Posted 29th September 2023 | 2 Comments

Rail unions call for emergency HS2 summit

The rail unions have called for an emergency summit so that stakeholders can discuss the implications of axeing HS2 north of Birmingham, but the Prime Minister is continuing to avoid answering direct questions about the fate of Phases 2A and 2B between Birmingham and Manchester, saying only that his government is making sure that ‘we get value for money’. Speculation is continuing that Rishi Sunak is poised to reveal that the sections to Crewe and Manchester will be axed. This has been accompanied by warnings from Chancellor Jeremy Hunt that tax cuts are unlikely this year. In response to criticism of the effects of scrapping HS2 beyond Birmingham, the Prime Minister told the BBC that Leeds is being ‘treated like London’. He continued: ‘London has always got this multi-year settlement so they can plan how to invest in their area. That's now happening to cities across the North.’ The Conservative Party conference starts in Manchester on Sunday.

Rail Delivery Group warns of more strike disruption

The Rail Delivery Group is warning that strikes by ASLEF drivers tomorrow and on Wednesday of next week will restrict train services in England, which at best will run only between 07.30 and 18.30. It added that some operators will have no services at all. An overtime ban by ASLEF is also affecting services between today and 6 October, and it is likely that evening services on some lines will be affected on the days before each strike. Morning services may also be disrupted on 1 and 5 October because many trains will be out of position. The RDG added: ‘We want to resolve this dispute and are acutely aware of the damaging impact it's having on our passengers.’ ASLEF said: ‘Train drivers haven't had a pay increase since 2019. We are seeking a fair pay deal for our members who have been experiencing real terms pay cuts whilst private operators and rolling stock companies have continued to pay out dividends to their shareholders, extracting profits from the railways.’ London Underground also faces strikes on 4 and 6 October, in the continuing dispute between the RMT and Transport for London over job security. TfL has warned of ‘severe disruption’ on both strike days, and said problems could continue into the following mornings.

Ebbw Vale upgrade reaches final stage

Buses will replace trains on the Ebbw Vale line in south Wales tomorrow and on Sunday, as work on a £70 million upgrade enters its final stage. Track will be laid at Newbridge station and Cross Keys over the weekend. The line will also be closed from 15 November to 3 December, to allow the project to be completed. Transport for Wales trains will start running from Ebbw Vale Town to Newport in December, in addition to the existing services to Cardiff Central.

Reader Comments:

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  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley Flintshire

    The Ebbw Vale line makes for an interesting case study on infrastructure investment in the UK. When the original proposals were made the scheme was pared back to make in 'affordable' so as a consequence when reopened it allowed a basic service to be introduced to Cardiff which was far short of the original ambition. Now in 2023 the final stages of infrastructure enhancement for the latest upgrade is drawing to conclusion. When commissioned this will allow the introduction of direct services to Newport. So at long last and after a series of disruptive interruptions service frequencies will nearly match the aspirations when reopening was originally proposed.

    I think the lesson to be drawn is that forecasting methods used by the DfT and in turn the Treasury for transport infrastructure are flawed. In order to get an investment approved scheme sponsors have to constantly reduce their ambitions to the point where only a minimalist scheme may be begrudgingly approved. Just look at the delay, endless consultation and dithering to try to make it 'affordable' to reintroduce a passenger service to the Portishead branch. Unfortunately as so often when original demand forecasts are exceeded, the Borders Railway being another example, additional investment is required at inflated expense when having to reengineer a live railway.

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    The PM says ‘London has always got this multi-year settlement so they can plan how to invest in their area. That's now happening to cities across the North.’
    Well how can anyone trust that the funding for that won't disappear like the funding for HS2 ?
    I hate to say it, but we need a bit more of the Chinese type of planning and funding here. This on/off/on/off funding tap sends only one message to companies and investors trying to plan for the future (as opposed to the government who seems to only plan up to the next election) DON'T plan anything based on what the government says. The funding for government sponsored projects can disappear.