AN OFFICE of Rail and Road consultation concerning track access agreements has revealed further detail about proposed HS2 service patterns and the effect on remaining services on the West Coast main line.
Phase One of HS2 between London and Birmingham is due to open in 2026, with Phase 2a to Crewe following a year later. With 10-year track access agreements not unusual, ORR says applications received soon may be affected by HS2 and so has consulted on its general approach.
The introduction of HS2 will lead to a reorganisation of West Coast main line services, with some existing services transferred to HS2. While the Department for Transport say it is ‘neither feasible or desirable to determine the operational timetable too early’, it has set out its current thinking. This would see five services each hour currently using the southern end of the WCML switch to HS2 – three to Manchester, one to Glasgow and one to Liverpool. All three Manchester services would be routed to run via Crewe, using Phase 2a of HS2 when it opens in 2027. In addition, two peak hour only paths currently used by services to Preston and Liverpool would be used for all-day services on HS2, the former serving Warrington and Wigan (which would not be served by the Glasgow train) and the latter providing a second hourly service to Liverpool. When Phase 2a opens, one of the two Liverpool services would use the high-speed line north of Birmingham while the second would use the conventional route and call at Stafford.
The assumption is the quantum of peak passenger services on the southern WCML will be broadly similar to today, but with fewer off-peak paths to allow for additional passenger or freight services or breaks in the timetable to support good performance. DfT notes the number of platforms at Euston available for conventional services will reduce to 13.
Between London and Birmingham, three services would operate per hour using HS2. Two of the existing three services each hour on the WCML would also remain, with one continuing alternately to Glasgow or Edinburgh (as at present) and the other occasionally extended to Shrewsbury. Other long-distance WCML services retained would be those to Chester and North Wales (but with additional calls south of Crewe) and an hourly service to Manchester via Stoke-on-Trent and Macclesfield, while DfT suggests a new hourly all-day fast service to Northampton would also be provided.
Locations on the existing network with particular capacity constraints have been identified, and HS2 and DfT are currently working with Network Rail to understand the options for services in these areas. These include Crewe to Manchester (which is proposed to see additional services between 2027 and 2033 while all HS2 Manchester services are routed this way prior to the opening of Phase 2b), Crewe to Weaver Junction (where services to Liverpool leave the WCML) and north of Preston.