High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents


Written evidence from Pan-Camden HS2 Alliance (HSR 108)

1.  Camden—who we are

1.1  The London Borough of Camden is an inner London borough with some 236,000 inhabitants in an area of 22km2. It contains significant areas of employment, notably in the academic and medical fields, media and creative industries and professional (legal and accountancy) fields. Camden Lock and Markets are important retail and tourist magnets and there is a large number of hotels in the Borough.

1.2  Two Main Line railway termini (Euston and St Pancras International) are in the Borough and two important main lines and three important freight routes run through the Borough.

1.3  Arguably, the proposals for HS2 Limited weigh more heavily on Camden than any other local authority area.

1.4  The pan-Camden HS2 Alliance

1.4.1  The pan-Camden HS2 Alliance has evolved in response to the acute local concern and seeks to protect the interests of local residents and businesses. A series of well-attended public meetings has been held, a website established and there has been considerable local publicity. Councillors of all political parties of London Borough of Camden have been very supportive of the Alliance.

1.4.2  Because our area is home to many people with interests in public policy and strategy development, and because there are also many residents with relevant professional experience, most of the scrutiny has been concerned with the policy and strategic implications of the proposals and how they assist, or work against, the achievement of other public policy objectives.

1.4.3  This process has caused many people to form the opinion that the HS2 scheme as presently tabled is unlikely to make an adequate contribution to achieving current National objectives.

(We believe that some local disbenefits could be mitigated although they will require major rethinking: local groups would hope to work with HS2 Ltd and its consultants to this end).

2.  Scope of the Inquiry and the areas covered by this pan-Camden HS2 Alliance submission

2.1  The Transport Select Committee plans to examine:

2.1.1  The main arguments for and against high-speed rail.

2.1.2  How the proposals for HS2 relates to the Government's transport policy objectives particularly in relation to transport connections between urban areas.

2.1.3  The strength of the business case and the robustness of the underlying assumptions and methodology, scheme costs.

2.1.4  Alternatives as regards capacity, other ways of managing capacity (for example by pricing).

2.1.5  The strategic route, proposed Stage 1 stations, the case for intermediate stations on the strategic route, links to HS1, freight, links to Heathrow.

2.1.6  The extent to which considerations of local or regional regeneration should shape the route.

2.1.7  Equity issues and whether the project will assist economic rebalancing.

2.1.8  The importance or otherwise of regeneration in the business case.

2.1.9  Environmental and other impacts including noise, and how these are treated in the business case.

2.1.10  Disruption especially in connection with the rebuilding of Euston Station.

2.2  The Pan-Camden HS2 Alliance submission only contains evidence concerning matters of direct relevance to Camden and inner north and west London, or to matters of which we have the relevant experience to provide useful observations. Our evidence generally relates to aspects of the following issues:

2.2.1  The main arguments for and against high speed rail.

2.2.2  The strength of the business case—whether the natural growth rate is not in fact the result of investment, the importance of the assumptions about advances in signalling technology, the feasibility of the service assumed in the business case by reference to the services actually achieved on the French LGV with the greatest similarities, whether HS2's proposals might be inherently unstable, taking into account other government, regional and local policy objectives, the forecasting risks and choice of discount rate to reflect these risks, redundant trains, capacity on residual classic network.

2.2.3  Alternatives, capacity and economic mechanisms—Euston commuters, a new line does not remove the need to spend on remaining classic routes.

2.2.4  The strategic route—the cross London corridor, Old Oak location, Euston location, regeneration, effect of an additional station on the HS2 Phase One 1 route, freight strategy

2.2.5  Equity issues—some interesting value judgments inherent in HS2 Ltd.'s case.

2.2.6  Disruption at and near Euston—community, station users, road network, and the construction of the HS1-HS2 link.

3.  The main arguments for and against high-speed rail

3.1  There is no single standard definition of high-speed rail. Because the realities of high-speed rail are so complex, the International Union of Railways (UIC) deliberately uses "definitions" in the plural. The concept is evolving all the time, and the technologies are also changing as operators and planners attempt to overcome perceived drawbacks in the concept as pioneered in the 1960's and 1970's. The UIC's definitions imply a state of continual advance, since all components of the travel experience, including marketing, should be "state of the art".

3.2  The definitions of "high-speed rail" offered by the UIC and by European Union Directive, and the permitted variations (usually for environmental or planning reasons) are so broad that they would cover almost any new or upgraded railway line which could accommodate trains which are capable of speeds in excess of 200 kilometres/hour (upgraded) or 250 kph (new build), even though in densely populated urban areas the operating speed could be as low as 110 kph. It is thus perfectly possible to build a high-speed line that would fit in to the topography of the London/West Midlands/North West corridor in a less intrusive manner.

3.3  HS2 attempts to achieve the highest speeds possible regardless of what the transport and regional objectives actually are. To produce a case for its construction, it claims high speed to be necessary in order to solve a range of problems for which in many cases it is not the only solution, or its contribution is not key.

3.4  "Capacity" is a complex idea. There is little doubt that obtaining a reliable, fast, transit system in the corridor requires a considerable upgrade in capacity. This is because railways do not operate reliably when pushed towards their design limits for long periods of the day. Typically, reliable railways operate at about one half of their theoretical capacity except for short bursts when they step up to perhaps two thirds or three quarters of capacity. The HS2 solution would in fact do little more than transfer an existing "capacity" problem to a new railway whose higher operating speeds will increase the likelihood of inherent instability. There is every likelihood that there would still be a need (for reasons of capacity) for quality longer distance services on other routes in the corridor.

3.5  HS2 Ltd.'s brief was ill focussed and reflected a somewhat dated view of high-speed rail. The end result is an engineering project not a transport solution. Imagination and vision has not been central to the process. Aping the rather different high speed rail networks of France, Spain and Germany, without apparently understanding the mechanics of the operations and the reasons why they work as they do, is not a solution that is necessarily going to work in the UK.

