Rebuilding better: why HS2 is more vital than ever
The need to transform our transport system and economy has not gone away
by Caroline Donaldson, Managing Director, West Coast Partnership Development
caroline donaldson

Over the coming weeks and months, the urgent task facing those of us working in the railway is rebuilding passenger confidence, ensuring our customers feel safe with the measures we have taken to support lockdown and, as social distancing measures eventually loosen, attracting people back to rail and encouraging them to make sustainable journey choices. But beyond that, we still need to think about the longer-term. The need to fundamentally reshape and transform our transport system and economy has not gone away. We not only have to rebuild but, to coin a phrase, “build back better” as we slowly emerge from this crisis.

HS2 remains central to that transformation. The factors driving the project –  jobs and economic growth, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a transformational investment in our rail network, and increasing focus on greener journey choices – remain valid. We will work with our partners to help deliver HS2’s role in building an inclusive, green, sustainable and competitive economy where opportunity is spread across our regions and devolved nations.

Delivering this requires more than building all the tracks, bridges, cuttings and culverts that HS2 requires, vital though this will be. We need also to ensure the service aspects of HS2 are properly developed: the fares structure, service frequency, ticketing and wider timetable for all services using the West Coast Main Line will need to be written from scratch or fundamentally rethought from a customer perspective if we are to deliver what people truly want. We also need to plan carefully for the transition to High Speed services, ensuring this is delivered smoothly for customers.

Since December last year, West Coast Partnership Development has been working closely with HS2 Ltd, Network Rail, the Department for Transport and other industry partners to start the design and development of future High Speed services for our customers. Our parent companies, FirstGroup and Trenitalia, have a vast wealth of experience in operating high-speed intercity services and are now helping to support a partnership that makes the best use of private and public sector expertise.

Over the months and years ahead you will hear from us more often as we build the collaboration framework to give stakeholders a voice in decisions about the future of services on the West Coast. In particular, our plans for a new network of dedicated Regional Growth Managers will give every stakeholder a dedicated point of contact through which they can pose questions or raise any issues of concern as we develop the plans to unleash the full social and economic benefits of this historic investment in our national rail network.

We look forward to working with you.