High speed evidence is flimsy

 

I love railways. It was only the discovery of girls that lured me away from hanging around on station platforms, notebook in hand, in my teens, and I still love the feeling of settling down to a long train journey, book on my lap. But despite that I am adamantly opposed to the idea of a new north high-speed line that is the subject of a consultation paper being published by the Department for Transport today.

 I should be cheering Philip Hammond’s efforts to win over his fellow Tories in the Chilterns to the need for this amazing £30bn-plus project, but instead I am booing as vociferously as when the opposition score against my beloved Queens Park Rangers. I have, though, no sympathy for his Nimby opponents either. If the line were really needed, then it is the route through the Chilterns that it would have to take. But where were all these opponents when the motorway network’s tentacles spread across Britain?

 No, my opposition is more deep-rooted and principled. Despite my residual railwayphilia, I remain unconvinced that the case for the high-speed line has been made in terms of either the economics or the environment. The ‘business case’ is rooted in the mumbo-jumbo of benefit-cost ratios, and is, even on its own terms, weak. The HS2 report published by the Government last March suggests the benefits are in the order of £2.30 for every £1 spent but, crucially, most of those benefits will accrue to private individuals and companies, whereas most of the cost will fall on the taxpayer. The high speed line to the Channel Tunnel, which cost taxpayers upwards of £6bn has just been sold for a third of that to a Canadian pension fund.

 Indeed, supporters of HS2 privately agree that the economics are a bit dodgy and have started pointing to the regeneration benefits of the scheme, suggesting it is the key to reviving the fortunes of the North. However, being well connected is no guarantee of prosperity and the benefits may well flow south rather than north.

  In any case, high-speed railways do not necessarily deliver economic growth. Japan built the world’s first high-speed line in the Sixties but has struggled economically for decades, while the United States and Australia, have prospered without them. Of course, this does not prove causality, but it does demonstrate the absence of any guaranteed link between high-speed rail and economic success.

 The promoters of the scheme have, too, dropped their argument that it is a Green project, as the HS2 report showed it was pretty much carbon neutral. So what would be Britain’s biggest and most expensive engineering project is being put forward on evidence as flimsy as a Christmas cracker paper hat.

 There is, too, I confess, just a tad of nostalgia about my opposition. The French TGV Est put paid to the wonderful but slow Orient Express by enabling faster trips. If we get a high-speed line, train travel will become as featureless and banal as taking a Ryanair flight to somewhere near Brussels or Paris. Please, anything but that.

  • @Peter Davidson:

    I, too, am curious to learn what Christian believes is wrong with HS2.

    As a solution to congestion problems on the rail network, it makes sense: you get a fully segregated inter-city passenger service—which, incidentally, is the primary profit-making element of the present rail network—and release capacity on the existing network for more urban and regional metro links.

    Furthermore, you get this *without* having to shut down great lumps of the *existing* network during construction. Of all people, Christian should be aware of how difficult it is to upgrade an existing trunk route given the problems encountered with the wildly over-budget and ill-concieved West Coast Route Modernisation project.

    (Granted, Euston will be afflicted by a few years of reconstruction, but that was going to happen regardless.)

    Now, it’s fair to argue that HS2 *itself* will provide limited benefits to the large clusters of urban sprawl in the West Midlands. Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Birmingham aren’t that far apart from each other, so HSR’s only direct benefit will be in providing faster links to places further afield, such as London, Glasgow and (once both branches are built) Edinburgh, Newcastle and Leeds.

    But…

    By removing most of the inter-city expresses that currently clutter up the existing networks, the West Midlands will gain more local and regional services. That *is* a benefit created by the existence of HS2.

    Furthermore, HSR infrastructure will only work with electric trains. If a region currently only served by diesel services wants a high-speed link to another city served by HS2, so the route’s very existence could become a catalyst for further electrification of the national network, although we’re likely to see a more pronounced effect with HSR lines to Wales and the South West.

  • Sorry, I buggered up that last paragraph. It should read:

    “Furthermore, HSR infrastructure will only work with electric trains. If one city, currently only served by diesel services, wants a high-speed link to another city via HS2, electrification of the diesel section of the route will be desirable. HS2’s very existence could thus become a catalyst for further electrification of the national network. This is likely to be much more pronounced effect with HSR lines to Wales and the South West.”

    That HS2 is going to get mucked about a lot by politicians trying to put their own stamp on the project is to be expected. It’s normal even in countries like France and Germany. (Gare TGV Haute-Picardie was famously criticised for its middle-of-nowhere location.) But, as long as projects like these are micro-managed by central government and civil servants, it’s an inevitable fact of life.

  • Chris Stokes

    I have often found myself in vigorous disagreement with Christian in the past, but I think he’s right to be sceptical on HS2. There are solid, factual reasons for scepticism; I set out some below.

    The business case for HS2 is wholly dependent on extraordinarily high growth forecasts, culminating in an increase of 267% in passenger numbers on the West Coast corridor – that’s over three and a half times the current use of the route. But in the real world:
    · Eurostars volumes in 2009 are only 37% of those forecast for 2006 in London and Continental’s original business case, even though rail now has c80% of the flows from London to Paris and Brussels. The market is near saturation. Why does anyone believe this will not happen on London – Manchester/Birmingham/Leeds too? Rail already has a high mode share from all these cities to central London
    · Domestic air traffic at London’s airports (all of them, not just Heathrow) has declined by 20% since 2004. Yet HS2 assume growth of 178% by 2023
    · The growth in road traffic has stalled, with the average distance travelled per person declining slightly since 1995/7. The long standing relationship between travel and Gross Domestic Product almost certainly no longer applies.

    I’m delighted that Rail has done much better. But this is mostly from increased modal share, and as a result of improved services, particularly following completion of the West Coast Main Line upgrade.

    I agree that getting forecasts right for the next 40 years is challenging to say the least. The way to deal with this is to look at a range of scenarios, not go for the most optimistic case as HS2 were forced to do to get somewhere near having a business case. This is despite the lessons of recent history: the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee examined the results for Eurostar, and noted “The Department told us that it has now learned from all this experience, and that the next time it considered undertaking a major transport project, it would factor more severe downside assumptions into its business case analysis”.

