High Speed Rail Command Paper (the official DfT report which you can download from the link on the right hand side of the web page) repays close study. One of the interesting things to be found there is the list of other options have actually been considered, including development of the Chiltern Line. This consists of five "packages", which are described in Table 2.1 of the document, which is reproduced below.
Package 1 Extra long distance capacity delivered through the operation of longer trains on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) with platform lengthening and other infrastructure enhancements.
Package 2 Extra long distance capacity delivered through an increase in train service frequencies on the WCML with supporting infrastructure enhancements including extra platforms at Euston and Manchester Piccadilly stations, grade separation of junctions and 4-tracking sections of route.
Package 3 Building on package 2, the capacity and maximum speed of the Chiltern route between London and Birmingham is enhanced to allow fast WCML London – Birmingham trains to be diverted to the Chiltern Line, releasing capacity on the WCML for other services. Associated infrastructure enhancements include electrification, short new alignments, 4-tracking sections of route and additional platforms at Euston, Birmingham Moor St. and Manchester Piccadilly stations.
Package 4 Building on package 3, London – Birmingham journey times are reduced to a minimum through further infrastructure enhancements including a new alignment between the Chiltern Line and the WCML in the Kenilworth area.
Package 5 Building on package 4, additional capacity is provided between Birmingham and Stafford to enable WCML services between London and the North West to be diverted to the Chiltern route, releasing capacity on the WCML for other services. Associated infrastructure enhancements include 4-tracking the route between Birmingham and Stafford and further 4-tracking of the Chiltern route.
Projects worth supporting
These projects, taken together, would lead to very substantial increases in capacity. They are worth supporting. If the upgrades were carried out in conjunction with other projects to provide alternative routes, disruption to existing services could be minimised.
It is unfortunate that in the overwhelming desire to construct a 250mph railway, these low-risk developments have been passed over. They could commence sooner rather than later and would clearly provide excellent value for money in their own right since they follow the busy M40 corridor.
It is to be hoped that these options will be re-examined before long as part of the alternative to the high speed line.