The Case for a Fully Automated Northern HS2 toll Road

let’s lead the world..

Here are the reasons why the northern HS2 route should be transformed into a toll road for fully autonomous vehicles. here are the reasons why…there are no reasons not to do this.

you heard it here first.

  1. Significant groundwork has already been completed.
  2. Objections from the local population have been addressed.
  3. Land and property necessary for the project have been acquired.
  4. The limited junctions, previously stations, are ideal for freight automation.
  5. The route, originally designed for high-speed rail (300mph), is optimized for efficiency with no tight turns or hills, leading to greater fuel efficiency.
  6. The existing route could be downgraded as roads can handle hills and slightly tighter turns, resulting in lower construction costs compared to railways.
  7. The route provides direct access from city centre to city centre, reducing last-mile delivery for freight and providing direct access for automated cars, maximizing their usage time.
  8. Tandem-style automated trucks already exist, eliminating the need for future technology development.
  9. Access points at central Birmingham, Stafford, Crewe, the M56/M6 intersection area, and central Manchester would provide convenient access for road use.
  10. Distribution hubs have already been designed at some of these locations.
  11. The HS2 was planned to be fully electric. The infrastructure that has been designed and work started on could be used for charging electric HGVs and private cars. The rail infrastructure has already solved the problem of the heavy loads required by the National Grid.
  12. Automated cars are already in existence.
  13. Junctions would operate using a simple toll booth system that restricts non-automated vehicles.
  14. The UK government’s timetable for approving automated vehicles on public roads aligns with the potential use of this road.
  15. A great deal of work has been done on the continuation to Leeds, making it a reasonable extension.
  16. Links to the Liverpool and Hull container ports would be cost-effective, providing greater access for the import and export of goods to over 35% of the country.
  17. The road would be a dual carriageway, with one lane for HGVs and the other for LGVs and private cars.
  18. Only fully autonomous vehicles would be permitted on the highway, maximizing the benefits of automated systems.
  19. Safety could approach 100%, similar to airline safety. Without human interaction, road traffic accidents could be significantly reduced, potentially making this the safest road in the world.
  20. Automated self-diagnosing vehicles would be automatically disallowed from travelling or removed en-route if a fault develops, leading to greater road usage at all times by reducing breakdowns.
  21. Automated heavy goods vehicles used in close proximity on a single-lane highway at 50% road utilization would allow 60,000 trucks per day to travel the entire route on a single carriageway. This equates to 4,000,000 cubic metres of freight per day with a higher reliability of delivery outcome.
  22. From a commercial perspective, a haulage company could use distribution hubs at both ends of the road, employing a fully automated tractor unit that loads and unloads the trailer. This would allow for a turnaround time of 30 minutes at each end of the route.

a. A HGV vehicle could traverse the route 12 times a day. Currently, due to driving hours laws, 12 journeys would require a minimum of 3 drivers to deliver the equivalent capacity of goods.

b. Human drivers can only drive for 56 hours a week. With 4 weeks of vacation, this equates to 2688 hours of usable driving time per year, which includes shunting at either end of the journey.

c. According to the World Economic Forum’s white paper, driver costs account for 50% of HGV expenses, indicating a potential 50% saving on 1.5 billion cubic metres of goods transported daily between Birmingham and Manchester.

d. Rates of £3 per mile are currently offered for haulage owner-drivers. This is not the rate charged to the end user but provides a good indication of potential savings. With 60,000 trucks per day, or 21,900,000 trucks a year in one direction, there would be a capacity of 43,800,000 total journeys a year at 50% utilisation of the road. With a total distance of 80 miles, the current cost of freight is £10.5 billion. Removing 50% of the cost by not using a driver could result in a cost saving of £5 billion per annum.

e. The well-known shortage of HGV drivers could also benefit haulage companies. This is a global problem, and the UK pioneering this scheme could demonstrate to the world how to utilise it efficiently. A UK company could have the opportunity to export its expertise in running the system.

  • The 43,800,000 HGV journeys a year would also be removed from the existing M6 and M56 motorways, resulting in substantial savings for the government, reduced congestion for regular commuters, and hence reduced costs for other industries.
  • The reliability of goods transport would increase with the flexibility of HGV type transport over a railway-based system, meaning that just-in-time manufacturing could operate more efficiently. The existing large manufacturing hub along the total route would increase UK productivity and help boost GDP.

The Case for Allowing Private Cars to Use the Road

This argument is addressed by HS2’s justification for the entire HS2 project, which is the time saved for business people travelling across the country.

  1. The HS2 argument falls short because the time savings on a short high-speed railway are significantly reduced by the time required to get to/from the station and to board and disembark the train. Additionally, train times rarely align accurately with the travel itinerary of the user. A ten-minute shorter journey time is easily negated by these factors.
  2. Allowing fully automated private cars on the highway would integrate seamlessly with fully automated HGVs. Maximum speeds could be increased for private cars due to the improved safety factor of automation, thereby reducing travel times.
  3. The best legal time to travel from Birmingham centre to Manchester centre by road is a minimum of 1 hour 40 minutes under perfect conditions. This equates to an average speed of 50mph at best. On the automated road, this could increase to an average of 80mph, saving 40 minutes per journey. The greatest gain would be that the current minimum journey time is rarely achievable and is more likely to be 2 hours or more, resulting in a saving of 1 hour. The reliability of the timing would be the greatest advantage, as business people would not have to factor in large congestion timings to their journeys, greatly improving their efficiency/time utilization.
  4. A smooth, uninterrupted journey for 1 hour in a private car that collects/delivers directly to/from the actual required destination would also be a factor that a rail journey could never replicate.
  5. Fully automated cars already exist and will be legal on UK highways by 2026.


There is a compelling case for the proposal on several grounds:

  1. The money already spent by the government and local councils is not wasted on a failed project, demonstrating to the electorate that the government manages funds responsibly.
  2. The HS2 project was always seen as a vanity project of a previous politicians to promote outdated technology.
  3. The northern route of HS2, which was to pass near the Liverpool to Manchester railway route, a groundbreaking intercity railway built 200 years ago,HS2 has barely advanced in terms of technology or productivity. This would be shocking to the builders of that railway from 2 centuries ago.
  4. The benefits of this style of road to the UK GDP cannot be ignored.
  5. A road of this style would be nearly impossible to build from scratch. However, as detailed above, it has significant advantages. Utilizing the work done on HS2 could, by good fortune, give the UK a morale boost and show that we can still achieve great things.
  6. Using it for freight would demonstrate to poorer communities that they benefit from it and are not forgotten. The use of private vehicles on it to speed through/to wealthy areas would counter the NIMBY conservative arguments.
  7. The government can help themselves by alleviating the perception that the levelling out project has failed.
  8. It should be named the ‘Beady Road’. 😉

Mike Beady

Share your joy of knowledge with the world..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *