High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from the Leeds and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce (HSR 113)


This is the Leeds and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce response to the Transport Select Committee's call for evidence on high speed rail.

Leeds, York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce welcomes the opportunity to submit comments about High Speed Rail to the Parliamentary committee. The Chamber is one of the largest in the country and represents around 2,500 businesses of all sizes and from all sectors.

The Chamber firmly believes that an efficient and effective transport system is essential for a successful and sustainable economy. The Chamber sees high speed rail as a vital component in an integrated transport strategy that will help this region and the north compete even more successfully with areas both within and outside the United Kingdom.

The Leeds and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce have contributed to the work of the High Speed Rail Eastern Network Partnership. The Partnership has commissioned Arup (the leading global transport and development consultancy) and Volterra (a leading economic consultancy) to analyse the economic benefits of the eastern route of the national Y-shaped high speed rail network. This evidence draws on the Arup-Volterra reasearch.

1.  What are the main arguments either for or against HSR?

The Leeds and North Yorkshire Chamber Commerce believe the main arguments for high speed rail are the economic benefits that will result from faster rail journey times and the additional rail capacity that will be created. However to secure these economic benefits the network needs to be planned and constructed in the right way. In particular the eastern route should be built at the earliest opportunity. This route will provide access to the East Midlands, the Sheffield City Region, Leeds and to the East Coast Main Line near York to allow high speed trains to access York and the North East.

We believe that high-speed rail is essential if the Government is to rebalance the economy by accelerating the growth of towns and cities in the north of England. High speed rail will connect Yorkshire's businesses with the Midlands, London, and Europe and further afield, via the link to Heathrow, improving the competitiveness and productivity of the region. Investment in infrastructure is vital for us to remain a competitive economy.

According to the Arup-Volterra research, the total wider economic impacts of the eastern route of the proposed national high speed rail network are estimated to be £4.2 billion over a 60-year appraisal period. These comprise productivity benefits (of bringing businesses closer together) of £2.6 billion, imperfect competition benefits of £0.8 billion and economic benefits of releasing capacity on existing rail routes of £0.8 billion. These benefits are additional to the benefits from reduced journey times of rail passengers (conventional transport benefits), which have been estimated by HS2 to be £23.1 billion for the entire Y-shaped network north of the West Midlands.

We need to build the eastern route as soon as possible, in advance of, or at least at the same time as the western route. The economic benefits compared to the costs of the eastern route are significantly higher than the western route. In terms of benefits to rail users, the Benefit to Cost ratio of the eastern section of the high speed network north of the West Midlands is 5.6, compared with 2.6 of the western section. The Arup-Volterra research shows that the productivity benefits of bringing businesses closer together of the eastern part of the network (£2.6 billion) are around 20% higher than those for the western part (£2.1 billion).

Once the national high speed rail network is completed it will be important to ensure that there will be at least six high speed trains to/from London on the eastern part of the network. According to the Arup-Volterra research, most (70%) of the productivity benefits of the eastern route are created by the faster journeys to London. It is vital that there are at least six trains per an hour to/from London on the eastern route of the Y shaped network.

We need to ensure the eastern part of the high speed network is planned in the right way to maximise the potential for bringing city regions outside London close together. A significant proportion (30%) of productivity benefits from the eastern route will also result from high speed rail bringing city regions outside London closer together. The national high speed rail network has the potential, if it is planned in the right way, to transform the connectivity between main cities outside London. Some of the existing rail links between these cities are poor. For example it now takes almost two hours to travel by rail between Leeds and Nottingham, two of the largest cities in England, which are only 70 miles apart. In addition to the high speed rail services to/from London, there will also be high speed services between Birmingham, the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East.

The economic benefits of high speed rail will be maximised if it is planned and delivered in the right way and integrated with a strategy for improving rail services on existing lines.

High speed rail is essential, but it is not a panacea. It is vital that upgrades be made to existing rail links. Electrification and new rolling stock with expanded capacity must be introduced on regional connections. Upgrades to the East Coast Main Line are a priority. Improvements are needed to existing rail routes in the short to medium term to deliver benefits in advance of completion of the full national high speed rail network (which could take over 20 years).

