Analysis reveals capacity-releasing effects of HS2 on Britain’s existing rail network

Posted: 26 September 2019 | | 1 comment

A technical analysis by Midlands Connect has revealed for the first time that HS2 would free up enough space on Britain’s existing railway network to improve rail services for 73 stations across the country.

Evidence submitted to the Oakervee HS2 Review by Midlands Connect reveals that the extra capacity provided by Britain’s new high-speed line will create space on the existing network to introduce faster and more frequent services, reduce crowding and introduce new services between destinations that do no currently have a direct rail link.

Of the 73 locations that could benefit from HS2’s released capacity, 54 are stations not served by HS2 trains.  

By moving long-distance traffic from current rail infrastructure onto the new high-speed line, HS2 would create the extra room needed to improve local and inter-regional services.  

Carrying more people but reducing overcrowding

HS2 trains will be able to carry 576,000 people per day, reducing overcrowding on the existing network. These benefits will be felt in dozens of villages, towns and cities across the country, including Coventry, Shrewsbury, Leicester, Leamington Spa, Nottingham, Newark, Newcastle and Macclesfield. 

HS2’s capacity-releasing effects on the conventional network mean that Coventry will benefit from; new direct connections to and from Derby, Sheffield, York and Newcastle; more frequent services to and from Shrewsbury, Telford, Leamington Spa and along the Coventry-Birmingham commuter corridor; as well as enjoying less crowded trains on existing services to and from London. 

Benefits will also spread to stations such as Lincoln, where additional capacity can be deployed to provide more frequent connections to and from Newark, Grantham, Stevenage and London. Passengers travelling to and from Milton Keynes via London, Manchester and the West Midlands will benefit from reduced crowding – these routes regularly offer standing room only, despite commuter passes costing upwards of £5,000 per year.

Improving rail freight too

The increased capacity that HS2 frees up on the traditional rail network also has massive implications for the rail freight industry. Space will be created for 144 extra freight trains per day, which could carry over 2.5 million lorries’ worth of cargo each year. Transporting freight by rail rather than on our roads produces 76 per cent less CO21

The benefits of HS2 released capacity have been calculated using the projections outlined in local rail strategies, existing rail models and the Midlands Connect technical programme. It is operationally possible to achieve every single one of the benefits outlined in the analysis through changes to timetabling and services post-HS2.

Over the past 12 years, the number of journeys undertaken by train in the UK has more than doubled. Government-sponsored studies suggest alternative upgrades on existing lines such as the West Coast Main Line would require 14 years’ worth of disruptive weekend closures and would prove hugely expensive due to the proximity of existing settlements. 

HS2 underpins transformational regional rail plans from Midlands Engine Rail and Northern Powerhouse Rail, both of which require the released capacity and new infrastructure it provides. Neither would be wholly technically or financially feasible should HS2 be cancelled.

Sir John Peace, Chair of Midlands Connect and Midlands Engine, said: “The benefits of HS2 will be felt by millions of people across the UK, including passengers that never set foot on a high-speed train. Regional and local rail services are in desperate need of improvement and it’s time we face facts, without the space and flexibility created by HS2, the transformational change needed is not possible.

“It is the capacity released by the line – not just its speed – that will give the whole network a desperately needed overhaul. We haven’t built a new inter-city railway north of London in a century – piecemeal interventions will do no more than paper over the cracks of an overloaded, tired network. Left unchanged, these deficiencies will stifle growth and prosperity for decades to come. Our message to Government is clear; commit to HS2, commit to the regions you serve and give us a transport network fit for the future.”

Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, commented: “HS2 is not just about speed or getting to London more quickly, it is about bringing the Northern Powerhouse closer to the great cities of the Midlands. It will create more capacity for local services, the same way Northern Powerhouse Rail does for freight and local passengers across the Pennines.

“Connecting Britain will be a major factor in rebalancing the economy – new lines both to the north west from Birmingham and up the eastern side of the UK, will expand labour markets, grow jobs, helping the North and Midlands to become as prosperous and successful as London. New direct links from a city like Coventry to Sheffield, York and Newcastle, by upgrades to the existing network, demonstrate that even those who don’t use an HS2 service will still see the benefits.”

Robert Nisbet, Director Nations and Regions at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “As this study shows, HS2 is integral to improving today’s railway, not separate from it. Just like a bypass makes space for more cars on local roads, HS2 will mean scores of stations benefit from more frequent trains even if a high-speed train never stops there.”

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, said: “The evidence produced by Midlands Connect is welcome by the Railway Industry Association. It shows just how transformational HS2 can be to the UK’s connectivity and its ability to significantly free up capacity elsewhere in the UK rail network. The scheme will release capacity not just along the HS2 route, but across the entire country, taking high-speed intercity traffic off the existing network, and leaving it open for new passenger and freight services. By doing so, HS2 also creates huge levels of investment, boosting jobs and economic growth across the UK, and it ensures we have a modern rail system fit for the future.”

Tom Thackray, CBI Director of Infrastructure, said: “The business message on HS2 is clear-cut – back it, build it, benefit from it. The first phase of HS2 has already led to record levels of investment in the West Midlands and created thousands of jobs. We firmly believe committing to HS2 in full will spur further investment, boost productivity and in turn bring huge benefits to the whole country.”