3.6  If a solution is needed to the movement of very large numbers of people at speed in fairly densely populated corridors, then this has been achieved in Japan. However the Japanese design philosophy is different from the European approach. The Japanese system is "closed", that is to say with no operating interaction with classic lines. The Tokkaido Shinkansen has an average station spacing of just 30.3 km. There are faster and slower trains. It moves around 400,000 passengers a day.

3.7  There are worse courses of action than studying how particular concepts work in practice and whether there are lessons that could be applied in the UK. We have considered how HS2 in its present form would deliver against the Government's core ambitions set out in White Paper CM7176 "Delivering a Sustainable Railway", July 2007. Overall HS2 does not score well. That is not to say that we think high-speed rail has no part to play in the corridor. We accept there is a need for increased capacity and this is going to require new construction. And as the definitions at the beginning of this section suggest, this will almost certainly fall within the definition of a "high-speed railway".

3.8  The problem of HS2 stems from its narrow view of what is high-speed rail, the lack of operational understanding of a railway, and the seeming inability to think at a fairly low level about transport as a means to achieve policy ends rather than as an objective in its own right.

4.  The strength of the Business Case

4.1  Base line forecasts—natural growth or a largely predictable consequence of investment in a product?

4.1.2  We believe that the growth experienced since 1995 has been misinterpreted. Far from being a "natural" rate of growth, much of it can be explained as a return on investment and marketing.

4.1.3  We have formed this view having looked at figures for the past decade for inter-city railway investment in infrastructure and rolling stock. We have also reviewed the train miles operated. (Earlier figures are not apparently publicly available in a comparable form.)

4.1.4  In a more general way we have also considered what happened to the economy, to railway services, to fares, to investment and car ownership in earlier years. The base line taken by HS2 Ltd for its forecasts is in fact the second lowest point recorded since 1955. Over six decades passenger mileage increased by about 25%.

4.1.5  When modelling for, and forecasting for, a project with a 60-year horizon, we think it appropriate to back-test the forecasting model against longer-run historical data.

4.1.6We have also reviewed SNCF's passenger-kilometre figures for main line services, which include TGV services. The French picture seems to be a steady but slow upward progression. If the UK figures are, in fact, a natural growth rate, then we would expect similar figures to show up elsewhere in Europe—but this does not appear to be the case.

4.1.7  We would have expected the DfT to have that information available for example from submissions in support of projects or from "post-audits" carried out the check on value for money. We would also expect DfT to comprehend the impact of these changes on passenger usage. If a model cannot satisfactorily explain the past, then it cannot be used with confidence to predict the future.

4.2.  Treatment of demand when capacity is not available

4.2.1  If the forecasts are indeed correct, and trains are grossly overloaded at some point in the next few years, we would expect trip suppression or diversion to take place, and growth would slow down or come to a halt.

4.2.2  The least flexible journeys may be choked off by congestion: passenger will look for alternatives and some of these (eg different ways of working, videoconferencing) will become permanent.

4.2.3  Individuals will take different decisions about where to live and work. Some of these changes may reverse wholly or in part if conditions become more favourable, but this process will take time, and the benefits will be to new users rather than existing.

4.2.4  The "rule of half" is conventionally applied to such new trips. Benefits to existing users are overstated because numbers will have dropped owing to suppression.

4.2.5  The trips that may eventually take their place when conditions improve will be from new users, some of whom will have been attracted by a very small change in conditions, some of whom will only have been attracted by a very large change. The average improvement experienced by new users is therefore taken as one half of the change experienced.

4.3  The importance to the business case of the assumptions about signalling

4.3.1  Behind all railway signalling is the idea of maintaining a safe braking distance between trains, even if the first train crashes. The distance required for an emergency stop is significantly shorter than the distance required for bringing a train to a stand without discomfort to passengers. The greater the distance between trains, the lower the number of trains that can be run on a line in any one period. The safe braking distance is expressed as a number of "blocks".

4.3.2  Railways are still constrained by the lack of a workable technology that would allow a reduction in the difference between the "comfort" and "emergency" braking distances. Put in the simplest terms, if the "comfort" distance could be reduced towards the "emergency" distance by a train "knowing" the distance between it and the train ahead, as well as the speed of the train ahead, then line capacity could be increased. This concept is sometimes referred to as "Moving Block", and would be at the heart of an innovative signalling system.

4.3.3  Such a Moving Block system would have to be a pan-European standard, and to that extent, the timescale is not at the discretion of HS2 Limited. Innovative signalling systems using Moving Block principles have often resulted in being abandoned or downgraded for cost or technical reasons, the Jubilee Line and the recent WCML upgrade being cases in point.

4.3.4  Moving Block is also key to minimising service disruption in two ways: (1) Any unplanned deceleration or stop has an effect on capacity and reliability as well as on journey time. (2) The greatly reduced amount of lineside equipment means that physical damage is much less likely, and the temptation for copper thieves removed.

4.3.5  Moving Block underpins the business case for HS2 as without it the ultimate anticipated capacity of 18 trains an hour cannot be attempted.

4.4  The practicability of the service assumed in the business case

4.4.1  The business case depends on assumption about reliability, service intensity and journey times. As we are interested in the robustness of these assumptions and in claims about capacity, we have looked in some detail at the broad timetabling and rolling stock requirements.

4.4.2  We have also looked at what actually happens day-to-day on the group of high speed services that use the LGV Sud-Est and the various branches and the line to the Midi. We consider that this line probably has the most in common with the concept of HS2. We then considered the service frequency operated on the Tokkaido Shinkansen. We concluded that HS2 would have more in common with LGV Sud-Est than the Japanese Shinkansen, which being physically a different gauge to the rest of the Japanese railway system, operate in isolation and therefore perturbations cannot be transmitted between their classic and high-speed lines.

4.4.3  These are the key similarities between LGV Sud-Est and HS2:

Double deck train operation using high-speed double decker trains (TGV Duplex). The same trains have been taken as the "reference" train for "captive" train operation on HS2.

