HS2 Decision is Deeply Disappointing for Rail Freight

Rail Freight Group today condemned Government’s decision to cancel HS2 construction north of Birmingham describing it as the worst possible outcome for rail freight.

Under Government plans announced today, the new HS2 line will be truncated at Birmingham, with the route to Crewe and then Manchester cancelled.  However, HS2 trains are still expected to run to Manchester and other destinations using existing railway lines, principally the West Coast Main Line.

RFG has long raised concerns over the implications of HS2 trains operating on existing tracks.  The West Coast Main Line is the most important rail freight route in the country, with critically important rail terminals along its length.  In recent years the rail freight sector has invested heavily in new strategic rail freight interchanges, construction terminals and rolling stock to support growth on this route, reliant on the capacity for new freight trains being available.  The decision to allow HS2 trains to operate on already congested parts of the network is a blow to those investors and to all those who want to see fewer HGVs on the nation’s roads.

RFG was however pleased with Government’s commitment to rebuilding Ely Junction, creating much-needed new capacity for rail freight in East Anglia.

Maggie Simpson OBE, RFG Director General said: “Scrapping HS2 whilst still allowing its trains to run on the existing network is the worst of all possible decisions.  The West Coast Main Line simply does not have the capacity for these extra trains alongside current services and rail freight growth, and investment will now be required to upgrade the route to ensure all trains can be accommodated.”

‘The private sector rail freight operators and customers who have already invested in new facilities and equipment also need urgent assurance that they will be able to access the rail capacity they need to bring new services onto rail.