Lindsay Durham, Head of Rail Strategy at Freightliner, said: “Our biggest challenge is success and that means trying to get more capacity to move more trains. Businesses are asking us all the time to move more of their materials by train, they want to reduce their carbon footprint, and actually moving freight by rail uses 76 per cent less carbon compared with the equivalent road movement.”

The Analysis – All of these projected benefits are indicative, based on an in-depth analysis of current local rail strategies, rail models and the Midlands Connect technical programme. Full benefits and calling patterns will be refined as plans mature and through cooperation with Network Rail and rail franchise holders. It is likely that as plans develop, additional locations could also receive better services as a result of HS2 released capacity.


  1. DfT Rail Freight Strategy: September 2016.

One response to “Analysis reveals capacity-releasing effects of HS2 on Britain’s existing rail network”

  1. Colin Parker says:

    Kk”To HS2 and your Agents.

    We the undersigned want to make known to you and the wider populace of our beautiful country how utterly appalled we are by your desecration of our environment.

    We and many of our kind have been condemned to death without even the vestige of any form of trial. Indeed, we have not even been allowed to have witnesses speak in our defence. You cut us down as if you are merely snuffing out the flame of a candle. To you we are as blades of grass before the scythe. When we are cut we cry out in pain but our cries go unheard. However, we fall majestically with our dignity intact; you cannot take this away from us. If you are not stopped from carrying out your butchery of us then we will await our fate with stoicism. The fate which has already befallen thousands of our brethren. Some of us have stood for hundreds of years silently fulfilling our duty of purifying the air for all animal life on this planet including even you. We would continue to do this for future generations if you would just leave us in peace. But to you we are as nothing and you curtail our lives without giving us a thought. A few minutes wielding of a chainsaw and we are no more. Never again will we feel the warm spring sunshine as our leaves unfurl, the gentle summer rain, the breeze whispering amongst our foliage. Never again will we provide shade and shelter for passing travellers who tarry awhile beneath our wide spreading branches. No longer will we provide a home for the myriad creatures which have come to rely on us. Do you all suffer from myopia? There are none so blind as those who will not see. Cherish and care for the environment and it will repay you handsomely; damage it and it will bite you – hard!

    Be made aware that the day will dawn for each and every one of you, including the ones who are working behind the scenes, when you will have to atone for what you have done. You will be judged by your actions and no amount of lying or deceitfulness will help you. You will have no hiding place. What you have done will be laid bare and you will have to face up to the laws of natural justice. If you don’t know what this is then we will enlighten you. “As you sow, so shall you reap.” You must surely know in your heart of hearts that what you are doing is wrong. You have caused abject misery to many, many people whose property you have taken without paying adequate compensation. You have ruined livelihoods and inflicted mental anguish for years to untold numbers. Do none of you have a conscience? Even now with the HS2 review pending, your laying waste to this green and pleasant land knows no bounds. Your aggressive destruction continues.

    That some of us still stand tall and proud today is due to the perseverance of a few brave people who are willing to stand up to be counted and to oppose your ruthless slaughter. Their caring considerate attitude is a million miles away from yours. They stand atop the hill of morality observing you basking in the valley of your own self righteousness. But remember, pride comes before a fall. They are David to your Goliath.

    You must surely understand that as the climate changes and becomes more extreme we can help combat it. What earthly use is it to slaughter we who have been quietly fulfilling our role and plant younger versions of ourselves which will take decades to grow big enough to carry out the job which we are doing now. Yes, you have planted younger versions of ourselves and then you let them die through lack of water. We know that on one site where you planted several thousand, over 90% of them have died through thirst. Do we need to tell you that in the first year at least, we must have adequate water to establish ourselves?

    If this ill conceived scheme is not halted, your testament will stand as a scar through our beautiful land from London to Birmingham. A scheme that will benefit only a few people but will have to be paid for by the whole country and you know the costs are spiralling out of control. By your deeds shall you be known. Do the honourable thing and admit that this project is morally wrong and that any benefit from it is far and away outweighed by the devastation it is wreaking. If you would now state that you realise that this project, because of all of the damage it is causing and will continue to cause and in the interests of combating climate change, should be cancelled forthwith, then you will go down in history as the ones who were in the vanguard of bringing common sense to bear on the many politicians who are hell bent on laying waste to our land where this monster is proposed to rampage. You will have sacrificed your own self aggrandisement for the sake of the greater good. You will stand like giants amid the sea of pygmy politicians who initiated this madness, many of whom seem to be unable to see beyond the ends of their noses. (There are some exceptions). If you do nothing to stop it, your names will live on in the annals of infamy forevermore as being amongst those who stole the futures from our children, our grandchildren and those not yet born.

    Politicians talk constantly of the importance of having growth and fool the people into believing that so called progress is to the benefit of everyone and must take precedence over virtually everything else. According to them the economy is all important. What price the environment?

    We stand resolute in the face of adversity and await your urgent response to our plight.

    Gabriel Oak, Lily Lime, Judd Ash, Rosamund Beech


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