High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from ABTA - The Travel Association (HSR 137)

1.  ABTA—The Travel Association was founded in 1950—and is the leading travel trade association in the UK, with over 1,400 members. Our members range from small, specialist tour operators and independent travel agencies through to publicly listed companies and household names, from call centres to internet booking services to high street shops. ABTA members sell millions of independent arrangements for travel both overseas and in the UK.

2.  We welcome the opportunity to contribute to your inquiry. We have commented on points of principle and not on the detailed route.


3.  ABTA supports the proposed high speed rail network. However, we believe this should complement additional airport capacity in the South East and not be a substitute. We also feel there needs to be an integrated transport system with seamless interchanges to international gateways and networks and that the Government should commit to both phases from the outset with onward extension to Scotland.


4.  ABTA has long supported additional runway capacity in the South East, particularly at Heathrow and Gatwick, to allow for long-term growth. We were very concerned at the Government's announcement ruling out further runways at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted and its intention to make these airports better and not bigger.

5.  ABTA believes that high speed rail will not solve Heathrow's chronic capacity constraints. The short-haul air market represents a relatively small proportion of Heathrow's total flights and passenger numbers. The airport serves a small number of destinations in Scotland, Northern England and continental Europe where there is some form of viable rail alternative available from central London. HS1 between London and Paris and Brussels has reduced the number of passengers flying between those destinations and London, but it has not replaced the routes entirely. Many of Heathrow's domestic passengers are transferring to flights to other destinations from Heathrow. Further, unless there is a direct link to the airport allowing passengers a seamless interchange, there is no incentive to switch to rail from air. Rail is never going to be able to serve long-haul destinations, and even for short-haul routes, rail will always be more limited than in continental Europe because we are an island nation. Building a high speed rail link is not an alternative to increasing runway capacity.

6.  To be noted that additional runway capacity will be paid by private funding whereas HS2 will largely be paid for from the public purse.


7.  ABTA strongly believes that the Government should commit to building the full network to Leeds and Manchester from the outset, so that HS2 is not simply a trunk route from London to Birmingham. Without this further extension, the case for HSR becomes weaker given that it is the relieving of congestion on existing rail lines to Manchester and Leeds that form a key element of the business case. Without links to Manchester and Leeds, the degree to which HSR could help reduce emissions from domestic air travel will be further limited.

8.  We also believe the Government should give early consideration to onward extension to Scotland given the potential economic benefits created by increasing connectivity within the UK.

9.  We feel that HS2 needs to be an integrated transport system with seamless interchanges to international gateways and networks. This includes HS1, Heathrow and Birmingham airports.

10.  It is not sufficient that Heathrow is connected by a spur link from Old Oak Common. Unless there is a seamless interchange, passengers will not be inclined to use HSR and will continue to fly in order to transfer to onward flights.


11.  HS2 Ltd themselves say that this project is at best carbon neutral. They predict that 65% of passengers will either transfer from existing rail services, with faster trains inevitably increasing carbon emissions, or are additional incremental journeys as a result of faster trains which will also increase emissions.

12.  It is crucial that the environmental impact of a HSR network is fully understood and plays a positive role in helping the UK meet its 2050 greenhouse gas emissions reductions target.

13.  Thank you for taking our comments into consideration. We would welcome the opportunity to contribute further or expand upon any of the above points.

16 May 2011

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Prepared 8 November 2011