Capacity released on existing rail routes by high speed rail should be used to retain existing long distance inter-urban rail services to the Eastern Network Partnership area, not for additional London commuter services. There should be more regular services to London from places in the Eastern Network Partnership area that do not have them currently.

There must also be improvements to local and regional transport networks including rail and light rail services that connect with the high speed rail stations. This will spread the benefits of high speed rail as well as delivering substantial economic benefits in its own right. To maximise its economic benefits and integration with the wider rail network, high speed rail should serve city centre stations where feasible.

The economic benefits will be increased if high speed rail is planned in conjunction with regeneration and development projects in the areas next to the high speed rail stations.

2.  How does HSR fit with the Government's transport policy objectives

2.1  HSR is designed to improve inter-urban connectivity. How does that objective compare in importance to other transport policy objectives and spending programmes, including those for the strategic road network?

2.2  Focusing on rail, what would be the implications of expenditure on HSR on funding for the "classic" network, for example in relation to investment to increase track and rolling stock capacity in and around major cities?

We believe that high speed rail is not an alternative to investment in local and regional transport networks, and the strategic road networks. In the context of current public spending constraints it is important to remember that major capital spending on High Speed Rail is not planned to start for several years, and will be phased over time. It is possible to deliver investment in transformational national transport projects, as well as a series of other economically important transport schemes. For example, as well as investing in a range of local transport projects and road schemes, the Government is also currently (at a time of spending constraints) investing in Crossrail. Once Crossrail is complete, the next major national transport project should be high speed rail.

Evidence from city region studies shows that typically 70-80% of all journeys are within city regions. Therefore, more effective integrated city region transport networks and systems will support agglomeration and economic growth, and contribute towards the Government's low carbon agenda.

Better city region transport networks can help maximise and spread the benefits of high speed rail, by improving access to the high speed rail stations. Improvements to existing lines (including electrification, capacity improvements, and new rolling stock) would deliver benefits in the short-to-medium term. This will be important for places such as Yorkshire which may have to wait for 20-30 years for the full high speed rail network to be completed. These improvements would also help increase the benefits of capacity release on existing rail lines once the high speed network is completed.

2.3  What are the implications for domestic aviation?

We believe that the Leeds City Region is at an economic disadvantage in terms of its international connectivity. Leeds Bradford Airport is an under exploited asset, with scope to develop its route network. However, improvements are needed to its connections to the city region transport network in order to strengthen is catchment.

Our businesses also require good access to London airports, particularly to Heathrow which is a global hub. Leeds Bradford Airport no longer has flights to Heathrow, and is losing its flights to Gatwick. The proposed high speed rail network will transform our access to Heathrow via the proposed Crossrail interchange in West London.

3.  Business case

3.1  How robust are the assumptions and methodology—for example, on passenger forecasts, modal shifts, fare levels, scheme costs, economic assumptions (eg about the value of time) and the impact of lost revenue on the "classic" network?

We believe that the Government's proposals for high speed rail are underpinned by robust economic analysis. Indeed in some respects the analysis of the economic benefits is conservative. For instance, the existing "Wider Economic Impacts" methodology is best suited to assessing the benefits of commuter rail schemes to successful business centres (it was designed to help make the case for Crossrail) and does not capture all the transformational benefits of high speed rail.

3.2  What would be the pros and cons of resolving capacity issues in other ways, for example by upgrading the West Coast Main Line or building a new conventional line?

It is important there are capacity and speed improvements to existing long distance rail routes, particularly the East Coast Main Line, and also to the Midland Main Line. These schemes have a strong business case, would deliver substantial benefits over the short-to-medium term. However improvements to existing lines would not provide the step change in north-south rail capacity that will be needed over the medium to longer term. The experience of the West Coast Main Line upgrade demonstrates the potential pitfalls—disruption and cost over-runs—of seeking to deliver overly ambitious upgrades of existing routes.

