Written evidence from Northumberland County
Council (HSR 31)|
The following points make the case for a "High
Speed Rail Network" particularly the benefits for Northumberland,
although it is appreciated that the Commons Transport Committee
will also have to consider the wider implications for the Government's
transport policy objectives.
The main case for high speed rail links to Northumberland
economic development resulting from the first two points.
Northumberland County Council sees the development
of a high speed rail network as good news for the economic prosperity
of the North East region and Northumberland. However the authority
would to see the completion of the whole of the Government's proposed
High Speed Network to reap the full benefits for Northumberland.
This includes the proposed section to Leeds.
While journey reductions of over 30 minutes from
London to Newcastle, and 40 minutes from Birmingham to Newcastle
on the proposed High Speed Rail Network will help the economic
competitiveness of the North East Region, equally important is
the increase in rail capacity as the existing rail network becomes
increasingly congested. Network Rail predicts an increase of more
than 70% in long distance rail travel from 2007 to 2036 on the
East Coast Main Line. If rail capacity to the North East Region
is not increased during this period this could act as a deterrent
to economic growth.
At the recent seminar hosted by Theresa Villers MP,
Minister of State for Transport, in Newcastle on 24 March, it
was clear that the Government is committed to the development
of a high speed rail network. However, it appears that little
work has been done so far on how the high speed line to Leeds
would link into the existing East Coast Main Line and on to the
North East region. It is vital that the more detailed technical
aspects of the route are progressed, as this is will ultimately
determine time savings from London to the North East, and also
from the West Midlands.
The Government's proposed High Speed Network will
run from London to Birmingham with branches off to Manchester
and Leeds. It is important that the construction of the branch
to Leeds is built at the same time as the one to Manchester. Any
delay could put the North East Region including Northumberland
at a disadvantage economically. There could also be a danger that
through traffic from London to Edinburgh that presently travels
via the East Coast Main Line through Newcastle and Northumberland
could be diverted via Manchester and the West Coast Main Line.
This would be a great loss to the region, and could deprive stations
in Northumberland such as Morpeth, Alnmouth and Berwick of through
services to London and Scotland. There would also be a danger
that the line beyond Newcastle would become an essentially local
route with limited inter-regional trains operating between Newcastle
and Scotland. This could also increase costs for local trains
still operating on the route, further threatening the loss of
service to Northumberland stations.
As stated earlier, the High Speed Network would run
as far as Leeds with speeds of around 225mph. Beyond that the
trains would run along the East Coast Main line at 125mph to the
North East and Scotland. In addition to the difference in speed,
the new High Speed Network would be built to the UIC continental
loading gauge. This would mean that trains serving the North East
beyond Leeds would have to be built to the smaller British loading
gauge. This would of course increase costs because two different
designs of trains would be required for the respective loading
gauges. This could discourage through trains from Continental
Europe to the North East and could restrict the potential to provide
more frequent trains from London to the region. The long term
solution would be to extend the new High Speed Lines beyond Leeds
to the North East, or at the very least investigate the potential
for the East Coast Main Line to be upgraded to the UIC Continental
The projected date of 2032 for high speed rail to
arrive in the North East would appear to be slow by the standards
of such projects in Europe. This could put the North East region
at a disadvantage economically compared with other regions which
may benefit earlier, the timescale for construction must be reduced.
In addition there must be a long term aim to extend the High Speed
Lines beyond Leeds to the North East Region for the reasons already
In relation to Northumberland, the arrival of high
speed rail will of course bring great economic benefits to the
County. These benefits will be greater if trains originating from
the High Speed Network make some stops in Northumberland, as trains
to and from London do at present at Morpeth, Alnmouth and Berwick.
Northumberland County supports the Government's plans
for a "High Speed Rail Network" to support economic
regeneration in Northumberland and the North East Region. The
economic benefits of high speed rail have clearly been demonstrated
in continental Europe. The upgrading of existing main lines to
the north has clearly been demonstrated not to be a viable option,
by the complexity, timescale and cost overruns on the recent West
Coast Main Line modernisation.
The County Council would urge the Government to proceed
with the construction of a High Speed Rail Network as soon as
possible, and reduce the timescale for construction from the current
completion date of 2032. In the longer term the County Council
would like to see high speed rail extended beyond Leeds to York,
Newcastle and Scotland to reap further benefits for the North
East Region. Overall high speed rail would be a major boost to
the economic prosperity in Northumberland and the North East Region.