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Entreaties for skills shortage not to hinder HS2

Representatives of Britain’s rail industry and engineers have responded positively to Sir David Higgins’ report, but expressed concerns about how the plans for high-speed rail might be delivered.

The Rail Delivery Group said that the growth in the railway over the past 15 years, and the “phenomenal growth in passengers and goods moved by rail”, would play a crucial role in keeping the nation competitive in the global economy.

Although supportive of Higgins’ recommendations, Rail Freight Group Executive Director Maggie Simpson issued a note of caution, saying that emerging plans needed to take “full consideration of the significant benefits delivered by rail freight”.

She said the fast-tracking of HS2 in Phase 1 as far as the Crewe hub was essential for delivering capacity for additional freight trains, but that there were “many unresolved details” relating to timetabling issues and the impact on freight facilities in the Crewe area.

“Rail freight is estimated to support economic output of £862 million across the north of England, serving the large conurbations and supporting the region’s ports and manufacturers,” she said.

“With road congestion affecting freight traffic as well as the private motorist, rail freight needs to be at the heart of any strategy to improve transport links from Liverpool to Hull.”

The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Sahar Danesh said that overall connectivity and strategy for the transport network was key.

“A crucial factor to the success of HS2 will be making sure that individual transport projects are not developed in isolation,” he said.

“We must look at our transport network as a whole - that includes roads, rail and air travel. Having a clear strategy that allows Network Rail, the Highways Agency and local authorities to work together is therefore crucial to ensure northern cities can take advantage of the new infrastructure in their region.

  • For more information, read RAIL 761, published November 12
     

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