Though this will be deeply disappointing given the extent to which major engineering work has disrupted passenger services between King’s Cross, Yorkshire and Scotland, it would be even worse if the rail industry was to sign off a new timetable for May 2022 that simply cannot be delivered.
And given that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy were not totally convinced that outstanding work can be completed by the cut-off date, it was prudent of them to advise their partners to delay the new timetable until 2023.
After all, the fact that the rail industry’s reputation is still to fully recover from the timetable debacle of May 2018, when engineering work affecting services across the north of England over-ran with dire consequences for passengers, is illustrative of what happens when transport bosses do over-promise and under-deliver.
But the longer-term lesson is that this delay strengthens the argument for HS2, including the eastern leg to Leeds, to be constructed in full as speculation persists that Ministers intend to scale back the rollout of high-speed rail in spite of the endorsement of a Government-led review early last year.
What this reveals is the difficulty – and complexity – of upgrading existing railway lines while, at the same time, maintaining reliable services that are also commensurate with the expectations of fare-paying passengers. It’s simply not practical or sustainable in this era of climate change, hence why HS2 is integral to increasing capacity on the entire rail network so there is less vehicles, and freight, on Britain’s roads in future.
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