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In Part 1, we looked at the trip from Amsterdam to London, and I'd just departed from London Euston station.
The Virgin train I took from Euston to Liverpool Lime Street was much slower than the Eurostar, travelling at 200km/h, but is considered to be upgraded HSR. We travelled up the West Coast Main Line, and it was very much an express, with only a few stops between London and Liverpool. This broadly is the corridor that High Speed 2 will serve; Phase 1 (which just began construction) will go from London to Birmingham, while Phase 2a (which is to be built concurrently with Phase 1) will extend this north to Crewe. Phase 2b will extend one branch of this to Manchester and another up to reconnect with the existing West Coast Main Line just past Liverpool, and will extend another branch from Birmingham to Leeds, and to connect with the East Coast Main Line near York.
HS2 will add a lot of capacity to the corridor (it's almost always about capacity) allowing the stopper-trains (and freight) to keep using the existing lines, while express services like the one I took would use HS2. So, fingers crossed, in about a decade my 200km/h express will be replaced by one that does 330km/h - proper HSR.
High Speed 2 Phases 2a & 2b (source)
The approach into Liverpool Lime Street is in an incredibly deep and wide cutting, one which seems to have been around for quite a long time - with the moss and creepers growing on the grey walls, it felt like travelling through some kind of natural gorge in a forest. My photos through the train window don't really do it justice, but it was absolutely incredible to see.
Once I'd checked into my hotel just around the corner from the station, I came back to jump on a Merseyrail service out to Bebington, to visit my ancestral homeland. Merseyrail is essentially the Liverpool area's metro, which has something similar to Melbourne's city loop in the centre, except that it's one-way - so there's one underground platform at Liverpool Lime Street. It's called Underground Platform 1, but if you buy a ticket it is a standard orange British rail ticket and it just says Platform 1, so I went to the surface-level platforms looking for it to no avail. Having more than one Platform 1 in the same station is a bit of an oddity - very confusing - but apparently there are a few examples of this around the UK.
Merseyrail isn't all that frequent, but nonetheless it worked well to get me around the suburbs. I spent the afternoon in Bebington and Port Sunlight looking at all the (surprisingly many) places with the Lever name on them, had dinner and a pint at a nearby pub, and jumped back on Merseyrail to get back to the city centre.
Liverpool Lime Street Station (source)
The next morning I checked out of my hotel and headed back to Lime Street to catch my Transpennine Express train to York. This train took me along the approximate corridor of the first inter-city railway in the world, from the industrial Manchester to the ports of Liverpool, and also the corridor of the mooted High Speed 3 project, which would be a HSR line linking several of England's biggest cities without going via London like the other HSR projects do.
The train took me through the eastern part of the Merseyrail network, stopping at the whimsically-named Newton-le-Willows on the way through some beautiful countryside to Manchester Victoria. The train is nominally an express, but still stopped at around ten stations along the way, including Huddersfield and Leeds, before dropping me at York on its way to Newcastle.
York Station is a beautiful old station - an important interchange station built with curved platforms on a huge bend in the line, and meticulously decorated with shields and symbols of historic significance to the city. As an interchange station, it has quite an unusual mixture of through platforms and dock platforms, where trains from both directions can terminate.
As a former hub for building and maintaining trains in the steam era, it's also the home of the National Railway Museum. More on that in Part 3.
This article first appeared on the-iron-road.blogspot.com
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