Fast Forward: A high-​​speed rail strategy for Britain

16 September, 2009

Greengauge 21’s Fast Forward report, published in September 2009, sets out a high-speed rail strategy for Britain. A comprehensive network of HSR routes would link all Britain’s major cities – helping to ensure a competitive and sustainable Britain. Read on »

The British High Speed Rail Network

7 September, 2015

The debate at Greengauge 21’s conference in Glasgow on 3rd September comes at a pivotal moment. Successive governments have talked in terms of a British High Speed Rail network. But as yet plans are only developed in the southern half of Britain.

Keith Brown Keith Brown, Scottish Government Minister for Infrastructure, opened the conference by re-stating the critical role of high speed rail in  spreading inclusive  economic  growth as  part of an overall transport strategy.

Cross border high speed rail could bring Scotland a £25bn boost. Sitting in the 2nd largest economy in the  UK after  London, Mr Brown  saw the North of England not  as  competition for Scotland but an ally in delivering more balanced growth across the UK.

He welcomed  Northern  England leaders working with UK Government on  Northern  Powerhouse proposals. By around February Mr Brown expected to be in a position with Patrick McLoughlin to share further studies on cross-border options being  led by Sir David Higgins  and  HS2 Ltd – and importantly to set out next steps.

Founder of Greengauge 21, Jim Steer, said a national high speed rail network simply must include Scotland and the commitment to  publishing potential routes for  taking HS2 north of the Border is a big step forward. Read on »

Rail Subsidy North and South

1 September, 2015

Oh dear, here we go again. ‘Northern rail services cost southern commuters £1 billion’ says the Daily Telegraph (27th August). ‘London commuters bankroll Northern rail services’ says ITV (28th August).

What’s worse the regulatory body that produces the statistics — the ORR — leads the headline writers with statements like: ‘The trend for regional train operators to receive a subsidy whilst those in the Long distance and London and South East sectors pay a premium back to government has continued this year.’

This is seriously misleading, and here’s why. There are two subsidy channels and these headlines reflect only one of them.

Train services get the agreed subsidy or premium between Government and the franchised train operators having paid track access charges to Network Rail that don’t meet the full cost of the provision of the national network. The shortfall is met by a Network Grant (worth £3.8bn) paid out by Government directly to Network Rail. Across the whole country, subsidies to train operators would have been a lot higher in 2014 – 15 without this grant.

ORR publishes data on how it – operative word alert – thinks Network Grant benefits the various train operators, but doesn’t attempt to assess the cause of costs. It is sad to record that British Rail accounting by the end of the 1980s was better than this.

However, it looks like Read on »

High speed rail must stay on track

1 September, 2015

IT’S so much easier to back infrastructure investment when year after year, demand grows at exceptional levels. That’s why I shall be arguing at our conference in Glasgow this week for Anglo-Scottish HSR to remain firmly on the agenda in Westminster and Holyrood.

The figures speak for themselves. The latest year-on-year passenger numbers from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) are plus 9.6 per cent at London Euston, 8.3 per cent at Birmingham New Street (where a rebuild is nearing completion) and 6.0 per cent at Edinburgh Waverley. Long distance demand is growing Read on »

Delivering balanced growth across the Northern Powerhouse

21 August, 2015

Greengauge 21 says that businesses in Yorkshire are showing how HS2 plans need to be adapted to deliver the Chancellor’s Northern Powerhouse vision.

Work by the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce shows how HS2 services could operate from an expanded Leeds City Station, rather than from a separate terminus station at New Lane. The Chamber also shows how poor links through Leeds – such as between Castleford, Pontefract and Bradford could be transformed, as part of a joined up plan.

HS2, TransNorth and West Yorkshire metro

York pic

Source: Paper by the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce

“These proposals for Leeds form a good basis for delivering the Yorkshire component of HS2 early, a key component of last year’s ‘One North’ strategy published by the North’s big cities” says Greengauge 21 Associate Director, John Jarvis.

“If HS2 is going to benefit the eastern side of the Pennines before the 2030s, then an accelerated Yorkshire component is the only option on the table,” John Jarvis points out. “The idea to build part of the Yorkshire section of the high-speed line early only makes sense if it is connected into the existing station at Leeds – a good fit with the Chamber of Commerce’s plans – and also into the existing station at Sheffield which would also need to be improved.”

The benefits of such an arrangement are huge – and are additional to (and very different from) the longer term gains that drive the current HS2 business case. “This is an interim stage that delivers two key parts of the Northern Powerhouse ambition, complementing developments west of the Pennines,” says John Jarvis, who was formerly transport lead for the Northern Way. “By halving the journey time between Sheffield and Leeds, existing services such as those between Bristol, Birmingham, Derby, Sheffield, Leeds, York and Newcastle and between Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds can contribute a leap forward in joining up northern cities. And by taking these trains off slower, congested lines, capacity is freed up for more commuter capacity in the Leeds and Sheffield city regions, supporting an expansion of labour markets.”

Building the Yorkshire section of HS2 early would even make it possible to provide a 20 minute speed up in Leeds – London services before the 2030s. If an additional connection is made to the HS2 line in the West Midlands where it crosses existing lines, services from the slower Midland and East Coast Main lines could be switched to operate over the HS2 trunk route into the new Euston station before the full ‘Y shaped’ HS2 network is completed.

“We expect to learn Government’s response to its consultation on the Phase 2 plans later this year. But we already know that stakeholders want to see regional ‘Javelin– style’ services in Yorkshire like those operating so successfully in Kent on HS1. Prioritising the Yorkshire section of HS2 for completion in the 2020s, along with the extension to Crewe west of the Pennines would bring about the balanced kind of economic stimulus the North needs — east as well as west of the Pennines which underpinned the ‘Y-shaped’ network concept for HS2 in the first place”, John Jarvis said.



Agreement in sight to bring fast rail link to Scotland

27 July, 2015

An agreement to cut train journeys from Scotland to London to three hours by bringing high-speed rail north of the Border is in the offing between the UK and Scottish governments.

The deal could involve a combination of upgrading existing tracks and building new high-speed lines, targeting sections of new line, built for higher speed, to provide the extra line capacity where necessary.

A spokesperson from the Scottish Government said “The Scottish Government and the Department for Transport (DfT) continue to work together and we are optimistic about seeing a joint, positive announcement as the outcome of these talks.”

Read Alastair Dalton’s full article in The Scotsman here.