A significant proportion of trains starting or finishing on classic lines.

Average passenger loadings on trains over 70%.

Some services call at airport stations (but these are located on connecting lines) eg Paris Charles de Gaulle and Lyon St Extupéry TGV.

4.4.4  But there are some important differences:

Distances between centres south of Lyon served by TGV services are shorter.

The cities served by TGV services are smaller.

TGV service intensity is lower.

"La période blanche" a time of light traffic (when the system catches its breath) exists only on the TGV service.

The proposed number of passengers for HS2 is almost twice that for LGV Sud-Est.

The loading gauge of the classic network allows TGVs (there are no captive trains on LGV Sud-Est).

4.4.5  The number of trains that actually run over all or part of the LGV between Paris and Lyon is usually six to eight an hour in each direction. This compares with an HS2 minimum of 10/hour at stage 1, rising to 14/hour and then to 18/hour.

4.4.6  The present day theoretical operating capacity of the LGV Sud-Est is given as 12 trains an hour, (but if the signalling were upgraded this might rise to 16 trains an hour). The comparative figures for HS2 are 14 and 18.

4.4.7  HS2 proposes an intensive service that runs continuously for seventeen or eighteen hours a day, every day, throughout the year. Most of these trains would be "classic compatible" and would run off HS2 onto ordinary lines which are subject to all the problems of unreliability found on a traditional railway.

4.4.8  Scrutiny of the SNCF timetable confirms that there is an hour or so during the day when this intensity drops sharply, the so-called "période blanche", which is a time when the system catches its breath, as it were, and recovers. HS2's service proposals make no provision of this nature.

4.4.9  The "dwell time" allowed at continental stations for high speed trains is usually at least 3 minutes, although times in excess of 6 minutes are shown for some trains at busy locations. On other European high-speed services, dwell times at busy stations are often in the 4-8 minute range.

4.4.10  By comparison HS2 Ltd is assuming a two-minute dwell time. Thus at peak times up to 450-500 passengers would be expected to join or leave trains at Old Oak Common through 16 doors in just two minutes.

4.4.11  Our experience of high speed operation in Europe is as passengers, but it seems to us that the comparison above should serve to alert the Transport Committee to the strong possibility that the operations of HS2 would be inherently unstable as proposed.

4.4.12  It seems to us that there is a high probability that HS2 will be unable to deliver its claimed levels of service and journey times and that therefore the business case should include assessments of the effects of only being able to achieve a part of the improvements claimed. We would expect to see some modelling of the potential for instability on HS2, as we believe that the proposed levels of service are inherently unstable.

4.5  Taking into account other governmental, regional and local policy objectives

4.5.1  Because transport is not an objective in its own right, our experience is that the assessment of transport schemes in isolation can easily lead to "wrong" decisions in the overall picture of policy ambitions. For example, regeneration benefits are treated as all of equal worth, but in practice, the policy objective is to seek a more balanced economy and we propose that a part of the appraisal process should include an assessment of scheme benefits weighted for policy objectives at the different levels of government.

4.5.2  A similar approach was being developed at the Greater London Council in the 1970's to test the contribution or otherwise of road schemes to GLC policy objectives in the GLC Development Plan. For example, such an approach helps highlight the more questionable value judgments often implicit (although generally unintended) in schemes and assist in the political decision making process.

4.5.3  As another example, is the loss of several hundred homes and communities in West Euston a reasonable trade-off for the modest safety benefit of straight platforms at Euston and the possibility of reducing disruption during station rebuilding, or are there other ways of achieving the desired result?

4.6  Forecasting risk and the choice of discount rate

4.6.1  Away from HS2 Ltd.'s consultation documents, there is recognition that the forecasts might be substantially in error. We note the length of the forecasting period, the inflexibility inherent in the present concept, and the over dependence on a few key benefits, some of which are in fact dependent on external factors if they are to work positively.

4.6.2  It is a basic commercial concept that an interest (or a discount) rate is a proxy for the riskiness of a venture. In discounting future benefits, a higher discount rate is assumed in order to take some account of risk. We note that rail and road projects both involve risks that vary according to the characteristics of the mode, and we believe that for these reasons different discount rates are logical and appropriate. A high-speed rail project is likely to be much more a "double or quits" bet than a road project.

4.7  Redundant trains—a cost not taken into account

4.7.1    We note that nothing is said about the use of the current Pendolino fleet once HS2 stage 1 was to be operational. These vehicles were built in 2001-04 and more are under construction. They should not reach the end of their useful lives until around 2035-40 but it is unclear if many of them could be reused economically elsewhere on the UK rail network.

4.7.2    The residual classic services are unlikely to require a large fleet of high capacity trains. Resale elsewhere depends on the availability of compatible signalling and electrical supply systems: a fleet of aging non-standard trainsets is not an attractive commercial prospect. We submit that the difference between Pendolino net book value and net realisable value at that date is a cost to the HS2 project and should therefore be included in the financial appraisal.

4.8  Effects on the classic railway post-HS2

4.8.1  We have looked in some detail at the effects on the classic railway and its capacity following the completion of HS2 Stage 1. We have looked at the possible effects on the distribution systems forward from Euston. We have also looked at the effects of the project on arguably the most strategic station in the country—Birmingham New Street.

4.8.2  None of these issues have been dealt with to our satisfaction in the studies carried out by HS2 Ltd. That is not to say that we consider these matters to be sticking points for the scheme as a whole, (we think, for example, that HS2 could enable desirable infrastructure improvements eg between Camden Road/Euston and Wembley which would just not be feasible now.) But they do need to be incorporated in a proper assessment and this needs to be reflected in the HS2 case.

4.9  The Euston commuter issue

4.9.1  We have considerable past experience of the planning and operation of these services and have the following observations to make. (We have not gone into detail but a more technical assessment is available should it be required.)

4.9.2  The Euston outer-suburban commuter services divide broadly into three sections:

4.9.2.1  The mature metropolitan commuter zone between Euston and Watford Junction. This is well served in terms of service frequency and journey times, stable in terms of demand and little change can be expected short of a more radical proposal like diversion away from Euston onto Crossrail. This section of line produces around 3,000 commuters.

