Written evidence from the National Farmers
Union (HSR 116)|
1. The NFU represents 55,000 farm businesses
in England and Wales involving an estimated 155,000 farmers, managers
and partners in the business. In addition we have 55,000 countryside
members with an interest in farming and the country.
2.1 The NFU welcomes the opportunity to respond
the Transport Committee.
2.2 The NFU is a representative of many of the
farming landowners and agricultural tenants on the proposed route
who feel strongly about both the economic case put forward by
High Speed 2 and also the steps that can be taken to mitigate
impact and complexity of the compulsory purchase process. In preparing
for this submission, and also our response to DfT's High Speed
2 consultation, the NFU has held six meetings in the affected
regions, as well as gathering information on farm holdings affected.
3. Question 2.1HSR 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
3.1 A well-functioning strategic transport network
is central to any productive economy, but specifically for those
involved in the agriculture and food industries. As UK farmers'
productivity increases, improved transport networks are required
to aid competition with other countries products, and also to
reduce transport emissions. These dual purposes are highlighted
in the Government's recent Foresight Report,
as food security and emissions awareness both move up the political
3.2 With this in mind, it would make sense for
any transport strategy to lead to better cross country transport
links which would make the journey times from processer to distributor
and to the port facilities faster and less carbon intensive. With
little produce being moved between London and Birmingham, it is
difficult to see how High Speed 2 would aid this.
3.3 According to the Economic Case, High Speed
2 should support all transport users through both an increase
in rail capacity, but also a modal shift which will reduce congestion
on the roads, particularly on the M1. Whilst this will help road
users who are forced to use the M1, there are little benefits
for road users elsewhere.
3.4 Other road and rail users are concerned that
such a large project will leave less funding available for improvements
elsewhere, often in places where there could be increasing amount
of transport required in the future. For example plans to upgrade
the A14, an important cross country road which provides a useful
link between the UK's agricultural heartlands to the ports in
the east, have been shelved as part of the spending review. A
proper assessment concerning the impact of funding availability
for transport projects elsewhere should be considered alongside
the proposal for High Speed 2.
4. Question 3.1How robust are the assumptions
in the methodologyfor example on passenger forecasts, modal
shifts, fare levels, scheme costs, economic assumptions and the
impact of lost revenue on the classic line?
4.1 Whilst the economic case goes into some depth
analysing the potential benefits of a high-speed rail line between
London and Birmingham, very little attention is paid to the cost,
beyond the consideration of risk and optimism bias.
4.2 In particular interest to our organisation
is the costs which have been considered in relation to taking
land out of production. The appraisal shows that £960 million
has been allocated to cover the land purchase and compensation
costs, but no thought has been given to other costs that farm
businesses will face as a result of their land being purchased.
Over time the average size of farms in England has increased as
the importance of economies of scale has risen, with many farmers
renting extra land in order to maximise profitability. The acquisition
of small parcels of land from farmers will not only mean that
that the farmer loses the area of land taken, but will also affect
his bottom line as fixed costs will have to be spread over a smaller
farmable area. Whilst there will be a possibility for some farmers
to rent other land near by this will not be possible in many cases
and farmers will be left out of pocket, and in some cases the
farm business will become an unviable asset.
4.3 Access to land via bridges and tunnels is
another area where the costs have not been fully considered. There
is no indication on where access might be placed on the current
set of maps, and there is no estimate of how many of these bridges
and tunnels High Speed 2 expects to incorporate. Without access
to land separated by the track, farmers will, in some cases, be
unable to farm these parcels of land. In other cases farmers may
face a lengthy round journey on rural roads, which will increase
costs for them as well as increasing congestion, and risk of accidents
for other road users as more, large, farm vehicles, such as combine
harvesters, take to the roads. We are also aware of cases where
the High Speed 2 route effectively isolates farm businesses from
access to the main road network, such as removing links that HGV
delivery vehicles can use.
5. Question 3.4What lessons should
to Government learn from other major transport projects to ensure
that any new high speed lines are built on time and to budget?
5.1 Costs and build time can be minimised if
a good relationship is built up with land holders along the proposed
route. Having the individual farmer's support will allow for easy
access to the land for the numerous surveys that have to be carried
5.2 In the early stages of construction of High
Speed 1, goodwill was gained by agreeing a payment upfront, to
be given to the landholder on first, second and subsequent visits
to the land. A code of conduct should be followed whilst on the
5.3 Goodwill was also gained during the construction
of HS1, as contractors used by HS1 to do the work had to abide
to a construction Code of Practice and a quick dispute resolution
procedure. Not only did this improve relationships between occupiers
and constructors it also improved the speed of construction as
disputes were avoided where possible, or resolved quickly. Construction
of HS2 could be improved further by applying a Duty of Care as
this will help with the smooth running of the operation of HS2
and for the project to reach its targets and the budget allowed.
5.4 Accommodation works in particular bridges
and tunnels need to be considered at the earliest stage in detail
and factored into the costs. We know from our experience with
HS1 that this element was considered far too late in the process
and HS1 did not take on board the access that is required by farmers
on a daily basis to reach blocks of land and buildings which are
severed by the rail line. Without proper assessment of these costs
early on, both budget targets and deadlines will be difficult
5.5 A further lesson learnt from HS1 was that
the initial Bill allowed far too much land to be acquired that
was not necessary for the rail link. The total acquisition was
858 hectares whereas 350 hectares was actually required for the
rail line and the landscaping. This highlights that it is very
important to consider the area of land to be acquired as this
will affect the budget.
6. Question 4.3Is the Government correct
to build the network in stages moving from London northwards?
6.1 It does make business sense to have a part
of the line open at the earliest available opportunity, so that
those who will benefit from the construction of the line can enjoy
it as early as possible, and construction costs can begin to be
paid off. However, the decision to consult separately on the two
phases, particularly when the Government appears committed to
both phases does not allow for those affected in the second phase
to respond to the initial consultation with full knowledge of
how it affects themselves and their business interests.
6.2 The Economic Case shows that the London to
Birmingham line on its own, with a benefit cost ratio (BCR) of
1.6, does not meet the Department for Transport's threshold for
high value for money projects of 2. However when considering the
whole Y network the BCR is much higher at 2.2. This suggests that,
should the funds be available, the project is more likely to go
ahead as a whole Y network than simply a line from London to Birmingham.
6.3 Many members of the public have no strong
views on this project and north of Birmingham there is a low level
of understanding of the Y network. This is especially true for
those who live a long way from the urban centres where the stations
will be based. Amongst some of the general public, and NFU members,
there is an assumption that no new lines would have to be built
north of Litchfield, with the trains simply transferring onto
the newly upgraded West Coast Main Line (even in phase 2). This
lack of understanding reflects the absence of communication with
potential stakeholders north of Birmingham, during a consultation
which effectively is many people's last opportunity to comment
on the worthiness of high speed across the whole country.
325 Foresight Report, Department for Business Innovation
and Skills, Synthesis C5. Back