Earlier this week, Transform Scotland issued their response to the consultation on the West Coast Main Line franchise. The next franchise will last until 2026, when the Department for Transport wants HS2 to open the Euston to Birmingham section.
Transform Scotland argue in favour of improvements to the line between Glasgow and London during the course of the next WCML franchise: they say these are a necessary part of preparations for HS2.
Their response says
“In particular we would refer to the route north to Scotland from Weaver Junction. The WCML upgrade was de-scoped on the northern parts of the route and additionally much of the signalling system has been in place since the mid-1970s and is in need of replacement. It is essential that this re-signalling is not merely replaced on a like-for-like basis thereby locking in the 1970s constraints. ….
“If this work is not undertaken during this franchise then HS2 services on the West Coast Main Line are likely to be restricted to 100 or 110mph as well as operating in non-tilt mode. Under such a scenario Scotland will be condemned to a second class service from the outset of HS2.”
Upgrading the WCML is necessary for Scotland to benefit from HS2. But it seems the improvements would benefit Scotland even without HS2.
As Transform Scotland say
“The Pendolino trains currently running on the route are capable of speeds of 140mph but the required infrastructure improvements to allow this to happen have not been made. …. It is essential that this work is carried out during the duration of this franchise.”
Meanwhile, we have the Department for Transport arguing against improvements to the West Coast Main Line, as part of their case for building HS2. In particular, in their FAQ on HS2 they say
“Another upgrade [to the WCML], such as Rail Package 2, would provide nowhere near the new capacity of a high speed line or its speed and connectivity benefits while again causing massive disruption for passengers.”
However, by being so dismissive, they damage the case for HS2.
No wonder the Department for Transport say that it would be “too difficult” to pass the legislation to build HS2 to Scotland.