The start of 2013 has seen some major movement (at last!) in developing UK transport policy.
Firstly, HS2 Phase 2 has been announced. About time too! Phase 1 (Birmingham-London) desperately needed Phase 2 (Birmingham on to Manchester and Leeds and onwards) to really get the national network concept properly understood and bought into. Everyone knows I am a big supporter of HS2. The capacity argument is proven, the need for significant transformational capacity enhancement on a national scale has been evidenced by Network Rail and many others. If you build a new railway line of this size then making it high speed adds very little additional cost. The trick will be to make it as effective a rail line as possible so excellent connectivity, effective service patterns and reasonable fares will be vital.
At the same time, Phase 3 is being worked on – the route to Scotland. Scotland is very pro-high speed rail and want the line to get to them as soon as possible. In theory, I am guessing an East Coast via Newcastle route and on to the middle of the central belt with a delta junction splitting to both Glasgow and Edinburgh would be best – allowing a dedicated HSR route between the 2 Scottish cities as well.
Hopefully we will see further thinking on continuing the development of a national network. This would hopefully include the Great Western becoming a Phase 4 with electrification being an opportunity to upgrade the line significantly and link into HS2 at Old Oak Common (and the Heathrow Western Link??) which can bring the West Country and South Wales onto the national HSR network.
Anyway, the crucial thing is that the nation as a whole is now starting to feel the real need for this major national infrastructure project and the need to get some urgency going. Furthermore, there is a real need now for the other conurbations to follow the examples of the West Midlands and London (Centro and TfL respectively) in getting the local connectivity masterplan togther to ensure High Speed Rail benefits as many people as possible. This will be particularly crucial for the East Midlands and South Yorkshire areas.
Related to that, London First launched their report on Crossrail 2. Needed to support the redevelopment of Euston station, the relief of Central and South West London routes and to support the regeneration and growth of north east London. Again, this is a scheme that needs a big bold vision and must not be fobbed off with a second best outcome. See – http://londonfirst.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/LF_CROSSRAIL2_REPORT_AW_Single_Pages.pdf
The Northern Line extension to Battersea is being promoted hard – although this really needs to be continued to Clapham Junction one feels to enable significantly enhanced connectivity and demand.
London Overground will be enhancing its fleet which is great news for Bombardier with the current super trains being extended and the fleet increased to support the huge success of the Overground programme – see http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/passenger/single-view/view/london-overground-train-lengthening-approved.html
And indeed, the London Overground model was praised as an example of successful devolution of control of heavy rail specification and management to local/regional organisations that can really drive major passenger improvements and network improvements in research carried out by the Campaign for Better Transport. See – http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/files/Going%20Local%20web.pdf
This of course links with the recent Brown Review of rail franchising. This is a live debate with plenty more to come but we have at last seen the rail franchise programme restart after it was put on hold following the InterCity West Coast franchise issues! See – https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/rail-franchising–16
There is plenty to talk about and plenty to debate in transport. We are also seeing the cycling and 20mph residential road speed limit campaigns really get huge traction now. This perhaps the growing recognition of the social and health roles and interactions within the transport debate.
Anyway, I will be returning to all of this very soon…!