High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Stuart Porter (HSR 12)

1.  Since retiring as a Transport Planner seven years ago, I have retained a professional interest in transportation planning.

2.  I welcome HS2 as long as its promoters are more forthcoming about

(a)  what other rail schemes are needed in the same time frame,

(b)  mitigation measures for the economic losers from the HS2 scheme and;

(c)  evidence that HS2 is an affordable part of a competent rail network, which can be completed within a reasonable 30 year period. That rail network needs to cover the whole of Britain with,

(i)  Some lines at 100mph and others at higher speed.

(ii)  HS2 services to Heathrow being brought forward by at least two years.

(iii)  The CrossRail 1 extensions advocated by Network Rail in the recent Route Utilization Study being completed before HS2 Phase 1 starts disrupting services at Euston.

(iv)  CrossRail 2 being developed so that its first phase could open at the same time as HS2 Phase 2.

3.  I suspect the above shortfalls can only be addressed if HS2 opens a little later than 2026—now that the recession has reduced the money available for road and rail projects. A short delay would however

(i)  increase HS2's Benefit to Cost Ratio (BCR),

(ii)  increase the proportion of costs covered by fare revenue—a four year delay would change that ratio from 57% to 66% for HS2 Phase 1 and;

(iii)  allow headroom within budgets for other complementary projects.

4.  We as a nation have so far built too little transport infrastructure, too late using too piecemeal approaches. To avoid repeating that history we need to develop an optimised combined programme with arrangements to accelerate the programme if long distance rail patronage growth is higher than expected at key decision points. The detailed arguments which have led me to the above conclusions are set out later in this letter.


5.  I see the key policy benefit of HS2 as being that it helps bridge the North-South divide that has limited growth outside London and the South East for almost a century. I want that to be delivered as soon as possible—but only after the disadvantaged areas in the South East have been identified and considered.

6.  As part of the justification for HS2 there needs to be a debate about:

(i)  Whether we can justify keeping on building free motorways once we have exploited the spare capacity of hard shoulder running?—or

(ii)  Are we prepared to supplement the existing motorway network with tolled motorways whenever a new alignment is justified—or

(iii)  Is a major investment in the whole of our rail network an affordable alternative to both i) & ii),

(iv)  How are we going to solve the Heathrow problems? and

(v)  Is it a case of building extra runways or HS2?

The Department for Transport (DfT) in the next round of reports needs to debate those issues.

7.  HS2 or an independent consultant should be asked to produce a phased composite programme and identify which competing projects should be brought to the preferred route stage to the same timescale as HS2. If that analysis is commissioned now, the justification for HS2 would be stronger and there would be fewer objections at the parliamentary proceedings. If the analysis is not done design staff risk concentrating on the wrong aspects, while decision makers reconsider matters, as happened with CrossRail 1.

8.  We have time to do those studies because of the hiccup in long distance rail patronage growth caused by the recession. A phased programme would need to be costed, but would be much more preferable than the unconvincing arguments in HS2's Economic Case report (paragraphs 3.3.18/19) which say:

"As a result of HS2, the number of passengers per day using Euston Mainline Station is expected to increase by 32,000…this would mean 5,500 additional passengers using Euston Underground Station in the morning peak period". "Both the Northern and Victoria lines which stop at Euston are likely to be heavily crowded by 2043 even without HS2. Although....HS2 will add to this pressure, the number of passengers added by HS2 is likely to be relatively small (around 2% compared to the number of passengers already forecast to be on London Underground services passing through Euston."

9.  As DfT has shown in Figure 2 of the Economic Case for HS2:

(i)  the rail and air market share of the domestic long distance travel market has increased markedly since 1995; and

(ii)  something—possibly the West Coast Main Line upgrade has reversed the growth trajectory for domestic air travel.

If there hadn't been the deep recession, those trends would have been more likely to continue and money would have been available both for HS2 and other justifiable projects to cater for that growth.

