High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents


Written evidence from Nottingham City Council (HSR 120)

This response focuses on the questions that are most relevant to Nottingham as a Local Authority, which is well placed to benefit from the huge potential of a High Speed Rail network, provided the right choices are made in determining route and station locations.

This response has been provided by Nottingham City Council Officers.

1.  What are the main arguments for or against High Speed Rail (HSR)

1.1  Nottingham considers that there is a compelling case in favour of HSR and that this case will be seriously undermined if the full Y network is not constructed. The construction of a network will allow the full benefits to be dispersed and shared nationally. A partial network could hold back economic growth and regeneration of those cities not included on the network. This is particularly true of cities like Nottingham where national rail connectivity is already comparatively poor due to short sighted decisions made in the 1960s with regard to the closure of the Great Central Railway.

1.2  Nottingham as a Core City will support national economic growth but needs appropriate infrastructure and connectivity to do so. There must be investment in new rail technology, in terms of both the Midland Mainline (MML) and HSR, to ensure that sustainable conditions for growth will be secured. This is coupled with the fact that there is an urgent need to invest in the economy, with infrastructure being a top priority. Our cities need better strategic transport connections and simply widening roads will not secure the economic and environmental future of the country. Together with an enhanced classic rail network, HSR should therefore be seen as the answer to meeting our increasing demand for inter-regional, national and international travel demands for the coming decades.

1.3  HSR makes financial sense. According to The British Chamber of Commerce, congestion costs business £23.3 billion a year and just within Nottingham it is estimated to cost local businesses £160 million a year. A full HSR network linking the major cities of the UK would cost up to £69 billion and would generate over £125 billion of economic benefits. These benefits are derived from improvements in journey times, less crowding, reductions in road congestion, environmental improvements and the economic benefits arising in the release of capacity on the conventional rail network. It also includes the beneficial effect on the productivity of businesses through changes to employment patterns and agglomeration effects.

1.4  Forecasts suggest that by 2055 a full HSR network could be carrying 30 million journeys which would otherwise be made by air, and 13 million from car journeys.[326] This would indicate that high speed rail could deliver carbon savings of around one million tonnes per year, but a full national network is needed to create this modal shift.

1.5  HSR would also:

—  strengthen existing and generate new economic and business flows and interactions, worth £125 billion to the economy;

—  increase rail and decrease air and car journeys by 30 million journeys a year;

—  provide a catalyst to improve local public transport networks;

—  enable new business and economic flows between cities;

—  reduce carbon emissions by 1 million tonnes a year, improve air quality and achieve targets; and

—  bring UK infrastructure up to competitive international standards.

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

2.1  Nottingham supports the move to follow the world leaders in HSR, China, Spain, Japan and France to implement a comprehensive high speed network serving the whole of the country.

2.2  The changing context of the country's commitments to combat climate change, rising oil prices and peak oil supply threats, means that pursuing UK national transport policies which seek to accommodate travel demand through extending the capacity of the trunk and motorway network will be the wrong path in economic and environmental terms. The costs and environmental impacts associated with sub national domestic air travel are also considered to present strong incentives to pursue a more sustainable national transport policy.

2.3  A new high-speed line would not only significantly boost the national infrastructure itself, but also release capacity on the existing network when long distance services transfer to the new line. This radically opens up the opportunity to provide new services where previously there were none and to improve the quality of existing services, expanding business and employment potential through improved commuter networks and spreading the agglomeration benefits on a much wider basis than just looking at the line itself.

2.4  All this is needed because the country's existing rail infrastructure is currently reaching capacity. To date we have responded by upgrading what is already there. In order to provide for the level of growth and capacity needed, this is no longer sustainable, nor is it good value for money.

