This is because the reduction in journey times between the North and London is secondary to the need to increase rail capacity so more trains – both passenger and freight – can operate on a network still largely unmodified from the Victorian era.
And this is spelled out by James Lewis and Ben Bradley, the respective Labour and Tory leaders of Leeds City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council, in a hard-hitting submission today to Boris Johnson about the eastern leg of HS2 as speculation grows over its future.
Pointing out the growing demand for rail freight, particularly around Sheffield and Doncaster, their joint letter states: “The entire HS2 network will create space on the existing rail network for up to 144 extra freight trains every day, with each freight train taking up to 76 HGVs off the road.”
Now, when this is extrapolated further, this equates to 10,944 fewer lorries undertaking longer-distance trips every day or nearly four million fewer such journeys over the course of a calendar year – not insignificant numbers as the Government ahead of the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow later this year.
But this once-in-a-generation opportunity risks being squandered by a lack of urgency on the Government’s part characterised by ongoing delays – just like certain trains – to the publication of the already long-overdue Integrated Rail Plan. It does not bode well when the case for modernising the rail network, for the benefit of passengers and freight, is already in the national interest if this country is to be taken more seriously on the environment.
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