    It’s also relevant to remember that 80% of travel in this country is by road – and HS2 themselves forecast that the new line will reduce congestion on the M1 by 2%

    And, yes, we are different from most countries that have invested in high speed rail – our existing services are better, and our distances are shorter. Madrid – Barcelona took seven hours by rail before high speed, now it’s less than three, so there’s been an enormous switch from air to rail. In contrast, london – Manchester has three trains an hour now, taking 2 hours 8 minutes. Is taking 45 minutes of this going to change the world? I doubt it (Incidentally, it’s not clear that Spain is reaping a massive reward in terms of regeneration and economic growth from its investment in high speed rail at present)

    Public expenditure is highly constrained, and HS2 is a project of Trident dimensions – there are more pressing needs than this, which will be a cost to my children in perpetuity

  • Maarten Otto

    Dear Mr. Wolmar,

    As an outsider from Holland I have little to say about your railways and how to pay for it. But as an rail enthusiast (just like you) who has been following the British rail industry very closely for many years now I can only say that your country simply is running out of options.

    The only solution to the problem without building HS2 would be to re-build most of the British rail network to allow Double decker trains which can transport up to 50% more passengers per train then today’s single deck units. Unfortunately for you, I’m afraid that will be even more expansive then building HS2.

    I live in a small country, we have more then 500 double deckers trains on our tracks every day, our road network is clogged and domestic flights simply do not exist because of the short distances… But almost fifteen years ago our government made two very unpopular decisions. To build two new railways.

    One railway would never see a single passenger using it. The business case was appalling and there were other options they (the enemies) said. Yet they pressed ahead. Today that railway is in operation and 300 trains use it every week. Three hundred trains is two times less then expected. But over a year traffic has increased by over 15 percent during an economic recession. Today almost 400 trains a week use it… and what’s more… those 400 trains never get on our passenger network. In other words… four hundred train paths can now be used for passenger trains which would otherwise be lost.

    The other project is our very own railway soap HSL-Zuid. A 300 km’h race track hammering through our west country. Today we almost enjoy an hourly connection to Paris, in two years time we will have the pleasure of a two trains per hour connection to Antwerp and Brussels… And yes Mr. Wolmar, I can’t wait for the day to shake hands with Roger Ford at St. Pancras when he witness the first ever train from Amsterdam to arrive in the UK. This train will improve the life of his grand children. On Twitter he told us his grand daughter was impressed by a Grand Central Zaphyr (class 180), Let this girl be even more impressed by a cross channel train to the rest of Europe. But allow this girl be proud of the railways of her own country by making the correct decisions today.

  • Michael Weinberg

    The comments by Mr. stokes have been published in the latest issue of ‘Modern Railways’ and neither in that or his contribution here does he offer an alternative to HS2.
    Both he and Christian Wolmar concentrate their fire on a somewhat mythical ‘business case’. From that I infer they both think it’s a waste of money or the money could be spent better elsewhere. Neither mentions just where the required extra capacity is to come from.
    Lets have details, together with proper costings and ‘businesss cases’ for the alternatives, apart from vague remarks about better signalling, altered track layouts and easing of bottlenecks. Lets see the beef so that we can determine what the costs of the alternatives are.

    Perhaps they believe it would be better to widen motorways and build more? Build extra runways, because without proper business cases we dont know how much it would cost to upgrade existing lines to cope with the extra demand.

    Ah! but perhaps Mr Stokes and Mr. Wolmar dont believe there will be extra demand, in fact Mr Stokes hints that that may well be the case. Therefore why spend any money on ANY increased capacity projects. Are they against Crossrail, or Thameslink or extra coaches?

    Mr Wolmar actually suggested that a fare increase of 3% would diminish the business case for HS2!
    How can a huge piece of infrastructure which might last 100 years be cancelled because of some arbitrary system of fixing the fares? If by some miracle our Govt. adopted the continental methods of paying for railways (ie bigger subsidies) so that our fares actually went down, would that improve the business case for HS2?

    So lets have a few facts and figures about the alternatives , together with estimates of the disruption and costs of land grab etc. invoved in ‘ironing out the bottlenecks’ so that those of us who support HS2 can examine the costs of the proposals by people like Stokes and Wolmar.

  • David Reed

    I am going to attempt to answer the 13 points against HS2 which Christian makes in his address to the Chiltern Society. This is not easy to do as there is very little of substance in Christian’s address, it is mostly assertion. This is not a non dinner- party personal attack, Christian, I just happen to think it is a fair criticism, and it grieves me that this is so

    Since I am answering 13 points, this is rather long, for which apologies

    Demand

    The whole basis of Christian’s case is that he is sceptical of the predicted growth in demand – even though he agrees it has happened over the last few years and is still happening. According to him, the predicted “heroic” growth, a projection of recent experience, will not occur. But he offers not the slightest evidence for this view. With a rising population and continued growth in the economy, why should existing growth patterns not continue? – no answer from Christian! – presumably because it does not suit his case

    The scientific method demands that you try your hardest to disprove your explanation of phenomena before publishing your case. But Christian makes no attempt to examine what would happen if he is wrong – essentially, my scenario 3, with a grossly overcrowded railway, fares increased to deter demand (not fanciful, this has happened several times in my lifetime), people pushed back into planes and cars because the reservation-only railway is such a hassle, with resultant pressure for more motorways and runways. None of this seems the least bit unlikely to me, indeed it is already happening.

    Imagine if the Government had said the rising tides are not likely to continue, so we won’t build the Thames barrier? Christian’s case seems to be similar to a climate change sceptic – if we do nothing, it will probably be OK

    Voodoo economics

    What he calls voodoo economics has been used to justify all our motorways. His aside about Milton Keynes (“I have found a big hole in the business case” he says with some excitement) seems totally understandable and inconsequential to me.

    Christian admits that if he supported HS2., he would be quoting figures to justify the line. This is as much as saying he is drumming up scepticism about the figures to justify a position he already held. But it is certainly true they the figures should be subjected to the most testing examination before we proceed

    Capacity

    Let’s assume Christian is wrong about demand tailing off. He offers no realistic alternative to provide the capacity needed – just a mumbled reference to expanding Pendolinos and “lots of other things” What is so selective and dishonest is that he nowhere admits to his audience that other ways of improving capacity would be hugely disruptive, probably more expensive, and in the end inadequate – the WCML upgrade all over again

    Modal shift

    “Nobody flies to Birmingham or Leeds, and it will be years before the service gets to Scotland” So what? It will get there eventually and then there will be modal shift on a large scale. More importantly, what we need to take seriously is “reverse modal shift” ie people returning to planes and motorways because the rail sevice is so expensive and full

    Carbon

    Christian says the carbon case is weak. I am not sure of my facts here – isn’t the published carbon case only for the line to Birmingham, where admittedly there will little modal shift?

