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Existing rail network must not be neglected in pursuit of high speed vision

24 February 2011
High speed rail plans to be announced on Monday 28 February could result in a downgraded rail network for the rest of the country, warns Campaign for Better Transport.

The sustainable transport group is urging the Government not to neglect the rest of the rail network and other forms of public transport in favour of long distance high speed rail journeys. The charity also warns that if the new line only serves parkway stations, rather than city centres, it risks becoming a self-defeating strategy that will actually add to congestion and encourage car use. 

Richard Hebditch, Campaign for Better Transport's Campaigns Director, said: "High speed rail could offer an opportunity to improve transport in the UK and provide greener choices for long-distance travel. But the danger is that the Government is so focussed on just getting plans through in the face of local opposition that it ignores the need for it to be part of improving the whole network.

“We’re very worried that Ministers will need to cut budgets elsewhere to pay for high speed rail. That could mean even steeper fare rises and cuts in local rail services in order to pay for it. And the best way for rail to offer a greener alternative is to electrify much more of the network but plans for electrification could be put back as high speed rail eats up all the funding.”

Campaign for Better Transport argues high speed rail should form part of a broader, national transport policy designed to increase capacity on the rail network to enable more people and goods to travel by train rather than car or plane, and ensure wider economic and environmental benefits. 

The group cautioned that proposed rail fare increases of inflation (RPI) plus 3% due in January should be reviewed as a matter of urgency in order to keep fares on existing lines within the means of the majority of passengers.