The following letter from Go-HS2 was recently published by the Express & Star newspaper in Wolverhampton. Correspondence frequently suggests that trains should be lengthened or new services added. However, the constraints of our existing network are often not considered or the fact that we have already lost services due to capacity problems. This is not a potential scenario that may unfold in a decade or so; we have already lost stations and services and Network Rail conclude more will follow.
Bringing HS2 to the West Midlands will address overcrowding problems on our increasingly busy railways.
I write in response to Jessica Withington’s letter of the day (March 9) which expressed environmental concerns and questioned the economic case for high speed rail.
Rail is growing at 6% per year and we have as many passengers as we did in the 1920s (the rail network was twice as large then).
Running out of capacity on our railways means difficult choices will have to be made about which routes and services are prioritised.
We have already lost stations in Staffordshire (Barlaston and Wedgwood) and Network Rail concluded recently that an alternative scheme to HS2 would threaten services in Stone and Rugeley. It also reported there had been no provision made for growth between Coventry and Birmingham.
It is simplistic to suggest we should keep adding more trains or lengthen them when this is already happening.
In any case Network Rail has concluded we will have no room left on the West Coast Main Line by the early 2020s. Demand is already outstripping forecasts so this may well be optimistic.
HS2 provides fast, direct links between our major cities and Europe, but it also frees space on our existing lines.
Centro has researched how released capacity could benefit the West Midlands allowing us to introduce new services. It would allow for new and increased services from the Black Country to Birmingham Airport, for example.
Nick Kingsley, senior editor at Railway Gazette International, examines what would happen if the 51M alternative to HS2 (making use of existing West Coast Main Line) was built instead.
For further reading, The Station Master blog details an interesting diversion around three ‘mothballed’ Staffordshire stations and writes:
Visiting Wedgwood, Barlaston and Norton Bridge convinced me even more of the need for High Speed Two. Opponents of the scheme say that more capacity could be squeezed out of the existing WCML, and they may be right – but at what cost? Three stations have already been sacrificed for the sake of faster and more frequent services. To expand capacity elsewhere could well require more of the smaller stations to be closed or reduced to Parliamentary level of service.
Killing local services to concentrate on express routes was the basic principle behind the Beeching report of the 1960s. It was wrong then and wrong now. HS2 will allow us to have a new high speed route and viable local trains to serve the community. We get the best of both worlds, and that’s got to be a good thing, right?