High Speed Rail in the South East

7 April, 2014

Greengauge 21 has recently carried out some research on behalf of the South East Local Transport Board to examine the scope for new high-speed rail services and routes in the south east of England. HS1 was conceived initially as a means of reducing the journey time and increasing the number of international trains operating from London to Paris and Brussels. Our report is largely concerned with the domestic high-speed services, and considers connectivity to the existing HS1 route from across the SELEP area (the counties of Essex, Kent and East Sussex), setting this alongside evidence of the impact of HS1 on the property market to highlight a number of ways to improve HS1 services and the economic value HS1 can bring to the region.

The research also considers the HS1-HS2 link, now dropped from phase 1 of the HS2 project, considering material from a previous study by Greengauge 21 on connecting HS1 and HS2 (link) and discussions with TfL to outline how this link might be improved.

Our report goes on to consider the role of Stratford International and Regional stations and explores the questions around new rail links and the related issue of released capacity. In conclusion, a number of specific recommendations are made that would increase the economic benefit by new HSR routes; including the capacity which could be realised on the existing rail network as a result of increased HS1 patronage. The recommendations outlined in our report earlier this year are already moving forward, with Network Rail’s recent announcement that it had assigned £2.3bn of investment to increase the number of seats available and improve stations in the South East from 2014 to 2019, and the Secretary of State for Transport supporting an extension of HS1 from Ashford in Kent to Hastings: see Hastings hope for high-speed rail extension

Our recommendations are set in the context of the short (2014-19), medium (2020-2024) and long-term (2025 and thereafter) delivery timescales, and include:

Short term

  • Support for Southeastern’s plans for a recast of services in December 2014;
  • Rapid improvement of signage and information at Stratford Regional and International stations;
  • Backing for Network Rail’s programme of line speed improvements between Ashford and Ramsgate.

Medium term

  • Provision of direct high-speed services to Hastings;
  • Evolutionary development of the conventional speed network, taking advantage of the benefits of re-signalling, the removal of level crossings to enhance safety, plans to reduce journey times and improve capacity on the classic network that supports Southeastern’s high-speed services when operating away from HS1;
  • Provision of an all-day high-speed service to Maidstone West, potentially in conjunction with line speed improvements south of Strood.

Read the report and the full recommendations here: High Speed Rail in the South East