Welsh Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence from Greengauge 21

1. Greengauge 21 is a not for profit organisation that has led the debate on high-speed rail (HSR) in Britain. It is funded by a Public Interest Group and (since September 2012) by a parallel Industry Leaders Group.

2. Greengauge 21 has published several key documents of relevance to the question of cross border connectivity and of potential interest to the Committee. These are:1

(a)Fast Forward—a report published in September 2009, showing in outline, and based on a cost benefit appraisal of the alternatives, how a national HSR network for Britain might be developed.

(b)Capturing the benefits of HS2 on existing lines—a report published in February 2011, which included an explanation of how the first phase of HS2 could be used to develop new direct rail services (not high-speed) between Mid Wales and London.

(c)Great Western Main Line Conditional Output Statement—a report prepared for the Great Western Partnership and published by them in June 2012, which explained how the GWML could be progressively upgraded and made a part of the national HSR network.

3. Much of this work has been commissioned from specialist consultants and experts in the relevant fields.

National HSR Network

4. The network developed and published in Fast Forward remains the only evaluated plan for a national HSR system. It anticipates a HSR service operating over the GWML—suitably upgraded—between the major cities of South Wales and Heathrow Airport, central London and potentially (using HS1) major cities on the near continent, such as Paris and Brussels. The concept is illustrated overleaf.

5. HS2 forms a critical part of the national HSR network but even in its extended form (as a Y-shaped network to Leeds and Manchester) does not provide a truly national capability, a point shared and recognised by HS2 Ltd.

Potential Benefits from HS2 for Cross Border Rail Services

6. The examination of capacity released by HS2 in its first phase, in 2026, was examined in depth through a timetabling/operational planning study. This concluded, as shown in the following extract from p18–19 of the report together with Figure 4.3 (see overleaf), that the release of capacity on the West Coast Main Line could be used for a number of purposes including the provision of services that are “crowded out” by today’s high frequency Intercity trains that will, from its opening in 2026, switch to HS2. These new direct services could be trains running from Aberystwyth and from Wrexham via Birmingham and the West Coast Main Line direct to London. They would operate at today’s operating speeds of 125 mile/h, providing connections to key intermediate places such as Coventry, Rugby and Milton Keynes.

Black Country, Shropshire, Mid and North Wales

With HS2 in operation, there would be a continuing need to operate “fast” services between the West Midlands and London over the West Coast Main Line. To improve connectivity, such services are likely to make an extra station call en route, as shown in the service plan in Chapter 2. But demand would be lower than today, with most of the traffic to/from the West Midlands expected to switch to HS2 services.

The value of these retained services could be enhanced by their extension westwards from Birmingham. In today’s service plans, two out of every three trains terminate at Birmingham New Street. Since the capacity requirements on such services will be reduced following the opening of HS2, it would be feasible to operate such trains with lower capacity Class 221 units (which are approximately half the length of Pendolino trains) or other suitable 200 km/hour trains, and extend their operation to locations such as Shrewsbury, Aberystwyth and Wrexham. This will either create long sought after direct services to the capital (in the case of Mid Wales) or provide a sound basis for through London services following the demise of the open access operator (in the case of Telford, Shrewsbury and Wrexham).

The timetable described in Chapter 2 has the two fast WCML services to Birmingham, with one serving Walsall, offering the latter a direct London service. Either of these services could be extended further, as well as providing Wolverhampton with a doubling of London train frequency.

Source: Greengauge 21 “Capturing the benefits of HS2 on existing lines February 2011”.

Great Western Main Line HSR Aervices

7. Greengauge 21’s report for the Great Western Partnership envisaged:

(a)A progressive improvement in the frequency and speed of the GWML services between South Wales and London, exploiting in the first instance the capabilities of the IEP fleet.

(b)Provision of direct services between South Wales and Heathrow Airport via a new Western Rail access.

(c)Partnership working to create a long term strategy for the corridor that would build on these and other developments so that South Wales could be served by the national HSR network of services.

Conclusion

8. While HS2 will not serve Wales directly, Greengauge 21’s studies have shown that Mid and North East Wales could get major benefits in the form of improved cross border rail services from 2026 when HS2 (Phase 1) opens.

9. South Wales cross-border rail services can become, in time, part of a national HSR network, and this could include the provision of direct European services too.

10. HS2 also opens up the possibility of services between North Wales (the Holyhead—Chester line) and London being operated as a through high-speed service, using the planned “hybrid” trainsets. These trains could make station calls at (say) Chester and Crewe and at Birmingham Interchange on the HS2 line en route to London over HS2. A prerequisite would be electrification of the line across North Wales. Given recent decision on trans-Pennine electrification, this would potentially bring other synergistic benefits.

August 2012

1 All of these reports are available for download at the website: www.greengauge21.net

Prepared 5th March 2013