Growth in rail travel has outpaced the strengthening economy and rising employment levels over the last six months, according to new figures from the industry-wide Rail Delivery Group. The growth in rail travel between April and September follows a total of almost 1.6 billion journeys in 2013/14, and the latest totals are now reaching levels not recorded in peacetime since the 1920s. But speculation continues that Network Rail's budget for Control Period 5 will not be sufficient, and that some electrification schemes may lag.
'Crucial' HS2 supply chain summit in Manchester
The construction industry is being advised to prepare for one of the world's largest projects -- the construction of HS2. The first phase between London and the West Midlands, and possibly onwards to Crewe or Stoke, will involve contracts worth £10 billion. 800 delegates from around 500 firms will converge on Manchester Central conference centre today to hear from HS2 Ltd about what will be needed from industry. The transport secretary is describing today's event as 'crucial'.
Station upgrade boosted local jobs and property
Employment around Sheffield station increased by 2,800 as a result of the Sheffield Station Gateway project, and property values by two-thirds. according to evidence submitted to a parliamentary committee. Investment of £74 million from other sources would have been required to achieve such employment growth – but the Sheffield station project, at £25 million, cost only a third of this.
Stoke on Trent mounts bid to be on HS2 route
A business case prepared by the city of Stoke on Trent has been presented to the Government today, which urges the inclusion of Stoke and north Staffordshire on the route of HS2. The document has been produced by various specialists including economic consultants Volterra, who sit on HS2 Ltd’s Economics Advisory Committee. Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership chair David Frost said that the business case 'makes solid financial sense for UK plc', while Volterra chief executive Bridget Rosewell said the Government and HS2 Ltd could not ignore their findings, which conclude that a proposed hub at Crewe is not the best solution.
Manchester Airport tram line to open next month
Services on the new Metrolink line to Manchester Airport will open to passengers on Monday 3 November – more than 12 months ahead of schedule. The final stage of testing will start on 20 October when trams will run without passengers between Cornbrook and the airport every 12 minutes – reflecting the actual headways after the launch. The line will be the first not to serve the city centre, because there is no more capacity through the critical delta triangle at Piccadilly Gardens. However, the airport service will be extended through the centre when the second line between St Peter's Square and Victoria station opens in 2017.
Sale of UK share of Eurostar sparks opposition
The RMT union has reacted angrily to a Treasury announcement that offers are being invited for the 40 per cent stake in Eurostar which is owned by the British government. Reports suggest that it could be sold to a third party investor for some £300 million. Most of Eurostar is already owned by SNCF, although the Belgian operator SNCB has a 5 per cent share. Labour is also opposing the proposed deal, and calling for an inquiry into the plan.
Updated franchise schedule signals GW extension
Industry speculation that the First Great Western franchise is set to be extended again has been confirmed by the publication of a new franchising timetable today by the Department for Transport. The new timetable appears to confirm that FirstGroup is in line for a further contract which will extend its Great Western contract until at least March 2019. FirstGroup has welcomed the development after losing two franchises this year.