3.3  What would be the pros and cons of alternative means of managing demand for rail travel, for example by price?

We believe that managing demand by price will suppress overall demand, which will constrain our economy. The cost of a Leeds to London Standard Class Anytime ticket is already £239.

3.4  What lessons should the Government learn from other major transport projects to ensure that any new high speed lines are built on time and to budget?

High Speed One (the Channel Tunnel Rail Link) was built on time and on budget, despite it being a very challenging scheme in engineering terms.

4.  The strategic route

4.1  The proposed route to the West Midlands has stations at Euston, Old Oak Common, Birmingham International and Birmingham Curzon Street. Are these the best possible locations? What criteria should be used to assess the case for more (or fewer) intermediate stations?

No response to this question.

4.2  Which cities should be served by an eventual high speed network? Is the proposed Y configuration the right choice?

The proposed Y shaped network is the right option. Previous work undertaken by Arup and Volterra on behalf of the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions demonstrated that the Y shaped network would deliver greater economic benefits than the alternatives.

As well as providing fast access to London the high speed network should also be configured to support links between cities outside London. In particular there is an opportunity to transform rail journey times between the Leeds City Region, the Sheffield City Region and the main cities of the East Midlands. This corridor has a population of over 6 million and over 3 million jobs. Its main cities are close together geographically, but currently function as separate economies as a result of poor transport links. For example it takes almost TWO hours to travel by rail the 70 miles between Leeds, Sheffield and Nottingham, generating an average journey time of 36 mph on a service which links three of the largest cities in England.

4.3  Is the Government correct to build the network in stages, moving from London northwards?

The Government is right to build the network in stages, but the eastern route between the West Midlands and Yorkshire should be built as soon as possible and in advance, or at the very least, at the same time as the western route to Manchester. It should also be noted that the North West will benefit from the first stage of the HS2 networks because it will include a link to enable high speed trains to run north of the West Midlands on the West Coast Main Line.

4.4  The Government proposes a link to HS1 as part of Phase 1 but a direct link to Heathrow only as part of Phase 2. Are those the right decisions?

Yes. The proposed Crossrail interchange in West London will provide easy and fast connections from HS2 to Heathrow. A direct link to Heathrow could lead to capacity constraints on the core London to West Midlands section of HS2. We would not support a direct HS2 link to Heathrow if it resulted in a service pattern of less than six central London high speed services and hour to / from the eastern route of the Y shaped network.

5.  Economic rebalancing and equity

5.1  What evidence is there that HSR will promote economic regeneration and help bridge the north-south economic divide?

The work of HS2, and the work undertaken by Arup and Volterra, shows that high speed rail will deliver substantial economic benefits to the places it serves. A national high speed rail network, if planned and delivered in the right way, can help narrow the north-south divide in economic performance.

5.2  To what extent should the shape of the network be influenced by the desirability of supporting local and regional regeneration?

There is a need to plan the high speed network in the right way, and in conjunction with wider land-use and regeneration plans and investments, in order to maximise the economic benefits. High Speed 1 is a case in point. It has unlocked development areas around the new stations at Kings Cross-St Pancras, Stratford City (location for the London Olympics), Ebbsfleet, and Ashford. In these four locations alone around 50,000 new homes and over 100,000 jobs will be created.

Which locations and socio-economic groups will benefit from HSR?

5.4  How should the Government ensure that all major beneficiaries of HSR (including local authorities and business interests) make an appropriate financial contribution and bear risks appropriately? Should the Government seek support from the EU's TEN-T programme?

No response to these questions.

6.  Impact

6.1  What will be the overall impact of HSR on UK carbon emissions? How much modal shift from aviation and roads would be needed for HSR to reduce carbon?

6.2  Are environmental costs and benefits (including in relation to noise) correctly accounted for in the business case?

6.3  What would be the impact on freight services on the "classic" network?

6.4  How much disruption will be there to services on the "classic" network during construction, particularly during the rebuilding of Euston?

No response to these questions.

That concludes the submission from the Leeds, York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce. As mentioned the Chamber is supportive of high speed rail and will look to continue its support over the coming years.

May 2011

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011