10.  Since the recession rail patronage growth will be less, but will still be enough for the peak capacity on all 3 main north-south rail routes out of London to be fully used over the coming decades. HS2 can solve the capacity problems of those three main rail lines, as HS2 Phase 1 relieves the West Coast Main Line (WCML), while HS2 Phase 2 relieves the Midland Main Line and East Coast Main Line (MML & ECML). However, the comparative stress on those and other lines needs to be reported clearly and concisely in a single document.

11.  Figure 6 of the Economic Case for HS2 report (shown here) reflects the reasonable assumption used by DfT and HS2 that long distance rail demand will grow at a slower pace to reach their previously assumed design demand in 2043 rather than 2033. Using that assumption it shows 50% higher benefits if HS2 phase 1 opens in 2033 rather than 2026.

12.  Any delay would also improve the ratio of discounted revenues to total discounted costs and I have calculated that a four year delay would change that ratio from 57% to 66% for HS2 Phase 1. A 10 year delay might be sufficient for discounted revenues and discounted costs to be brought into balance - if the government underwrites the HS2 planning costs. The government already does that when building and upgrading roads.

13.  That ratio and other information from Table 10 of HS2's Economic Case Report is shown below. They have all been calculated in the normal standardised way and I have only one query—why have the carbon benefits not been calculated?
(a)Business User Transport Benefits £11.1 billion
(b)Other User Transport Benefits £6.4 billion
(c)Other Quantifiable Benefits (excl Carbon) £0.4 billion—WHY Excl Carbon?
(d)Loss to Government of Indirect Taxes -£1.3 billion
(e)Wider Economic Impacts (WEIs) £4.0 billion
(f)Net Benefits including WEIs £20.6 billion
(g)Discounted Capital Costs £17.8 billion
(h)Discounted Operating Costs £6.2 billion (total costs £24 billion)
(i)Discounted Revenues £13.7 billion (2.25 times operating costs or 57% of total costs)
(j)Benefit to Cost Ratio (BCR) £2.0 (or 1.6 excl WEIs—as used in Figure 6.1 above)

14. Professor Glaister at his 24 February presentation[11] explained that most of the costs are incurred before the scheme opens, whereas revenues arise later and depend upon the forecast usage materializing—an inevitable "characteristic of big infrastructure investments". Professor Glaister argued that before starting a new project the government ought to set out

(i)  its understanding of the nation's transport needs for the forthcoming decades;

(ii)  how it intends to meet them; and

(iii)  how High Speed Rail can contribute to this broader picture.

As that hasn't been done "High Speed Rail [is little more than] an article of faith with insufficient evidence to support it."

15. The government needs to answer those arguments by initiating the debate advocated in paragraph 6 above.

Issue 1.2—What would be the implications of expenditure on HSR on funding for the "classic" network..
Issue 3.4—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?

16. The benefits of HS2 depend upon growth in long distance rail travel continuing. Some early enhancements of the "classic" network are needed to avoid discouraging that growth, perhaps by deploying HS2 classic compatible rolling stock while HS2 is still being built.

17. Extra benefits could also be available if more through rail journeys via London can be encouraged. A study of within the South East connectivity problems (including inter-airport connectivity) is needed to identify those opportunities and provide a full answer to question 1.2. Any such study should examine the opportunities presented by the HS1-HS2 link to improve domestic rail connectivity. It would complement Network Rail's Route Utilization Studies (RUS) for London and the South East, which concentrates on the capacity enhancements needed in addition to HS2, to relieve the predicted over-crowding, but gives only limited consideration to within region connectivity.

18. To partly fill the above voids I have suggested in my Appendix, ways of sub-dividing the HS2 phases to coordinate HS2 better with other rail improvements. By sub-dividing both HS2 Phases 1 & 2 the gap between the HS1-HS2 link opening and the HS2-Heathrow spur opening can and should be minimised.

19. Both the link and spur reduce the need for some air travel and will bring some respite if Heathrow is disrupted—important policy considerations. The spur in particular would make Birmingham Airport only 33 minutes distant from Heathrow and could provide opportunities for integrated rail/air timetables to/from some destinations. Those opportunities must not be thwarted by inappropriate penny pinching.

Issue 5.3—Which locations and socio-economic groups will benefit from HSR?

