111. Earlier this year, Lord Adonis set out his Transport
manifesto. He noted that "the most far-reaching policy
] in its implications for Britain's transport
system was the decision to establish the High Speed Two company,
and to ask it to recommend to the Government a north-south high-speed
rail plan by the end of the year." Part of the initial remit
of High Speed Two (or "HS2" as it is now generally called)
is to investigate the options for a high-speed rail link between
London and the West Midlands, including a link to Heathrow.
112. The Eddington Study was relatively dismissive
of high-speed rail but the Government and main Opposition parties
are now broadly supportive. We have previously stated our support
for new high-speed rail lines in the UK.
An inquiry into aviation is not the place to consider this subject
in depth the case for high-speed rail.
However, it is important to clarify the extent to which rail might
provide an alternative to short-haul flights.
113. Both 'sides' in the airport expansion debate
were very positive about high-speed rail. BAA would welcome high-speed
rail, especially if it served Heathrow. The airlines were also
in agreement about investment in high-speed rail and in rail generally.
Similarly, the WWF-UK,
2M Group and other
organisations opposed to airport expansion also strongly supported
the development of high-speed rail.
114. Views diverge, however, on the extent to which
improved rail services or new high-speed rail lines would reduce
the number of short-haul flights and free up capacity at the busiest
airports in the southeast, particularly at Heathrow. Airlines
and airports believe that high-speed rail is not an alternative
to airport expansion and, while desirable in its own right, it
makes little difference to the strategic decisions on airports.
The Airport Operators Association said that "Rail-air is
a false choice."
Mr Harrison explained that easyJet, the largest short-haul airline
in the UK, already has a policy of not operating on routes which
take less than four hours by rail. "[
] it is a fallacy
to think about high-speed rail as some sort of substitution for
short-haul flights. They do different things and they are complementary."
115. Mr Ridgway of Virgin Atlantic said that a high-speed
rail line might free up some 2-3% of capacity at Heathrow which
would be beneficial but would make little difference to the issue
of runway capacity. Mr Carrivick (BAR UK) pointed out that a new
high-speed rail line would take many years to become operational
whereas additional runway capacity was needed now.
116. High-speed rail has proved to be highly effective
at growing demand for travel between cities less than four hours
apart by rail. It also tends to take up much of the growth in
travel that might otherwise be accommodated on short-haul flights.
Eurostar, the only UK company that has first hand experience of
operating high-speed rail services between UK and continental
Europe, provides useful evidence. Since 1994, it has more than
doubled the total number of passengers travelling by air
or rail between London and Paris. The market share for rail between
London and both Paris and Brussels is now in excess of 70%. Eurostar
concludes that an 80% share for rail is typical for journeys of
approximately two hours, and that high-speed rail attracts more
than 50% of the market share for journeys of up to 3.5 hours.
117. Eurostar is more circumspect about the extent
to which high-speed rail can eliminate the need for existing short-haul
air services. This has happened on the Paris-Brussels route and,
according to Dr Hamprecht of Deutsche Bahn, many French domestic
services have now been replaced by TGV.
A key factor in this is the high quality and direct rail access
to Paris airport.
118. The Air Transport White Paper briefly considered
the issue of high-speed rail in relation to airport capacity.
It noted that passengers on internal flights accounted for some
13% of traffic at UK airports. It also noted the impact of high-speed
rail on domestic air services in France and welcomed the prospect
of improved rail services in the UK. However, it concluded that
for passengers who were interlining (travelling to connecting
flights) "rail is unlikely to be the most attractive choice.
And for some parts of the UK, travel by air will remain the only
Manchester Airports Group told us that, of the 0.9 million passengers
who flew between Manchester and Heathrow in 2008, 63% were transferring
to onward flights. In its view, rail would not be an attractive
alternative for these passengers.
119. Sir David Rowlands, Chairman of HS2, and charged
with reporting to the Government by December 2009 on the options
for high-speed rail, told us that there was potential for high-speed
rail to replace some demand for short-haul flights. He
pointed out that the upgrade to the West Coast Main Line, resulting
in improved speeds, though not what is conventionally defined
as high speed, had already increased rail's share of the
rail/air market between Manchester and London from around 50%
to 70%. He saw high-speed rail as "potentially complementary"
to Heathrow but thought the impact on slots and overall passenger
numbers would be relatively minor.
120. Network Rail published its own strategic study
of a potential high-speed rail network in August 2009.
This concluded that a high speed link to Heathrow would have a
positive benefit to cost. This benefit was above the guidance
threshold set by the Department for Transport indicating that
it could be considered good value for money and hence potentially
eligible for funding.
When compared to constructing the 'basic' north-south high-speed
rail route, adding a link to Heathrow would involve additional
cost for the benefit of a relatively small number of additional
passengers. As such, Network Rail found that, in benefit to cost
terms, "the addition of Heathrow is detrimental to the overall
case" for high-speed rail. It should be noted that Network
Rail's assessment does not take account of the wider economic
benefits associated with Heathrow.
121. We look
forward to the creation of a high-speed rail network for the UK.
It is imperative that this includes links to some of our major
airports. Provided that good quality airport links are provided,
high-speed rail will provide an alternative to some domestic flights,
a welcome choice for passengers and strengthen the UK's major
airports. Enhancing rail access to Heathrow will also maximise
the economic benefits of the UK's international gateway airport.
rail is unlikely to replace all UK domestic flights, especially
east-west links between regions and flights to Northern Ireland
and the Scottish Highlands. In any event, the number of flights
from UK airports to Heathrow is relatively small. As such, there
is no evidence that high-speed rail offers a viable alternative
to expansion of Heathrow.