Select Committee on Transport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence



  A Region of First Class Links—The West Coast Main Line and Trans-Pennine routes form the main links between the North West and the rest of the UK and Europe, and play an essential role in supporting the Region's economy. The West Coast Main Line should be developed so as to make certain that the proposed improvements for long distance passenger movements are realised whilst ensuring that sufficient capacity remains to meet the future aspirations for regional and local passenger services and the movement of freight.The proposed Trans-Pennine improvements for passengers and freight should be pursued as they offer the prospect of improved access to Europe via the East Coast and help to ease pressure on congested Trans-Pennine road links. A network of regionally significant passenger interchanges, easily accessible to pedestrians and cyclists should also be developed to facilitate transfer between the different types of rail service and different modes of transport. These should be strategically located, safe, well-lit and signed, with disabled access and pleasant waiting areas. Furthermore, a high-speed passenger service between the North West and mainland Europe via the Channel Tunnel would improve integration with the European rail network.

  Towards a Citizen's Network—To achieve an increase in rail travel it will be necessary to improve integration with other forms of transport, especially bus services. This will require the development of local interchanges, through ticketing and feeder bus services to stations. Other measures include the removal capacity constraints, improvements to train services and passenger facilities at stations, and improved access to support regeneration areas. The development of the rail network as part of a comprehensive integrated public transport system is particularly important in Greater Manchester and Merseyside, where there is the greatest potential to achieve modal shift.

  A Regional Express Network—The vision is for the introduction of limited stop express services on specific routes, with common standards and high quality interchanges to provide an attractive alternative to car journeys between major centres. Detailed components of this strategy include the provision of clear branding, high quality rolling stock, high standards of on-board service, multi-modal, flexible through-ticketing and convenient baggage accommodation. Provision for cycles and remote check-in for airport services are also considered important. However, a number of issues will need to be addressed, including the identification of suitable routes, the provision of junction and line improvements in key areas and access improvements to city centres, in particular, increased capacity through Manchester City Centre. Improved services between Manchester and Blackpool, new links with increased capacity to Manchester Airport and issues of contractual access to the network also need to be addressed. The current re-franchising process provides an opportunity to develop this vision.

  A Local Trains Initiative—Local services are also important to the Region, improving accessibility for those without a private car, supporting regeneration initiatives and providing a more environmentally sustainable alternative for commuting trips. Greater use of the rail network could be encouraged by the removal of capacity constraints, the development of rural and underused sections, improved integration with other public transport systems, the introduction of standardised stopping patterns, the provision of even headways and other general service level improvements.

  A Regional Rail Freight Strategy—The rail network has the potential to move a greater volume of freight, particularly in the international and inter-modal markets; however, the potential for growth is governed by network capacity and financial constraints. Capacity is a particular problem on the approaches to Manchester and on the North Trans-Pennine route through Diggle. Railtrack had developed a number of proposals to address capacity problems, but timescales are uncertain due to the dependence on external funding.

  Loading gauge enhancements, when combined with the latest development in wagon technology, offer significant potential for the development of the inter-modal freight business. The West Coast Main Line, including the branches to the ports of Garston and Heysham, is cleared to W10 (9'6'') gauge, although currently there are no facilities for handling rail freight at the Port of Heysham. The development of key links in the network to cater for "Piggyback" trailer operation would offer increased attractiveness for modal shift; however, such an upgrade would require considerable expenditure on infrastructure which the private sector is unlikely to fund. Hence public sector investment reflecting the benefits to society may be necessary to secure delivery of such enhancements. In the short term, priority should be focused on upgrading key routes to meet the requirements of the market and to cater for anticipated growth. In the longer term, higher gauges should be introduced where they can be justified.

  Increases in the volume of freight moved by rail is constrained by a lack of freight terminals and, in particular, the lack of major inter-modal facilities with access to the motorway network. More are needed in the North West, however, local authorities should satisfy themselves that the prime purpose of any proposed site is to facilitate rail freight when allocating land in development plans.

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Prepared 11 July 2003