High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Conserve the Chilterns and Countryside (HSR 126)


1.1 Conserve the Chilterns and Countryside (CCC) is a group of residents based close to HS2 Ltd's preferred route for the high speed rail link. We seek to protect the interests of those living around and between Amersham, Chesham and Wendover.

1.2 We believe that the UK should continue to develop a modern, efficient transport system and that high speed rail may have a part to play in this, but only if a robust business case can be made for it. We are concerned that the government has overstated its case for High Speed 2 (HS2); underestimated its impact on the environment, especially in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB); and ignored the case for alternative routes with a better business case or a lower environmental impact.

1.3 In this submission we focus on one such alternative route which runs via a new hub just north of Heathrow airport. In examining this alternative we stress that we are not advocates for the route or for HS2, but believe that a fuller examination of the alternative routes should be undertaken and the results made available as part of the consultation process. If necessary, the government's consultation should be delayed to allow this to happen.


2.1 Conserve the Chilterns and Countryside is committed to protecting the Chilterns AONB. We are a non-profit based organisation funded by its founding members and public donations. We are committed to rational discussion and debate on the location of HS2, and its value to the national infrastructure and economy.

2.2 CCC believes that if HS2 is to proceed, it must be on the basis of a robust economic case, delivered in a way that spreads the benefits of HS2 to communities along the route, and offer the best protection possible to the Chilterns countryside. In detail, the criteria we are calling on the government to ensure are met are as follows:

2.3  Economic

—  A full economic cost/benefit analysis should be carried out by the government to demonstrate there are concrete advantages to be had from HS2.

—  HS2 must have a central London terminal, with a direct link to Heathrow, Crossrail and, via HS1, to the Continent.

—  The government must make a commitment that over time the high speed network will link the continent, via HS1 and HS2, to the north of England and Scotland.

2.4  Environmental

—  Full environmental mitigation must be put in place along the entire route, but particularly in the Chilterns AONB.

—  The route should also follow existing major transport corridors or travel through tunnels, wherever possible.

—  The line must traverse the shortest viable route across the Chilterns.

2.5  Community

—  The government needs to provide viable and tangible benefits to communities along the route, including javelin services for nearby towns.

—  There must be robust planning that makes provisions and commitments to reducing visual, traffic and noise impact during construction.

—  Unlike the previous administration, the government must ensure communities play a leading role in the consultation.

2.6 In our submission to the Transport Select Committee we will be concentrating on the strategic route, namely why we believe HS2 must directly connect to Heathrow in the first stages of its construction, and also touch upon the environmental issues surrounding HS2 which are threatening our nation's precious AONB.


3.1 All too often the UK's major infrastructure projects have been short-sighted and pushed through to navigate the planning system more easily and to appease opposition. The huge detrimental effect is that many places have been left with sub-standard national infrastructure which the tax payer has had to pay to upgrade subsequently and users have been left to suffer the impacts of poor planning and unreliable services.

3.2 We are currently seeing this very problem with the long term upgrade works taking place on the M25. Experts warned all along that this project would require more lanes and could have been incorporated at the time of initial construction with no extra impact on road users and at a fraction of the multi-billion pound cost the country is now incurring during a period of austerity.

3.3 CCC believes that the government's current proposals for HS2 are, at best, a compromise that cannot possibly achieve its full potential nor deliver its full benefit. CCC urges the government to look at alternative options and not build a line that threatens to be a white elephant that will not meet the full objectives set out for a successful HS2.

3.4 The previous government, the current government and HS2 Ltd have consistently set out key objectives for HS2.[327] These objectives included the following criteria:[328]

—  A Heathrow International station - this must provide an interchange between HS2, HS1, the Great Western Main Line (GWML) and Crossrail with convenient access to Heathrow.

—  Increase passenger capacity.

—  A freight capability - taking freight off the roads.

—  Modal shift from car to rail.

—  Modal shift from air to rail.

3.5 CCC believes that the preferred route chosen for the current public consultation fails to meet these objectives and that alternative options must be looked at if the government's objectives are to be met, as demonstrated below:

A Heathrow International station

3.6 Independent engineering firm Arup has designed both the Heathrow hub option and the current route the government are consulting on. It is noteworthy that Arup has shown a preference for the route via Heathrow, but we understand that they are now contractually prevented by HS2 Ltd from promoting the Heathrow alternative.

3.7 The current plans do not allow for the seamless integration of transport modes required to maximise the benefits and revenue of HS2. While current plans do incorporate HS1, HS2, the GWML, Crossrail and Heathrow airport, they are not to be found at a central hub. A properly integrated hub would achieve this, as well as the added benefits of freight distribution, a coach and bus station and close links to the M25 and M4.

3.8 Any suggestions that an Old Oak Common interchange or a spur/loop is the answer is perhaps best dismissed by quoting Guillaume Pepy, Chairman of SNCF. In May 2009 he said: "We have more than 12 years of experience and are fully confident in the value of an easy connection between TGV and plane. The commercial success of TGV is due to the fact that Roissy is a through station. There must be a seamless connection between rail and air".[329] As the Bow Group has declared any "non direct HSR link with Heathrow, represented by a loop or spur, would represent folly in Britain's ambition to develop a truly integrated transport policy".[330] The Bow Group's report was endorsed by Lord Heseltine, who promoted the change to the original Channel Tunnel Rail link in the 1980s.

