The Freight Transport Association FTA says freight will only benefit from rail capacity released by HS2 if the Government ensures it doesn’t have to compete with passenger operators through the existing train path bidding process.
The Government’s preferred route for Phase 2 of HS2 from Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to Leeds was unveiled today. The announcement says new HS2 trains will carry over 300,000 people a day and will triple seats available out of Euston at peak hours, freeing up space on the existing network for additional commuter and freight services.
But Chris MacRae, FTA’s Head of Rail Policy, said: “There is no mechanism in place to guarantee this additional capacity released by HS2 is available for freight. In fact, the Government says the released paths will be subject to the usual bidding process.
“Passenger operators will no doubt spot a gap in the market to offer cheaper services than HS2 on the existing lines so freight operators will be competing with them for the freed-up space. If the Government is committed to shifting freight from road to rail, more must be done to ensure this happens.”
Mr MacRae said Anglo-Scottish freight services on the west coast mainline north of the HS2 junction would see capacity squeezed with the addition of HS2 passenger services, potentially driving time-sensitive cargoes onto roads instead.
“There will be more trains on an already busy network which will inevitably slow things down. Initial predicted timetabling shared with FTA shows that end-to-end journey times will go backwards and operators such as supermarkets may opt to put cargoes in lorries on the M6 instead,” he said.
FTA’s Agenda for More report explores what needs to put in place by Government, the freight industry and rail freight operators to shift freight from road to rail. The full report can be seen at http://www.fta.co.uk/export/sites/fta/_galleries/downloads/rail_freight/14094_agenda_for_more_guide.pdf