Written evidence from The Highlands &
Islands Transport Partnership (HSR 125)|
The Highlands & Islands Transport Partnership
(HITRANS) is a statutory body covering all forms of public transport
in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland encompassing not only
road, rail, sea and air travel, but also cycling and walking.
HITRANS, working with its five constituent Councils,
is charged with supporting the Scottish Government in delivering
the National Transport Strategy and developing and delivering
a strategy and promoting improvements to the transport services
and infrastructure network that serve the region. The organisation
takes an integrated and inclusive approach by consulting with
the local communities and companies to achieve its objective of
"enhancing the region's viability by improving the interconnectivity
of the whole region to strategic services and destinations".
HITRANS is responsible for an area that holds many
of the assets critical to Scotland's future prosperity. It covers
just under half of Scotland's land mass but with only 410,000
residents - less than 10% of Scotland's population. It includes
over 80 island communities, of which 20 or so are served by air
transport. The major challenge to maximising the effectiveness
of the region is to improve its accessibility both internally
and externally, to the rest of the UK and increasingly to international
HITRANS welcomes the opportunity to respond to this
call for written evidence from The Transport Committee as part
of its inquiry into the strategic case for High Speed Rail. The
Partnership offers the following input into the Review.
1. What are the main arguments either for
or against HSR
1.1 The main arguments for HSR are; economic
growth and a balanced economy, rail capacity and Journey times
and the environment.
1.2 Economic growth and re-distribution of wealth;
The positive link between economic growth and transport connectivity
has been long established. Experience in other countries has shown
that HSR stimulates economic growth outwith the Capital City such
as for Lille in France and will therefore re-balance the national
economy and reduce the current north-south divide. Improved accessibility
to the north of England and Scotland will in addition provide
opportunities for growth as a whole in the UK economy.
1.3 Rail capacity; The West Coast RUS concluded
that the southern end of this line would soon run out of capacity
to cater for expected growth and the only effective way to deal
with this scenario would be to build an additional line. The East
Coast and the Midland Main Line would also in due course experience
a similar situation. The construction of HS2 would then release
capacity on existing main lines, in particular the West Coast,
which will cater for additional local rail services and freight.
1.4 Reduced end-to-end journey time; This is
a more important benefit and opportunity for North of England
and in particular Scotland where rail still has a relatively low
share of the inter-city travel market and where only HSR can facilitate
a step change in modal share from air to rail for longer distance
travel whilst at the same time enhancing UK regional connectivity
as part of a more sustainable UK economic growth strategy.
1.5 Environment; Increased capacity and significantly
reduced journey times will stimulate transfer from car and air
to rail. Rail is the only mode with the realistic potential to
transport large volumes of passengers over long distances between
UK cities and regions in a sustainable manner, in particular with
an increasing proportion of the primary energy being renewable.
2. How does HSR fit with the Government's
transport policy objectives
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?
2.1 The objectives and potential benefits of
HSR go well beyond improving inter-urban connectivity by improving
overall network capacity and enhancing regional connectivity by
reducing journey times. Other objectives that will be met through
HSR would be to redistribute wealth and enhance regional prosperity
by reducing real and perceived peripherality within the UK and
to make transport more sustainable, in line with Government Climate
2.2 Whilst some of these objectives could be
met in part by investing in other transport modes, when compared
with roads, rail is in particular more environmentally sustainable
(air quality, energy use, land use) and is best suited for travel
between and to access regional-centres.
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?
2.3 There are already significant "high-cost"
rail projects under construction, in particular London Crossrail
(approx. £15 billion over around seven years) and Thameslink
(approx. £5.5 billion over around eight years) and it does
not appear than these schemes have affected funding for the general
2.4 These two schemes will be very close to completion
by the time construction would start on the proposed HSR between
London and Birmingham in around 2016. At an approx. cost of £17
billion over 10 years, the peak expenditure on the London-Birmingham
HSR and subsequent phasings should be no higher than for Crossrail
alone, never mind the combined peak expenditure of the two London
2.5 There is already commitment to invest in
a significant number of classic rail projects, such as Great Western
Main Line electrification, Intercity Express Train Replacement
Programme (IEP) and significant further enhancements to the East
and West Coast Main Lines (eg Hitchin and Stafford flyovers).