2.5  Modernisation of the West Coast Mainline (WCML) was due to cost £2 billion, take six years, and deliver maximum speeds of 140 mph. The final scheme cost £8.8 billion, took nine years, and provided for maximum speeds of 125 mph. Despite this work, the line is expected to reach full capacity by the early 2020s, and some sections much earlier than this. In addition to the WCML there are capacity problems on the East Coast, Midland and Great Western Mainlines. It is clear that given the strategic importance of these lines to the economy, we cannot suffer years of disruption and delay for upgrades which will not deliver the long term benefits that are needed and will cost nearly as much as building the new HSR lines themselves. Instead we must plan for a new HSR line which runs in addition to the existing classic network.

2.6  However, our existing rail lines do and will continue to play a pivotal role in support of HSR and the national infrastructure. Whilst the classic network alone cannot provide the capacity and speeds that are required, which will be provided by a new HSR network - they are vital for connections and capacity and must where necessary, such as on the Midland Main Line receive the required investment to support them. £69 million has recently been allocated for journey time improvements; but partners are having difficulties in securing just £27 million which is required to raise the standard and reduce the journey time of the MML. This modest investment is in stark comparison to the £8.8 billion that was spent on the WCML.

2.7  It is also important to remember that HSR is not projected to come to the East Midlands for at least 20 years. Investment in the classic rail network such as electrification and allocation of new Intercity Express Rolling stock on the MML which is needed now, cannot and must not be blighted by the plans and must be pursued and funded in addition to HSR.

2.8  The provision of HSR and the classic network is essential for improved inter urban connectivity. Nottingham currently has relatively poor connections to other core cities, the north and London. By improving these connections it will allow Nottingham to fulfil its growth potential, expanding on the growing key economic, science and business sectors which the City needs support to develop and expand.

2.9  For example, the service between Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds operates at an average speed of 36 mph and the Nottingham-Birmingham service at just 44 mph. These are short distances but entail relatively significant journey times limiting the agglomeration between the cities. There is therefore a strong case for strengthening the links between these cities on the eastern leg of the Y network and beyond.

2.10  For a city like Nottingham in the centre of the country, as well as improved connectivity to London and Heathrow, HSR offers a very substantial opportunity to connect with the other Core Cities and build economic capacity and agglomeration which will help close the widening economic productivity gap between the midlands and the north and the south-east, with significant associated social inclusion benefits.

3.  The Business Case

3.1  The HSR consultation document makes a compelling case, it clearly highlights that the business case for HSR stacks up. This is through the provision of direct economic benefits, much needed additional capacity, but it is also enhanced once the environmental and social benefits are also factored in.

3.2  We are also aware that the business case for the eastern leg of the Y is a very significant element which improves the overall business case for HSR. Previous work undertaken by HS2 Ltd has estimated that the BCR for the eastern leg at 5.6 compared to 2.6 to Manchester. Therefore it is critical important that the process moves forward as fast as possible and ensures that the second Hybrid Bill is not delayed.

3.3  Whilst we see the logic in building the route in phases we would want the construction of the eastern leg to be viewed as the next priority following the Birmingham leg. We believe that it is makes sound financial and business sense to build the eastern route as early as the process allows, ahead of the expansion of the western leg and the Heathrow extension. This is particularly important as the midlands and eastern inter city rail networks have not benefitted from the scale of investments enjoyed by the WCML in recent years. Classic compatible trains could run over the WCML to Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow from the outset, but not to Leeds and the ECML, so it is logical that this is progressed at the earliest opportunity. An absolute imperative will be to ensure that allocation of HSR train paths between the eastern and western legs of the "Y" fully reflects the demand potential and contribution to the business case demonstrated by the eastern leg, which has the potential to join up Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

4.  The Strategic Route

4.1  HSR must be seen as more than just a route, the network approach is essential to its success.

4.2  It is essential that this opportunity to redress the poor national rail connectivity suffered by Nottingham is fully grasped by HSR.

