High-speed link ‘could improve rail services elsewhere on network’

BUILDING a high-speed rail network could see dozens of extra services on the existing East Coast Mainline, the Government claimed today.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said the new 225mph line would create a “huge” amount of space on existing routes, rejecting critics’ claims that passengers on existing lines would suffer.

Experts from High Speed Two, the company drawing up plans for the network which includes a first line from London to Birmingham followed by legs to Leeds and Manchester, have carried out work suggesting there could be a 49 per cent increase in services on the West Coast Main Line when the first phase is completed.

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It is expected passengers on the East Coast could see similar increases when the branch to South Yorkshire and Leeds is built.

Mr Hammond is setting up a working group to look at how the extra capacity could best be used to improve existing services.

He said: “Our proposed new high speed rail network would free up a huge amount of space on current railways for more trains to operate.

“Building a whole new line would create scope for people who live near the current stations to get more frequent services that are less crowded – I would also hope that this additional competition could mean cheaper fares as well.

“The reality is that many of our current trains are full and too many people have to stand – we desperately need the extra trains and capacity that a new high speed rail network would bring.”

This week 90 business leaders and politicians signed a letter in the Yorkshire Post urging Ministers to go ahead with the “vital” high-speed link from Yorkshire to London despite protesters campaigning against the line cutting through the Chilterns.

With more inter-city passengers moving onto the high-speed route, Ministers expect space on existing routes to be freed up for more and quicker local and regional services.