HS2 could free up space for faster and more frequent trains on the West Coast Main Line, according to a new report published by Network Rail and Passenger Focus.

An improved level of service could be possible due to extra capacity and the availability of 125mph trains. This could help ease overcrowding, which is set to increase as demand for rail grows.

Passenger Focus surveyed current and potential passengers to find their priorities for the WCML. They found that passengers wanted seats, direct services and also rated punctuality highly.

Network Rail has used this information to create nine goals, which could form the building blocks of a future WCML timetable, which could be delivered when the London – Birmingham line opens.

Paul Plummer, Network Rail group strategy director, said: “The West Coast Main Line is Britain’s busiest and most economically vital rail artery – but by 2024 it will be full, with no more space to accommodate the continued predicted growth in demand. HS2 would not only transform travel between our major cities, it is also the best way to solve the capacity crunch facing passengers and businesses on the West Coast Main Line.

“This joint study with Passenger Focus means we now know what commuters, business and leisure travellers and freight companies want from their railway, so we can work with our customers and government to plan for a future West Coast Main Line which best meets the their needs and supports rather than stifles economic growth.”

Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus chief executive said: “Passengers know that with more people using the West Coast Main Line it is only a matter of time before capacity runs out. If a new line was to free up this much-needed route passengers, especially commuters, have signalled they want to be able to get seat as well as more direct services.”

The second stage of the study will develop a more detailed understanding of any trade-offs between outputs to provide the best service in the future.

Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) commented: “HS2 would not only help solve a looming capacity crunch for people travelling between our major cities. By freeing up space on the existing West Coast Main Line, passengers in towns such as Rugby, Milton Keynes and Northampton could benefit from improved local services and better, more frequent connections.”

The conditional outputs specified by Network Rail, which would make best use of the released capacity on the WCML, are to increase the provision of London suburban peak services to the level where all passengers travelling for over 20 minutes have a reasonable expectation of a seat for the duration of their journey.

Additionally, a reduction in journey times between London and major commuter stations, so that the mixture of non/limited stop and stopping services to/from any given station does not lead to overcrowding.

Network Rail also aims to increase the minimum frequency of London urban services to four trains per hour.

In the West Midlands additional direct services between major centres would be provided.

A provision of services would be delivered to broadly maintain the existing connectivity between London and intermediate stations and a reduction in journey times between London and Trent Valley stations would be achieved.

An increase in the number of direct trains between large stations at the north and south ends of the WCML is another objective.

In terms of freight, Network Rail would work to accommodate 85 and 80 trains per day on the Wembley-Rugby and Rugby-Stafford sections of the WCML and to be able to accommodate the same level of freight traffic with high speed services using the route north of Lichfield.

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Author's Bio: 

Roy Rowlands writes for Rail Technology Magazine an independent technical trade journal for the UK rail industry offering a wide view of rail news views and opinions, he also writes for rtmjobs.com a rail jobs board reporting on the latest trends in rail recruitment