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HS2 essential to west coast, influential rail strategy finds

A new high speed line between London, Birmingham and Manchester will be essential in preventing overcrowding on the busy west coast main line, a Network Rail report has found.

The report, the west coast main line route utilisation strategy: draft for consultation (RUS), predicts the line will be out of capacity by 2024 as passenger demand is set to grow by as much as 61% between London and Manchester.

A new high speed line would free up much needed capacity allowing more and faster services giving more seats to commuters to operate on the route’s southern section between Rugby and London, and would also allow more room for rail freight, the report finds.

Network Rail director of planning and development Paul Plummer said: “The west coast is vital to Britain’s economy. The success of the west coast since its modernisation has brought many challenges, and our strategy sets out a range of options to provide extra capacity and a better value railway.

“There is broad consensus that Britain needs a high speed network to provide better, faster journeys for passengers and create the extra capacity we need. This strategy provides more evidence, if it were needed, that Britain must have a high speed future.”

The RUS also includes a range of recommendations to enhance capacity and improve journeys for the route over the period 2014-2024.

These include providing more long distance services and a number of additional fast commuter services during rush-hour. Other services could also be introduced between Birmingham, Manchester and Scotland, with additional direct trains from Derby and Stoke-on-Trent to Manchester Airport.

Plummer said: “Thousands of businesses rely on the west coast to reach their markets and prosper, and our strategy will provide the extra capacity needed to help the economy grow.

“Making the railways more affordable is essential, and we will continue to work together with the rest of the rail industry to reduce costs and deliver better value for passengers and freight.”

Today’s publication marks the start of a three month consultation on the draft strategy with key stakeholders. After taking feedback into consideration, Network Rail will publish the final strategy in summer 2011.

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