On Monday 30 November, Freightliner welcomed Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to its Basford Hall depot in Crewe. Freightliner is the UK’s largest rail maritime intermodal operator and second largest rail freight carrier.
The Chancellor, accompanied by Chief Executive HS2, Simon Kirby, newly appointed chair for Transport for the North, John Cridland and Martin Frobisher, Route Managing Director, Network Rail, was shown around the site by Freightliner’s Chief Executive Officer, Russell Mears, and took the opportunity to chat to some Freightliner colleagues.
Earlier that day, the Chancellor announced that Phase 2a of HS2, the planned high-speed railway to directly link the Midlands and the North West, will be expedited in line with his plans to build a ”Northern Powerhouse” as a new economic hub.
Chancellor George Osborne said: “In my Spending Review we committed to the biggest rise in transport spending in a generation meaning that major projects like the construction of HS2, to link the Northern Powerhouse to the South, can begin.
“Bringing forward this part of the HS2 route by six years is a massive step in the right direction for the Northern Powerhouse where high speed rail will play a big role in connecting up the entire region with the rest of the country.
“It’s fantastic to announce someone of the calibre of John Cridland to take on the important role of chairing Transport for the North. He will bring huge knowledge and experience to this position and I want to say thank you to Sir Richard Leese for the great job he has done in an interim capacity. I look forward to continuing to work together to deliver our shared aim of a world-class transport system for the north.’’
Freightliner Chief Executive Officer Russell Mears said: “Freightliner fully supports HS2 and the substantial boost to capacity it will create which is essential to the continued growth of the UK’s railways, as near doubling of passenger and freight volumes has created capacity bottlenecks. It is great news that the next phase of this important project to Crewe has been announced today. By moving high-speed intercity trains onto the HS2 lines up to Crewe, additional capacity will be released for other train services, including freight, on the existing West Coast Main Line, which is a key corridor for freight.
“Increasing freight movements on the West Coast Main Line will improve connectivity for businesses in the North and Midlands and enable them to better connect with worldwide markets through the UK’s major ports,’’ Mears said.
Freightliner welcomes the government’s commitment to grasp the nettle and invest for the future. Long-term investments in infrastructure will support sustainable modes, deliver economic growth and lead to reduced congestion as well as improving the safety and efficiency of UK transport infrastructure.
Mears added: “There is a strong economic rationale behind reserving the ‘released capacity’ to grow freight volumes on the West Coast Main Line. Rail freight has grown 80% since privatisation in the mid-1990s, now transporting goods worth over £30 billion a year and the number of deep-sea containers moved by rail has more than doubled.
“HS2 is critical for delivering continued economic growth and rebalancing the economy, and opening Phase 2a to Crewe at the earliest opportunity will be essential in achieving this.”