High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents


Written evidence from T.H.Effendowicz (HSR 141)

The current economic difficulties in which the country finds itself make it imperative to review the Government's proposals for the HS2 line. Britain needs a new, fast railway that would bring considerable economic benefits to the whole country but the HS2 project has started from the wrong premise. The terms of reference for the project laid down by the previous Government and extended by the present one place undue emphasis on benefits likely to flow to Heathrow from the project, and overemphasise the role of Birmingham as compared with other major cities. The company created to carry out the project, HS2 Ltd., followed their terms of reference rigidly and therefore did not explore alternatives which would favour the country as a whole.

Heathrow, as HS2 Ltd. recognized, has two predominant roles, as London's origin and destination airport accounting for 80% of its traffic, and as an international transfer hub. Quoting HS2 Ltd's own conclusions, only 1000 passengers per day from the whole rest of the country would be likely to utilise Heathrow, equivalent in numbers to a single daily train load on the High Speed Railway. As for Birmingham, the cost of providing it with a 250 mph railway line would be £17 billion and the city would have to wait for it until 2026. This ignores the fact that the existing Chiltern Railways could develop a slightly more modest 125 mph line between London and Birmingham within four-five years at a cost of £5 billion or less, using established noise corridors.

HS2 Ltd. examined superficially a route running parallel to the M1, but at some distance from it, and turned it down as non-viable. They did not, however, attempt to run it along the present Ml noise corridor which had all the problems of proximity to houses, terrain difficulties and disturbance to water supplies ironed out when the M1 was built. Motorway noise corridors are regularly used on the Continent for High Speed Railway routes, as indeed is the case with UK's own HS1. It is fully practical to build HS2 in close proximity to the Ml and M6, adding just 8 km (4%) to the length of the route and to the time taken for the journey from Birmingham to London, ie 51 minutes instead of 49. This route might even turn out to be cheaper to construct than the one proposed by HS2 Ltd. Do we really wish to damage the beauty of the Chilterns and risk serious harm to Chilterns' and London's water supply for the sake of shortening the Birmingham to London journey by two minutes?

The benefits of these proposals therefore are:

—  Birmingham could obtain a semi-fast route to London, connecting to Crossrail at Paddington on the way to Heathrow, some 10 years before HS2 is completed and for £5 billion or less instead of £17 billion. The Chiltern Railway line could even be extended the full distance from Birmingham to Heathrow if passenger volumes would justify doing so.

—  A very costly development of the Old Oak Common site could be avoided.

—  Directing the line by the shortest route from Euston to the M1 corridor would make for appreciably shorter tunnels through London.

—  HS2 would run through established noise corridors and would not damage aquifers.

—  Birmingham would still in time get its HS2 connection but, by then, the main value of this would consist in connecting the city direct to the Continent via the HS2/HS1 junction.

—  The HS2 route would probably pass close to Rugby, in a straight line for Manchester, a little farther east than in HS2 Ltd's previously published plans but closer to the dividing point of the planned Y shape, making it easier to reach the large conurbations on the eastern side of the Pennines.

—  Finally, and of interest to counties on both the western and eastern routes, it is feasible to have intermediate stops at hubs such as Milton Keynes/Northampton, Rugby/Coventry, Stoke/Stafford and East Midlands (for Leicester/Derby/Nottingham), by adopting a system of alternate trains — express ones and marginally slower stopping ones.

One might legitimately ask why has the Coalition Government not looked in depth at this and other options that could potentially provide high speed rail connectivity to more Midlands and Northern cities than is possible with the current proposal.


 
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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011