Many towns and cities could benefit from a huge rise in direct trains to London once a new high speed rail network is built, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond told business and civic leaders from across London and the South East today.
With intercity services transferring to a new high speed line, significant extra space would become available on the existing network, meaning towns such as Milton Keynes, Northampton and Rugby could become much better connected to London.
The Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd have already established that an extra 11 services could be run on the West Coast Main Line every hour once the first phase of HS2 is built from London to the West Midlands. Completion of the second phase to Manchester and Leeds could deliver similar improvements for commuter locations on the East Coast Main Line such as Luton, Bedford and Stevenage.
Mr Hammond also announced that an industry-led group, headed by Passenger Focus and Network Rail, would be established to investigate how best to use the extra capacity.
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said:
“Our proposed new high speed rail network would free up a huge amount of space on the current railways for more trains to operate. Building a whole new line would create scope for people who live on the current lines to have more frequent services that are less crowded – I would also hope that this additional competition could mean cheaper fares as well.
“The reality is that many of our current trains are full and too many people have to stand – we desperately need the extra trains and capacity that a new high speed rail network would bring.
”By bringing in the expertise of Passenger Focus and Network Rail at this early stage in the process, we can ensure that best possible use would be made of this new capacity, and I would like to thank them in advance for their work on this very important project.”
The Department for Transport estimates the cost of the complete ‘Y’ shaped high speed network at £32bn and expects it to generate economic benefits of around £44bn and fare revenues of around £27bn over a 60-year period.
The proposed network would be delivered in two phases – the first a line from London to the West Midlands and linked to the HS1 line to the Channel Tunnel, and the second the onward legs to Manchester and Leeds. The second phase would also include a direct link to Heathrow, bringing Sheffield and Leeds within an hour and a quarter of the country’s major hub airport.
The Government is currently holding a public consultation on its proposals for high speed rail which runs until 29th July 2011.