The Rail Freight Group (RFG) has condemned the government's decision to cancel HS2 construction north of Birmingham, describing it as the "worst possible outcome" for the industry.
Under the government's plans, the new HS2 line will be truncated at Birmingham, with the route to Crewe and then Manchester cancelled. However, HS2 trains are still expected to run to Manchester and other destinations using existing railway lines, principally the West Coast Main Line (WCML).
The RFG has long raised concerns over the implications of HS2 trains operating on existing tracks. The WCML is the most important rail freight route in the country, with critically important rail terminals along its length.
RFG has today condemned Government’s decision to cancel HS2 construction north of Birmingham describing it as deeply disappointing. https://t.co/T9GjtxJ9Ij #railfreight #railways #rail #hs2 #logistics— Rail Freight Group (RFG) (@RailFreightUK) October 4, 2023
In recent years, the rail freight sector has invested heavily in new strategic rail freight interchanges, construction terminals, and rolling stock to support growth on this route, reliant on the capacity for new freight trains being available.
Maggie Simpson OBE, RFG director general, said: "Scrapping HS2 whilst still allowing its trains to run on the existing network is the worst of all possible decisions. The WCML simply does not have the capacity for these extra trains alongside current services and rail freight growth, and investment will now be required to upgrade the route to ensure all trains can be accommodated."
Simpson added that the private sector rail freight operators and customers who have already invested in new facilities and equipment also need urgent assurance that they will be able to access the rail capacity they need to bring new services onto rail.
One of the key winners from the scrapping of HS2 and the announcement of Network North was the green light for the Ely Junction upgrade, a long touted project which if built would have the potential to add 2,900 extra freight services to and from Felixstowe each year.
The junction upgrade would also release a bottle-neck from the port as well as reducing carbon emissions.
Following the announcement that Government has confirmed funding for upgrades to Ely and Haughley rail junctions, England's Economic Heartland and Transport East said: "This has been a longstanding top priority for both England’s Economic Heartland and Transport East and the collective voice of our partnerships has been the reason why the Government has prioritised investment in Ely and Haughley rail junctions over so many other investment needs.
"As our Keeping Trade on Track Brochure demonstrates there is unprecedented support from businesses, local authorities, and the rail industry right across the country for investment in this crucial corridor.
"Investment in Ely & Haughley Junctions will change the lives of so many people and businesses. It will reduce congestion, boost trade, level up communities right across the UK, increase passenger services and cut carbon emissions."
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