    Ticket costs

    “The treasury will try to grab the cost back by insisting on high fares”. Again just an assertion. There is no reason why today’s range of cheap advance fares would not be offered, since they are commercially effective. Peak fares for business travel will undoubtedly be expensive, as they are today, but the platforms are full of business travellers prepared to pay them

    Regeneration

    “This could work in reverse, sucking prosperity from the North to the South” Most experts agree that transport improvements bring growth to the area – just look at Nigel Harris’s comments in the current Rail about the growth already stimulated by HS1. In the unlikely event that Christian’s prediction did prove correct, there is a variety of ways through grants and taxes for the government to stimulate demand in the provinces, all which are much more palatable and do-able if the transport links have been dramatically improved. (The BBC staff would not be making such a fuss about their relocation to Manchester if it were only an hour “back home”!)

    TGV for GB

    “The existing services are good”. True, and we want to keep them that way, which we won’t if they are hopelessly overcrowded.

    “Britain n is totally different from France/ Germany/ Italy, nothing happens north of Manchester/ Leeds”. Even the Chiltern Society audience was aghast at this ignorant and outrageous comment. A lot “happens” in Tyneside, Teesside and Glasgow/ Edinburgh, which are a similar distance to London as Paris to Lyon or Marseille. Are we really saying that a virtual halving of the journey time from Manchester to London is not meaningful in transport terms? And how is UK different from Brussels/ the Netherlands who are also busy building High Speed? The 80 minute journey to Birmingham or 2 hours to Liverpool which he praises are available to him because of yesterday’s investment in the railway. In 30 years time, Christian’s replacement could be praising his 80 minute journey to Liverpool

    Road Pricing.

    Christian seems the think that the failure to introduce road pricing will undermine HS2. Surely the huge journey time advantage of HS2 will be sufficient to attract all but the most determined motorists? In any event, by the end of 20 years we may well have road pricing, it is such a no-brainer

    Lower investment on classic rail

    This is Christian’s one good point. This is what he should be directing his fire power to prevent

    Travel Growth

    “We are wrong to stimulate travel growth” This seems to me a very patronising thing to say, similar to Wordworth’s and Ruskin’s opposition to a railway into the Lakes. If people want to travel, why shouldn’t they, provided they meet the production and environmental cost? If we don’t regard travel as a good, we should never have moved beyond the stage coach. Better to meet people’s natural demand for travel by low carbon rail rather then coping with it by car or plane when, as Christian says, oil is running out

    Cost

    “We shouldn’t be doing this when we are supposed to be tightening our belts” But as Christian points out, no major expenditure will occur until 2015, when Crossrail is completed and paid for. The purpose of HS2 is to grow our economy and taxes will flow back to the Treasury from individuals (increased employment) and companies

    A Grand Scheme

    Christian is at a loss to understand why the Government is doing this but suggests it is a “Grand Projet”, an exercise in national vanity, although even he is not convinced of his own argument

    Is it just possible, Christian, that a Secretary of State who came to power promising to end “the war on the motorist” has looked at the figures and genuinely believes this is a necessary project that will confer great benefit on our national life? As I have said before, Tories do don’t do vanity on railways, particularly when the line goes through some of their most treasured areas

    So folks, there’s my reaction to Christian’s talk. Any chance of the Chiltern Society asking me along do you think?!

  • @David Reed:

    I agree with most of your points, but I do have some issues with a few of them…

    The “Carbon Footprint” issue is a purely political scam intended to raise more tax revenues for governments. Carbon is one of the lesser contributors to the Greenhouse Effect: by far the most powerful of those is… water vapour, followed by methane, but nobody’s trying to ban clouds or flatulence. There is no compelling scientific evidence that carbon trading and emissions controls will have much, if any, global effect in the quantities we’re talking about.

    Contrary to popular belief, there is no international “consensus” among scientists on this subject. That the Earth’s climate changes has never been in any doubt; any geologist, palaeontologist, historian or archeologist will give you chapter and verse on the subject. But the danger is statistical, not predictable. It’s in the same league as humanity being wiped out by a really big asteroid striking the Earth, and about as likely. (Christian may well remember the similar hysteria over the “Population Bomb” theory promoted by Ehrlich in the late ’60s.)

    The media tends only to report on the worst of all worst-case scenarios, for much the same reasons that Hollywood loves to crank out disaster movies: both are in the business of entertainment, and bad stuff happening to other people sells. The news media in particular *requires* bogeymen to keep its ratings up.

    *

    “Cost”.

    I’ve touched on this before: HS2’s costs are truly insane compared to the price of building similar infrastructure elsewhere. It’s *five times* more expensive than the entire Gotthard Base Tunnel project in Switzerland! That HS2’s price tag is too high is, therefore, a perfectly valid point, in my view.

    However, the high cost is *not* attributable to HS2 itself. A December 2009 report into HS2’s risks and costs, produced by the DfT, makes it painfully clear that this is a systemic and political problem, not an engineering one: too much prescription by the Health & Safety people, coupled with a culture of middlemen and subcontractors in the UK’s construction industry—the latter most likely a symptom of overcomplicated taxation. (The report is here: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/highspeedrail/hs2ltd/riskmodel/pdf/report.pdf

    (The interesting stuff is around page 13, where the DfT uses other, similar, projects to provide benchmarks.)

    *

    “A Grand Scheme”

    There is some truth to this. Politicians love to be able to claim credit for stuff they’ve had little, if anything, to do with. (Look at Boris Johnson’s endless credit-stealing of Livingston’s own policies for some truly brazen examples.) Nevertheless, there’s a lot more political kudos to claiming some connection with a flagship project like this than with, say, a local railway re-doubling scheme.

    *

    “Travel Growth”

    The UK has moved from an economy with a wide spread of primary, secondary and tertiary industries, towards an economy heavily skewed in favour of tertiary industry alone. Very few factories and mines, versus lots and lots of insurance and banking. We already had the last two before the heavy industry came along, but one thing office-based work lends itself to is teleworking.

    Given the price of building anything in the UK, I think it would have been more logical—from a purely financial perspective—to announce a nationwide rollout of fiberoptic broadband to each and every home in the United Kingdom. (And I don’t just mean the cities, either. Either it’s truly universal, or it’s not worth doing. And it needs to be synchronous, not asynchronous: you need to be able to send data at the same speed as you receive it. ADSL—by definition; the “A” stands for “Asymmetric”—cannot offer this.)

    A truly world-class communications infrastructure would make it much trivial to reduce commuting by encouraging teleworking practices instead. People could live anywhere they chose, and work from home, say, 2-3 days a week, dramatically reducing the demand on both road and rail.

    But HS2 is for inter-city travel, which is of primary importance to white collar, rather than blue collar, employees. If anything is going to suffer from the arrival of decent, universal, broadband, it’ll be the classic rail network. HS2 is quite likely to last the full 100 years, but the WCML and ECML might not!

