The first phase of the proposed high-speed rail line (HS2) between London and Birmingham will benefit passengers with faster, more frequent trains, less crowding and better connections, according to a report published by the UK’s Network Rail and Passenger Focus.
The report details the improved level of service passengers on the West Coast Main Line could experience due to the extra capacity and 125mph trains, which would become available if long-distance services migrate to HS2.
Network Rail group strategy director Paul Plummer said the West Coast Main Line is Britain’s busiest and most economically vital rail artery – but by 2024 it will be full. "With no more space to accommodate the continued predicted growth in deman, HS2 would not only transform travel between our major cities, but it is also the best way to solve the capacity crunch facing passengers and businesses on the West Coast Main Line," Plummer said.
The report noted that one of the biggest beneficiaries would be commuters travelling between Northampton, Milton Keynes, Watford Junction and London as the route is expected to reach capacity due to the predicted rise in commuters. Initial analysis suggests that about 12 trains per hour could operate on this section of the route in the busiest peak hours.
Other key beneficiaries would be commuters between the major towns and cities of the West Midlands and between London and destinations in the Trent Valley, as well as companies that majorly move goods by rail freight. The HS2 rail line has also been considered to likely improve opportunities of connectivity between the south end of the route and towns and cities further north.
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Passenger Focus surveyed more than 5,000 current passengers and almost 1,000 potential new rail users to discover their priorities and highlight the capacity that would be released if a new HS2 rail line is built. Passengers stated their main priority is to get a seat, while demand for direct services was also high in the list of priorities for both current passengers and non-users, besides punctuality and reliability.
Network Rail said it has used these survey results to draw up nine overarching goals, including shortening travel between London and the Trent Valley or providing additional direct services between major cities in the West Midlands.
The rail operator will release the results of the second stage of this study, which should offer a more detailed understanding of any trade-offs between outputs in a bid to provide the best overall level of future service on the West Coast Main Line.
The UK Government has approved the first phase of the £32bn HS2 rail project, which will built between London and Birmingham between 2016 and 2026.
Image: The Channel Tunnel rail link is currently the UK’s only high-speed rail line – but this could change with the construction of HS2. Credit: Clem Rutter.