The publication of Sir Peter Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review is recognition of the incredibly important role of rail – and of high speed rail – in providing much needed connectivity benefits across the UK. High Speed Rail Group welcome the planned creation of UKNET – a strategic approach to development of longer distance transport links across the whole of the UK.
The Review’s recommendation that investment is needed to improve the journey times and capacity of the existing railway northwards from Crewe to Scotland is one that we support. It provides fresh evidence indicating that a three-hour London-Glasgow/Edinburgh rail journey time would increase the number of passengers by around four million a year and increase rail mode share from the 2019 level of 29% to around 75%. This would make a major contribution to carbon reduction and would lessen dependence on flying on what is the UK’s busiest domestic air route.
On HS2, it suggests that the planned extension northwards from Crewe as far as Golborne is inadequate and a line extending further north to Preston would be much more appropriate. We welcome this potential development and suggest it will overcome what otherwise might become a bottleneck at HS2’s northern limit.
We also encourage plans to examine rail investment options in the East Coast corridor, which are likely to become even more important given the conclusions of the recent Integrated Rail Plan. The realisation that rail connections from North Wales into HS2 at Crewe need to be prioritised and that Cardiff deserves better connectivity with the Midlands and beyond to North East England is also important.
Joined-up planning is what the Union Connectivity Review calls for, and we endorse and support this call.