Freight News, Rail

Updated: Rail freight industry welcomes HS2 Crewe plan

[ March 17, 2014   //   ]

The freight industry welcomed the report by HS2 chairman David Higgins on the planned HS2 north-south high speed rail line, published on 17 March.

Higgins called for the first section of the line to be built from London to Crewe, rather than only from London to Birmingham, as originally envisaged. The former option, the rail freight industry feared, would lead to many more Manchester and Liverpool-bound high speed passenger trains flooding onto the existing West Coast Main Line north of Birmingham, cutting available capacity for freight.

Rail Freight Group (RFG) executive director, Maggie Simpson, also said she was pleased that Higgins had recommended against pushing ahead with a planned connection between HS2 and the Channel Tunnel rail link across London in its original form, saying: “Although such a connection is strategically important, the proposed scheme was not fit for purpose and presented serious capacity and performance risk for freight services.”

Simpson added: “Accelerating the delivery of Phase 2 to Crewe will also help to relieve capacity for freight services to the major North West conurbations, and we support this recommendation. RFG will be looking for more detailed commitment to this work in coming months and to understand the overall impact on freight capacity.”

Managing director of GB Railfreight, John Smith, added: “The recommendation that phase 1 for HS2 now extends to a new hub at Crewe has the potential to open up routes for freight trains on the existing network. This extension avoids some of the bottlenecks that could have occurred on the classic network as a result of the original phase 1 proposals.”

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) likewise welcomed the announcement. BIFA director general Peter Quantrill said: “Much of the discussion has been about the potential saving in time for the passenger between London and Birmingham and Manchester. BIFA is more focused on the opportunities presented to freight operations with the potential release of West Coast Main Line capacity to intermodal trains.

He said: “The present rail system is becoming increasingly overcrowded and reaching a capacity crisis. The increase in capacity is the single most important argument in favour of developing HS2 and is one that the project’s critics seem reluctant to challenge.

“It becomes all the more important when one considers that, while much UK manufacturing is based in the Midlands, the North and the Central Scottish belt, increasingly volumes of non-EU originating or destined ocean containers are being moved by rail through ports in the South and South East. While the talk continues, the UK faces rail congestion that hurts the country’s bottom-line, and we would urge politicians on all sides of the House to get behind this important project by taking on board the comments of the HS2 Plus report.”

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