Wednesday 8 Dec 2010


Region & Route:
| North West & Central

A new high-speed line between London, Birmingham and Manchester will be essential in preventing overcrowding on the busy west coast main line, a Network Rail report has found.

The report, the west coast main line route utilisation strategy: draft for consultation (RUS), predicts the line will be out of capacity by 2024 as passenger demand is set to grow by as much as 61% between London and Manchester.

A new high speed line would free up much needed capacity allowing more and faster services giving more seats to commuters to operate on the route’s southern section between Rugby, Northampton, Milton Keynes and London, and would also allow room for more rail freight, the report finds.

Paul Plummer, Network Rail’s director of planning and development said: “The west coast is vital to Britain’s economy. The success of the west coast since its modernisation has brought many challenges, and our strategy sets out a range of options to provide extra capacity and a better value railway.

“There is broad consensus that Britain needs a high-speed network to provide better, faster journeys for passengers and create the extra capacity we need. This strategy provides more evidence, if it were needed, that Britain must have a high-speed future.”

The RUS also includes a range of recommendations to enhance capacity and improve journeys for the route over the period 2014-2024. These include providing more long distance services and a number of additional fast commuter services during rush-hour. Other services could also be introduced between Birmingham, Manchester and Scotland, with additional direct trains from Derby and Stoke-on-Trent to Manchester Airport.

Mr Plummer continued: “Thousands of businesses rely on the west coast to reach their markets and prosper, and our strategy will provide the extra capacity needed to help the economy grow. Making the railways more affordable is essential, and we will continue to work together with the rail industry to reduce costs and deliver better value for passengers and freight.”

Today’s publication marks the start of a three month consultation on the draft strategy with key stakeholders. After taking feedback into consideration, Network Rail will publish the final strategy in summer 2011.

Notes to editors

The RUS process is led by Network Rail on behalf of the rail industry. A number of rail industry organisations are involved in the process including train operating companies, freight operating companies, ATOC, the ORR, Passenger Focus, Department for Transport, Transport Scotland, Transport for London and Passenger Transport Executives.  Wider stakeholders such as local authorities and rail user groups are also involved.

The options to increase capacity and create better rail journeys on the West Coast include:

Schemes to be considered 2014-2024

  • Extra carriages to alleviate overcrowding between Northampton, Milton Keynes and London
  • Proposals to increase capacity at London Euston to be evaluated as part of the consultation
  • Lengthened services between Watford and Clapham Junction with extra services being considered as part of the consultation
  • Timetable changes for long-distance services to provide an additional hourly service between London and the North West and potentially faster journeys between London and Scotland
  • An additional off peak service between London, Milton Keynes Crewe and Liverpool
  • Extra carriages between Birmingham and Scotland
  • Bournemouth to Manchester service rerouted to provide faster journey times between Birmingham and Manchester
  • Derby to Crewe via Stoke-on-Trent service to be extended to Manchester Airport
  • Potential Introduction of a direct service between Liverpool and Edinburgh once North West electrification is completed

Longer term options to be considered for 2024 and beyond.

The RUS supports the development and implementation of a new high-speed line. Both the construction and operational phases of phase one of HS2 will have fundamental implications for the WCML. Network Rail and the rail industry will consider the implications of HS2 and its impact on WCML during the consultation period and beyond. The new line has the potential to deliver

  • Faster journeys for commuter services into London on the existing WCML, with increased frequency of services between major towns and cities along the entire route
  • Extra capacity for additional freight services

The Government is considering plans for HS2 from London to the West Midlands, with branches to Manchester and the East Midlands to Leeds. A public consultation on the scheme is expected to be launched early next year.

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