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Examination of Witnesses

Part of High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 11th July 2013.

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Nicola Shaw: May I talk bit generally about capacity issues along the whole route? We focus on infrastructure that we have in this country, but there are constraints on the continent, before you get here, on the railway network. There are constraints at Lille and in other places across the network. Working out how we interact with those and how I talk to my colleagues in European railways about development has been part of my role, and that will continue. It is not just us: it is actually all the way through the line. At the moment, the discussion has been, principally, on whether the capacity is there between High Speed 2 and High Speed 1, not whether the capacity is there all the way. We must make sure that, whatever we do, we are keeping in step across the whole of the route.

Secondly, is there enough work being done on the forecasts? I think there is a lot of work being done on the forecasts. Do not forget that these are difficult forecasts to do, because we are creating something new. Just in the way that, for the channel tunnel and High Speed 1, the forecasting was difficult, it remains difficult for High Speed 2. The good news is that we have learned things from the High Speed 1 forecasts and that learning has been taken on to High Speed 2. I think that we are seeing some more forecasts coming later this year, so we will know more about that from the High Speed 2 team.

In relation to freight, we have a few trains running at night on High Speed 1 at the moment and those use various ways to get on and off our network. We are connected to the classic network in a number of places, mostly through Ripple Lane, which is in the Ebbsfleet area. But we are only running a couple of freight trains a night, largely because the demand is lacking for high-speed services and because of the cost associated with that, for freight trains; also because of the complication, again, in the European railways of running freight. I am sure Lord Berkeley will tell you a lot more about that if you are interested to know.

We are working hard with the freight operators on what are realistic forecasts for the continued growth of rail freight. We have been talking to a number of them about what we might have to do to provide for better interchange capabilities around London. So if you have really express freight and you want to bring it into London, what would we do for that and what are the costs of the development? There is a lot of work going on in the freight area.