    I can’t recall reading anything by Christian on this subject. Rail was a disruptive technology that effectively wiped out the horse as a standard mode of travel—a mode that had been in use for millennia. There is no reason to assume something else might not also, in its turn, wipe out the traditional railway.

  • Correction: “synchronous” and “asynchronous” in the above post should be “symmetric” and “asymmetric”.

    (How I’d kill for an “edit” button!)

  • Richard

    @Peter Davidson:

    Care to point out what scare stories and incorrectness

    The statistics come from Dft sources backed up by reference on other DECC doccuments about energy use in the future
    HS2 not shifting consumer goods to transport by rail comes from Dft figures for those Motorway widening projects allready started
    The railway growth figures come from the latest Network Rail consultation document
    A lot of the economic benefit comes from people not working on their laptop on the train which just isn’t the case
    The Northern way information comes from their own pulications
    The service levels for Birmingham central come from HS2’s own technical appendix
    The probable economic disbenefit to Birmingham comes from the experience of suffering the disruption when Network Rail closed Saltley viaduct for 13 weeks

  • David Reed

    Just a small point. Christian makes the point in his presentation that the business case was positive for a stop at Milton Keynes but then it was said that the trains will already be full – and this shows just how malleable the figures are.

    Perhaps I have got this wrong, but I didn’t think the proposed alignment went anywhere near Milton Keynes. Can anyone enlighten me?

  • Philip Wootton

    As you know I share your views about HS2 – for gut reasons rather than knowledge and expertise about transport issues!

    I note you say that if it were to be built the Chiltern route is the one. I note that the CPRE report, which seemed pretty balanced to me, said that the current route was based on a maximum design speed of 400 kph. They suggest that if this were dropped to 350, a typical speed for existing HSRs, this would give much greater route flexibility because the curves could be steeper and it could follow the M1, for instance. Because of the relatively short distances in the UK this speed change would make little difference to journey times.

    Another confusion to me is the vast range of figures quoted for the cost of HS2. Every article seems to have a different number ranging from £12bn to £36bn. Obviously these relate to different distances and what costs are included. Is there a ‘Janet and John’ guide? I also assume the route changes, deeper cuttings, roofing in etc don’t come for fr

  • Chris Stokes

    A brief response to Mr. Weinberg’s comments

    I do believe there is going to be further growth in long distance rail use in Britain, and as a career railwayman I’m delighted this is happening. But I don’t believe HS2’s forecasts of 267% growth are realistic. If growth is, say, half that level, we would still see use of the West Coast corridor more than doubling, but there would be no economic or business case for HS2. Rail already has a high mode share of long distance travel to central London, and there is evidence of demand saturation on Eurostar and on the Shinkansen network in Japan, so doubling WCML demand would be a pretty ambitious forecast itself.

    Also, action can be taken to significantly improve West Coast Main Line capacity before building a new route. Firstly, train lengthening: this is already committed, and the two extra vehicles on some but not all Pendolinos will increase standard clease seats by 50% (By the way, it’s quite extraordinary that DfT doesn’t believe there is a case to lengthen all the existing trains but it’s OK to spend £30bn on a new railway!). Secondly, targetted investment to increase route capacity – work on this has been done on this for DfT. Among the mountain of stuff published by HS2/DfT last year is an evaluation of “Rail package 2” which sets out how capacity could be increased on the existing route at much less cost, much more quickly and with a much higher benefit cost ratio. HS2 should be compared with this, not “do nothing” as in the published business case

  • JG

    “Dft doesn’t believe there is a case to lengthen all the existing trains but it’s OK to spend £30bn on a new railway!” The best point made yet.
    In other words the process is so long and drawn out with years and years passing before a sod is turned that govt will have changed and the process will start again etc. that the civil servants don’t actually think it will happen.
    When we could have been steadily improving and expanding the existing infrastructure.
    With a bit of tweaking and say 140mph over some of the WCML consistent 3hr 45min Glasgow to London should be possible surely?
    Air travel is such a god awful experience now I very much doubt that anybody on an ordinary budget could better that by air – ie bus to Glasgow airport not taxi and underground to London not Heathrow express.
    I would rather have consistent availabilty of say £30 singles to London at reasonable advance periods than 30 or even 45min off the journey time at double the price.

  • Michael Weinberg

    Surely HS2 is not only about relieving capacity on WCML but on all N/S lines.

    I can tell you lengthening Pendolinos will not improve the service from Milton Keynes either north or south especially if Virgin hang on to their franchise!.

    Also another 30 years of the ghastly Pendolinos is not an attractive proposition and hopefully a Hi-speed line would enable proper trains to be provided with proper seats, proper catering, room for luggage etc. and a decent stress free ride.

    We keep hearing about ‘tweaking’ the WCML for 140mph and other delights including cut-offs and new junctions etc, but no business case for approval of these things.
    Being ‘a career railwayman’ I admire Mr. Stokes for staying the course, but I feel he is wedded to old routes and old services.

    We are part of Europe and Europe is developing a whole network of HSL’s and we should/must be part of it.

    Also there are a great number of other services which could run on WCML if it wasn’t full up already! We’re seeing evidence of this now as the new timetable is developed.

    I’m afraid Britain’s railways are held back by career railwaymen who are comfortable with the pattern of services which have been present for 100 years.

    The huge cities in the North which largely created the pattern of service in the past are being matched today by developing areas in the south and west.
    I see no evidence of the railways adapting to this trend.

    Incidentally vis a vis pendolinos, many people would rather spend one hour on an uncomfortable plane than three and three quarter hours on an uncomfortable train!

  • Richard

    @Philip Wootton:
    As far as I know there is no room left to put anything more through Watford Gap

  • Chris Stokes

    I’m “wedded” to developing the rail network on a cost effective basis, not supporting vanity projects for which our children will pay!

  • RapidAssistant

    Well said JG – contrast two situations; I am going to London in March. For this trip I’m £13.00 each way Dundee to KX, (travelling on a Thursday afternoon, back Sat morning) – that is on East Coast. Virgin on Glasgow-Euston on the exact same dates no cheaper than £49 for each leg, so say £100 return for two advance tickets with no flexibility whatsoever….this highlights two things:

    A – as you say what’s the point of advance fares when a semi-flexible off-peak return is only an extra tenner or so – I say ditch all the promises of crazily low prices that no-one seems to be able to find (a la Ryanair) and lets just have a moderately decent fare that is available most of the time. This example is an insult given that there is now a higher frequency on the WCML to boot!

    B –East Coast is state owned (admittedly NXEC were discounting themselves into oblivion to get bums on seats before their demise), whilst Virgin is now having to pay its way. The rub is, how can you really compare them as standalone, independent businesses? You can’t, yet supporters of the franchising system would quote the above example as evidence of “competition working”.

