Midland Main Line (MML) electrified MML and HS2 could deliver further journey time
to the proposed new high speed rail route (High Speed 2, HS2) savings (in addition to those delivered through MML upgrade
via the Birmingham to Derby Line. and electrification) of around 17 minutes between London
and Derby / Sheffield. This would bring these places within
Upgrading and electrifying the Midland Main Line is the
an easier days travel to London for business travellers.
immediate priority for the East Midlands and Sheffield City
Significantly this would bring Sheffield easily within the
Region. Over the longer term there is a strong case for
economically important threshold of two hours to London.
developing a High Speed Rail network that links London to the
Three Cities and on to the Sheffield City Region, and beyond to • Capacity relief on existing lines. A link to HS2 could free
the Leeds City Region and the North East. The development of up capacity on the existing line to enable additional local
a High Speed Rail network and the upgrade and electrification services to be introduced as demand grows. This will be of
of the Midland Main Line are not mutually exclusive options; particular benefit to intermediate locations closer to London
together they can form a coherent long term strategy for the which may not be directly served by a High Speed line, but
development of the rail network serving the eastern side of would experience an increased service frequency via the
England. MML, enabling more people to access higher value jobs.
There would also be greater capacity on the line for freight
A direct dedicated route to the East Midlands and the Sheffield services.
City Region is unlikely to be in the first phase of the development • Boosting the economic performance of the Sheffield City
of a national high speed network. An interim solution could be Region and the Three Cities areas as well as London. A
to enable High Speed Rail services to access the Three Cities High Speed link would dramatically reduce journey times to
and Sheffield by running on the proposed first phase of the London from the Sheffield City Region and the Three Cities.
network between London and the West Midlands, and then at This would help to improve the strategic connectivity of these
conventional speeds on the upgraded and electrified Midland areas. For example, it could play a pivotal role connecting
Main Line. the creative and digital industries and the advanced
HS2 will connect London to the West Midlands, significantly manufacturing sector in the Sheffield City Region to London
reducing journey times, and this could offer benefits for other and European markets. In addition to substantial standard
areas too. In order to be connected to HS2, the Midland Main transport user benefits, the MML-HS2 link could deliver
Line would need to be electrified and upgraded, points which productivity gains of around £75 million per annum, or a 60
are discussed in a separate report 1. Furthermore, part of the year Net Present Value of £2.2-3.2 billion, in 2002 prices.
Birmingham to Derby Line would also need electrifying and • Enhancing the image and profile of Sheffield and the
a junction to link HS2 to the Birmingham to Derby Line. This Three Cities. Providing access to the High Speed network
would enable high speed services from London, and potentially and electrifying the MML will enhance the profile and the
Heathrow, to serve the Three Cities area (Derby, Leicester and image of the main towns and cities on the line, increasing
Nottingham) and Sheffield. These trains would run from London their attractiveness as locations in which to do business and
towards the West Midlands using a dedicated alignment at invest.
speeds up to 200 mph. Trains would then join the existing • Access to the international gateway of Heathrow. A
Birmingham to Derby Line and the MML (assuming they have High Speed link could provide direct access to Heathrow
been upgraded and electrified) and run at speeds up to 125 mph and Crossrail, providing a step-change in the international
to Sheffield. connectivity of the Three Cities and Sheffield City Region.
• Establishing the principle of a High Speed route to the
East Midlands, Yorkshire and North East. By linking up to
HS2 there is a precedent set to extend over the longer term
the High Speed network to the Three Cities, Sheffield City
Region and beyond.
See, The Case for the Upgrade and Electrification of the Midland Main Line, South Yorkshire
Passenger Transport Executive and East Midlands Development Agency

Sheffield Station

CHAPTER 2.0 High Speed 1, Temple Mills Depot © Daniel Clements


Electrification and line speed improvements to the MML could
reduce journey times between London and Sheffield. The
conservative estimate of journey time savings is around 12
minutes. However, the scope to deliver further journey time
savings on the Midland Main Line in a way that offers good value
for money is limited. Consequently, alternative ideas and options
are needed. This section considers the engineering feasibility of
a connection to the proposed High Speed Rail network, possibly
in the Tamworth area. There are also a number of operational
issues which would need to be addressed.

