THE GOVERNMENT could provide a £60m annual boost for the UK’s economy by spending cash to improve efficiency and reliability on the East Coast Main Line, according to political leaders.
Research conducted on behalf of the Consortium of East Coast Mainline Authorities (ECMA) found that a third of the UK’s population lives within 20 minutes of an East Coast Main Line station and, together they deliver 41 per cent of the UK’s GDP (gross domestic product.)
However, constraints on the line can lead to significant disruption, the report said.
In 2018, 12 major incidents occurred costing the UK economy £46.28 million, according to the study.
The report said: “Each major incident equates to a full loss of service per day and this unreliability is one of the contributing factors to the Public Performance Measure (PPM) of the East Coast Main Line dropping below 80 per cent for the first time in 10 years.
It added: “Localised and smaller incidents can also cause significant disruption across the rail network but if the number of delays on the line over 10 minutes were halved, this would deliver an additional £62.8 million per annum to the wider economy.”
In June 2018, the Government announced £780 million of investment for the East Coast Main Line in Control Period 6, which stretches from 2019 to 2024. This will reduce journey times and provide new direct links to some cities and towns., the ECMA statement said.
It added: “However, the majority of this work will be completed by 2021 with no current plans for further improvements or resources to fund them.”
ECMA members are calling on the government to identify additional funding to help tackle issues of capacity and resilience on the line.
Coun Keith Aspden, the leader of the City of York Council and chairman of ECMA, said “Investment in the East Coast Main Line will deliver economic benefits across the country from the Highlands to Hertfordshire and mean customers benefit from better reliability and greater resilience.
“Currently, the line is vulnerable to major disruptions which is why ECMA is calling on the UK and Scottish governments to secure additional funding for Network Rail to deliver a more reliable rail network for customers.”
Dan Jarvis, the mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said: “It’s vital that the Government invests in the East Coast Main Line; to reduce disruption to passengers in the short term and to safeguard this vital route in the long term.
“The importance of the East Coast Main Line to communities in the Sheffield City Region cannot be underestimated. That’s why we are joining with other members of the ECMA in requesting this investment.
Mr Jarvis added: “Improving this route is a key part of my Integrated Rail Plan, which aims to bring together local and regional lines to build a rail network fit for the 21st century.
“For example, just five miles of new track would enable a new station to be built on the East Coast Main Line at Doncaster Sheffield Airport. This station would place our region’s airport firmly on the map for people all the way from London to Edinburgh.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We are making the biggest ever investment to improve passenger journeys on the East Coast Main Line, including introducing new trains to increase capacity and reduce journey times. The East Coast Main Line could also be the first major route to benefit from digital signalling and the Government’s decision on this potential significant investment in this route will be made in due course.”