  • Peter Hooper

    @ Chris Stokes

    ” I’m wedded to developing the rail network on a cost effective basis, not supporting vanity projects for which our children will pay!

    Air Passenger Duty (APD) is expected to raise £3.8 Billion / year after the recent rises. Personally I cannot see anything wrong on using £2 Billion per year for 15+ years to build HS2; particularly if its aim is to effect modal shift from car and plane to train.

    I just wish that APD or a replacement per plane tax was hypothecated for funding long term electric rail projects, and not squandered on short term welfare payments.

  • Michael Weinberg

    Chris Stokes:-

    I’m “wedded” to developing the rail network on a cost effective basis, not supporting vanity projects for which our children will pay!

    Definition of ‘Vanity projects’?

    Any project I dont agree with!

  • Dan

    Have there not been showdowns in the chilterns before (Cubington – London 3rd airport – early 1970s – Roskill Commission Report – I found some details on Wikipedia)? Not strictly relevant but shows the chiltern residents were able to kill off a project.

    I’m not sure that the scheme had merits, unlike HS2 which IMHO very much does.

    HS2 for me is not about speeded up journey to London – it’s about some modal shift (if fares are cheap enough but I doubt they will be), and about extra capacity on other routes. The speeded up journeyes are not London Brum, they are Brum – Paris – and this is also where the shift from air can come. Then of course they are London – North / Scotland shifts when the line is extended. For people in the chilterns that HS direct to Paris option will be attractive, via their park and ride stations.

  • David Reed

    Hi Christian,

    Thanks for your article in Rail and for dealing so well with my “three scenarios”. Although I don’t agree with you,you make a number of fair points and the only thing I would comment on in detail is your contention that “there will be no impact on domestic air travel since HS2 does not cover any busy routes” Totally untrue! The total air markets from Edinburgh/ Glasgow/ Tyneside to the south are huge and even if served only by trains running over classic lines (at 140mph?), after leaving HS2, the reduction in journey time of about an hour would have a marked impact on modal choice. When HS2 is eventually extended to Glasgow/ Edinburgh ( and I think Scottish pressure might make this inevitable, irrespective of the business case) then a journey time of 2 hours 40 mins would make domestic air as irrelevant as it is today between Manchester and London. And don’t forget my “reverse shift” point. If rail becomes desperately overcrowded, there will undoubtedly be movement back to domestic air from places like Manchester and Leeds

    Dan has a good point about travel Birmigham to Paris, but his assumption of park and ride stations in the Chilterns is I think mistaken? Now if there was such a facility, then perhaps we would be seeing less opposition from there. At the moment, the Chilterns get all the disadvantages with no plus side. (Perhaps the Govt has this concession up its sleeve, . the “Haute Picardie” manoeuvre ?)

    Christian – Leaving aside everything about the business case, it is simply going to be such a shame if we cannot eventually look forward to a journey time of, eg, 1 hour 10 mins from Manchester or Leeds to London. Whatever your view on the cost benefit ratios, it is undoubtedly true that we spend billions on much less worthwhile projects. I believe HS2 would be such a success that other cities would be served next. HS2 would make a huge difference to our national life, and I wish our LTC would root for it.

  • Rhydgaled

    @David Reed: I’m not sure what the WCML is like, but I doubt the classic compatible HS2 trains (which won’t be able to tilt) would be any faster once they get off the new HighSpeed line than the class 90 and mrk3 combos Virgin’s tilting trains replaced.

    As I said above, not going to Leeds and getting as far north as possible instead (perhaps replacing the WCML north of Preston with a new 140mph route rather a building a parralel HighSpeed line) would be important, This would give HS2 the oppitunity to take out domestic aviation, as you say. However the amount of traffic abstracted by a train as power hungy as HS2’s 250mph trains from the current railways and even cars means there is very little enviromental advantage, and could actually increase CO2 emmisions significantly. Therefore I would also want to build several medium-sized hydro-electric power plants to power the line. The cost of all of this would wreck all the government’s efforts to clear the national debt. I can’t fault the capacity argument for HS2, or the impact it would have on domestic aviation (which is not applicable until the line reaches at least Manchester) but for the reasons outlined I cannot support HighSpeed 2 at present.

  • Chris Packham

    There’s no doubt that HS2 would greatly improve the core intercity rail network, but it will gobble up money that would be better invested in a range of smaller transport projects based on making most people’s routine journeys easier (and don’t believe that we can afford both), and is based on questionable (at best), fanciful (at worst) estimates about future travel demand and habits. Currently trains from London to Birmingham take an hour to cover 93 miles to Coventry and a further 25 minutes on the following 19 miles to Birmingham, so 30% of the journey is on 17% of the distance. Four tracking into Birmingham would get London-Birmingham down to around 1hr15, and what benefit would anything faster really be? And there’d be more capacity for regional and cross country trains.
    There’s a large London-Scotland air market to be captured with HSR, but it may be exaggerated. Even with HSR air will still be very competitive for journeys from Scotland to outer London and the wider south east, which must be a major part of the market. There seems to be a relatively easy and cheap way of speeding up the east coast main line. In Northumberland it’s curvy and has many level crossings, so why not build a new line here? I’ve found no evidence that this has ever been considered, so there may be some reason it wouldn’t work, but it would be nice to know. A mix of by- passes and cutoffs may be a more pragmatic way of achieving air-competitive London-northern England and Scotland rail speeds, and these improvements could be used by cross country trains. People from the Solent to Cardigan Bay would love to get to the north faster, as well as Londoners.
    Would the economic benefits of HS2 be so great, and more importantly, will they benefit London and the south east more than the regions? The road lobby exaggerates the economic benefits of good roads. If you believed them, places like Walsall, Rotherham and Wigan would be booming, and Norwich, Exeter and Salisbury would be depressed. High Speed rail advocates are in danger of similar hyperbole. Coventry and Stoke now have very fast and frequent trains to London, but have they significantly improved their economies? It may be too soon to judge, but is worth considering in this debate.
    Finally, extra capacity: the best reason for HS2 but first let’s fill 11 car pendolinos and convert 2 of their first class coaches to standard.

  • Michael Weinberg

    “Four tracking into Birmingham would get London-Birmingham down to around 1hr15.”

    “There seems to be a relatively easy and cheap way of speeding up the east coast main line. In Northumberland it’s curvy and has many level crossings, so why not build a new line here?”

    “A mix of by- passes and cutoffs may be a more pragmatic way of achieving air-competitive London-northern England and Scotland rail speeds, Northumberland it’s curvy and has many level crossings, so why not build a new line here?”

