A plan for growth: Netwrok Rail launches consultation on strategey

A plan to provide more seats, more services and better journeys for rail users was unveiled today as Network Rail published a far-reaching strategy to boost capacity and shorten journey times.

Covering the route from London’s St Pancras International to the East Midlands via St Albans, Luton and Bedford as well as routes from Birmingham to Stansted Airport and Liverpool to Norwich, the East Midlands Route Utilisation Strategy: draft for consultation (RUS) sets out how Network Rail will deliver a railway capable of meeting the growing demand for rail services over the next ten years.

The plan identifies a range of schemes to meet this growth – subject to funding availability - and ease the pinch-points to improve journeys for passengers and freight users.

Schemes to improve rail services in this area are already underway, such as the congestion-busting £5.5bn Thameslink upgrade and linespeed improvements on the Midland main line to reduce long-distance journey times.

Demand for commuting into London and other important economic centres such as Leicester, Derby and Nottingham has grown considerably in recent years, and this growth is expected to continue over the next decade. The RUS predicts a 28% increase in passenger demand across the East Midlands, while demand for services to and from Birmingham is set to increase by 40%.

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Today’s publication marks the start of a three month consultation on the strategy with key industry stakeholders including passenger train and freight operators, passenger groups, Office of Rail Regulation, Department for Transport, local authorities and regional development agencies.

Dyan Crowther, route director for Network Rail, said: “Demand for rail travel has grown significantly over the last decade, and while this success is to welcomed, it brings with it the challenge of meeting this demand while improving services for rail users.

“It is essential that we have a robust strategy in place to build a bigger and better railway and the feedback we receive as part of the consultation process will play an important part in shaping the future of rail services on the Midland main line and the East Midlands area.”

The options to increase capacity and create better rail journeys throughout the region include:

Schemes to provide more seats:

· Commuter services to London St Pancras and Blackfriars: introduction of 12-car high density rolling stock (Thameslink Programme) to provide up to 16 trains per hour in the peak from December 2015

· Long Distance services: trains in the peak should be lengthened up to a maximum of 11 carriages at peak times as soon as rolling stock becomes available

· Leicester - Nottingham: further train lengthening on long distance and some local services to provide extra capacity

· Liverpool - Norwich: consider extending trains between Liverpool and Nottingham to four carriages with mostly two car trains continuing to Norwich and extension of 13.52 Liverpool to Nottingham service to Norwich by 2019

· Birmingham - Stansted Airport: in the short-term train lengthening to four carriages combined with some platform lengthening; additional strengthening of services from 2011 through a combination of train lengthening and extension of some of the existing services between Birmingham and Leicester

· Further consultation on schemes to improve services to and from Birmingham, Derby and Sheffield

Schemes to improve freight services

· Electrified loop at Sundon, south of Bedford

· Non-electrified loop between Kettering and Leicester, near Market Harborough

· Further consultation on an additional non-electrified track between Sharnbrook Junction and Kettering South Junction, Kettering North Junction and Corby

Schemes to improve regional connectivity

· Linespeed improvements on the Midland main line

· Extending the London St Pancras International - Derby semi-fast service start/terminate at Sheffield; providing an additional stop every hour on the Derby semi-fast service at Kettering

· More regular services to be provided if possible between Peterborough and Lincoln once the upgrade of the GN/GE joint line has been completed

· Consultation on a potential flyover at Newark to improve services between Nottingham and Lincoln