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The High Speed Rail Group (HSRG) has called on the UK government to implement a transformative high-speed rail programme across the UK. Investment in high-speed rail infrastructure – through HS2 and beyond – will be essential to supporting resilience and growth in the economy and building the new national railway spine that the country needs.
Responding to the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) Rail Needs Assessment, which will inform the government’s Integrated Rail Plan, HSRG makes clear that there must be a comprehensive, long-term view to strategic investment into the UK’s railways.
Following the delivery of HS2’s Phases 1 and 2a expected in the 2020s, HSRG has emphasised that there must not be a delay in the construction of Phase 2b, or to the delivery of complementary programmes – including Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and Midlands Engine Rail (MER). If necessary, these projects should be split into smaller sub-sections and phases to accelerate delivery.
Regarding national rail needs, connectivity with Scotland should also be viewed as essential. HSRG highlighted that pursuing high-speed rail for Anglo-Scottish travel not only makes economic sense, but will help achieve ambitious carbon reduction targets. A programme of route upgrades delivered in combination with new sections of high-speed line to bypass slow and congested sections of route is needed. In addition to environmental gains, this will play a role in levelling up the economy and providing capacity where it is evident that market demand will continue on an upward trend over the coming years.
HSRG’s submission also makes clear that, as the transport sector undertakes an irreversible shift towards net-zero emission mobility, a high-capacity, fully-electrified railway – such as HS2, and future railways like NPR – will be vital to making this happen. Only HS2 can deliver the capacity and journey times savings to shift many more people and freight out of cars, HGVs and planes by the 2030s, without causing a decade of disruption to our existing train services. HS2, combined with other schemes, will provide the rail capacity needed to significantly shift travel away from polluting road and air alternatives.
In time, a new high speed rail network, fully integrated into an enhanced national rail network, should connect all the regions, major cities, and nations of the UK to help bring the country back together.
Commenting on the submission, a High Speed Rail Group spokesperson said: “As a group, we believe that the National Infrastructure Commission’s assessment should be as broad as possible in order to take the fullest view of the transformative opportunities from investing in a new Midlands and Northern rail network, as well as Anglo- Scottish travel, and build a comprehensive, long term plan which can be delivered in digestible steps. New rail networks bring with them transformative capacity, connectivity and carbon benefits. As we look ahead to a post-COVID-19 world, we must therefore consider a rolling high speed rail programme as essential to the future of the country.”
This article first appeared on www.globalrailwayreview.com
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