Darren Shirley, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport which produced the report, said: "At a time when rail investment is being questioned because of poorly implemented timetable changes, problems with franchises and over-running and over-budget projects, it is easy to lose sight of the huge benefits which can be achieved. Rather than being happy side effects, outcomes such as lower carbon emissions, support for local economies and tackling road congestion should be regarded as a direct consequence of support for the railways.
"The improvements to the West Coast Mainline were achieved thanks to a partnership of government and industry investment. With radical changes to the UK rail system under consideration as part of the Rail Review, this report shows how thinking, collaboration and cooperation can have far reaching and long-term benefits."
Phil Whittingham, Managing Director for Virgin Trains which commissioned the research, added: "The partnership approach we took to investing in the Virgin High Frequency timetable, and introducing our new trains, has helped transform the West Coast railway and had a positive impact on the communities and economies it serves. A decade on is a useful time to reflect on how we've achieved one of the biggest timetable changes since privatisation without hitch and with it a significant rebalancing of the UK's economy. This report offers a useful insight into how it was put together."
John Stevenson, MP for Carlisle and Chair of the West Coast Mainline All Party Parliamentary Group said, "As someone who regularly travels on the line itself, I am delighted to see the line continuing to thrive as a transport artery for our country.
"The improvements that this report identifies demonstrate that proper investment in our rail network has a real impact – and I will continue to push for this, and to work with all partners to ensure that the West Coast Mainline delivers for the passengers who use it."
The report found a number of benefits as a result of the improvements to the 400 mile WCML, which connects London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow.
- Current growth levels will see 50 million journeys on the west coast intercity route ahead of HS2 opening in 2026, up from 14 million in 1997
- Capacity has been increased by up to three times on key routes
- Shorter journey times mean someone travelling once a week between Birmingham and London over the last decade will have spent the equivalent of eight weeks less on the train. The same passenger switching from road to rail on that route would save nearly six months of working days.
- Saved over seven million additional car journeys a year between London and Manchester
- Saved up to 26,000 additional daily car journeys on the M1 and M40
- Prevented a 17 per cent increase in peak time traffic flows north of Birmingham
- Removed up to one million car journeys from the Lake District National Park
- Prevented a minute a mile increase in journey times on the M1 between London and Luton.
- Flights to Manchester from other cities served by the West Coast have declined by two thirds (67 per cent)
- 1.7 million fewer people flying between London and Manchester, resulting in 5,000 fewer flights and 60,000 tonnes of carbon savings
- Rail's share of the market between Glasgow and London grew from eight per cent in 2009 to 20 per cent in 2017.