SYPTE and emda have commissioned Arup with Volterra
to review the potential benefits that could be delivered from
electrification of the MML and part of the Birmingham to Derby
Line, plus a connection to the proposed High Speed Rail
network. This could be a relatively low cost way to spread the
benefits and is being actively considered by HS2. Arup has
examined the potential journey time reductions that could be
delivered for the MML. A package of line speed improvements
set out in Network Rail’s Business Plan for Control Period 4
(2009-2014) could reduce journey times by around eight minutes
between London and Sheffield. Electrification could reduce
timings by an additional three to four minutes. Based on the
current journey times, these improvements could reduce London
to Sheffield timings to around 116 minutes. These improvements
would generate substantial financial and economic benefits, and
these would exceed the capital costs. Therefore, the package
represents very good value for money.

Once the planned upgrades and the suggested electrification

of the line have been delivered, new methods to reduce journey
times that offer good value for money will be needed. Network
Rail, in conjunction with other stakeholders, has examined
the feasibility of delivering more comprehensive infrastructure
schemes. The scope for introducing tilting electric trains, (similar
to the Class 390 Pendolinos deployed on the West Coast Main
Line), to reduce journey times was also examined. However,
these studies failed to demonstrate a sufficient level of benefits
to make them worthwhile. As a result, alternative ideas and
options are needed to achieve further reductions in journey times
between Sheffield and London.

Sheffield Station

Engineering and Operational Feasibility There are similar timetabling issues between Derby and Sheffield.
Engineering Issues The relatively high service frequencies, different operating
speeds and stopping patterns affect capacity, particularly on the
A new connection from HS2 onto the Birmingham to Derby
approach to Sheffield station. The fastest current journey time
Line - possibly in the Tamworth area - could deliver additional
between Derby and Sheffield is about 30-34 minutes, and there
journey time benefits for both the Three Cities and Sheffield.
will be a need to ensure these timings can also be achieved
The High Speed Rail development company established by the
for the High Speed services. In particular, the capacity issues
Government (HS2 Ltd) is considering the scope for extending
between Dore and Sheffield will need to be carefully addressed.
High Speed services beyond the West Midlands using other
The delivery of improvements at Dore Junction during Control
High Speed alignments or existing “classic” rail lines. Such a
Period 5 of Network Rail’s Business Plan will help to alleviate
connection would need to be designed to help minimise the
some of these constraints.
overall journey times and address possible capacity constraints
which could affect trains using either route.

This approach has been adopted elsewhere, for instance in

France, where High Speed TGV services run on dedicated High
Speed lines, and then continue at lower speeds on conventional
rail routes shared with other (non High Speed) services.

Operational Considerations

It is understood HS2 will be able to accommodate up to 15

trains per hour (tph) in each direction. This, along with services
diverted from the existing WCML route could provide ample
space in the timetable scope for hourly High Speed services to
Three Cities and Sheffield. Further work is needed to develop the
service pattern. Figure 3.1 presents the potential measures that
would be needed to create a High Speed rail connection and the
associated journey times that this would generate.

There are a number of operational issues to consider between

both Tamworth and Derby, and Derby to Sheffield. The section
between Tamworth and Derby is mainly double track, although
there are freight loops in the Burton on Trent area that enable
passenger trains to overtake. There are also freight lines from
Peartree to Derby. In developing a timetable for the High Speed
rail service there will be a need to avoid conflicts with the Cross
Country services to the North East and Scotland via Sheffield,
plus the Birmingham to Nottingham trains. These services are
operated by 125 mph and 100 mph rolling stock respectively,
and there are differences in stopping patterns between
Birmingham and Derby that could affect the timing of the High
Speed Rail service. There are also significant freight flows to
consider, which may themselves increase as a result of the
greater capacity on the line.