4.9.2.2  The belt of restricted development north of Watford Junction and south of Leighton Buzzard. Green belt and similar restrictions have been in place for many years and our assessment is that little change to the service provision at these stations would be possible although additional capacity could be provided by restructuring the calling pattern to attract passengers from the development zone (see below) away from these services. As with the mature metropolitan belt, only a radical proposal like the Crossrail diversion would be expected to materially affect commuter numbers.

4.9.2.3  The development zone consisting of Leighton Buzzard and stations north including Milton Keynes and Northampton. The material passenger growth over the past forty years has come from these stations, as was indeed forecast in the early 1970s. We have reviewed traffic and other data, and we concur that post HS2, this is where any growth will come from. We would not be surprised if, expressed as a percentage increase, this was substantial. However in terms of a requirement for train paths, we would not expect more than two or three extra trains to be required in the peak hour. This is not perhaps as significant in the wider scheme of things as has been made out in some quarters. These extra trains may require subsidy but we do not have access to the figures which would enable us to confirm that this would be so.

4.9.3  Commuter forecasting over a 10-20 year period is a fairly straightforward and robust process compared with other railway forecasting. The key variables (housing stock, office stock, the effects of any changes to the distribution network within Central London) are known with a high level of accuracy. All the commuters twenty years hence have already been born. Simple gravity models have been in use for years and are well understood. The 60 minute upper limit that people apply to their commuter journey has remained fairly constant for well over a century although with greater flexibility in employment practices this seems to have risen slightly in recent years.

4.9.4    Another important reason why explosive commuter growth will not happen is that Euston is not located within walking distance of any key business district. The hinterland has a national importance as an academic and medical district, but the employment densities are lower than in major business districts. Commuters wishing to travel to the higher density business districts have to change onto other modes and for many this places the journey outside their time tolerance limits.

4.10  Additional distribution capacity at Euston

4.10.1  It is possible but by no means inevitable that the operation of a high capacity railway from Euston would require an increase in the capacity of public transport at Euston. This is a strategic matter for London and we urge that in the consideration of this problem, a key aim is to provide wide-ranging benefits for London. Some of the solutions being touted involve very substantial expenditure, and have major implications over a wide area and for large numbers of Londoners and others. If such expenditure is required to make HS2 "work" (that is to say provide a quality and properly integrated transport experience) then the costs and benefits should be properly accounted for in the HS2 case.

4.10.2  We have had significant experience in the design and construction of major stations, and urge that the users' needs should be accorded a very high level of importance (good design for commuters is not necessarily a question of great engineering or architectural statements—Euston is primarily an interchange station so what is required is quality functional design that places convenience, connectivity and adequate space above commercial needs). Our examination of the proposals for the new Euston suggests that they do not yet address these needs.

4.11  The Birmingham New Street question

4.11.1  We have looked at the potential for additional cross-country services. We suspect most of these would need to access Birmingham New Street.

4.11.2  Birmingham New Street is in many ways the most important station in England because it is the crossing point between the South-West to North-East lines and the Birmingham loop of the WCML.

4.11.3  To optimise network capacity, one has to work outwards from New Street across most of the rest of the country. New Street is reported as operating at capacity, and it is not clear from HS2 Ltd.'s reports how much capacity might be released by the introduction of HS2.

4.11.4  The line capacity may well be increased, but if the capacity of the key station on the route does not expand then these paths are of little use to passenger traffic.

4.11.5  Until and unless there are practical and costed proposals as to how the additional line capacity can be used, we suggest its "benefits" be excluded from the case for HS2.

4.12  Differences of opinion

4.12.1  We are concerned that the outcomes of HS2's work are significantly at odds with the thinking of Transport for London, Network Rail and the local authorities along the route, all of which can be expected to have devoted far greater intellectual effort to the issues.

5.  Alternatives as regards capacity, pricing, diversion and suppression

5.1  Diversion of some outer suburban trains to Crossrail

5.1.1  Network Rail is considering the possible use of the ten spare train paths and the diversion of Euston outer suburban services via a short length of new track at Old Oak Common onto Crossrail.

5.1.2  Demand might change if the proposal to route ten Euston commuter trains an hour onto Crossrail were to come about. For some important destinations in key business areas, weighted journey time reductions might be achievable equivalent to those expected for Milton Keynes. However integration with Crossrail is unlikely provide a "win-win":

—  The service that could be operated might preclude running the semi-fast trains enjoyed today and.

—  Significant business districts such as Victoria will not be as easily accessed via Crossrail as via Euston.

—  There will still be a need for some service into Euston because Crossrail cannot accommodate all the Euston commuter services.

—  The number of seats on trains is likely to reduce.

5.1.3  If we are right on these points, our preliminary assessment is that passengers from north of Tring might receive little benefit from a Crossrail service, but that some substantial benefits could accrue to the rather higher numbers who travel from Tring and stations south. Because of the constraints noted earlier, the effects on commuter volumes are unlikely to be transformational.

5.1.4  There are difficulties in introducing a Crossrail service for "LMR" commuters prior to HS2, but it would help ease the problems in building the new Euston and the lines to Camden whilst running today's level of service.

5.1.5  This could relieve pressure on Euston quite substantially, both in terms of train movements and passenger numbers, and mean that the new Euston would only need a fairly small number of shorter classic platforms.

5.2  Our researches lead us to the conclusion that there is no one "right" solution for the London/Heathrow—West Midlands corridor. A robust and reliable solution to the demands of passenger and freight movement requires a margin of spare capacity to provide operational reliability and also give scope for future growth.

5.3  We accept that that some form of high-speed railway may be necessary, together with some upgrading of the WCML, of the "Evergreen" route, and a GC gauge route for freight. However as we have pointed out in our comments in Section 3 on the case for High Speed rail, there seem to be fundamental misconceptions in government quarters about the way in which high-speed solutions are now being developed in Europe.