    Quotes above show exactly why HS2 should be built.

    Without it there will be a plethora of schemes designed to do badly what HS2 will do well.
    What would be the cost of carrying out just those three schemes mentioned above?

    People who suggest them, and Wolmar’s effort in the latest ‘Rail’ shows he’s completely lost the plot with not only four, but SIX tracking being suggested.

    Lets have some business cases for these madcap schemes.
    The naysayers always mention the cost of HS2 but never tell us what their supposed alternatives would cost.

    Come on CW, give us the beef!

  • Dan

    Actually – real modal shift would be ‘HS Motorail!’ Put your car on board and then go at 185mph in your car – then have the car at the other end. A winner.

    Sounds crazy I know, and probably engineering challenges (by the hundred…) – but I tell you that would really have a business case if the price was right! Could even make electric cars viable.

    OK I’m ranging into sci fi but….

  • Rhydgaled

    @Dan: HS Motorail, hmm. 185mph trains on our currently electricity mix might actually produce more emmisions than the sum total of all the cars removed from the roads. I do however think the disapearance of motorail trains on classic lines is very strange, and restoring them might be a helpful element of a wider programe of reducing transport carbon if speeds are kept at no more than 110mph (though this is a wild guess). If you aren’t putting pepole’s cars on the train as well as the pepole you get a greater number of pepole on each train, meaning that you can do a maximum of around about 140mph before the emmisions from all the cars taken off the road are not significantly less than the emmisions caused by the trains.

    Speed wise for INTERCITY trains, I think 140mph upgrades to present lines, roughly paralelling the motorway network, could be a useful system. As for HighSpeed 2, if the requisit renewable electricity generation is put in place to make HSR the enviromentaly friendly mode it initally appears to be then perhaps it would be cheaper to run the route up the flatter east side of the country then cross over to Manchester. Birmigham would be left out, but perhaps the removal of Manchester services from the WCML will free sufficient capacity. Doing it this way would also reduce the length of the Leeds spur and perhaps allow greater capacity releif on the ECML.

    The GWML electrification programe is in danger of having it’s scope reduced. This scheme would almost certainly provide greater emmisions reductions yet HS2 is going ahead. I’m not sure if HS2s funding could be used to implement the full GWML scheme because HS2s expenditure is slightly further down-the-line so to speak. If however cutting HS2 would help schemes like GWML electrification this is yet another reason why if I could think of any prefrable alternative to the capcity problems HS2 is needed to solve I would submit this to the government’s upcoming consultation and abandon my route designing.

    I also think it is idiotic that more of the Great Central line is not being used in the proposed HS2 route to Birmigham. If they reduced the scope of their speed to 202mph (325kph, allowing the new trains to take the brand name INTERCITY 325) then it would appear to me that the GC route was built for this purpose, just many years early. With a few divertions round towns that have blocked the orriginal route I have found no curve with a radius significantly tighter than that which would allow 200mph (I’m not sure if being close to another curve of a similar radius in the other direction would reduce this linespeed though). 200mph rather than 250mph would also reduce power consumption, for little impact on journey times. Of course while I would design timetables assuming a max speed of at 202mph and brand the trains accordingly there is no reason why the stock couldn’t be built to be capable of higher speeds which could be used on the straights to make up time if the service is delayed. (I think this is what the Javelin units on HS1 do, running at 125mph normally but being permitted to hit 140mph if running late – I’d be interested to know if this is correct).

  • Dan

    Using the GC route would be to admit that it should not have been cloed – Sir Humphrey would not want to do that – even if it meant placing the blame on Sir Humphrey’s Grandfather it was now so long ago!

  • Rhydgaled

    @Dan: Even if it hadn’t closed, I expect they’d need to close it and rip up and replace all the track to ensure the ride is smooth enough at 202mph. So they mgiht be able to claim that closing it was the right option at the time.

  • Peter Hooper

    In terms of HSR energy usage, I think Hammond made an interesting point in saying that the new HS2 trainsets would not be ordered for 10 years, whilst people kept talking about the energy efficiency of Eurostar trainsets that are already 20 years old.

    It’s the same with existing UK electricity generation which we all know produces huge quantities of CO2; however 10 – 20 years down the line the on-going process of decarbonisation will massively reduce the problem.

    Various press reports state that over Christmas windmills were operating at under 2% efficiency – due to calm weather combined with freezing temperatures.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/8234616/Wind-farms-becalmed-just-when-needed-the-most.html
    When will people wake up to the fact that renewables cannot keep the trains running, and what is needed is lots of low CO2 nuclear power?

  • Peter Hooper

    I see there is a Stop HS2 Convention planned at Stoneleigh Park on the 19th February, with a stated objective of co-ordinating the opposition to HS2.

    http://stophs2.org/convention

    The opening speaker at this event – is none other than …… CW !!

    http://stophs2.org/news/1020-stop-hs2-launches-national-convention-hs2

  • David East

    Hi Christian

    The line will affect a lot of influential people who are conducting an effective PR campaign. I suspect many of them commute on the M40 and.although that created a stink over Otmoor, I don’t remember such a vociferous campaign in the Chilterns. These people have got good road and rail links to London, which is where they work, and wish to keep the status quo. Good for them.

    The expected downturn in rail use hasn’t happened so far. Had the WCML modernisation not been such a financial disaster, we would, I’m sure, see much ‘plastering of the old lines’, as Watkin put it, but I can’t see any Government allowing NR to make the same mess of it again. Maintenance is the best that they can hope to do for the foreseeable future.

    Then there’s the third runway – or the fourth or even the fifth. Flattening the local equivalent of Sipson, Staines or anywhere else is a possibility if it’ll generate jobs in the North or the Midlands, but Heathrow’s too ‘local’ and the publicity would be damaging. So why not expand Birmingham? Our civic leaders have welcomed the employment possibilities, and the add-on advantages that you see around any airport hub. Trashing that part of Warwickshire is a price that the locals will be pleased to pay, and, even in leafy Sutton Coldfield, I might notice a little noise (but I won’t protest – honest).

    So I see HS2 in that context. Once it’s got to Birmingham, it makes sense to extend it into the city centre and further north (I see that as a very optional bolt-on). And in terms of expansion, what can you realistically expect of any area outside the M25? London’s the national hub, and all other areas must relate to it or die. The quicker (and faster) the better.

    Best wishes

    David

  • David Reed

    I think it is appalling that someone who claims to be an advocate for ralways would provide the opening address at an event designed to coordinate oppsition to HS2. You have your views, and many disagree with them, but the decent thing to do would be to stay agnostic when your own evidence is so flimsy, as your Rail article demonstrates. What a kick in the teeth for the govenment when they are finally doing what we have requested for years, ie believe in the railway.