West Yorkshire and the North East An option for linking the Midland
Total Estimated Journey Time

Main Line to the proposed new

High Speed 2 route
This diagram shows the estimated journey times for
High Speed Rail services between Sheffield, Three
Cities and London via an upgraded / electrified
Manchester Dore Junction Midland Main Line and a link to High Speed 2

Rotherham (freight only)

Line speed
improvements Tunnel
to cut journey Chesterfield
Estimated Journey Time times by 2
investment Nottingham
delivered by
Clay Cross

Freight loops in
the Peartree area
Long Eaton Beeston Nottingham
Estimated Journey Time

Burton on Trent Trent Junction

East Midlands Parkway

New junction to be constructed
in the Tamworth area
Peterborough & Haven Ports


Birmingham Nuneaton & Birmingham

Market Harborough


Estimated Journey Time

New High Speed
rail corridor,
alignment to be

Bletchley Bedford


Luton Airport Parkway

Not to Scale

h Figure 3.1: Estimated Journey Times Between London and Sheffield via HSR

High Speed 1, crossing Medway Bridge

CHAPTER 3.0 There is ongoing work to identify the likely operating speeds
for the new High Speed route. The indicative timings for the
London to Tamworth section may need to be refined once further
A separate study has examined the potential journey time details of the potential High Speed alignment emerge, whilst
reductions that could be achieved between Sheffield and the remaining timings are based on line speeds on conventional
London as a result of upgrading the MML. Analysis suggested routes of up to 125 mph. The timings between Sheffield and
a package of line speed improvements and electrification could Derby reflect the fastest current journey time, but do not
reduce timings from the current 127 minutes to 116 minutes. include the potential line speed improvements. These timing
The enhanced MML timings provide a useful comparator to assumptions reflect the capacity constraints highlighted earlier,
High Speed rail improvements. The following summarises the particularly between Dore and Sheffield, that could affect timings.
estimated journey times, presented for each of the main route
sections. The results presented in Table 3.1 suggest there is potential
to cut journey times to 102 minutes between Sheffield and
London. This would save about 14 minutes compared with the
Route Section Estimated Journey Time (mins)
MML upgrade option (102 minutes), and by about 25 minutes
London to Tamworth 50 compared with the existing service (127 minutes).

Tamworth to Derby 20 A High Speed route from London to the West Midlands would
release capacity on the existing West Coast Main Line (WCML),
Derby station (dwell time) 2 and this could be utilised for a new Sheffield service. The recent
WCML line speed improvements mean journey times between
Derby to Sheffield 30
London and Tamworth have been reduced to about an hour.
Total 102 Whilst this option would achieve similar journey time savings
compared with the upgraded and electrified MML, it would also
h Table 3.1: Estimated Journey Times Between London and Sheffield via HSR
relieve capacity on the southern part of the route.
Notes: This dwell time exists to enable people to alight from and board the train

Sheffield Station

In addition to the journey time improvements between London
Measuring Costs and Benefits
and Sheffield that would generate new revenue, the new
service via High Speed Rail could also deliver other benefits. The methodology to calculate the wider economic benefits
For example, diverting a Sheffield service via HS2 could enable associated with a High Speed Rail service between Sheffield, the
the total number of trains between the Sheffield City Region, Three Cities and London is highly complex. None of the business
East Midlands and London to be increased, enabling overall cases examining High Speed Rail to date have examined the
capacities to be boosted. The following summarises the likely merits of a Sheffield service via HS2. As a result, many of these
change in hourly line capacities in each direction: impacts have been examined in a qualitative rather than a
quantitative manner.
Existing capacities per hour, per direction:
Wider economic benefits (WEBs) calculations capture the
• 248 seats from Derby;
productivity and labour market benefits from bringing places
• 342 seats from Sheffield; closer together. The rationale underpinning this assumption is
• 457 seats from Nottingham; that firms which cluster together tend to be more productive. The
• 457 seats from Nottingham; and largest two contributors to WEBs are:
• Total 1504 seats. • ‘pure agglomeration’, which captures the benefits of bringing
places and economic activity effectively closer together by
Future capacities per hour per direction:
reducing journey times, supporting business growth and the
• As above, plus 550-600 seats from Sheffield (estimated); intertwining of markets. Bringing businesses closer together
and in this manner frequently increases their productivity; and
• Total 2,054-2,104 seats, equating to a 32-40% increase • ‘move to more productive jobs’ that captures the benefits of
in the number of seats from the East Midlands / South enabling more people to commute to more productive, better
Yorkshire to London. paid jobs, either by reducing journey times and thus making
routes more attractive, or by relieving capacity constraints on
The additional capacity would help to support future demand
existing congested commuter lines.
growth on the MML route, and help to generate wider economic
benefits (see section 5 below). Whilst the WEBs methodology captures some of the benefits of
High Speed Rail it is important to note that it has its limitations.
In addition to the extra capacity, there may be scope to modify
The approach evolved to capture the commuter benefits of
the MML timetable, by reducing journey times between the major
Crossrail and thus focuses upon the benefits of relieving capacity
constraints and the accessibility to a single productive business
The benefits of releasing capacity onto the enhanced MML for area. The potential benefits of transforming the economic
East Midlands cities and towns are likely to be substantial and geography of the country which could be achieved through High
should be included in the wider business case assessment. Speed Rail are therefore not fully captured.