6.  The strategic route

6.1  The HS1 to HS2 link—the cross London corridor

6.1.1  The proposed link between HS1 and HS2 runs in a new single-bore tunnel between Old Oak and Primrose Hill tunnels, where it then picks up on the alignment of the North London Line link between the WMCL at Primrose Hill and Camden Road. This section of line will be singled to allow low-cost conversion to GC gauge.

6.1.2  We consider that the HS1 to HS2 link proposals are the wrong response to the wrong question.

6.1.3  Further, the levels of reliability achieved on LGV in France with significantly lower utilisation levels suggest trains will regularly present late, especially at Old Oak Common, so the long single track section will be a major source of instability for the network as a whole.

6.1.4  Key strategic issues are whether:

—  HS1 can be linked to the main rail corridors serving the rest of the country, by adapting existing infrastructure and/or new build, to provide GC standard routes across London.

—  Existing infrastructure could be adapted to minimise new construction required.

—  These links can be designed to reduce, below existing levels, the environmental impact of railway operation on Londoners.

—  These links can also embrace other local and strategic transport objectives.

6.1.5  The singling of a strategically important section of cross-London railway between Primrose Hill Tunnels and Camden Road (the Primrose Hill link) would worsen conditions for freight because:

—  It would restrict the number of trains that can access the WCML from the south route that is one of only two "high cube" routes across London from the Haven Ports.

—  The route is used as a regulating area for trains joining or leaving the WCML: if this function cannot be performed here there is a real risk of delays being transmitted between the WCML and the GE lines out of Liverpool Street to the Haven ports.

—  Haven Port trains are already half a kilometre in length. The lower cost options for increasing traffic capacity for these services are centred on train lengthening but the singling of the Primrose Hill link may rule out this option. Train lengthening reduces unit costs which is why users favour it.

6.1.6  Network Rail has an aspiration to provide a GC route between London and the country's industrial heartlands at some unspecified future date.

6.1.7  We hope that the HS2 Ltd.'s focus on the West Midlands and the North of England would be modified to consider also access to the West of England and Wales via Old Oak Common, for both freight and international passenger services.

6.1.8  A reduction in the number of daytime paths available through Primrose Hill will increase pressure for additional night-time trains leading to a worsening of living conditions for residents close to this and other cross London routes.

6.1.9  A number of proposals have been made in recent years to provide a GC gauge link to the Midlands using sections of the former Great Central railway. We offer no view on the desirability or practicality of this, but we do urge that the Government takes a holistic view of transport needs in the London-West Midlands corridor and considers how any future high speed link contributes—or at least does not impede—realisation of a GC gauge link. Even if currently a GC gauge freight route is considered not justifiable, the story of transport in this country should serve as a warning against closing off options for future generations.

(We are aware of the current upgrades of the Southampton—Nuneaton and the Felixstowe—Nuneaton routes to accommodate "W10" working for "high cube" containers, and that in consequence the capacity problems on the WCML south or Birmingham will be relieved for the foreseeable future.)

6.1.10  TfL which is responsible for Orbirail services running on the cross North London routes, has expressed concern about the effects of HS2 Ltd.'s proposals on TfL services. Although most of the adverse effects could be removed by the widening of approximately 350 metres of viaduct, HS2 Ltd.'s proposals would prevent the operation of TfL's proposed Queens Park-Stratford service which is essential for relieving overcrowding on Orbirail—and which might possibly be developed as part of a strategic cross-London link to improve access to Old Oak Common.

6.2  International rail services

6.2.1  HS2 Ltd. proposes that international rail services would use the HS1 to HS2 link. We have already commented, in our assessment of the business case, on the capacity issues that we expect to become evident at an early stage on HS2, and, considering the relatively low passenger usage that can be expected for international services, point out that these services must be prime candidates for exclusion from HS2. Our reasons for this claim are that the achievable timings using HS2 are not so far removed from what could be achieved on the WCML as it stands, or less if the signalling and line speeds were to be upgraded.

6.2.2  However existing rail investment means that a Birmingham to Paris / Brussels service using Eurostar classic-compatible trains is already quite practical.

6.2.3  If it is the Government's opinion that such services will help bridge the North-South divide by linking to our major international gateways, then such a service should be introduced in advance of the construction of HS2, even if, initially it is a very limited service (perhaps even just a seasonal service). If the Government is confident of its case, it will pick up the challenge and prove its case.

6.2.4  Over a decade ago DfT concluded that there was insufficient demand to justify such a service. However between 1997 and 2010 Eurostar passenger volumes rose by 58% after much investment in track and station facilities. The earlier conclusions may no longer hold.

6.2.5  Recent trends in high-speed travel have included a greater willingness amongst passengers to use rail for journeys that hitherto have been regarded as beyond range in terms of journey time. For example, Deutsche Bahn is considering through services from Frankfurt and Cologne to London.

6.2.6  We estimate that if the international services using the WCML have all intermediate station stops taken out, the journey time differences between a WCML and HS2 solution between Birmingham and, say, Paris, would be 20 minutes, and 30 between Manchester and Paris at best, or 50 minutes at worst. Birmingham to Paris via the WCML would be 3 hours 30 minutes, and Manchester-Paris 4hrs 35 minutes. SNCF's "wish list" for future LGV construction includes the LGV Picardie, which would reduce these timings by about 20 minutes. This line could be in operation before HS2.

6.2.7  If it is thought there is a case for running international services from the Midlands and North, our challenge is simple. The service should be capable of being introduced within a very few years. The equipment is there, even if not immediately available. The infrastructure is there. Run it, even if only on a seasonal, or once-daily service, prove the case, put the idea into the consciousness of West Midlanders and Mancunians, demonstrate that there is a business case, and start building up traffic.