2.6 The development of a comprehensive and regionally
inclusive HSR network, which extends to the north of England and
Scotland, must be viewed as a UK Treasury priority, with commitment
to development of a HSR network which delivers comparable "step
change" journey time, capacity and connectivity benefits
for all of the regions, including Scotland.
What are the implications for domestic aviation?
2.7 In 2009, approximately 8.8 million out of
the 13.2 million domestic UK Mainland air passenger journeys were
between the main cities that it is anticipated will eventually
be directly served by a UK HSR Network (London, Birmingham, Manchester,
Liverpool, East Midlands, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh
and Glasgow). With significantly faster rail journeys, there should
be a major shift from air to a much more sustainable rail travel
2.8 Out of the 8.8 million air journeys, as many
as 6.7 million either start or finish in Edinburgh or Glasgow
demonstrating the much more significant modal change potential
that exists in extending the full HSR network to Scotland. It
is, therefore, imperative that the construction of a high speed
rail network also includes new lines across the Border, delivering
journey time improvements comparable with those proposed between
Leeds/Manchester/Birmingham and London. Under the current "Y
network" proposals journey time improvements between Edinburgh/Glasgow
and London are roughly half those for Birmingham/Manchester/Leeds
to London, potentially worsening relative peripherality for the
northern parts of the UK and failing to fully capture the economic
and environmental benefits that HSR offers.
2.9 The 2009 rail market share of the Edinburgh/Glasgow
to London rail/air market was around 20% with rail journey times
of typically 4hrs 30 mins. For the Newcastle to London rail/air
market, rail held around 60%, with a rail journey time of around
3 hrs and for Manchester-London journeys, rail held around 76%
of the rail/air market with a typical rail journey time of around
2 hrs 10 mins. For the Leeds to London air/rail market, rail held
more than 95% of the market, with a typical rail journey time
of 2 hrs 15 mins.
2.10 A 30 mins reduction in journey time (which
should be achieved with high speed rail between London and West
Midlands), could therefore see a shift from air to rail of nearly
1.5 million of today's long-distance passenger journeys. This
should increase to more than 3 million with the extension of the
network to Leeds and Manchester when it must be assumed that domestic
flights between Manchester/Leeds/ Newcastle and London will end.
It is acknowledged however that modal split is also affected by
other factors such as frequency and fares and ease of airport
2.11 3.8 million out of the 8.8 million air journeys
quoted above are to or from London Heathrow so there should be
significant scope to redirect valuable take-off and landing slots
to other routes. Some of these Heathrow slots should go to domestic
air routes that do not directly benefit from High Speed Rail,
such as Aberdeen and Inverness which will not directly gain from
the HSR network due to their geographical peripherality, so that
these cities and their surrounding regions do not "fall behind"
in respect of London and international connectivity.
3. Business case
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?
3.1 A number of fairly in-depth studies have
been undertaken into a UK High Speed rail Network in addition
to the HS2 study, in particular the following three major studies:
1. Atkins study (on behalf of SRA), later updated
for the Government in 2008.
2. Network Rail "New Lines" study (2009).
3. Greengauge21"Fast Forward" study
3.2 The studies looked at different HSR solutions
and had different objectives behind their proposals. However,
there were common strands such as the need for and benefits of
a comprehensive UK north-south network linking in the major cities
from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow. They all showed positive
cases for a HSR network with benefit/cost ratios in the region
of 2-3.5 and costs and passenger forecasts comparable with those
found in the HS2 study.
3.3 A recent argument is that assumptions on
time spent on trains is "un-productive" has overestimated
the benefits of HSR. A recent study by Greengauge21 (where time
spent on train would be regarded as "working-time")
did however show that the opposite was the case (although only
marginally so). Passengers transferred from car and air would
gain more productive time than in the original estimate and this
would outweigh the "over-estimate" (in the original
study) of working time gained by passengers transferred from classic
train services.. It could also be argued that HSR will create
a better working environment than current rail services and also
that there will be a limit as to how long it is reasonably practical
to work on a train.
