Comment

12.03.19

HS2: Cutting through Cumbria

Source: RTM Feb/March 2019

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is arguing for HS2 services from London to call at Carlisle, Oxenholme and Penrith. The chamber’s policy lead, Julian Whittle, explains why.

It came as a huge shock to businesses in Cumbria to learn that HS2 trains from London are set to pass through the county without stopping. If the plans come to fruition, the dedicated high-speed line will extend as far as Golborne Junction, near Wigan, from where trains will continue over existing tracks to Glasgow or Edinburgh.

But HS2 is saying that these services will operate non-stop north of Preston, forcing passengers from Cumbria to change trains.

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is the largest representative business organisation in the county. Our initial reaction was that HS2’s proposal would damage our economy – that was confirmed when we consulted in-depth on transport issues early in 2018 to shape our response to Transport for the North’s draft strategic plan.

Of the 141 businesses to complete our survey, 65% thought their prospects would be harmed if HS2’s London trains failed to stop. Many didn’t mince their words. Comments included: “insane,” “crazy,” “an absolute disgrace,” and “an absolute disaster.”

For the last year, we have been lobbying HS2 to change its mind. We have the backing of Cumbrian MPs, local authorities, and Cumbria Tourism; while in December I met the minister for HS2, Nusrat Ghani, to explain our position. She asked us to prepare a business case, which we submitted as our response to HS2’s consultation on its Phase 2b Environmental Statement.

Our principal argument is that HS2’s proposal puts at risk the astonishing growth in passenger numbers seen on the West Coast Main Line since the introduction of Virgin’s Pendolino trains in 2004-5. Passenger numbers at Penrith and Oxenholme have soared by 134% and 124% respectively. The existing stopping pattern for London-Glasgow services clearly works. So why meddle with it? At present, all trains call at Carlisle while more than half serve Oxenholme and Penrith.

It is true that, even with a change at Preston, HS2 will reduce journey times to London, but many passengers put a higher value on the convenience of a through service. Changing brings the potential for a missed connection, and deters tourists with luggage and business travellers who prefer to work without interruption.

Omitting Cumbrian stations sends out absolutely the wrong message to potential inward investors by portraying the county as a backwater – it’s anything but. Our 498,000 permanent residents are swelled by 47 million annual visitors (Cumbria has two National Parks and two World Heritage Sites), and the coastal strip rarely seen by visitors is home to high-tech manufacturing and energy businesses such as Sellafield, BAE Systems, and GSK.

HS2’s plans would hinder the Lake District National Park’s strategy to reduce the proportion of visitors arriving by car. It would also undermine the government’s proposals for a Borderlands Growth Deal and for a garden village, with up to 10,000 new homes, on the outskirts of Carlisle.

There are signs that HS2 is showing flexibility. It had planned to split trains into Glasgow and Edinburgh portions at Carstairs in Scotland. It now says it may do this at Carlisle, allowing passengers to board and alight.

We think HS2 should go further. There is a compelling case for its services to observe the existing stopping pattern when they join the ‘classic’ network north of Golborne Junction. After all, the main argument for HS2 is that it increases capacity by relieving pressure on the West Coast Main Line.

Achieving shorter London-Glasgow/Edinburgh journey times is a bonus. Shaving a few more minutes off shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all.

 

Enjoying RTM? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

View all News

rail industry focus

Better connected with a universal information system

08/05/2019Better connected with a universal information system

Maddy Grant, marketing and content specialist... more >
It's the little things in rail

29/03/2019It's the little things in rail

Dan Lee-Bursnall, commercial director at Incr... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Year with brand-new infrastructrure to... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the TOC, gives RTM an update on the innovative scheme. Recognising that young people are more likely to take a risk trespassing on railway tracks, C... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

Making the railways safer and more reliable with Ze-Power

13/05/2019Making the railways safer and more reliable with Ze-Power

Professor Meiling Zhu, chair of mechanical engineering and head of the Energy Harvesting Research Group (EHRG) at the University of Exeter, introduces us to Ze-Power (Zero Power, Large Area Rail Track Monitoring): an innovative Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded project aiming to make the railway tracks safer and... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

interviews

Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

08/05/2019Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

In answering the pressing questions of how current and future generations of managers can provide solutions to high-profile infrastructure projec... more >
Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

12/03/2019Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

RTM sits down with Samantha Smith, sole female member of the TransPennine Route Upgrade Alliance Leadership Team, to find out more about encourag... more >
TfN Strategic Transport Plan: not just for transport's sake

22/01/2019TfN Strategic Transport Plan: not just for transport's sake

Peter Molyneux, Transport for the North’s (TfN’s) strategic roads director, has been leading on the development of the seven economic... more >
Exclusive: Midlands Connect and WMRE talk collaboration and investment in the Midlands' railway

22/01/2019Exclusive: Midlands Connect and WMRE talk collaboration and investment in the Midlands' railway

In the jigsaw puzzle of regional transport decision-making, there must be collaboration and compromise. Midlands Connect media lead James Bovill ... more >