YORKSHIRE could benefit from a series of new and improved train services when the proposed new high-speed rail route to the North is completed, according to a new report.
Network Rail’s report on the impact of HS2 on existing rail journeys found new and quicker services were a potential by-product of extra capacity freed up by passengers swapping to the high-speed link from London to Leeds, via Sheffield, and from London to Manchester.
Possible improvements highlighted included better, more frequent services between Sheffield and Leeds, more inter-city services connecting to Barnsley, new direct services between Bradford and London and a new service between Cambridge and Leeds.
In a separate development, local transport chiefs have backed a £12.5m proposal to modernise and improve services on the York-Harrogate-Leeds rail line.
Members of the North Yorkshire Local Transport Body approved a contribution of £9.6m and more work will now be done on developing plans to introduce double tracking on a stretch of the line between Harrogate and York.
The £12.5m plan is seen as an important step to the possible future electrification of the line, which would pave the way for a dramatic increase in services and reduced journey times.
Network Rail said over 100 towns and cities on Britain’s existing railway lines could benefit from quicker, more frequent journeys and better connections when HS2 is completed, which is planned to be by 2032.
The report on released capacity set out initial proposals for how HS2 could be integrated into the national rail network once the second phase connecting Birmingham with Leeds and Manchester is complete.
It sets out three broad approaches – minimal change to existing services; an incremental approach removing any duplicated long-distance services on the existing network to improve and add services elsewhere; and an “integrated connectivity” proposal which would see HS2 become the centrepiece of services with a “hub and spoke” model linking into the new high-speed route.
Coun James Lewis, West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority chairman, said: “Network Rail lay out the extra trains that could serve Yorkshire utilising the capacity released by HS2. New services direct from Bradford to London and from Cambridge to Leeds along with an improved Leeds to Sheffield service would be very welcome and support our economy.
“It’s vital that right from the start we are clear about our expectations that HS2 delivers significant improvements to rail services in Yorkshire. This report underlines what can be achieved and we support this work.
“Along with South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority, we will be submitting a response to the Government’s current HS2 consultation arguing for improvements to the existing rail network before HS2 arrives and to make the case that the new infrastructure should be able to improve regional services as well as services to London.”
The report drew on the findings of a series of workshops attended by representatives of councils on existing lines running to the North, chambers of commerce and passenger transport executives.
The integrated connectivity, or “hub and spoke” model, was the favoured option as it was felt to offer the best opportunity to improve inter-regional, commuter and freight services and promote a shift in journeys from road to rail.
The incremental approach was also found to deliver significant improvements for passengers on the East Coast, Midland and West Coast main lines.
Network Rail group strategy director Paul Plummer said: “HS2 provides an opportunity to fundamentally reshape our railway in a way that incremental improvements simply cannot deliver.
“It is a chance to stop playing catch-up on capacity and instead look at how the rail network could deliver a step-change improvement towards key national goals – economic growth, reduced carbon emissions and an improved quality of life for communities and individual passengers.”