Half of West Coast Main Line freight paths are wasted
The gov.uk website described the publication “Investing in Britain’s future: why we need HS2” (October 2013) as “A leaflet setting out the case for HS2 in straightforward terms”. According to the leaflet, “HS2 will free up at least 20 [freight] paths per day on the West Coast Main Line.”
But HS2’s London – West Midlands Environmental Statement assumes there would only be two additional freight paths per day when the new line opened. The 20-paths-per-day figure was assumed to relate to the years 2035 to 2085. How is it possible to forecast the level of freight traffic on a railway, seventy years from now?
[“HS2 London – West Midlands Environmental Statement, Volume 3: route-wide effects”]
“[…] Currently, on the WCML, there are three standard off-peak freight paths per hour; although currently, approximately 1.5 paths an hour are used. The Government wishes to encourage more freight to shift from road to rail. Coupled with the rising costs of road transport, demand for rail freight paths is expected to increase over the next 15 years. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that there may be insufficient capacity to meet the total demand for rail freight by the time the Proposed Scheme is due to open in 2026. Based on a number of assumptions, many of which are the same as those used for the Economic Case for HS2, and its presumption for passenger services, there is still the potential for one to two additional freight paths in each direction between London and the Midlands, outside the peak periods of 07:00 – 10:00 and 16:00 – 19:00. This means that 10 of the 16 operational hours of the Proposed Scheme (06:00 – 22:00) could accommodate two to four freight paths an hour, making a total of up to 20 – 40 additional freight paths a day (300 days a year). The carbon footprint has assumed 20 paths per day, released linearly from two in year 2026 to 20 in 2035, from which point there are 20 freed up paths per day to 2085. “