Written evidence from Sue Taylor and Christopher
Boyce (HSR 119)|
1. Main arguments either for or against HSR
We oppose the plan for a second high speed rail network.
In our view (set out in greater detail below):
(a) there is no convincing case for HS2 on economic,
business, environmental or national interest grounds;
(b) other transport policy objectives claim higher
priority, especially at a time of severe financial constraint;
(c) although Government promotes HSR as an innovative
policy, enabling the UK to match the transport infrastructure
of our European partners, it is insufficiently forward looking,
taking too little account of advances in communication technology,
and missing the opportunity to design a new model of transport
suitable for a small and densely populated nation.
2. How does HSR fit with the Government's
transport policy objectives?
We do not believe that HSR is consistent with other
key transport policy objectives, in particular:
(a) Much improvement is needed in our existing
infrastructure to give us a properly "joined up" transport
network (air, rail and bus), representing value for money for
the bulk of the population, as well as cost effective and "green"
ways to move goods around. HS2 is set to be an immense drain on
resources without achieving the necessary result for our communities
and our economy.
(b) The environmental damage will be greatboth
in construction and operation. This is not consistent with the
Government's stated objective of encouraging low-carbon travel.
(c) As part of a more considered response to
our transport infrastructure deficiencies, we would urge the Department
to look seriously at Rail Package 2 to upgrade the West Coast
Mainline, as the alternative to HS2 Phase 1. RP2 is capable of
delivering much greater capacity than HS2, with less disruption
and at much lower cost.
See also 4 below.
3. Business case
We do not find the assumptions and methodology adopted
in the business case for HS2 to be robust and compelling. For
(a) Critics (including businessmen, senior politicians
and economists) calculate the cost of HS2 to every family at over
£1,000. At the same time, we learn that the date for benefit
to be realised has been extended by a further 10 years to 2043,
alongside a small and questionable benefit ratio and an inflated
demand target based on outdated assumptions.
4. Economic rebalancing and equity
In our view, HS2 will not promote economic regeneration
by tackling the north-south divide, nor is its impact likely to
be socially equitable. We would argue that:
(a) To have an impact on the economy, transport
systems must keep the country working at a time of severe financial
constraintenabling ordinary people to get to and from their
places of work and other regular travel destinations such as education,
healthcare and leisure serviceseasily and at affordable
(b) HS2, by contrast, is costly and focused on
a long-distance travel market, ie a relatively small and wealthy
socio-economic group which is less locally/regionally focused
than most workers and their families. We note the Government statement
(in the document mentioned below) that in contrast to this market,
two thirds of all journeys are under five miles.
(c) In Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon (Cm
7996, January 2011) the Government appears to recognise the huge
importance of local transport systems as an engine of our economy.
This document sets out the goal of a transport system which is
"greener and safer and improves quality of life in our
communities ... improving the links that help move people and
goods around". Importantly, it states that:
"Local transport faces a sustainability challengeexcess
delay is costing our urban economies £11 billion per
annum, and carbon emissions impose a cost to society equivalent
to up to £4 billion per annum. The costs to the health
of our communities are even greaterup to £25 billion
per year on the costs of physical inactivity, air quality and
(d) Against this background, it is reasonable
to question how Government can justify net expenditure of almost
£12 billion (comparable to the cost of delays in local
transport, see above) on HS2, especially when on the Government's
own estimation, benefits will not begin to be seen for decades
(e) The more privileged business travel market
that would be the principal beneficiary of HSR should shrink over
the proposed development period as a result of continuing advances
in communication technology, reducing the need for long-distance,
high-speed business travel and replacing it with a 'low carbon'
(f) According to DfT, the large majority of regeneration
jobs will be in London. This seriously undermines the argument
that HS2 can rebalance the UK's north/south divide. It is also
important to bear in mind that the current plan, budget and timetable
concentrate on the London to West Midlands route. Impacts beyond
that point must remain extremely speculative and long-term until
detailed proposals have been put forward and properly scrutinised.
5. Impactenvironmental costs and benefits
The absence of a published environmental impact assessment
to underpin the HS2 business case is a matter of serious concern
to us, as we live in the heart of an Area of Outstanding Natural
Beauty (the Chilterns). Our concerns are both for the Chilterns
and for the broader environmental impact of the scheme. We would
wish to highlight that:
(a) There is no convincing evidence that HS2
will move traffic from air or road to rail, since most passengers
will be making new journeys or transferring from conventional
rail. Lorries on roads are ignored.
(b) HS2 is not a "low carbon" solutionhigh
speed trains have much higher energy consumption than conventional
(c) The destruction of the AONB in the Chilterns,
with no compelling business or environmental case, sets a very
dangerous precedent and a pattern for what may be undertaken further
north, if and when the line is extended. Many wildlife sites,
ancient woodlands and SSIs are threatened, as well as agricultural
land and water supplies.