4.3  We are supportive of the Y network but are concerned about the pathing and capacity constraints associated with the "trunk" section of the network. It will be essential (and equitable) to prioritise pathing to the eastern leg, but we believe that in the longer term a wider network which includes a new eastern north south route which would directly serve London could be required to meet growing national demands. We would therefore support further work to expand the network above the remit currently being worked on by HS2 Ltd.

4.4  HSR has huge potential to act as a catalyst for regeneration; therefore the planned network must serve city centres. Where a dedicated City Centre Station on the line is not feasible a spur must be provided with appropriate pathing to ensure that the growth potential and economic benefits of the investment into HSR is maximised by all our core cities. Economic growth needs to be centred on City Centres to support sustainable development patterns, local economies and provide regeneration growth and jobs in a way which meets projected future environmental commitments and social inclusion objectives. There are substantial regeneration opportunities in and around Nottingham City centre which provide capacity for growth in an area where labour supply, housing market conditions and skills availability are very favourable and competitive.

4.5  Firms which would benefit from HSR cluster in City Centres and are willing to pay a premium to be there. This provides the high density labour market which they need and are ideally suited to benefit from the rail market, which can transport large volumes of commuter, business and leisure travellers.

4.6  It is right that a link to HS1 is provided in the first phase. It is logical that a link to existing infrastructure is provided from the outset. It also enhances the national connectivity to the Continent helping to support more sustainable travel options over air travel. Nottingham City would however not support any proposal which would compromise or result in the loss of the existing direct MML connection to HS1 at St Pancras International.

4.7  There are benefits of linking to Heathrow, especially in light of the very poor existing connections from Nottingham, but it is not essential that this is delivered in the first phase, especially in the light of forthcoming improved connectivity to Heathrow via classic rail. We would argue that the eastern leg of the Y should be prioritised ahead of this link when planning the second phase.

5.  Economic Rebalancing and Equity

5.1  By significantly reducing journey times between the countries largest cities it should be possible to rebalance the national economy, as a result of the improved connectivity between areas of opportunity with the capacity for growth such as Nottingham.

5.2  Britain needs the South East's economic contribution, but we can also unlock greater growth elsewhere by investing in HSR, in a way which avoids decreasing environmental conditions associated with exacerbating an unbalanced, overheated, congested and inefficient economy based on London and the south east. However, the Core Cities and their primary urban areas alone produce 27% of England's economic output. Therefore the rest of the country in particular the Core Cities must be better linked to the South East to allow them to support and grow off each other. This is in addition to improved regional connections to support this.

5.3  For example the Eastern Partnership area (covering the area potentially served by the Eastern leg of the Y) contains more than 8.7 million people and 3.6 million jobs. The delivery of HSR could make this area function as a more balanced single economic zone, reducing dependence on public sector funding and increasing private sector jobs and investment.

5.4  As with the Motorway network HSR is a nationally important investment. Not only will the Cities directly served benefit but the regional economies and areas supported by these cities will grow as a result of the investment.

CONCLUSION

HSR is strongly supported by Nottingham's local business community as well as the Council.

However the opportunities offered by HSR will only be captured with effective connectivity into the heart of the UK's Core Cities including Nottingham.

However it is crucial that the long planning and procurement processes for High Speed Rail do not frustrate or blight the necessary investments in our classic rail network which will be required over the intervening Control Periods, in particular electrification and the upgrading of the Midland Main line and its rolling stock.

Notwithstanding this, HSR offers an outstanding opportunity to make a step change in the improvement of the country's national infrastructure which will ensure we are better placed to meet both our growth aspirations and our environmental commitments; for Nottingham in particular it is a once in a generation opportunity to retrieve the damage done by the closure of the Great Central Railway which took the city off the country's core inter city rail network.

Not to take this opportunity would be a massive economic blow to the City's medium and long term aspirations to capture our true potential.

16 May 2011


326   Fast Forward-A High Speed Rail Strategy for Britain. Greengauge 21. Back


 
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Prepared 8 November 2011