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HS2 benefits to extend across rail network – Network Rail study

Tuesday 6 Aug 2013

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National
North East & East Midlands
North West & West Midlands

Over 100 towns and cities on Britain’s existing railway lines could benefit from quicker, more frequent journeys and better connections when HS2 phase two is complete, according to a new report published today by Network Rail.

The report on released capacity, ‘Better connections: options for the integration of High Speed 2’, sets out initial proposals for how HS2 could be integrated into the national rail network once the second phase connecting Birmingham with Leeds and Manchester is complete.

It considers three broad approaches to how the capacity released by HS2 could be used in advance of more detailed assessments of the benefits:

(i) ‘Do minimum’ approach – this would keep train services on existing lines broadly the same, offering reduced crowding and increased choice for passengers between high-speed and conventional long-distance services at certain locations;

(ii) ‘Incremental’ approach – this seeks to replace long distance services on the existing network which are replicated by those provided by HS2, allowing the capacity to be used for improved inter-urban connectivity and/or additional commuting capacity;

iii) ‘Integrated connectivity’ approach – a more radical concept which would see all future rail services planned in a ‘hub and spoke’ model to complement and work in conjunction with HS2.

Paul Plummer, Network Rail group strategy director, said: “HS2 provides an opportunity to fundamentally reshape our railway in a way that incremental improvements simply cannot deliver. It is a chance to stop playing catch-up on capacity and instead look at how the rail network could deliver a step-change improvement towards key national goals – economic growth, reduced carbon emissions and an improved quality of life for communities and individual passengers.

“This study is part of a wider programme that looks at how the high speed and existing lines might work together as a single network. We will continue to work with local authorities and other stakeholders to understand how we can make best use of HS2 and welcome feedback on this initial study in advance of more detailed assessments of the benefits.”

Network Rail held a series of workshops with stakeholders to make sure that the report took into account local aspirations for connectivity and journey opportunities as well as plans for local and regional development. The workshops were attended by representatives of local authorities, passenger transport executives and chambers of commerce and were extremely valuable in determining priorities for future rail services.

The approach found to offer the greatest potential benefits was the integrated connectivity, or ‘hub and spoke’, option. This would see long distance services principally provided by HS2, with services on the existing network set up in a feeder pattern to provide frequent and reliable connectivity between surrounding areas and the ‘hub’ stations. It was felt by all stakeholders that this approach could create new opportunities to improve inter-regional, commuter and freight services and promote a shift in journeys from road to rail.

An incremental approach was also found to deliver significant improvements for passengers on the East Coast, Midland and West Coast main lines, with up to 100 stations on routes between London, the Midlands, the north west and the north east and Scotland potentially benefitting from faster and more frequent services offering new and better connections.

The ‘Better connections’ report complements an initial study published by Network Rail and Passenger Focus in January 2012 which looked at how capacity released from HS2 Phase One, between London and Birmingham, could be best used to meet passengers’ priorities.

This study found that one of the biggest groups to benefit would be commuters travelling between Northampton, Milton Keynes, Watford Junction and London Euston, where the worst overcrowding on the West Coast Main Line is forecast in the coming years as demand for rail continues to grow.

Notes to editors

1. The Command Paper, "High Speed Rail, Investing in Britain's Future. Phase Two: The Route to Leeds, Manchester and Beyond", asked Network Rail to advise the Government on options for the future use of the existing rail network once phase two of High Speed 2 is operational.

2. Network Rail’s ‘Better connections’ report identifies three different approaches to how HS2 could be integrated with the national rail network:

(i) ‘'Do minimum’ approach – this would keep train services on existing lines broadly the same but offer reduced crowding and increased choice for passengers between high-speed and conventional long-distance services at certain locations;

(ii) ‘Incremental’ approach – this seeks to replace long-distance services on the existing network which are replicated by those provided by HS2, allowing the capacity to be used for improved inter-urban connectivity and/or additional commuting capacity. This approach could free up freight paths and provide new journey opportunities on all north-south routes.

The capacity released on the West Coast Main Line when Phase 2 completes could mean an additional service for places like Crewe, Stafford, Winsford, Hartford, Acton Bridge and Warrington. It could also improve connectivity between Northampton and Manchester or between Birmingham and North Wales.

For the East Coast Main Line, it could mean additional journey opportunities between Manchester and Newcastle and between Newcastle and Edinburgh.

On the Midland Main Line the released capacity could be used to provide more seats and improved connectivity between Sheffield / Nottingham and Leeds.

(iii) ‘Integrated connectivity’ approach – a more radical concept which would see all future rail services planned in a ‘hub and spoke’ model to complement and work in conjunction with HS2 which would provide ‘hub to hub’ services.

This approach would see the high speed lines become the principle means of long-distance travel with services on the existing network set up in a feeder pattern to improve connectivity to the HS2 hub and the surrounding area.

For example, most people travelling through Crewe are on direct services to Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Preston, Glasgow and London. This constrains capacity for improvements to other services.

The integrated connectivity approach would see as many long-distance services as possible transfer on to the high speed lines, freeing up space for local connectivity. This could mean that the towns and cities surrounding Crewe could see improved services, for example Stoke could see the number of services increase from two to four with a potentially faster and more reliable journey.

3.‘Better connections’ can be downloaded from www.networkrail.co.uk/highspeedrail and Network Rail is seeking feedback on its contents to inform more detailed assessments of how to maximise the benefits of HS2. This work will inform Network Rail’s long term planning process, which is also subject to consultation.

4. This study has built on the analysis carried out by Network Rail and Passenger Focus for Phase One and provides a set of approaches and options for how the existing rail network capacity could be used once Phase Two of HS2 is operational. This work will be used as part of the consultation of HS2 Phase Two and to inform future decisions on the use of network capacity in areas and routes where rail usage will be affected by HS2.

5. More information on the HS2 Phase One study, published by Network Rail and Passenger Focus in January 2012, can be found here.

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