Tomorrow the All Party Parliamentary Group for High Speed Rail (APPG) will publish its findings. The inquiry, set up earlier this year, was concerned with understanding capacity on the UK rail network. A number of individuals and organisations, including rail journalist Christian Wolmar, Centro chief executive Geoff Inskip and ASLEF national organiser Simon Weller gave evidence.
Four questions were set by the inquiry. The first asked: How do you view the current capacity situation on Britain’s railways? Centro raised a number of points including in the following extract. The full report can be read here.
- Passenger journeys have increased every year for the past decade in the Centro area (urban West Midlands). In 2000/01 22.8 million passenger journeys were made. This had risen to 32.8 million journeys by 2006/07 and reached 42.8 million passenger journeys in 2010/11.
- In Birmingham rail now accounts for 27% of the peak modal share, up from 17% in 2001.
- Rail operator London Midland has recently (Dec 2011) added another 2,300 seats to its services in the West Midlands. Virgin Trains has seen journeys on the West Coast Mainline almost double from 16m in 1999 to 31m in 2010.
- Industry figures (Association of Train Operating Companies) demonstrate rail passenger numbers are growing at 5-6% per year. We now have the highest number of rail passengers since the 1920s, but only half the rail network we had then.
- Interestingly, ATOC reported on February 29 that rail travel is booming among the younger generation. Railcard journeys (16-25) have soared by 60% in five years. There are now 1.2 million 16-25 Railcard holders compared to 950,000 in 2005.
- The Rail Freight Group reports that north-south rail freight has grown by 56% in the last eight years.
- We have already seen services and stations lost (for example Wedgwood and Barlaston in Staffordshire) due to capacity constraints and there is pressure on local services all along the West Coast Mainline.
- If we do not meet demand we risk forcing passengers and freight onto our congested roads. This is a serious issue for families and businesses in the West Midlands. HS2 would not only offer fast, direct links between our major cities it would also relieve congestion on our increasingly crowded existing network. Without addressing capacity constraints we will face some stark choices in the near future.