20. Business Users in London, Manchester and the West Midlands would be the main beneficiary of HS2 as shown in paragraph 13 above and Table 5 of HS2's economic case report. Their gain would more than offset the relative disadvantages suffered by Leicester, Coventry and smaller towns nearer London. Those communities will become less attractive to inward mobile investment, because Birmingham is currently 84 minutes distant from Euston, whereas Leicester is 15 minutes quicker from St Pancras. With HS2 that hierarchy is reversed. Similarly affected places include Kettering where I live, Cardiff and Bristol.

21. Those relative disadvantages could be rectified by upgrading existing lines, building CrossRail 2 and the Inter-City Express proposals for Cardiff and Bristol planned by DfT. Some of those measures could be promoted as HS2 mitigation measures. If CrossRail 2 services were extended to Milton Keynes, some CrossRail 1 services could be diverted to serve Aylesbury instead. That would save around 10 minutes in journeys to Canary Wharf etc. from communities through which HS2 passes—an important policy consideration.

22. This type of blue sky thinking is needed before HS2 advance works and design decisions are finalised, to make sure reasonable longer term developments aren't thwarted by the lack of flexibility inherent in the preferred options. In particular the length of single track provided for the HS1-HS2 link should be critically examined to see what flexibility limited dualing would offer. Operating plans during disruption at key stations also need to be produced to help evaluate other flexibility provisions.

Issue 6.1—What will be the overall impact of HSR on UK carbon emissions?

23. The BCRs reported in Table 10 above exclude Carbon disbenefits—which are likely to be substantial if the electricity consumed is not from carbon neutral sources. The major benefits are reportedly for business users, which implies that different maximum speeds at different times of day may be justified—to optimise carbon emissions. Business use outside 7am-8pm on weekdays (65 hours per week) is likely to be minimal, whereas HS2 services are expected to operate 130 hours per week. Thus significant extra carbon benefits may well be justified by using lower maximum speeds for half the operating hours.

24. Air replacement services using HS2 and better airport connections can also help reduce UK carbon emissions and should be a key focus of the design process.


25. HS2 is capable of becoming a justifiable project on both policy and economic grounds if it opens a little later than 2026. One way forward could be to set up a further company to consider the above and to produce proposals competing with HS2 Phase 2 for the available cash and help convince decision makers that the necessary checks and balances are in place.

26. Pending such a study the suggestions in my Appendix reflect what I see as the relative priorities. They:

(i)  bring forward HS2 services to Heathrow by at least two years—possibly at the expense of HS2 Phase 2 services to Manchester and Scotland (item 10)—which benefit from Phase 1,

(ii)  relieve some crowding on WCML earlier than HS2 plan,

(iii)  build the CrossRail 1 extensions before HS2 Phase 1 starts disrupting services at Euston,

(iv)  open part of CrossRail 2 at the same time as HS2 Phase 2,

(v)  increase the BCR of HS2 Phase 1 from 1.6 to 2.0 by completing it in 2030,[12] and

(vi)  recognise the Great Western Main Line (GWML) long term capacity problem approaching London Paddington identified in Network Rail's London & SE RUS.