3.4 The study by HS2 surprisingly did not include
Edinburgh - London services in its modelling and business case
for the London - Birmingham/Lichfield High Speed Line although
the Edinburgh - London market is around 30% greater than the Glasgow
- London market . Edinburgh - London Services via the West Coast
and HS2 would be around 30 mins faster than existing services
(as for Glasgow services) so by including Edinburgh - London services
should make the business case even stronger.
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?
3.5 Upgrading the West Coast Main Line could
only be limited in scope in respect of capacity and the Network
Rail RUS concluded that the only longer-term capacity solution
would be to construct a new line between London and West Midlands.
3.6 The most recent upgrading of the West Coast
Main Line also saw significant added costs in terms of disruption
to services and reduced capacity during construction. Adding these
costs to the actual upgrading cost of around £9 billion (the
most recent cost estimate) for a scheme that will give less incremental
capacity than a new line, it is almost certain that such an upgrade
will not be better value than a new line.
3.7 A new conventional line (restricted to 125
mph) would largely resolve the capacity issue but would not enhance
journey-times and would therefore be much more limited in benefits
to North of England and Scotland where journey times become increasingly
more important. Without the journey-time savings, there will not
be such a significant shift to rail from the less environmentally
sustainable modes of car and air. Greengauge21 has also shown
that the cost of a conventional line is only marginally cheaper
than a High Speed line. In summary, the potential regional and
UK economic and environmental benefits would be significantly
diminished compared to HSR.
What would be the pros and cons of alternative
means of managing demand for rail travel, for example by price?
3.8 Managing demand by higher fares or by not
providing more capacity would push passengers back onto less sustainable
modes such as car or air, or journeys would not be undertaken
in the first place which would be damaging in overall socio-economic
3.9 There must also be doubts if price alone
could realistically manage to reduce demand sufficiently to avoid
investing in additional capacity. Regulated fares are already
the highest in Europe and increasing these fares much further
in real terms could make rail travel only affordable by the more
well-off in society, contrary to wider equality and social inclusion
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?
3.10 Construction of new rail lines (as opposed
to rail upgrades) in this country has a reasonably good track
record in terms of time and budget, eg HS1 and the recent Airdrie-Bathgate
project. There will also be a large number of European High Speed
projects that have a good record in this respect.
4. The strategic route case for more (or fewer)
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?
4.1 The most important issue for high speed rail
is that stations are well located to serve the key UK cities and
major centres of population and, through excellent connections
with regional rail networks, their surrounding regions. Rail is
the most efficient mode in respect of land use to access city
centres where this can be achieved, and without city-centre termini
the advantage of high speed rail will be eroded.
4.2 Station locations outwith city centres will
depend on local circumstances but should on average be located
at not less than 100 mile intervals along the line. As a general
principle HSR services should only stop at key city or regional
hubs, with limited stopping patterns aimed at maximising achievement
of the over-arching economic, environmental and regional connectivity
objectives and benefits of the project.
4.3 Stations should only be provided where demand
is predominantly for long distance rail travel. The temptation
to add stations to cater for high volumes of shorter journeys
such as commuting, must be resisted on the basis that such a strategy
would erode the benefits of HSR.
Which cities should be served by an eventual high
speed network? Is the proposed Y configuration the right choice?
4.4 Most studies have demonstrated that a UK
network including London, Birmingham, Manchester, East Midlands,
Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow derives greatest
benefit and offers best value. These should be considered as the
core cities for a north-south high speed network, which could
be expanded by a western network. The UK Government's proposed
"y-network" supports this scenario but needs to be extended
Is the Government correct to build the network
in stages, moving from London northwards?
4.5 No. It is accepted that phase 1 of the HSR
network should be the London-Birmingham section. It is the most
capacity constrained section on the West Coast Main Line and is
probably also the most complicated section to plan and construct.
Furthermore, the link between Birmingham and London is accepted
as being crucial to the future development of a more extensive
UK HSR network. Should the London - Birmingham section be rejected,
it is highly unlikely that a national network will ever materialise.
4.6 However, the proposition that future phases
should be constructed moving northwards from London is challenged.