St Pancras Station

Distinguishing between types of Wider Economic

Annual Productivity Gains
(£m, 2002 prices) MML &
As detailed above, the two main elements of the WEBs HS2
methodology are ‘pure agglomeration’ and ‘move to more
productive jobs’, and these benefits are examined below. ‘Pure Sheffield CR 18.7 (15.5-18.7)
agglomeration’ and ‘move to more productive jobs’ benefits
Derby HMA 16.6 (15.7-21.6)
value different types of productivity impacts and are therefore
completely additional to one another. Leicester HMA 0.6 (0.6-0.9)

The savings enabled by linking the MML via the potential HS2 to Nottingham HMA 2.7 (2.4-2.8)
London will significantly reduce journey times, thereby making
the economic centres of Derby, Nottingham, Leicester and London 20.7 (19.1-22.9)
Sheffield closer to the economic hub of London. Total 59.4 (53.3-66.9)
It is generally accepted that journey times of under an hour begin Less Sheffield 40.7 (37.8-48.2)
to appeal as commuter routes and journey times up to 2-3 hours
allow businesses to carry out face to face day meetings on a h Table 5.1: The Distribution of Annual Productivity Gains

semi-regular basis. Journey times of over 3 hours are associated Source: Volterra calculation, range of outputs shown in brackets

with less frequent business travel, for which air travel begins to
compete. The largest productivity benefits accrue to the Sheffield City
Region and Derby Housing Market Area (HMA). This is due
Journeys from Sheffield and the Three Cities to London therefore to the large time and frequency savings created from these
fall into the middle category and reductions in these journey places. Some benefits also accrue to Leicester and Nottingham
times will make it easier for people doing business and attending HMAs, as a result of the greater capacity available on the MML,
meetings in the capital, rather than those commuting on a daily but fewer places in these areas benefit from time savings and
basis. This kind of benefit is valued by the ‘pure agglomeration’ therefore lower productivity gains benefits are estimated.
London also benefits from linking the MML to HS2 as bringing
In addition to this, a link onto HS2 would divert trains from the the UK’s main economic hub closer to businesses in Sheffield.
Three Cities and Sheffield onto this route which would free up Hence, London receives around a third of the estimated benefits.
subsequent capacity on the southern part of the route. This
would enable more trains to run on this line, making it a more The annual productivity benefits of £50-70 million equate to a
feasible option for commuters. This kind of benefit is valued by 60 year Net Present Value (NPV) of some £2-2.4 billion. The
the ‘move to more productive jobs’ calculations. distribution of benefits is shown in Table 5.2.