6.3  The choice of London terminus

6.3.1  If it is thought necessary to have a Central London terminus, we think that the Kings Cross—St Pancras area would make much more sense in transport terms but we have been unable to establish the status of development land. Unfortunately this is a case of lost opportunities: had the idea of HS2 been under serious consideration twenty years ago, it would have been possible to use the Kings Cross lands.

6.3.2  We note that all high-speed lines in Europe make use of upgraded classic alignments in order to traverse urban areas.

6.4  Old Oak Common: a great opportunity for connectivity and regeneration

6.4.1  We believe that the issues concerning Old Oak Common (OOC) are so interconnected that they should be dealt with in the same section and not split as between discussion on regeneration and the strategic route.

6.4.2  The regeneration of OOC should take place regardless of whether HS2 is built, if only because it is one of the few remaining large areas available for development. What HS2 is likely to do is stimulate more thinking and discussion, and as a result it may be possible to exploit more of the potential of the site as new synergies become possible.

6.4.3  Worldwide, there can be few urban areas with such potential for accessibility and interchange as Old Oak Common (OOC). It is where two of the country's main trunk railways converge and it potentially enables numerous connections with the rest of the system. The urban surrounds of OOC (including Park Royal) include large tracts of derelict industrial space and there is both need and scope for industrial regeneration and new housing.

OLD OAK COMMON—THE AREA BOUNDED BY THE TRACKS IS APPROXIMATELY 1KM-2

6.4.4  The average distance travelled to work in London is under four miles, and the average journey time under 45 minutes. Much of Camden is therefore in the range of OOC.

6.4.5  Within a few years London Overground will circle the capital—the "Orbirail" scheme. "Orbirail" routes traverse both Camden and OOC. One of the benefits of Orbirail is that it will provide better accessibility in areas of relatively high deprivation.

6.4.6  Development of OOC, together with accessibility improvements to both it and the major industrial area of Park Royal, could assist with more general issues of social deprivation in Camden and other areas of north and west London. Equally, the rail-locked nature of the OOC site means that good local transport will be an important key to success.

6.4.7  TfL is concerned about the number of journeys which involve travel through the congested central area of London but which could advantageously be re-routed orbitally. The ongoing positive development of "Orbirail" services, which started over 30 years ago, demonstrates the worth of this approach. Inner London's geography makes orbital movement very significant and concentrates it in fairly narrow corridors that are well suited to rail solutions.

6.4.8  Important local passenger lines run adjacent to OOC: the Central and Bakerloo lines of London Underground, the Stratford-Richmond, Willesden Junction-Clapham, and Watford-Euston services of London Overground/Orbirail, and national rail services from Reading to Paddington, and Milton Keynes to Euston and Gatwick. The rail lines through the area are also of considerable strategic importance for freight.

6.4.9  London Underground services could be extended from Kensington Olympia along existing track to run through the site, and it should be possible to adapt the proposed Orbirail Queens Park—Stratford service to provided a link between, say, the Park Royal industrial area, Old Oak and north London.

6.4.10  There is thus enormous opportunity although detailed study might show not all potential schemes would in fact be justifiable. The more radical proposals may only be desirable in the context of a major Crossrail/HS2 interchange.

6.4.11  Network Rail is examining the possibility of diverting some Euston commuter services onto Crossrail via a short length of new track at OOC.

6.4.12  Today OOC is largely rail-locked by presence of so many rail links, with their associated sidings and other facilities. A canal also bisects it. Regeneration pre-supposes resolution of site accessibility restrictions. Such resolution could improve the rail infrastructure and connectivity generally, provide better road, pedestrian and cycle access to the site, and also release land for development so it can be aggregated into more suitably sized and shaped areas.

6.4.13  HS2 Ltd. claims that the OOC regeneration area is capable of supporting 20,000 jobs. By contrast London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF) envisages 5,000 jobs. This discrepancy may be due to a more conservative estimate by LBHF of the area that could be made available for development, particularly given the need for land for housing.

6.4.14  It may that HS2 Ltd. envisages higher densities of development in order to improve their case rather than promote the most appropriate and beneficial uses for the site in relation to the economy of London and the nation. We note that HS2 Ltd. does not provide details of the types of jobs would be created at OOC or how they might fit into the wider scheme of things.

6.4.15  We think it illogical to rank equally all jobs created by regeneration and suggest there should be some weighting to favour jobs that align with government and local objectives in line with the thinking set out in the October 2010 White Paper "Local Growth".

6.4.16  LBHF proposes to capitalise on the area's potential as a media and high technology centre, citing Imperial College and Wood Lane as cluster foci.

(Wood Lane is one of the three areas of London with the highest density of creative jobs: creative jobs, broadly defined, account for around 15% of London's jobs.) The numbers have grown sharply in number over the past twenty years and there is no reason to think that they will not continue to do so. Continued growth in the type of jobs that LBHF think suitable will help diversify London's economic base and employment opportunities. The area has a number of advantages that support LBHF's aims, but none of them are critically dependent on HS2. )

6.4.17  As we have pointed out OOC provides a great opportunity to integrate HS2 and the local rail network. Sadly, we do not see signs that this has percolated into the thinking behind the proposed interchange station. For example, the station engineering does not provide currently for good interchange because of inconsistencies with the infrastructure demands of the services actually proposed.

6.4.18  In essence HS2 Limited underestimates the potential of OOC. As the London terminal for HS2 a developed OOC could enable London-bound passengers to switch to several tube lines, Orbirail / Overground in addition to Crossrail and current commuter lines. The availability of many alternatives would avoid the swamping of Crossrail and be consistent with TfL's thinking.

6.4.19  However for OOC to become the London terminal a change in the railway "mindset" is essential: it should be regarded as a place to be developed for the benefit of the country rather than simply serving the narrow interests of rail people.

6.4.20  It has been suggested that Arup and Partners had proposed OOC as the London HS2 terminal but that this was opposed by Crossrail which intends to use the valuable real estate for a large train shed.

6.4.21  It is an indictment of generations of railway companies that industrial archaeology is possibly the only attraction of today's OOC, a big parcel of land close to the centre of London. Even the vast former Eurostar depot lies empty, not yet 20 years old.

