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Planning for the future of railways in London, the South East… and beyond

24 April 2013  •  Author: Network Rail

The first step towards a new map for the future of the railway in London and the south east of England has been taken today with the launch of a new study by Network Rail.

The London and South East market study represents a new style of research designed to look 10 to 30 years into the future, looking at the wider role rail travel plays in Britain’s economic life.

Currently, more than 70 per cent of all rail journeys in England and Wales take place in London and the South East. Open to consultation from today, the final version of the study will help form the basis of where the region’s rail travel will go in the 2019 – 2024 period and beyond.

Alongside the London and South East document, Network Rail has also published two other studies covering the regional urban and freight markets.

Network Rail’s director of network strategy and planning, Richard Eccles, said: “This is part of our new approach to planning, which looks at the role that rail plays in the economic life of Britain.

“What we need to decide is how the network should develop to achieve economic growth, help reduce carbon emissions from transport and improve quality of life for people. This approach allows greater freedom of thought and is not constrained by current service patterns or cost and deliverability, though of course we will look at these issues in subsequent planning stages.”

The London and South East study focuses on the area around the capital, stretching as far afield as King’s Lynn and Weymouth. Travel in this region is dominated by commuting into central London, with passenger numbers – predicted to grow by 27 per cent by 2031 – closely mirroring employment.

The biggest growth in passenger numbers is expected on routes that will benefit from capacity improvements in the next five years, with 168 per cent growth expected on the Crossrail lines out of Paddington, 64 per cent on the Thameslink routes from London Bridge and 45 per cent on the Thameslink routes from St Pancras.

The study concludes that improvements in the region should focus on accommodating peak demand, offering stations a minimum of 3-4 trains per hour, and improving journey times.

Great economic impacts can be made by reducing journey lengths to between 100 and 40 minutes; below that level their impact is lessened.

Outside London and the South East, regional urban services require a shorter journey time of between 20-60 minutes to encourage commuting, but rail in this market also has the potential to have a substantial impact in terms of increasing the size of labour markets and generating economic activity.

Rail freight has already been through very substantial changes in the type of goods carried since privatisation. The freight market study indicates that fast growing containerised traffic is set to continue and this, coupled with an expectation of declining coal consumption, will mean that growth in the freight market is likely to average 2.2% per year to 2033.

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