3.9 There have been some concerns that a Heathrow hub route alignment would result in a significant increase to journey times. However, for a non-stop train from Euston to Birmingham City Centre, the route via Heathrow hub will take just three minutes longer than the alternative using HS2 Ltd's preferred route, according to train performance modelling of journey times carried out by Arup.[331] This is a small increase that is mitigated when offset against the benefits of a fully integrated transport network, less environmental damage and reduction in cost of the spur option. Furthermore, the increase in journey times is almost negligible when put in the context of overall time savings expected on the entire high speed network from phase two to Manchester and Leeds and beyond.

3.10 If a hub at Heathrow is not built, the UK will be the only country with a high speed rail network not incorporated with its major airport. The success of a high speed rail network is, in part, dependent on its integration with air travel. Air passengers will not use a rail service in any great numbers if the interchange is not simple and direct.

3.11 The government has tried to tackle this by incorporating a future spur or loop to the line connecting to Heathrow. Yet the designers of the preferred option concede that doing so would "compromise the ability of rail services to compete with domestic and short haul air services"[332] largely making any spur/loop redundant and a vast waste of money.

3.12 Heathrow is one of Europe's most difficult airports to reach. If an integrated, effective and long term solution is not sought, Britain risks losing many potential passengers and business opportunities to other European hubs.

3.13 In summary, a hub would tackle many of the problems the High Speed network should look to tackle and that the current preferred route ignores. It provides exceptional connectivity between classic and high speed rail services and between domestic road and rail services at a single interchange; significantly improves rail access to Heathrow for many UK cities; improves productivity by reducing journey times for business trips to Heathrow; improves reliability of journeys by rail to Heathrow; improves access to international markets for businesses, including the growing markets of China and India; attracts international firms to locate and invest in the regions; releases short haul air slots at Heathrow; improves access to the rest of the country for international tourists visiting; improves access to Heathrow for the West and North of the UK; improves local air quality and reduces both carbon emissions and noise pollution; and increases farebox revenues - which provides a far more sound financing model for HS2 than current proposals. CCC fails to understand why this is not being considered more seriously by the government and HS2 Ltd.

Increase passenger capacity

3.14 The government has a poor record when it comes to predicting passenger numbers on new rail lines. Government figures on capacity for the consultation route on HS2 have inevitably come under great scrutiny from a number of sources. A line that only links central London and Birmingham is not maximising the potential benefits and use of the service. In order to achieve its potential, a line must be linked with Heathrow to allow passengers to access the airport from the West and North, to promote a modal shift from car to rail and also from air to rail, and to link up in a highly integrated hub.

3.15 The main advantages of a Heathrow hub would be to link a rail station, airport terminal, coach and bus station, freight distribution terminal, a connection for HS1, HS2, the Great Western Mainline, Crossrail and the M25 all in one place. The current proposal simply cannot match this potential to maximise capacity.

A freight capability

3.16 While current proposals may be able to incorporate a freight capability, alternative options such as a hub based at Heathrow would create the potential for high value freight to be conveyed more quickly between continental Europe and areas around London, the south of England and the Midlands. In the same way, it also brings the UK's major centres - areas of economic activity - closer together, increasing opportunities for productivity gains and trade in a way the government's current plans fail to do. Furthermore, by allowing a high proportion of lorry journeys to be moved to rail, there are significant environmental benefits.

Modal shift from car to rail

3.17 According to Arup's figures, a Heathrow Hub will increase public access to Heathrow by 21% and take 10-20 million cars off the road. In turn, combined with the modal shift of air to rail (see below), this will reduce carbon emissions by between 500,000 and 800,000 tonnes a year.[333]

Modal shift from air to rail

3.18 According to Arup's figures, a Heathrow Hub will shift between 92,000 and 150,000 passengers from air to rail.[334]

3.19 The Rail Minister, Theresa Villiers, has said that high speed rail was a "viable and attractive" alternative to short haul flights[335] and would reduce road congestion, generate economic benefits and improve transport links without the "considerable" environmental penalties of a third runway.

3.20 The government has cancelled the proposed third runway at Heathrow and therefore it is a key objective for high speed rail to take both cars off the road and passengers off planes; their current proposals will simply fail to achieve this with anywhere near the degree of success that a Heathrow hub option or other alternatives could offer.