    It is so dishonest to talk of quadrupling or even sextupling but never facing up to the huge cost and disruption such a policy would cause

    In Rail, you predict what you believe will happen in 2030. I believe you are completely wrong.. The line won’t be cancelled, it will be built, it will be extremey popular and almost everyone will say it is a magnificent avievement., “how did we do without it?”. The huge popularity of high speed rail will lead to other links (eg to Bristol and beyond) , a resurgence in the popularity of rail generally and the related investment

    Just stop and think for a moment. Can you really believe that in 20 years time, when Europe will be covered by a vast nework of high speed lines,, that we in Britain will be the only major country in Europe still struggling on with an overcrowded and slow railway. It is unthinkable. No government could afford to put us in this indefensible position

    You are as wrong as the people who said the channel tunnel would never be built

    For heavens sake do the decent thing and cancel your appearance.The nimbys in the Chiterns must be beside themselves with joy that they have netted you

  • John Dixon

    Hi Mr Wolmar. We have not met , but I’ve read a lot of your published work starting with “The Subterranean Railway”, which I found totally fascinating. From 1974 until 1987 I worked in Inner London and used the “Underground” most working days. One particularly bad journey was rush hour trips from Liverpool Steet to Holburn- a crushed,… sweaty, unpleasant few minutes. When I visit London now, I’m impressed by the significant improvements to public transport system over the last 20 odd years. The “Underground” is cleaner, there is more info. available to the traveller and the buses are amazing; so frequent and so cheap compared to my home town of Newcastle upon Tyne.
    This message was prompted by reading that you are to speak at a meeting about the so called HS2, I hope thats the right title. This seems to me a crass waste of money and a potentially horrible mutilation of some of our best countryside. Why not upgrade what’s already there?

    Best Wishes
    John Dixon

  • Dan

    John – I don’t think you can have read many of the posts above that answer your question (even if you were to disagree). Upgrading what is there really does not work very well – and youer own post part gives that away re London. DLR, Jubilee Line Extension etc are not upgrades of what was already there – and the upgraded other lines are not exactly transformational are they – and don’t forget the massive costs that imposed, the failed PPP which was uspposed to fund it and all the money wasted on that…meanwhile the cheap buses are subsidised – and that has nowt to do with upgrades or costs.

  • David Reed

    John

    It would be great to upgrade what is already there, except that it is hugely disruptive and probably costs even more to do so, and leaves us with an inferior product

    As someone who loves the English countryside, I agree that it sad that the Chilterns hve to be despoiled ( as they were by the M40 of course, and nothing like as much opposition), and I wish we could investigate whether another less damaging alignment were possible. If HS2 were built alongside the M40 or the M1,at least all the damage would be in one place

  • RapidAssistant

    John – Suppose say you don’t build HS2 and choose to upgrade the WCML instead – how exactly would you do it? As CW has said, do you have quintuple (or even sextuple) tracks from Rugby to Euston (totally impractical probably), and/or quadruple tracks on the the Birmingham-Rugby section?? You are probably going to be ripping up just as much picturesque countryside and probably displacing as many people from their homes as you would building HS2. It’s just that you aren’t doing on the front garden of the people living in the Chilterns…..

    Other alternatives – will the Holy Grail of a moving block signalling system finally become viable on the WCML to allow what was foolishly promised 14 years ago- i.e. closer spacing of services and 140mph running? Maybe – although it would be a hell of a waste of money to rip all the new kit out that was installed as part of the modernisation that would be nowhere near life expired. And that is before you get to the collateral damage done to the service pattern whilst you are doing the works. It becomes the law of diminishing return I’m afraid.

    Sorry but I agree with Dan and David in that on-line upgrades of anything always results in a compromise. That is not to say that there can’t be improvements such as lengthening of trains to provide more capacity to both reduce overcrowding at rush hour and get some sensibility into the fares system to attract people back onto the existing railway.

  • David

    Four tracking on the Birmingham – Rugby section wouldn’t automatically displace people from their homes.

    Look how SNCB four-tracked the route between Brussels and Leuven when constructing the high speed line to Liege and the German border, and are currently doing (so I believe) on the line south to Namur and Luxembourg; moreover, I traveled through these works on the train in both 2008 and 2009. No bustitution there!

    Total route modernisation shouldn’t be discounted just because the works carried out on the WCML were a shambles; other countries can do it, and remember that the ECML route electrification was completed early, within budget, and without complaints about bustitution.

    We just seem to have forgotten how to plan and manage major railway projects effectively.

  • Rhydgaled

    “What a kick in the teeth for the govenment when they are finally doing what we have requested for years, ie believe in the railway.”

    One problem is that they aren’t believing in the existing railway, they are in danger of neglecting the classic network (which in places despratly needs huge work to reverse Beeching’s cuts) in favor of a much more energy intensive mode of travel. As others have said here “Total route modernisation shouldn’t be discounted just because the works carried out on the WCML were a shambles; other countries can do it, and remember that the ECML route electrification was completed early, within budget, and without complaints about bustitution.” although there isn’t always room to add additional tracks alongside the existing ones there’s alot that still can be done (such as electrification.)

    “When will people wake up to the fact that renewables cannot keep the trains running, and what is needed is lots of low CO2 nuclear power?”

    Nuclear power is non-rewnewable (ie. we will eventually run out of fuel, just like we will eventually run out of coal or oil). Also, what would you do with all the nuclear waste? Unless some bright spark invents a nuclear power station which can keep using the fuel until so much of it’s radioactivity is used up that it can harmlessly be dumped anywhere out of sight it is not a particularly sensible solution (though in the shorter term it may be the only way of saving the climate). Renewables aren’t necessarily unrealiable, it’s just at the moment we’re using the wrong one (wind). Wind has it’s place, 10-15% of our electricity probablly could and should be generated in such a way (mostly by expanding existing windfarms, particularlly off-shore ones) but we need a more reliable backbone rewnewable providing about 50-70% of our electricity (with the remainder being carbon capture gas/coal or nuclear until that 50-70% can be rasied). Hydro would be good, as would tidal stream (no barages to wipe out fish stocks or drown important wildlife habitats) and possibly some wave power.

  • Peter Hooper

    @Rhydgaled

    The renewables electric supply is being driven by Feed-in tariffs of up to 43.2p unit for 25 years; this compares with the current free market cost to consumers of about 12p.

    If you want to see an independent report in to the comparative costs of different types of electricity generation, I would suggest you start with this:-

    http://www.raeng.org.uk/news/publications/list/reports/Cost_Generation_Commentary.pdf

    Also the government’s HS2 proposal is for a modern HSR line, designed to the latest standards and capable of eliminating most domestic air flights; to upgrade the classic rail network to a similar standard would be far more expensive.