6.4.22  With OOC as the HS2 terminal then redevelopment of Euston within today's footprint could proceed on its own merit and without the destruction of the local community.

6.4.23  We suggested earlier (6.2.7) that a trial link and service from Birmingham to Paris could be established over today's infrastructure. If that trial proved to be encouraging and the traffic volumes were sufficient then consideration could be given to a link from OOC to HS1 at GC gauge at an acceptable speed. In the event that traffic volumes did not justify a dedicated link then continental services could continue over existing lines.

6.5  Additional stations on the route

6.5.1  To help us understand the HS2 proposals, we carried out some work on rolling stock requirements and service capacity. The results may be of interest to the Committee, since they illustrate the effects on the costs of operating the service if one station is added to the Stage 1 route. The results are not, scalable, so the effect of adding more than one station cannot be estimated by multiplying our estimated costs by the number of extra stations.

6.5.2  The Transport Select Committee's remit includes consideration of additional stations. Our detailed work on timetabling and rolling stock usage provides information on the effects of adding stations tot the Stage 1 route.

6.5.3  The intensity of service proposed on HS2 means that if additional stations were to be included in the scheme then all trains must stop at them. (A pattern in which only some trains stop reduces line capacity very significantly.)

6.5.4  If a high speed train is travelling at its maximum operational speed, a significant time—around 5 to 6 minutes depending on assumptions—is needed to bring it to a halt in a station without causing discomfort to passengers, for dwell time at the station and then to bring it back up to speed on departure.

6.5.5  Time is also extended by the station dwell time necessary for passengers to alight and join: a double-deck train may require a longer dwell time.

6.5.6  The trainset utilisation proposed for HS2 is intensive: for routine operation a train turnround time of 20 minutes is required at termini, and the trainsets would be required to operate over a fairly complex route using fleets of vehicles with limited interchangeability.

6.5.7  Our calculations suggest that the additional capital costs of rolling stock required to maintain seating capacity with one extra stop on the Phase 1 route would be of the order of £200 million: the exact number of additional sets required could only be established after a detailed exercise.

6.5.8  In turn, this affects the number of platforms required at termini, depot and stabling facilities, and train crewing requirements. (Power consumption will also be increased significantly.)

6.6  Freight and operating flexibility

6.6.1  HS2 will be built to GC gauge that could permit full size continental freight trains to run over it provided the engineering took account of freight's needs for heavier axle loads, easier gradients and other freight-specific constraints.

6.6.2  However we understand HS2 Limited proposes that the route would not be designed to convey freight traffic at any point along its route. For instance it would be physically impossible to access HS2 from the southern end as the proposed gradient of the section of line onto the HS2-HS1 link tunnel at Primrose Hill is too steep to permit freight working. After construction it would only be possible to modify the line to accommodate freight at enormous cost.

6.6.3  Not all high-speed lines are built to the exclusion of freight. Some sections of the French Lignes à Grande Vitesse (LGV) can accept mixed freight and high-speed passenger working. HS1 was also built to permit freight operations.

6.6.4  We have discussed the importance of GC routes across London and how they should be designed to take account of freight's strategic needs.

6.6.5  Proposals for HS2, and indeed, any other high-speed lines, should as a matter of course be subject to scrutiny so that it can be established whether there are any sections that should be designed so as to enable mixed operation.

6.6.6  We note that the proposed HS2 passenger network does not provide for operating flexibility (for instance diversions for renewals or in the event of disruption). The strategic importance of these lines is so great and so concentrated that these risks should be properly evaluated and appropriate provision made to permit greater operating flexibility.

6.7  Disruption especially at Euston and on classic services

6.7.1  If we are correct in our comments about the practical capacity of HS2, then HS2 will be inadequate for all the services that are mooted. Issues of future-proofing then arise and there should be some clear strategy as to how demand will be catered for once HS2 becomes full. Potentially, the question of future-proofing could blight Camden for three or four decades unless proper provision is made when the Euston and Euston approaches are remodelled.

6.7.2  We note that in order to build the "up" tunnel portal the important tracks on the west side of the approaches will have to be taken out of use. These tracks perform two crucial functions:

6.7.2.1  they provide a facility that allows main line trains to depart from the eastern side of the station without crossing over the all the suburban lines on the flat; and

6.7.2.2  they access the Camden sidings used in the main for daytime stabling of commuter trains.

6.7.3  Should these facilities not be available, there may be considerable additional train mileage to an alternative stabling point and pressure on line and platform capacity generally. This will represent significant cost and delay that should be incorporated in the project evaluation.

6.7.4  The construction of a GC gauge link from Primrose Hill through Camden Town to HS1 will need to be carefully managed. For most of its length, the line is on viaduct as it crossed the valley of the Fleet River. A number of important traffic arteries, both radial and orbital pass under this viaduct, in the main on elderly iron bridges which will require rebuilding. We estimate that up to 20 single-track spans will need to be replaced.

6.7.5  Fortunately there is at present a certain amount of space on the viaduct which is not at present used for running lines, and it may be possible to adapt the techniques used on the construction of the new Borough Market viaduct, with final fabrication of most of the replacement spans on site and then rolling them along the trackbed into position. This may need to be phased over several years if road closures are to be kept, as at Borough Market, to holiday weekends. If an innovative approach to the logistics is not possible, then there will be very considerable disruption to road traffic in North London and the costs associated with this should be reflected in the HS2 Limited economic case.

6.7.6  We offer no comment on the disruption that might occur during the reconstruction of Euston and its approaches for HS2, save that we pray that the apocalyptic scenes described by estwhile local resident Charles Dickens in Dombey and Son, are not repeated.

7.  How does HS2 fit with the Government's transport policy objectives?

7.1  The flavour of every government and DfT statement on their transport objectives is that sustainability and CO2 reduction are key policy drivers. Fairness and quality of life in our communities are added to the mix.

7.2  Andrew Adonis announced HS2 on 11 March 2010 as, "the most sustainable way to provide more capacity between conurbations".

