East West Rail study: shorter journeys should catch more passengers

Progress towards restoring the missing central section of the East West Rail project continues at a slow but steady pace with the release of the conditional outputs statement.

The report, produced by the Atkins consultancy for the East West Rail Consortium, represents the first phase in a two phase study to determine the value and business case for re-opening the missing central section between Cambridge and Bedford.

The ‘Varsity Link’ between Oxford and Cambridge closed to passenger traffic in 1967; the western section between Oxford and Bedford, and between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes is scheduled for 2017 re-opening; the eastern section between Cambridge and Norwich and Ipswich is already in place.

Phase one looks at the service delivery options but does not consider the ‘feasibility, deliverabilty or adoption of specific routes’ where new infrastructure would be needed; that will come under phase two and will be done in conjunction with Network Rail and the DfT for possible inclusion in the CP6  (2019-24)enhancement delivery plan.

Phase one identifies 64 station locations with a 5km catchment area, of which 26 are deemed to offer very high or high potential. Further analysis of journeys between these 26 favoured stations indicates which combinations are likely to generate the greatest demand for passenger services and wider economic growth.

Routes identified as ‘very high priority’ status include Luton (both stations) to Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City (for journeys of less than 15 minutes); Luton (both stations) to Cambridge, and from Bedford Midland to Cambridge and Stevenage (for journeys of between 15 and 30 minutes); and from Cambridge to Northampton and St Albans City (for journeys of between 30 and 60 minutes).

The Atkins’ study uses two different data sets to forecast future employment and population growth in the 64 locations (for 2031): The current population size stands at 3.8 million and provides employment for 2 million; the DfT source based on the NTEM (national trip end model) and Tempro (trip end model presentation programme) models forecasts a 15% increase in population size and a 9% increase in employment, whereas the alternative local plan – based on local planning documents – predicts considerably higher rates of growth at 30% and 21% respectively.

The station catchment areas ranked ‘very high’ (for both population growth and employment potential) are: Leicester, Milton Keynes, Luton Central, Luton Airport Parkway, Norwich, Bletchley, Northampton, Peterborough, Reading, Ipswich, Cambridge, Watford, Oxford and Bedford. In the ‘high’ category follow Harlow Town/ Mill, Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage, St Albans City, Aylesbury, Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, Letchworth, Hitchin and Hertford.

The report says, “The area offers a large number of opportunities to be realised, most notably between locations in Luton/Bedfordshire and the Hertfordshire towns, where currently no direct rail service is available. The relatively short distance between these locations means that journey times of less than 30 minutes and often below 15 minutes should be targeted. For longer distance journeys of greater than 30 minutes or 60 minutes, the scale of business activity, or labour market, needs to be very sizeable to generate sufficient demand for service to offset the impact of the additional time…

“However, what must be stressed is that this does not preclude the potential for EWR Central to provide a service between locations with longer journey times; rather that these journey time pairs in themselves are unlikely to generate sufficient demand and economic benefit to drive the case for EWR Central.”

654/Aug 14



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