New international rail routes in planning post Brexit

CEO of HS1 Dyan Crowther (above left) joins Future Cities Forum 'Infrastructure 2020' with FCF Co-founder Heather Fearfield

Future Cities Forum was delighted that Dyan Crowther, CEO of HS1, opened our 'Infrastructure 2020' forum, discussing the economic, environmental and social impact of high speed rail.

High Speed 1 holds the concession to own and operate the high speed railway as well as running the stations along the route, including one of the very few that merits icon status, St Pancras International. Dyan spoke about the impact the railway has on communities, economy and environment and the crucial role that high speed rail now plays globally in connecting cities and regions. She also explained how the rail sector has helped to drive significant economic growth internationally, and domestically especially across the county of Kent.

Dyan said:

'High speed rail did not start until 2003 in the UK and China, but high speed has been around much longer in international terms back to 1964 when the Japanese Shinkansen system launched the Tokyo to Osaka 'bullet train'. China since 2008 has invested heavily in high speed setting speed records, as well as track distance records with the 2208 kilometre Beijing to Shenzhen route. It aims to build out another 3,200 kilometres. France, Spain, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Italy, Russia, Belgium and the Netherlands all have high speed lines. Why do it?

'It stimulates economic regeneration, connecting regions that could be accessed easily. It can significantly boost tourism. Alongside fare cost, academic evidence tells us that time saved in travel is the most important factor to commuters and business travellers. It's significant that high speed rail has improved the fastest Ashford to London time from 1 hour 28 minutes down to 37 minutes.

'Each year HS1 contributes £500 million socio-economic benefit annually, and it has added £311 million to the Kent tourism economy since construction, and that includes over 6,000 tourism-related jobs. It's also no secret that trains are one of the most eco-friendly forms of transport, taking cars and lorries off the road.

'We can rightly expect all future investment to be seen through the environmental lens. Since launch, the service has removed hundreds of tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. The recently launched London to Amsterdam rail service is providing an alternative to flying. It emits 80% less carbon per passenger than flights on the same route. This boosts capacity and offers flexibility.

'As an infrastructure manager, our aim is to maximise use of assets and to deliver long term value. We have space for more trains and services. We are delivering more rail corridors into Europe, working with other infrastructure providers, to create a direct service to Bordeaux of less than five hours. We estimate 200,000 passengers will use the service. Frankfurt and Geneva are also on the project list and we are discussing how heavy freight could use our routes.

'We are dedicated to delivering the whole passenger experience and this was partly the reason behind the redevelopment of St Pancras station in 2007, and now this has become a destination in its own right. The station concourse has a mix of high street names and independent retailers plus restaurants and bars. St Pancras has 50 million visitors per year and one in six is not there to catch a train. The output of infrastructure investments quickly proliferate beyond their direct purpose.

'As custodians we measure delay in seconds not minutes and this has been important in helping us to grow. Since 2010 on domestic high speed services, we have doubled patronage increasing by 93% to 59 million per annum. Passenger numbers are forecast to rise 127 per cent by 2044 and we need more investment in new trains to support that and bring more economic benefits to the UK. We predict a rapid growth in users of St Pancras to 80 million by 2040 and we are already working to take a proactive approach to keep the station's status as a global icon. As stewards of the high speed line it's vitally important that we work collaboratively with government and partners to connect communities and drive the economy.'

Future Cities Forum was very grateful to the Chief Executive of HS1, Dyan Crowther, for making the opening speech at our 'Infrastructure 2020' forum - held at Herbert Smith Freehills' London HQ above the railway at Liverpool Street.

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