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Wednesday 8 December 2010

It’s All About Capacity

While the anti-HS2 brigade continue to complain about the proposed new line from London to Birmingham and beyond, business goes on as usual in the rail industry. Part of that business is the Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) for the already busy West Coast Main Line (WCML) from London to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and Glasgow.

Network Rail (NR) have now published the draft RUS for the WCML, which you can see HERE [.pdf]. Those remaining unconvinced of the need for HS2 are advised to check out Page 33, which shows the capacity constraints currently affecting the WCML. And it should be clear that there are problem areas from London’s Euston terminus all the way out to Wolverton – hence HS2.

There are also problems around Stafford, but a by-pass around the junction at Norton Bridge is “work in progress” and will alleviate some of the pressure. The need for re-signalling around Crewe is also brought into focus (this has been shelved due to spending constraints).

Page 38 of the RUS considers growth in passenger numbers during the past decade: 70% London to Manchester, 58% to Birmingham, and 41% to Liverpool. Even with longer and more frequent trains, should these trends continue, then ultimately something will have to give.

And, before the anti-HS2 campaigners claim that the Atkins bottleneck removal exercise will be the magic bullet that solves the problem, they need to take on board that this will not help the constraint that exists between London and Wolverton.

HS2 will remove some of the traffic from the WCML, making it easier to provide more capacity for commuter and freight traffic. The RUS underscores this, and looks towards the completion of the first stage of the new line.

One final thought: this RUS is merely a draft, and the final version will not be agreed until well into next year. So anyone expecting the re-franchising of the operation currently run by Virgin Trains to be complete by March 2012 may be disappointed.

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