THE west coast main line (WCML) is the busiest mixed-use rail line in Europe as a result of significant increases in both passenger and freight traffic in recent years.
As a vital link between the north and south of Britain, further demand for services is projected.
This will become a serious problem when the high-speed line (HS2) from London, due to reach Birmingham in 2026 and Manchester and Leeds in 2033, meets the northern part of the west coast line because the sudden switch from speeds of 250mph to half that will cause a bottleneck. As The Herald revealed in March, Network Rail planners say either the additional freight trains or additional passenger trains could be accommodated, but not both. Passengers or freight loads forced to add waiting time or transfer to road lose much of the benefit of high-speed rail. In some cases, it could become more advantageous to make the whole journey by road, adding to pressure on the roads network and increasing carbon emissions, making it more difficult to reach environmental targets.
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