26 April 2011



A1 The following suggested coordinated phasing is based on Network Rail's RUS ideas and my local knowledge—as a former commuter via St Pancras and reflect the relative priorities set out in paragraph 26.
Item No.Year
1.2018—CrossRail 1 opens as planned—and civil engineering resources become available.
2.2022—Ideal target date for prototype running of Classic Compatible rolling stock as peak hour extra capacity between Ashford & St Pancras—potentially freeing some Javelin units for use elsewhere.
3.2024—Ideal date for Network Rail's suggested CrossRail 1 northern extensions to open to facilitate Euston rebuilding. (Network Rail's South East Route Utilization Study Figure 8.1 shows the details).
4.2024—Classic Compatible rolling stock introduced on West Coast Main Line (WCML) replacing shorter rolling stock and/or as extra shoulder peak services—bringing overcrowding relief.
5.2028—HS2 Phase 1 opens using only Classic Compatible rolling stock during Euston station rebuilding—using rolling stock run-in via item 2 and perhaps interim journey times.
6.2030—HS2 Phase 1 and Euston station rebuild completed—potentially increasing its BCR from 1.6 to 2.0.[13]
7.2032 or earlier—HS2 services to Heathrow start using Classic Compatible rolling stock cascaded from the Euston to Birmingham services which hereafter use Continental Gauge stock. Eurostar services start alternating between Birmingham Interchange and Heathrow - both services calling at Old Oak Common.
8.2034—HS2 services to Leeds start using Continental Gauge stock.
9.2034—CrossRail 2 Phase 1 opens between Euston & Victoria/Clapham Junction to relieve Euston Underground services and improve connectivity.
10.2036—HS2 Phase 2 completed and Manchester services start using Continental Gauge stock. Eurostar services start alternating between Manchester (via Birmingham Interchange) and Heathrow—calling at Old Oak Common to provide high frequency connectivity between more of the country and Europe.
11.2036—Aylesbury to Old Oak Common connection provided and electrified leading to either CrossRail 1 or HS1-HS2 link—ideally using compatible (perhaps Kent to St Pancras Javelin) rolling stock.
12.2038—HS1-HS2 link extended to Heathrow and Slough and perhaps dualled east of Old Oak Common.

A2 Network Rail's latest Route Utilization Study (RUS) acknowledges the potential need for a CrossRail 2 station serving Euston and suggests extensions of CrossRail 2—to main lines north of Kings Cross/St Pancras and south of Victoria. Those suggestions (reproduced here) could spread the benefits of HS2 more widely across the South East of England and could imply through services from South of Clapham Junction, to the Midland Main Line and Northampton line. That would enhance regional connectivity and network resilience substantially.

A3 The core of CrossRail 2 could be limited to Euston/Kings Cross to Victoria/Clapham Junction via a single station at Tottenham Court Road. The rest could follow, with eventually half the envisaged 24 trains per hour being assigned to a) the within and b) out of London services. The first phase:

(1)  would deal effectively with the crowding at Euston arising from HS2 Phase 2;

(2)  bring central London closer to areas which don't gain from HS2; and

(3)  could benefit Chiltern residents by allowing some CrossRail 1 services to be extended to Aylesbury, saving around 10 minutes in their journeys to Canary Wharf etc.

Without CrossRail 2 or other mitigation measures Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and the area served by the southern end of the West Coast Main Line (WCML) are economic losers from HS2, but they, Aylesbury and a swathe of the South Midlands could benefit from the following potentially 'HS2 branded' mitigation measures.[14]

A4 Item 12 tries to recognise the opportunity to improve connectivity within the South East region (and network resilience) by providing through services reversing at St Pancras - by diverting some Bristol and Cardiff Inter-City Express services to St Pancras which then continue instead of Kent Javelin services. Regular services would allow Ebbsfleet to become a park & ride facility for Heathrow, but may require some Midland Main Line (MML) services to continue south of St Pancras via Thameslink or CrossRail 2 to increase platform availability at St Pancras.

11   presentation to the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation published on http://www.racfoundation.org/assets/rac_foundation/content/downloadables/glaister%20on%20high%20speed%20rail%20-%20ciht%20cardiff%20-%20240211.pdf Back

12   A similar increase in BCR could be possible if private finance for rebuilding Euston can be found - funded by future rental income from extra shops etc at Euston. The BCRs quoted exclude Wider Economic Impacts. Back

13   A similar increase in BCR could be possible if private finance for rebuilding Euston can be found - funded by future rental income from extra shops etc at Euston. The BCRs quoted exclude Wider Economic Impacts. Back

14   A combined Euston/St Pancras CrossRail 2 station might be cheaper and better if detailed design justifies that. Ways of funding CrossRail 2 Phase 1 could involve delaying the Euston rebuilding to an early part of HS2 Phase 2 to increase its benefit to cost ratio and gain economies of scale in procurement by buying only classic compatible rolling stock for HS2 Phase 1 and only continental gauge stock for HS2 Phase 2. Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011