We know that passenger numbers are rising at 6 per cent per year on UK railways and we have the highest numbers of people travelling since the 1920s (we only have half the network we had then), but critics of HS2 still dispute we are running out of capacity.
The transcripts have just been released for the All Party Parliamentary Group for High Speed Rail (held in March and earlier this month).
The APPG specifically tackled the issue of capacity on our railways and received written submissions from groups up and down the country before calling on experts and leaders to give evidence.
On April 18 HS2 technical director Andrew McNaughton and Greengauge 21 director Jim Steer were among those giving evidence.
Mr Steer told the inquiry:
“One third of the projected increase to 2043 had already taken place between 2007-08 and 2010-11, and that is rail demand in the west coast corridor.
“That says to me, being analytical about it, there is a greater risk from that and a lot of other evidence that we are underestimating rather than overestimating the demand.”
By last year we had already reached a third of the projected demand for the West Coast Main Line until 2043!
Of course, as reported in our previous post by Alan Marshall, much of the capacity promised by alternatives to HS2 is already being added to the WCML and it won’t be enough.
Mr Steer also reinforced the point made by Centro chief executive Geoff Inskip that HS2 creates capacity both for long distance and short distance and freight.
When pressed on a possible ‘upgrade’ of the WCML Mr Steer said he had been involved in trying to negotiate significant increased train paths on the UK network.
This is what he had to say:
“The increased train lengths that can sensibly be accommodated will no doubt go ahead. We will have 12-car trains on the West Coast Main Line running to Northampton. I think the final 11-car Pendolino has just been delivered this week.
“Those things are happening. As a previous speaker said, it probably will not be enough to get us through to the mid-2020s.
“The forecast in 2002 was that by 2026 the West Coast Main Line would be full, and experience since is that growth has exceeded that expectation,” he added.
The inquiry members were Graham Evans MP, Karen Lumley MP, Iain Stewart MP, Stuart Andrew MP and Graham Stringer MP.