Estimates made in this report of the WEBs for a link from HS2 to 60yr NPV (£m, 2002 prices)
the MML have been based on a series of assumptions. Due to MML & HS2
changes in DfT Guidance and the use of different study areas,
these assumptions are different to those adopted for other Total 2,170 (2,000–2,400)
recent work for emda and the Sheffield and Leeds City Regions
East Midlands 730 (700–900)
on the economic benefits of High Speed Rail. It is therefore not
appropriate to make direct comparisons of the WEBs estimates Sheffield City Region 680 (600–700)
across these different reports.
h Table 5.2: 60 year NPV of linking the MML to HS2

Source: Volterra calculation, range of outputs shown in brackets

Estimates of ‘pure agglomeration’
The WEBs methodology on ‘pure agglomeration’ has been used These benefits are additional to any standard transport benefits
to estimate the benefits of bringing businesses across the study from capacity relief, frequency improvements, fewer accidents
area closer together. We have used the latest DfT guidance and etc. The estimates represent the productivity benefit of bringing
the estimated journey time savings detailed in Section 3 in order businesses closer together. This would include the benefit of
to carry out a high level analysis of these benefits. We estimate being able to access and interact with more businesses more
that linking the MML via HS2 will create annual productivity easily, which is a direct consequence of improved connectivity.
benefits of £50-70 million, in 2002 prices. The distribution of
these benefits are shown in Table 5.1.

Derby Station Sheffield Station

Estimates of ‘move to more productive jobs’ Using the difference in GDP created across sectors in London
The ‘move to more productive jobs’ aspect of WEBs is additional in comparison to the Three Cities and Sheffield City Regions,
to ‘pure agglomeration’ and is intended to capture the benefits we estimate that increased commuting to more productive jobs
of enabling more people to commute to more productive, better in London could result in £13.5-15 million of annual productivity
paid jobs. This would be achieved by either reducing journey gains in 2002 prices, or a 60 year Net Present Value of £0.5-
times and thus making routes more attractive, or relieving 0.55 billion. This is a significant productivity benefit and it would
capacity constraints on existing commuter routes affected by accrue partly to businesses in London as a result of having
overcrowding. access to more workers, and partly to the Three Cities and the
Sheffield City Region as these workers take their higher earnings
As Figure 5.1 shows, some commuting to London already home and spend more money locally, thus creating knock-on
occurs from the southern part of the East Midlands Region. A link local benefits. Even these high level illustrative calculations
onto HS2 would divert trains from the Three Cities and Sheffield show that this effect could lead to real and significant productivity
onto this route would help to release capacity to benefit stations benefits.
in the southern part of the region. This would enable more trains
to run on this line making it a more feasible option for commuters
in this area.

Illustrative high level estimates have been made based on very

transparent assumptions 2, to give an indication of the potential
extent of benefits from this commuting effect.

An analysis of productivity across the East Midlands and the

Sheffield City Region in comparison with London highlights the
areas which would be likely to benefit the most from an electrified
MML and a link to HS2. Table 5.3 summarises Gross Domestic
Product (GDP) per worker across the study area in different
These are based on additional capacity of 550-600 seats per hour between Sheffield and
London with 50% of this new capacity utilised by new commuters (the remainder could be
represent modal shift from cars) and the peak lasting two hours. We assume that the additional
capacity is taken by people from a range of origin destinations. The results are not very sensitive
to the origin assumptions as the productivity differential across the study area does not vary

h Figure 5.1: Commuting to London

Source: Census 2001 commuting data from NOMIS

Digital Map Data © Collins Barthomolew Ltd 2009 & Crown Copyright © Overview Mapping 2009

j Table 5.3: 2006 GDP per worker (£, in 2002 prices)

GVA per worker (2006), £ Consumer Construction Manufacturing Producer Services

(in 2002 prices) Construction

Sheffield CR 27,600–32,500 41,200–52,400 40,900–54,100 50,600–71,300

Derby HMA 30,300–32,300 44,500–52,400 53,100–67,800 70,100–71,300

Leicester HMA 33,700–34,000 36,000–50,000 48,000–53,100 55,200–64,400

Nottingham HMA 30,600–33,200 37,700–52,400 51,400–57,300 55,800–71,300

London 42,100–46,000 67,500–80,200 56,000–80,000 57,400–101,900

Source: DfT Economic Dataset

St Pancras Station

Summary of Wider Economic Benefits Quantifiable / Monetary:

Table 5.4 summarises the WEBs which have been estimated. • Increased development;
The MML link to HS2 would deliver significant time savings to • Increased inward investment; and
London. This could result in pure agglomeration benefits of
• Higher value rents and property values.
£2-2.4 billion and a further £0.5 billion from potential move-to-
more-productive-jobs. These benefits are very significant and Unquantifiable / Non-monetary:
support the case to investigate the potential to deliver this High
• Improved image and profile;
Speed Rail option linking to the East Midlands and Yorkshire.
• Fostering community pride and cohesion; and

60yr NPVs Pure agglomeration • Visitor attraction, tourism linked benefits.

(£m, 2002 prices) Connectivity to Heathrow Airport
Total 2,170 (2,000–2,400) Existing connectivity between South Yorkshire and Heathrow
Airport is relatively poor. From St Pancras, the Underground link
East Midlands 730 (700–900) from central London to Heathrow is relatively slow. The Heathrow
Sheffield City Region 680 (600–700) Express does offer a faster journey time, but passengers need to
make a further interchange.
Move to more productive
jobs As part of the wider evaluation, HS2 Ltd is reviewing the options
to serve Heathrow Airport using High Speed Rail. The fast, direct
Total 540 (270-800) access to the Airport provided by a High Speed Rail connection
h Table 5.4: Estimated WEBs benefits
would help to transform connectivity from South Yorkshire. In
2008 there were around 163,000 journeys to Sheffield and
Source: Volterra Calculation
around 650,000 journeys to the Three Cities by passengers
Unquantifiable Potential Benefits travelling to Heathrow Airport. A High Speed Rail link could
encourage modal shift from car to rail and thus enable a more
The nature of the WEBs methodology means that it quantifies
feasible lower carbon alternative mode of transport.
the benefits of improving accessibility to key business areas
and how transport can improve productivity. However, the
principal function of High Speed Rail is transforming the future Conclusions
development of the country’s economic geography. The This study has considered the benefits which could be achieved
WEBs approach currently does not capture these potential by linking an enhanced MML to HS2. There is a strong case
transformational impacts of transport investment. for this option as an interim solution prior to the development of
a national high speed rail network. Other recent studies have
The key limitation of existing techniques is taking a baseline considered the benefits of different options for a dedicated
assumption of the current and planned residents and jobs high speed network to serve the Three Cities, the Sheffield City
across the country. This means that the models do not allow for Region, and on to the Leeds City region and North East. These
a project to shape the types of future development that occur studies also found strong economic cases. The results of the
as a result of investment in High Speed Rail. Therefore, the three studies should not be directly compared due to revisions
models are not fit for the purpose to estimate the impacts of to guidance, different study areas and different methodologies.
investment in wholly new transport links upon location decisions The over-arching finding is that the productivity benefits of high
and the interconnectivity of towns, cities and regions. Hence the speed rail serving the economies of the Three Cities, Sheffield
potential benefits estimated in the previous section are likely to City Region, the Leeds City Region and the North East would be
underestimate the impact of High Speed Rail. significant and there is a strong case for a high speed network
serving these locations. This should be considered as part of the
There are a variety of additional factors which might result from
ongoing assessment of the future UK high speed rail network.
improved access via High Speed Rail. Some are monetised but
Exact routing options will need to be determined in more detail in
difficult to quantify because causation is far from tested and
the future.
agreed. Others are unlikely to be quantified in monetary terms,
and could include:

High Speed 1 © Daniel Clements

For further information please contact:

Steve Harley Sylvia Yates Ben Still Tom Bridges

East Midlands Development Agency Sheffield City Region SYPTE Arup
t: +44 (0)115 988 8426 t: +44 (0)114 263 5684 t: +44 (0)114 221 1312 t: +44 (0)113 242 8498

e: steve.harley@emd.org.uk e: sylvia.yates@sheffieldcityregion.org.uk e: ben.still@sypte.co.uk e: tom.bridges@arup.com

City Region

December 2009