HS2 green light: Industry reaction

HS2 green light: Industry reaction

The Government has today confirmed HS2 will be delivered in full, with work on Phases 1 and 2A given the green light to commence immediately and Phase 2B to be developed towards implementation.

Welcoming the announcement, the Rail Freight Group said HS2 has the potential to deliver significant benefits for rail freight by releasing capacity for new services on the existing network. 

With each freight train producing 76% less CO2 than the equivalent road journey, HS2 can also help decarbonise freight transport by allowing new services to operate, taking more HGVs off the congested road network, the business group added.  

However, to date, the Government has not confirmed how much capacity will be made available for freight once the new line is open.

Maggie Simpson RFG Director-General said: “The decision to proceed with HS2 is great news for the freight sector, and for the UK economy.  Our members welcome the decision and are keen to see rapid progress in constructing this new railway.

“Now that the uncertainty is over, Government and HS2 must act to confirm and safeguard released capacity for freight use and to resolve bottlenecks elsewhere on the network where HS2 trains will operate.  This is essential to allow freight operators and customers to develop their future plans, and to ensure that the benefits of HS2 can now be delivered in practice.”

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said logistics businesses need a guarantee from government that it will use the high-speed rail line to free up space for rail freight services on existing lines. 

FTA is also calling on the government to commit to a nationwide programme of upgrades to the rail network; HS2 will not solve capacity issues in other regions.  

Alex Veitch, Head of Multimodal Policy at FTA, said: “FTA is calling on the government to provide reassurance that HS2 will release much-needed capacity for rail freight services on existing lines once operational; the UK’s rail network is bursting at the seams and too often freight loses out to commuter and leisure services. 

“With HS2 trains able to carry more than 300,000 people per day, the shift in traffic will release significant capacity on existing lines; FTA is seeking a guarantee from government that this capacity will not be pre-allocated to passenger services, but instead made available for bids from freight operators, in a fair and transparent way. 

 “While FTA and its members appreciate the clarity this decision provides, HS2 should be considered as just one element of a nationwide strategy to upgrade the rail network; this is long overdue. For example, we need to see upgrades to freight facilities in the transPennine network; this area is currently excluded from a broader programme of upgrades, which is a missed opportunity in the view of FTA.” 

He added: “We would also like to see the complete electrification of the network so rail freight can become the first zero carbon freight mode, and the delivery of the Strategic Freight Network, which is a suite of projects aimed at unlocking freight capacity on the conventional network. As the UK transitions to a net-zero emission economy, rail will play a much larger role in logistics; the government must ensure the framework is in place to enable this transition.”

The HS2 announcement could launch the renaissance of mail by rail, according to ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Services, David Jinks.

He says that HS2 will clear pathways for increased freight services on the West Coast route, potentially including considerably more mail trains. Many of the intensive passenger services on the West Coast Main Line to Birmingham and Manchester, and some East Coast Main Line services to Leeds, could be switched to the new railway. 

He explained: “That means considerably more spare capacity, certainly on the West Coast route, to get freight off the road and back onto the railway. That has to be good news for the environment. And the opportunity to run faster, more regular freight service on the existing main lines will improve reliability and could encourage not only  the introduction of more post office trains, but also tempt UK couriers to use greener, faster freight services as part of their logistics options.”

David continued: “Consumers are pressing for more sustainable delivery choices, and getting packages and parcels off the road and onto the rail is a very environmentally friendly option. HS2 undoubtedly clears the way for more post office mailings to be switched from road and back on track. It’s also possible that if access to rail freight services is made easier, cheaper and more reliable as a result of all the new capacity made available by HS2, Britain’s parcel couriers could incorporate rail services, particularly for longer distance trunking services to Scotland, for example.”

David concluded: “Couriers are used to switching between different modes of transport. Including rail in this mix could become a viable option in the future thanks to the go-ahead for HS2.”