Network Rail unveils high-speed rail plan

26 Aug 2009 by Mark Caswell

Network Rail has unveiled its study into a 200-mph high-speed rail network which would halve travel time between London and Scotland to just over two hours.

The £34bn proposal would serve Birmingham, Warrington, Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Glasgow and Edinburgh from central London (see map at the bottom of this article), with a journey time of two hours and 16 minutes between London and Glasgow, and just 46 minutes from London to Birmingham.

The study looked at three other alternatives, linking London with Yorkshire, the East Midlands, and the West, but concluded that a route the West Midlands, the North West and on to Scotland provided the “best value for money option”, paying for itself 1.8 times over the course of 60 years.

The study also looked at the proliferation and benefits of high-speed rail lines in Europe and across the world, pointing to the Madrid-Seville route in Spain, which has captured 90 per cent of the air market between the two cities.

The UK lags way behind countries such as China, Spain, France, Japan, Germany, Italy and the US in terms of the number of miles of high-speed lines in place or planned by 2025 (see table below), and Network Rail said that “With big targets for reducing carbon emissions, our roads and skies getting unbearably congested and with little capacity on existing key rail arteries, the need for new railway routes has never been stronger”.

The study concluded that by 2030 the line would save 480 million vehicle miles per year, and 3.6 million less air journeys per year. The aim would be to complete the first section of the line between London and Birmingham by 2020, by which time it is estimated the existing main rail line from London to the North West will have reached capacity.

Regarding the possibility of a high-speed line connecting Heathrow directly with the north of England, the study concluded that this option would reduce the value and benefits of the new line by around £3bn, because “the vast majority of passengers using the new line would be travelling to the city centre terminal station in London, not Heathrow”. It added that the possibility of a spur from the proposed main high-speed line to Heathrow “makes sense in the long-term as congestion on our roads and airways continues to build up”, although it does not improve the business case for the new line as a whole.

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Report by Mark Caswell

Proposed high-speed network

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