Network Rail has submitted its formal response to the government's HS2 consultation saying that the building of HS2 – a high speed line from London to Birmingham and beyond – is “vital for Britain, for its economy and for its transport network”.
David Higgins, chief executive, said: “Parts of our national rail network are straining at the seams and in little more than a decade our busiest, most important inter-city rail artery – the west coast main line – will be unable to cope. We will be turning people and goods away and this will have a serious economic impact on the UK – we cannot allow this to happen.
"A new high speed line, capable of creating a massive boost in capacity and relieving the west coast main line, is essential. HS2 must go ahead – it is vital for the economy and for the transport network.
In 2008 Network Rail published a study on new lines which contained an analysis to understand the long-term capacity issues facing the railway. The conclusions were “stark”, said the company. Within a decade the west coast main line will be full with other inter-city lines following not far behind (midland main line and east coast main line), according to the study.
By this point, the restricted capacity of the rail network between major cities will have become a significant brake on, and barrier to, sustainable economic growth, Network Rail said. It added that “costly and disruptive upgrades of the existing infrastructure are not the answer with only the building of new lines as a realistic solution – with high speed delivering the greatest benefit”.
The analysis concluded that building of HS2 would not only transform travel between our major cities, it would also release 13 train paths per hour on the existing west coast potentially transforming the commuting for communities not well served by today's services, such as Northampton and Milton Keynes. It would also release significant extra capacity for freight on Britain's busiest freight.
Higgins said: "We recognise that this scheme has its opponents but we are firmly of the view that the step-change increase in rail capacity that HS2 would provide is essential for the long-term wellbeing of the nation as a whole."