Continuing rail industry news and reports, highlight significant investments in both infrastructure, on board products and developments that will impact rail as a method of transportation.
Here we`ve summarised the latest discussion points and how this could impact the future of rail travel for the business traveller.
#1 High Speed 2
High Speed 2 (HS2) is a planned high-speed railway in the United Kingdom linking London, Birmingham, the East Midlands, Leeds and Manchester. It would be the second high-speed rail line in Britain, after High Speed 1 (HS1) which connects London to the Channel Tunnel.
The line will be built in a "Y" configuration, with London on the bottom of the "Y", Birmingham at the centre, Leeds at the top right and Manchester at the top left. The initial plan is for a new railway line between London and the West Midlands carrying 400m-long (1,300ft) trains with as many as 1,100 seats per train. They would operate at speeds of up to 250 mph, faster than any current operating speed in Europe and would run as often as 14 times per hour in each direction. The first phase of the £56 billion railway is due to open in December 2026, with trains to travel at high speed between London and Birmingham before continuing on the existing West Coast Main Line.
The rail industry recently met with ministers to discuss issues that will affect the rail sector when Britain leaves the European Union. The meeting was attended by train operators, suppliers and infrastructure providers. Topics included market access, cross-border services, the supply chain, safety, technical standards, trade, customs and research innovation. A joint statement issued by Jones Maynard, the chief executive of the RDG and railways industry said: “the government and industry will work closely together to ensure that our railways – including our international links, develop a full understanding of the opportunities that exiting the EU presents”.
Direct services on Eurostar from London St Pancras to Amsterdam are expected to be confirmed by the end of the year, with a journey time of under four hours being promised including stops in Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport.
#4 Overhaul of rail fares
A radical overhaul of rail fares is to be trialed to secure passengers “the best possible deal” every time they travel, according to the rail delivery group (RDG). Certain fares, for long, connecting journeys will be removed when cheaper alternatives exist. This will remove the need for passengers to split tickets. Travellers will also be shown the best available price for a journey, regardless of whether they are buying a return or two singles. Trials for this service begin in April.
#5 Rail competing with Air
Within the UK, Airlines compete with rail operators on main city routes such as Manchester and Leeds to London. However, the main competition is on for longer routes such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Newcastle to London. On the latter routes, Flybe has now started flying Edinburgh-Heathrow, driven by Heathrow’s decision to cut landing charges for domestic passengers by £9.10. Flybe`s new route adds competition to British Airways and Virgin's little red service, which can only be good news for the consumer. Despite the air competition, Virgin trains will have a fleet of brand new Azuma trains starting delivery in 2018, operating every hour will see a reduction of around half an hour on journey times for the fastest services. This is following the introduction of 30-minute frequency trains between Edinburgh and London for much of the day.
#6 Electrification of the railway
Network Rail, who are the owners and infrastructure managers of most of the rail network in England, Scotland, and Wales, are now running a “Rail upgrade plan” to deliver significant electrification projects.
Benefits of electric trains include:
- More capacity for passengers: more seats than diesel trains of the same length.
- Faster than diesel trains: superior braking and acceleration make journey times shorter.
- Quieter than diesel trains: good news for people living near the railway
- Better for the environment:
- Lighter: less maintenance is needed because electric trains cause less wear to the track, so the railway is more reliable for passengers.
- Good for the economy: faster trains with more seats and better connections with previously hard-to-reach areas improve access to jobs and services, and open up new business opportunities.
At a recent Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) event in Manchester attended by Good Travel Management, it was highlighted the strategic role that the rail industry has in underpinning and supporting business growth, when commuters and workforce access will be paramount in the delivery of business growth on the Trans Pennine routes that link the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ cities spanning from Liverpool in the West to Hull in the East. Investment is vital if our rail services continue to grow and, in turn, business continues to expand throughout the whole of the UK.