Written evidence from B Bedford (HSR 142)|
1. I understand that your Transport Committee has decided
to hold an inquiry into the strategic case for High Speed Rail
(HS2). I am writing to you because my concern is that the building
of this railway will not provide the economic growth so desperately
needed by this country.
2. I think economic growth can occur only if
there is a perceived demand which a service or industry can satisfy
at a competitive price. An example is the demand for Jaguar Land
Rover vehicles which are perceived as good quality and good value
in many overseas markets. Hence, this Indian owned company is
proposing to invest in both increased production and also in an
increased number of designs. In general, British manufacturers
are failing to compete against foreign rivals due, in part, to
their products not being-well designed or competitively priced
but also due to the loss of workforce skills which are very difficult
to regenerate. They also find it difficult to obtain bank loans
with which to improve their performance and expand. The construction
of HS2 would not improve this situation. Indeed, HS2 Ltd admit
as much in their Tables 47, 48 and 50 in Appendix 3 of their Socio-economic
Report, where they admit that a total of 157,000 sq metres of
industrial area would be lost at the proposed three stations between
London and Birmingham leading to less employment in the manufacturing
sector, so vital to this country's recovery.
3. This country is in a dire financial state. The Chancellor
hopes to eliminate our monthly borrowing requirement by 2015 but
our debt will still be around £1.4 trillion which will be
a monumental hurdle for future generations to tackle. Therefore,
any project which will not add significantly to economic growth
but will add to our debt should not be pursued. I view the construction
of HS2 as a project which should not be progressed.
4. It is instructive to consider the experiences of Continental
countries, who have built High Speed Lines. Both France and Spain,
after writing off their construction costs, have highly successful
lines, aided by the inhibiting influence on air travel which security
processes provide. In both countries their rail systems had suffered
years of decline so that they were unable to compete with either
rail or air travel.
5. However, demand forecasting has failed in a staggering
84% of High Speed projects (New Engineer 3/3/11). The Dutch High
Speed Line is facing bankruptcy after only a year in service because
some of the trains have only 15% of their seats occupied. Closer
to home the traffic forecasts for the Channel Tunnel Rail link
were so inaccurate that the operator, London & Continental,
became insolvent in May 2009. The London & Continental Railway
forecast that passenger numbers would reach 21.4 million a year
by 2004. However, by 2009 they had reached only 7.3 million. Even
in the U.SA. and China there are doubts whether demand will support
their construction costs.
6. It should be remembered that British Rail introduced into
service trains capable of travelling at 125 mph long before other
European countries considerered building high speed lines. The
average speeds, calculated from published timetables, achieved
by continental high speed lines are given in the following table:
|Average Speed mph
|St Pancreas to Brussels||114
|St Pancreas to Paris||120
|Paris to Lyon||120|
|Paris to Tours||118|
|Paris to Nice||108|
|Berlin to Hamburg||105
|Madrid to Seville||118
These figures suggest that the maximum speed achieved by continental
high speed trains are much the same as UK Long distance trains.
They are not operating pioneering high speed lines which HS2 Ltd
7. The recent upgrade of the West Coast Line and the introduction
of Pendolino tilting carriages has enabled trains to travel for
longer distances at 125 mph and has brought Glasgow to be only
four hour 10 minutes from London. It has also produced a line
capable of 1000 extra services a week and a 70% increase in freight
capacity. However, HS2 Ltd has reported continued overcrowding
on this line which, they admit is essentially at peak times. Perhaps
the inhibiting factor against using longer trains and where necessary
longer platforms is the "access charge" which is levied
on train companies and which is proportional to the number of
carriages comprising a train. These charges will impinge on the
profit that a company can make.
8. Train Operator East Coast has announced that on 22nd May,
their new timetable will provide 3,000,000 additional seats per
year, 19 new services per weekday and faster journey times for
millions of passengers. They cite the return of the "Flying
Scotsman" express which will travel from Edinburgh to Kings
Cross in 4 hours including a stop at Newcastle.
9. I think the cost of constructing HS2 to save approximately
30 minutes journey time to both Glasgow and Edinburgh is money
not well spent.
10. There appears to be an assumption by HS2 Ltd that this
proposed line would be entirely reliable. The utopian situation
has yet to be achieved in mechanical mechanisms or electrical
systems. Nevertherless, they are proposing to transfer long distance
services from the East and West Coast from day one. Surely a failure
for whatever reason that brought a train to an unscheduled stop
would be catastrophic.
11. In reviewing the Business Case, I consider that the crucial
monetary values given under Transport User Benefits are too high
(a) Business will increasingly use video and other technology
as an alternative to travelling to meetings.
(b) Working from home will increase for office workers as
the technology becomes more generally available.
(c) Leisure travellers tend to use the cheapest mode of travel
because time may not be a significant factor.
(d) Quantifying in monetary terms the redevelopment of stations
as a benefit to passengers is a step too far. For example, HS2
Ltd has concluded that the re-design of Euston Station would deliver
benefits of between £900 million-£1.5 billion to passengers.
All the above assumptions are vital to the production of the Benefit
Cost Ratio (BCR) and if demand is lower than HS2 Ltd computer
modelling suggests, then revenue will be lower and the B.C.R would
be on a knife edge. I have pointed out earlier in this letter
that demand forecasting has failed more that it has worked.
12. The heading of Chapter 2, Page 42 of the February 2011
Consultation is entitled "The Case for National High Speed
Rail Network". However, the author confines his comments
to London and the major conurbations of the Midlands and the North.
He makes no mention of the fact that the combined population of
South Wales and South Western England is over six million people
- more than Scotland and similar to the major conurbations of
Northern England - yet these regions appear to be forgotten in
the HS2 coverage proposed by HS2 Ltd.