7.3  Philip Hammond commended HS2 on 26 July 2010 as part of the new Government's commitment to a programme of measures to, "create a low carbon economy".

7.4  Under the Coalition's programme for Government, "Freedom Fairness and Responsibility" the new Government committed to "reform the way decisions are made, and which transport projects to prioritise, so that the benefits of low carbon proposals are fully recognised."

7.5  In September 2010 at the IBM Start Conference Mr. Hammond stated:

"And make no mistake—the Coalition Government is committed to the sustainability agenda in everything it does, including transport. And of course, addressing the urgent and unavoidable challenges of climate change are a key part of ensuring sustainability.

Sustainable solutions have, of course, first and foremost to be environmentally sustainable. But they must also be fiscally and economically sustainable—affordable to the taxpayer in the long-term and compatible with an economic growth agenda.

And the Department for Transport can and must be at the heart of this programme. Tackling climate change through policies which deliver technology and behaviour that will decarbonise mobility as we progress through the 21st century.

Those challenges call for a genuinely sustainable policy response: A response that recognises the need for carbon reduction, fiscal discipline, economic growth, social justice and genuine localism.

Not one, or some of them, But all of them. Together. In every policy initiative."

7.6  The DfT business plan has as its vision, "a transport system that is an engine for economic growth but one that is also greener and safer and improves quality of life in our communities. By improving the links that help to move goods and people around, and by targeting investment in new projects that promote green growth, we can help to build the balanced, dynamic and low-carbon economy that is essential for our future prosperity."

7.7  The importance of a low CO2 agenda is repeatedly emphasised throughout DfT publications as is the importance of fairness and quality of life for communities. Creating Growth Cutting Carbon, January 2011 the government's vision for a sustainable local transport system, encourages local authorities to prioritise quality of life, safety and the environment alongside economic development in their transport planning.

7.8  Surely this integrated thinking should be implicit in national transport strategies? Transport is not purely an issue for travellers. It is also an issue for those travelled over. From a fairness perspective, investments in transport must put the quality of life of people they affect at the heart of the design process and actively seek to redress the wrongs of the past. The Euston community has re-assembled itself after the initial re-development of the station and displacement in the 1960s. The HS2 Appraisal of Sustainability recognises the people due to be displaced at Euston are amongst the poorest in the borough and the fact that almost all new jobs created will be filled by those who will be travelling in from elsewhere, which is neither fair nor sustainable.

7.9  Developing a sustainable framework for aviation (March 2011) plainly states "the fact that climate change has become one of the gravest threats we face". It is our view that there is a flaw and a contradiction at the most basic level in the Government's policy aspiration and its practical implementation. Ultra high-speed travel is not sustainable, ultra high-speed travel, within the context of the world as we know it today, can never contribute to CO2 reduction. The development of HS2, as it is proposed, will contribute nothing to the quality of life for communities and in many cases will damage them.

7.10  Energy used increases with the square of velocity: a train travelling at 400kph will consume four times the energy of one travelling at 200kph. Currently 93% of the UK's electrical energy comes from burning fossil fuel. The difficulties of implementing alternative sustainable sources of power in the face of increasing national demand and international events are daunting and cannot be safely predicted.

7.11  We will leave it to others to analyse the cost benefits of travel time saved but the fact remains that HS2 would require a massive increase in power per unit distance. Even assuming that sustainable power generation was widely available HS2 would require more generating capacity. This is inconsistent with a sustainable model.

7.12  Any unforeseen technological developments that might make HS2 more viable could by the same token make alternative transport solutions such as electric coaches and cars more sustainable.

7.13  As for fairness and sustainable communities, ultra high-speed is inflexible in its infrastructure requirements compared to existing high-speed railway: the land take is greater and the platforms are more intrusive as is the case in Euston.

7.14  Equally flawed in terms of sustainability and practical effect is the assumption that domestic air passengers tempted off domestic flights (although there are none between London and Birmingham) would contribute to overall CO2 reduction. BAA Limited has stated that any released short-haul slots would be replaced by long-haul flights typically increasing emissions tenfold.

7.15  In their 12 July 2007 report for the DfT, Estimated Carbon Impact of a New North­South Line Booze Allen Hamilton Limited concluded that building and running a new high-speed line from London to Manchester would have such a large carbon footprint that the assumed shift from road or air would take 60 years to offset the damage.

May 2011

DEFINITIONS

Camden—the geographical area comprising the London Borough of Camden.

GLA—Greater London Authority—regional authority.

LBB—London Borough of Brent—local authority.

LBC—London Borough of Camden—local authority.

LBHF—London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham—local authority.

TfL—Transport for London.

UIC—the International Union of Railways, the worldwide international organisation of the railway sector.

Orbirail—the various services marketed as London Overground together with TfL's "wish list" of enhancements.

LNWR—the London & North Western Railway, merged with the Midland Railway and others to form the London Midland and Scottish Railway.

OOC—Old Oak Common—The large area of railway-owned land 4km west of Paddington and immediately north of Wormwood Scrubs.

HS1—High Speed One—the GC gauge 109 kilometre long high-speed railway from St Pancras to Folkestone (formerly known as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL))

GC gauge—a loading gauge used on mainland Europe that will apply to HS2 (and applies to HS1). It is wider and higher than other loading gauges used in UK.

Classic-compatible train. A train built to fit on Classic lines that can also operate on HS2 or HS1 with identical performance characteristics to a Captive train. It may also have a tilting capability to maximize its speed potential on a Classic line.

Captive train—a train that can only operate on GC gauge lines such as HS1 or HS2. It is thus "captive".

WCML—West Coast Mainline—the fast line running out of Euston to Glasgow. This is a Classic line.

ECML—East Cost Mainline—the fast line running out of Kings Cross to Edinburgh. This is a Classic line.

LGVLigne à Grande Vitesse—a French high-speed train line specially built for the famous TGV.


 
previous page contents next page


© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011