The East Coast Main Line, the rail route running from London through Doncaster to Leeds and Edinburgh, has featured a lot in the news recently. While the media have focused on the financial difficulties of the the current franchise holder and the likely short term changes that these difficulties will cause; another more strategic view on the line has been largely overlooked.
Network Rail has published its draft Route Study for the East Coast Main Line, one of a suite of studies covering the major rail routes in Great Britain. These Route Studies have been prepared under Network Rail’s Long Term Planning Process and take a longer term, strategic view on the enhancements required to meet forecast customer demand, both passenger and freight, into the 2040s.
Doncaster is an important hub on the East Coast Main Line with connections to:
- Sheffield via Rotherham
- Hull and Immingham/Grimsby
- Lincoln via Gainsborough
and it sees a mix of inter-city, inter-regional and local passenger trains.
The East Coast Main Line through Doncaster is crucial for freight deliveries, including containers, steel and aggregates. Doncaster itself is an important and growing rail freight hub with freight terminals and rail vehicle maintenance facilities. Only this month the new intermodal terminal at iPort received its first train.
Transport for the North has rightly identified that increased connectivity is essential to improve the productivity of the North, so it is interesting to see what Network Rail proposes for improving connectivity in our area.
Increasing demand for north - south passenger journeys through Doncaster is forecast to be absorbed by the Inter-City Express Programme which will see new trains operating in the next few years. Testing of these trains has already commenced from the new maintenance facility in Ten Pound Walk, Doncaster.
Further capacity on the East Coast Main Line will be released in the 2030s when HS2 reaches Leeds and long distance journeys from the North and Leeds are routed via the new line to London. This gives the opportunity to provide some of the additional connectivity so desperately required - the route study suggests options for:
- linking Leeds and the North West to Cambridge.
- additional trains London to Bradford, Huddersfield and Wakefield.
- additional trains London to Hull and East Yorkshire.
It is of course vital that Doncaster maintains a fast frequent passenger service to/from London when longer distance trains divert on to HS2.
It is recognised that journey times on the Doncaster to Sheffield route are too slow and that demand is increasing on the commuter route between Leeds and Doncaster.
For the rail freight industry, it is vital that the network provides capacity and capability to allow reliable deliveries to customers. The capacity is required to allow trains to run at times of the day to meet the needs of customers and in a way that allows operators to optimise performance. The capability includes the ability to deliver the largest 9ft 6inch high containers from ports to Strategic Rail Freight Interchanges, such as iPort, and to deliver trains at an economic end to end journey time.
The consultation document can be found here https://cdn.networkrail.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/East-Coast-Main-Line-Route-Study.pdf - the consultation closes Friday 16 March 2018.
This is a unique opportunity for businesses in Doncaster to influence the long term development of this vital transport route, so please get involved and make your voice heard.