Peak demand for rail services set to increase significantly by 2029.

Network Rail is anticipating a boom in passenger numbers across the rail network in the north of England over the next 20 years, with passenger numbers increasing by at least 56% across each major city rail network by 2024 (see table).

The infrastructure controller has published the final version of the Northern Route Utilisation Strategy which examines rail use over the next 10 to 30 years and makes recommendations on how best to develop the rail network.

The report, which has been produced in partnership with key stakeholders across the north of England, makes a series of recommendations for targeted investments that will support network growth, both in passengers and rail freight.

Paul Plummer, Network Rail’s director of planning and development, said: “Projects already underway will mean that faster, more frequent trains can run between the Northern cities and London. Electrification in the north west will mean a faster, cleaner and cheaper railway.

“But this RUS shows the challenges don’t stop here. With as many as 52% more passengers flooding into the big cities of the north by 2024, we need to make targeted investments to deal with this, as well as working with stakeholders to make better use of existing capacity.”

Some of the schemes proposed by Network Rail include peak train lengthening or shuttle services to make the most efficient use of capacity.

Meanwhile, Network Rail has also published its West Midlands and Chiltern Route RUS. It anticipates that passenger demand for rail services will increase by 32% in the peak by 2020, with demand on services to London Marylebone forecast to grow at a similar rate.

The document suggests that new cross-regional services be introduced and the lengthening of some key peak hour services into and out of Birmingham.