3.21  Does the current plan deliver the government's desired outcomes?

3.21.1 While the construction of a Heathrow hub and other alternative options would not incur any significant extra financial costs to construction - particularly if a spur or loop option is to be built - the huge benefits of integration on capacity, road to rail and air to rail modal shifts, increased freight and other opportunities vastly outweigh the current proposals to maximise benefits. Furthermore, these more efficient solutions would increase passenger numbers and therefore revenue, making the economic case for the project far more sound. For example, for passengers travelling from the west of England to Heathrow, initial estimates indicate journey time savings with a present value at government discount rate of £640 million.[336]

3.21.2 The Prime Minister, David Cameron, cited his own particular objective for HS2 back in November 2010. He told journalists that "If we think about governments of all colours, they have all failed - over 50 years - to deal with the North-South divide. With high-speed rail we have a real chance of cracking it".[337] CCC believes that high speed rail cannot tackle a North-South divide effectively unless its use and potential is maximised. Providing the people of Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh with a direct link to the UK's only international hub airport through a truly integrated transport interchange is a far more effective solution than the current preferred route. Alternative routes must be fully considered otherwise the government risks choosing the wrong route for Britain's second high speed railway.


4.1 One of CCC's greatest concerns about HS2 is that it severely threatens the unspoilt beauty of the Chiltern's AONB. We are insisting that the government gives more consideration to the environmental impacts of high speed rail and, if HS2 proceeds, offers full environmental mitigation where possible.

4.2 We recognise that the government has already taken steps to reduce the environmental impact of HS2 in the Chilterns, for example by lowering the vertical alignment to reduce noise and visual intrusion. However, in our view this does not go far enough. Ideally the route would be diverted around the AONB or, failing that, would not follow the widest route through it. Yet, even if the current preferred route were endorsed, we believe the route should be carried in a tunnel under the entire width of the AONB. Such a move would greatly reduce the environmental impact and reduce the construction impact in the Chilterns, not least from the reduced level of spoil to be removed.

4.3 Whilst we accept that every route option will cause some damage to the environment, we are disappointed that other routes which offer more environmental mitigation have been given less consideration by the government. According to the evidence[338] given by Arup to Lord Mawhinney for his review, the Heathrow hub proposal would be far less environmentally damaging and impact less upon the Chiltern's AONB. Additionally, the noise pollution in residential areas would be reduced, which would be a great relief for homeowners in the Chilterns area.

4.4 Furthermore, if HS2 linked directly to Heathrow it would achieve the greatest shift from road and air travel to rail, and would also traverse the narrowest part of the Chilterns - one of the criteria we are insisting upon if HS2 goes ahead. It must also be noted that if HS2 were to follow the Heathrow hub route option and provide greater environmental mitigation than the current preferred route offers, the economic case would be improved. According to Arup's figures,[339] a direct alignment to Heathrow would cost £400 million less than the least expensive loop or spur alignment, and would avoid the blight and costly duplication associated with such options.

4.5 CCC is calling on the government to further consider the environmental impact that the current proposed HS2 route would have, to acknowledge the greater environmental mitigation that the main alternative route offers, and to shift the current preferred route accordingly.


5.1 The Chilterns AONB is a beautiful, unspoilt landscape, which the government has a duty to protect. The current plans for HS2 do not pay sufficient attention to this duty, the business case is poorly argued, and too little attention has been paid to alternative routes. The government should withdraw its existing proposals and consider a full range of alternatives.

May 2011

327   P Hammond letter to B Briscoe, "remit for work" http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110131112903/http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/highspeedrail/hs2remit/remiths2june2010.pdf Back

328   Objectives and remit for HS2 http://www.hs2.org.uk/assets/x/55864 Back

329   Transport Times conference, London May 2009 Back

330   http://www.bowgroup.org/files/bowgroup/The_Right_Track_PDF.pdf Back

331   Arup's submission to Lord Mawhinney's review http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110131042819/http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/highspeedrail/lordmawhinneyreport/pdf/appendix3_4.pdf Back

332   Arup submission to HS2 Ltd. Full report http://www.arup.com/News/2010_04_April/~/media/Files/PDF/News_and_Press/2010_04_April/091210_Arup_submission_to_HS2_Ltd_Full_Report_c_ARUP.ashx Back

333   Arup submission to HS2 Ltd. Full report http://www.arup.com/News/2010_04_April/~/media/Files/PDF/News_and_Press/2010_04_April/091210_Arup_submission_to_HS2_Ltd_Full_Report_c_ARUP.ashx Back

334   Arup submission to HS2 Ltd. Full report http://www.arup.com/News/2010_04_April/~/media/Files/PDF/News_and_Press/2010_04_April/091210_Arup_submission_to_HS2_Ltd_Full_Report_c_ARUP.ashx Back

335   Conservative party conference 2008 http://www.bbc.co.uk/manchester/content/articles/2008/09/29/290908_hi_speed_rail_feature.shtml Back

336   Arup submission to HS2 Ltd. Full report http://www.arup.com/News/2010_04_April/~/media/Files/PDF/News_and_Press/2010_04_April/091210_Arup_submission_to_HS2_Ltd_Full_Report_c_ARUP.ashx Back

337   http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/8158342/David-Cameron-high-speed-rail-link-will-go-ahead.html Back

338   Arup's submission to Lord Mawhinney's review http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110131042819/http:/www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/highspeedrail/lordmawhinneyreport/pdf/appendix3_4.pdf  Back

339   Arup's submission to Lord Mawhinney's review http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110131042819/http:/www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/highspeedrail/lordmawhinneyreport/pdf/appendix3_4.pdf Back

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Prepared 8 November 2011