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HS2 – let’s not lose this opportunity of a generation

Rail seems to have dominated the front pages so far in 2020, and that looks set to continue with two major reviews due any day now.

Our latest National Rail Passenger Survey results show satisfaction is up overall but there is still a long way to go in places. Improvements are needed – more reliable trains, better value and more chance of a seat.

Douglas Oakervee is expected to publish his independent review into HS2 this month (see our letter to him here). Growing pressures on capacity argue for a step change in the ability of the rail network to carry more passengers and operate more frequent trains. If the new trains go faster, even better.

Whether it’s the corridors from Rugby to Wolverhampton, Manchester to Stockport, Milton Keynes or Leeds to London we need to break free from our Victorian railway and create more space on the tracks.

Our infrastructure needs upgrading but this can be a massive inconvenience to passengers – and costs a huge amount of money. At a stroke the first leg of HS2 could add to the whole country’s existing rail capacity. More freight trains running on tracks could even reduce congestion on motorways.

Yes, costs must be brought under control. But let’s not lose this opportunity of a generation.

Meanwhile Keith Williams’s report into rail reform is due any day now. This is expected to cover the whole structure of the industry and include a shakeup of the overcomplicated and often-unfair fares system.

Both reviews could be good news for passengers who have put up with enough in recent years – let’s hurry up and get on with it!

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