The most speed restricted sections of the network are typically
across the English-Scottish border. In addition, as indicated
above, various studies have confirmed that extension of an HSR
network to Scotland will deliver significantly greater economic
and environmental benefits. Consequently detailed consideration
should be given to starting construction of northern sections
at a much earlier stage rather than as "last legs",
with cross-Border sections being potentially progressed alongside,
or possibly earlier than, sections between Leeds/Manchester and
4.7 In particular, the UK Government should show
greater commitment to plan the future network beyond Manchester
and Leeds in recognition of the benefits the completed HSR national
network, including Scotland, will achieve.
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?
4.8 The link to HS1 must be part of phase 1 due
to technical issues but will also cater for the current West Midlands-Europe
5. Economic rebalancing and equity
What evidence is there that HSR will promote economic
regeneration and help bridge the north-south economic divide?
5.1 European experience has shown that most regions
directly connected to the high speed network experience higher
economic growth and there is no reason why this should not be
the case for the UK. A Greengauge21 report also found that areas
of Kent experienced rapid growth following the construction of
5.2 The 2009 Greengauge21 study also found that
regional economic benefits from a "full" HSR network
between London and Glasgow/Edinburgh would amount to around £80
billion and would be widely distributed but with Central Scotland,
the North West and the South East benefitting most.
To what extent should the shape of the network
be influenced by the desirability of supporting local and regional
5.3 The most important element of a High Speed
Network is to improve connectivity between the main centres of
population in the UK and in particular connectivity with London.
By serving City Centres, high speed rail will indirectly support
Which locations and socio-economic groups will
benefit from HSR?
5.4 A Greengauge21 study advised that the business
case for high speed rail was robust when based on current fare
levels for long-distance rail travel and would cater for both
business and leisure travel. Furthermore, the release of capacity
on the existing network will also benefit other travellers and
commuters in particular, as well as users of rail-freight. As
such, all socio-economic groups currently using rail would benefit
if fares do not rise. If fares rise then this will result in negative
impacts on lower social groupings..
5.5 The majority of the population of the UK
enjoys reasonable good links with the Cities that will be directly
served by a future HSR network extending to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Many cities along the HSR corridors will also experience improved
connectivity by increased service levels on the classic network.
5.6 However, it must be recognised there will
be areas that will benefit significantly less such as the Northern
half of Scotland, Wales, the South West of England and Northern
Ireland and transport investment in these areas should be identified
to reverse their relative decline (such as rail electrification
programmes or, for the north of Scotland, improved air connectivity)
and ensure a fair distribution of benefits.
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?
5.7 There may be examples from other countries
with HSR that could be used as models and there may also be lessons
learned from London Crossrail project.
5.8 A UK HSR Network will "replace"
current classic rail links that form part of TEN so support should
be sought from TEN-T and other relevant EU budgets.
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?
6.1 HSR has considerably lower carbon footprint
than car and air and also matches that of classic rail when the
higher capacity of HSR trains are taken into account. If it can
be assumed that the primary energy source is non-fossil the carbon
footprint from HSR operations (after construction completion)
should be relatively very small.
Are environmental costs and benefits (including
in relation to noise) correctly accounted for in the business
6.2 It could perhaps be argued that studies have
erred on the "safe" side so that overall environmental
benefits have not been fully expressed.
What would be the impact on freight services on
the "classic" network?
6.3 The release of capacity on the classic network,
in particular on the West Coast Main Line which is the busiest
rail freight corridor in the UK)) should in part be utilised by
rail freight services so the impact on freight by HSR should be
How much disruption will be there to services
on the "classic" network during construction, particularly
during the rebuilding of Euston?
6.4 Experience from the St Pancras redevelopment
indicates that this should be manageable. Disruption could also
be reduced through service changes/ improvements to some of the
existing local services terminating at Euston. For example, some
local services on the West Coast Main Line as far out as Northampton
could be incorporated into the Crossrail network through a connection
in the Willesden/Old Oak Common area, extending planned Crossrail
services from the East that would otherwise terminate at Old Oak
Common. This could take away up to seven train arrivals/departures
per hour from Euston Station.