    The cost of HS2 at £2Billion a year for 15 years should be put into context, as we anually give away foreign aid totalling £10Billion per year to countries like India and Parkistan who are both nuclear powers; a few years ago the both exploded 5 atom bombs each in a single year.

  • RapidAssistant

    Just read the DFT’s report on the new WCML franchise….go have a look on their website.

    Interesting that they take the completion of HS2 by 2026 as a given. Optimistic or what?

  • Rich

    CW – “I have, though, no sympathy for his Nimby opponents either. If the line were really needed, then it is the route through the Chilterns that it would have to take. But where were all these opponents when the motorway network’s tentacles spread across Britain?”

    Good question. You’ll get the chance to ask them at their convention. Do let us know the results won’t you?

  • Miles Taylor

    Look at the question this way. Given that more capacity is needed what is the point of it not being 200 mph capable? By time you’ve got a right of way, trackbed, track, power supply, settled the lawyers bills, rolling stock, etc etc. How much is the extra cost of making the line 200 mph capable over 120 mph?

    Furthermore it isn’t pie-in-the-sky to put MAGLEV into the frame as a solution. It gets more plausible with each day. OK, granted, it has a long road to travel but it is an available option now. Energy use, noise pollution, speed, service frequency, all look very good.

    Perhaps we should get a ouija board and a medium who can contact I.K.Brunel…

  • David Reed

    Miles Taylor
    200 mph is cheaper than 125 mph because the incremental construction cost is easily exeeded by the operational savings of less rolling stock and staff for any given level of service. When the French built the first Tgv line because capacity on the classic line was inadequate, they built for 186 mph as being the cheapest full life option

  • Richard

    @David:

    Four tracking into Birmingham along the Coventry corridor would require land (and probably property) take all the way in from Marston Green not to mention a extreme remodelling at all the intermediate stations and also not forgetting the steepish cuttings from Adderley Park

  • RapidAssistant

    Yes Richard – then how would you get around the problem of Rugby junction which already has had an expensive makeover to get rid of the pinch-point they’d created by upping the line speed and four tracking the Trent Valley line….you’d probably have to remodel it again at massive cost…..

    As I said above in #86 – trying to ‘widen’ the WCML anymore is the law of diminishing return, and to be honest I think the southern half is as optimised now as it ever will be. There are probably more arguments for ploughing more money into the Lake District and Scottish sections to get Glasgow-Euston journey times down below the magic 4 hour mark.

  • Richard

    @RapidAssistant:
    The possible alternative that is being considered (primarily as an alternative to “Thunderbirds”) is to electify Nuneaton – Birmingham, but then Water Orton corridor stands the chance of being full / totally disrupted (take your pick) by the HS2 chords.

    The biggest problem with providing any more capacity is getting the train from a suitable London terminus out beyond the ring of property without extreme disruption or mass demolition

  • David Reed

    Interesting that in the current edition of Rail the Editor, strongly pro HS2, reminds us that CW predicted that Crossrail would never be built. Now he is saying the same about HS2. Will CW be embarassed to be wrong twice?

    I guess that CW probably said the Channel Tunnel would not be built either. Would you care to confirm or deny this, Christian?

    My own feeling is that if CW had been alive at the birth of the railways he so wonderfully describes in his many books, he would be leading the opposition to more railway lines. He is nostalgic for the old dirty and slow Orient Express, displaced by that newcomer TGE Est. Truly, today’s development is tomorrow’s nostalgia!

  • Chris Packham

    There are three issues about HS2 which its supporters here haven’t answered adequately:
    1. Should HS2 have priority over other schemes if funding is tight? The Birmingham Post this week reports that the reopening of local stations and new services in Birmingham could be delayed until 2024. Growth in rail travel on regional services into cities is greater than long distance intercity travel and better regional services give people choices about commuting, whether to buy a second car, and generally make a difference to many people’s daily lives whereas HS2 improves the journeys some of us make a few times a year and most people hardly ever.
    2. Can many of HS2’s objectives be achieved with smaller, cheaper schemes? To achieve London-Edinburgh in 3 hrs 30mins the average speed would have to be 112mph, not alot faster than the best 108mph London-York average now. This suggests that some new sections, ERTMS and 140mph where possible on the east coast line could bring air competitive London-Scotland times.
    3. Are the demand forecasts supporting HS2 realistic? There’s evidence that the growth of car travel is levelling off, and internal air travel may now be a maturing market too. It seems reasonable to assume that long distance rail travel may not grow so fast in future, and there’s alot that can be done to speed up and increase capacity on the current network.

    Of course HS2 will be a great travel experience and be a quantum leap for journeys between the biggest conurbations. But the money intended for it could do so much more for more people in more places if spent on a range of schemes throughout the current network.
    Finally, a question I’ve tried to find an answer to but can’t: has the TGV made any difference to France’s notorious summer Saturday traffic jams?

  • Richard

    @Chris Packham:
    If they delay alternatives to capacity at New St then I can forsee more case of the station having to shut for periods during the rush hour while they clear the passengers

  • Lionel Judd

    @Rich: Actually a lot of people opposed to HS2 were strong opponents of the M40 routing.
    Generally most respondents to this article presume to ascribe selfish motives to anyone with whom they disagree.
    The difficulty is that no one can present any certainty as to the consequences of HS2. It is a gamble of a large amount of our money.
    At present there seems to be no overwhelmingly strong business or environmental case for HS2 even as far as Leeds or Manchester. The anticipated lack of capacity seems to relate to peak periods and no account of Chiltern line potential seems to have been taken into account. Speedier travel will result in more people commuting into London not the other way. The trains to run on the railway have not been designed nor properly costed. No estimate as to the damage to our balance of payments seems to have been made ie how much plant,material and labour will be required fom abroad to build,maintain and run HS2. Remember Harold Wilson lost an election because of a set of bad figures from the import of a few Jumbo jets !
    No one has referred to the effects of a crash in a tunnel of a train carrying 1,000 people at 240 mph. No one can guarantee that there will be no crash.
    The HS1 story indicates that other rail services suffer and commuters end up at a terminus further away from their places of work.
    It could be said that faster connections to the rail network in Europe will be a benefit. On the other hand it should be remembered that the excellent German railway network convinced the Kaiser and his generals that they could deal with France before having to confront Russia with its slower mobilisation i e they would be able to transfer troops from the West to the East quickly.
    Very little has been said about mitigating a major environmental problem namely freight by road. A freight carrying HSR to Milford Haven via Cardiff linked to the Chunnel would really indicate some proper strategic thinking.

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