Inspired by the Swiss
Network Rail is consulting on its December 2014 ‘Improving Connectivity‘ report, which outlined a Swiss-style taktfahrplan approach to improving rail connections. The 55-page document focused on how journeys could be improved within East Anglia, but similar developments could be implemented in other parts of the country.
According to Peter Wilkinson, Managing Director – Passenger Services at the Department for Transport’s Rail Executive, “A timetable that promotes more efficient connections between our regions is an essential ingredient in the way we begin to move from being producer-led to becoming market-led”.
[Extract from Improving Connectivity report]
[2.1] Britain’s railways have tended to focus operations and investment around traditional rail travel patterns. In London and the South East, this has focussed upon markets such as commuting and leisure trips to central London. Developing other potential markets has been less of a priority.
[2.2] In the case of Anglia, this approach to planning and operating the network has resulted in the pattern of demand shown in Figure 2.1. Rail usage is extremely London-centric: lines close to the capital struggle to cope with demand, while some of those further out are so under-utilised they struggle to justify their existence.
[2.3] Usage of Anglia’s trunk roads, Figure 2.2, suggests that existing rail demand is not an accurate reflection of overall travel demand. The road network supports a much wider set of regional flows and as a result demand is more evenly spread.
[2.4] Improving Connectivity proposes shifting the strategic focus of the network’s development towards providing better across-the-board connectivity, to the extent that a viable alternative to other modes of transport is offered across a wide range of routes. […]
[2.5] This sort of wider connectivity has been very successful in Switzerland. The Swiss do not centre operations solely around getting people to Bern or Zürich. Instead, they have designed a network that provides a seamless journey between any two stations, either on a direct train or using a series of well planned and well managed interchanges. The timetable is designed many years ahead, which in turn drives their infrastructure investment.
[2.6] In Britain, applying the Swiss model is complicated by the dominance of London. The three timetabling principles described in the [report], although inspired by the Swiss, were developed specifically for Britain.
Unfortunately, unless the HS2 project is abandoned, it looks unlikely that funding would be available to implement ideas like those in the Improving Connectivity report.