Ministers tackle Network Rail block on new NW direct services

The Department for Transport (DfT) is to challenge Network Rail over its decision to block new direct services on the West Coast Main Line.

Proposed fast services between Euston and Shrewsbury and Preston, respectively, had been expected to be introduced this winter.

The clash has involved PM David Cameron who, some transport commentators believe, is set to put renewed steel into his Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s case for confronting Network Rail over the issue.

Network Rail continues to defend its position on the issue and predicts an adverse knock-on effect on a crowded system if more services are added.

In a statement, the company said: “Today, there are twice as many trains using the West Coast Main Line as a decade ago and, just like a busy motorway during rush hour, more trains mean that if something goes wrong the knock-on effects can be significant…adding more services on to what is already the busiest mixed use railway line in the UK would mean a trade-off with punctuality.”

Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary and MP for North Shropshire, is another pushing for more direct rail links to the county. A previous attempt to link Telford to a regular direct London service foundered, but the DfT is still keen on hitting 13 December as the deadline for launching new services.

Virgin’s plan, meanwhile, to launch services to Blackpool, and Great North Western Railway’s (backed by Deutsche Bahn) intentions to examine running new services in the North West, possibly linking Carlisle and Blackpool to London, are also running into Network Rail’s buffers.

The Times newspaper’s Industrial Editor Robert Lea wrote, on 17 June: “Blackpool has become a cause celebre in the industry, not least because it lost a lucrative business boosting party and union conferences since direct services were cut a decade ago.”

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Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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