Written evidence from Atkins Ltd (HSR
Atkins has been involved in the debates over High
Speed Rail (HSR) since its original study for the former Strategic
Rail Authority between 2001 and 2003. In 2008, we produced an
independent research paper
which set out the ongoing case for investment in HSR in the UK.
We have subsequently provided advice to the Department for Transport
(DfT) and High Speed 2 (HS2 Ltd) on demand modelling and economic
appraisal for HSR options, as well as investigating alternative
options to HSR.
We stress that this submission is an independent
assessment of the issues raised by the transport select committee.
It is not based on - and does not represent - any work or advice
given to either DfT or HS2 Ltd.
1. What are the main arguments for and against
1.1 We strongly believe that HSR is the most
effective way to provide capacity to the UK transport system in
a way that encourages sustainable economic development and maximises
efficiency of the overall transport network. In particular:
provides a step change in the capacity of the rail network by
removing the fastest services from the network and making space
for more regional and local passenger services and freight trains.
This capacity is needed to address the ongoing growth in both
long-distance and commuter travel by rail.
reduction in journey times between London and the main economic
centres of Scotland, the North and Midlands will provide huge
economic benefits that no other major transport scheme could provide.
The majority of economic benefits from the scheme will be accrued
by residents and businesses outside London.
development of HSR stations and hubs can act as a focus for sustainable
economic development in those areas, and encourage local transport
networks to feed the hubs and increase accessibility of local
1.2 We also recognise that HSR is a huge infrastructure
project, which needs to be planned carefully, both to minimise
the impact on local communities affected by construction and operation
of new lines, and maximise the benefits of the investment in a
new HSR network.
2. How does HSR fit with government objectives?
2.1 Importance of inter-urban connectivity:
Although inter-urban trips make up only a small proportion of
total travel in the UK, their impact on the transport network
is large. Statistics from the National Transport Survey in 2009
showed that around 40% of car kms on the road network were associated
with trips over 25 miles, with that figure rising to 75% of passenger
kms being trips over 25 miles on the rail network. In other words,
t strain on the transport network comes from catering for longer-distance
2.2 However, inter-urban and local connectivity
are closely inter-related, particularly for rail and HSR. For
HSR to be successful, the stations on the network need to be easily
accessible - local connectivity is vital. In turn, development
of rail and HSR hubs encourages local transport networks to develop
around those hubs, creating a potentially symbiotic relationship.
2.3 From an economic perspective, inter-urban
and local connectivity also complement each other. While inter-urban
connectivity increases accessibility to markets for businesses,
local connectivity is often more effective at increasing accessibility
to skilled workforce, It would be misleading to describe either
local or inter-urban connectivity as more important than the other.
2.4 Impact of HSR on funding for "classic"
network: Because of the national scale of developing a HSR
network across the UK, it is vital that investment in the existing
rail network and services is not affected. To a certain extent,
the High Level Output Specification (HLOS) process set up by the
previous government provides a framework which requires the rail
industry to ensure investment is targeted appropriately and fairly
through setting targets on capacity, safety and reliability across
2.5 Implications for domestic aviation:
The UK domestic aviation market is highly competitive, and has
historically competed with rail on both journey time and price.
Recent research conducted by ATOC
suggests that rail has started to regain market share, at least
partly due to improved rail services on the West Coast Main Line
2.6 If fully completed, international research
suggests that mode share for HSR on the main Scotland to London
routes could be up to 75%. It is unlikely that HSR would completely
eliminate domestic aviation unless there was significant additional
regulation imposed on domestic aviation. For example, while Eurostar
enjoys a high mode share (around 70%) on the London to Paris route,
three airlines fly 28 flights a day each way between the two cities.
For many areas around the two cities, airports are still more
accessible than the HS1 terminal at St Pancras.
3. Business case
3.1 Business case methodology: Atkins
has assisted HS2 Ltd with development of its passenger forecasts,
estimates of modal shift and calculation of economic benefits,
all of which are consistent with government guidance and international
best practice. We provide the following comments in two areas
raised by the Inquiry:
of passenger growth through to 2030 and beyond are inherently
uncertain, but are vital to understand what the likely value for
money of HSR would be, and, critically, ensure any scheme is designed
with enough capacity to cater for the expected passengers. While
HS2 forecasts of 95% growth in passengers over 100 miles from
2008 to 2043, we understand that passenger growth since 2008 on
the current Virgin franchise has been between 20% to 30%
- ie already a quarter of the total forecast growth to 2043 in
just two years.
of economic benefits associated with time savings are consistent
with central Government guidance and are designed to allow meaningful
comparison between different public investments. For each individual
project, the standard methodology will necessarily over-estimate
in some areas and under-estimate in others. For example, although
there may be some use of productive travel time on high speed
trains - which may reduce the value of overall time savings for
business users - equally the methodology underestimates the productive
time savings of those switching from car or air to HSR, and the
overall generally higher value of time for business travellers
who make long-distance trips.
3.2 Alternatives to HSR: Atkins
was also appointed by DfT to undertake a study of potential alternatives
to HSR, to increase capacity on the London to Birmingham corridor,
through road and rail enhancement schemes. An independent challenge
team developed realistic alternative schemes for providing more
capacity on the route. We found that some of the upgrade packages
- particularly a medium scale upgrade of the WCML route ("Package
- could offer value for money, although it would not provide the
scale of capacity benefits or economic benefits that HS2 offers.
3.3 However, it would be wrong to interpret the
analysis as showing that conventional rail upgrades offer better
value for money than a high speed rail network for several reasons:
3.4 First, while Package 2 does provide additional
capacity on the WCML route, HS2 would provide capacity relief
on the parallel Midland Main Line (MML) and East Coast Main Line
(ECML) routes as well through the eastern branch of the "Y"
network. Only very minor capacity enhancements could be provided
on those routes in a cost-effective way because of the mix of
commuter and long-distance services. Furthermore, if passenger
growth continued, it is unlikely that further capacity enhancements
on the WCML could be undertaken in a cost-effective manner, and
little of the additional capacity would be available during peak
hours when it is most needed.
3.5 Second, the business case for HS2 focuses
solely on the changes to long-distance services from Euston as
a result of HS2 services being introduced. The development of
a separate HSR network provides a step-change in the availability
of spare capacity on the existing network to provide new inter-regional
services (for example, Manchester Airport to Milton Keynes) that
the limited capacity upgrades of existing routes either fails
to provide or even removes as the intensity of use of the existing
3.6 Finally, HSR provides much greater network
resilience, as the intensity of use of the expanded UK rail network
is correspondingly reduced. Beyond improvements in service reliability,
the availability of a new rail corridor would ameliorate the impact
of temporary closure of any of the main trunk north-south routes
due to major incidents.
3.7 Managing rail demand: There are other
ways of managing rail demand, principally by either increasing
fares on crowded services and routes or restricting ticket availability.
In either case, the impact will be to encourage further travel
by road or air. Since around a half of long-distance rail trips
are made for leisure purposes, increasing rail fares to manage
demand would affect the less well-off disproportionately.
3.8 Beyond the problems of increased congestion
and pollution, this would also reduce the benefits of businesses
locating in areas easily accessible by public transport, making
sustainable economic development more difficult. In the long-term,
developing a high speed rail network provides a more efficient
rail network and actually reduces the ongoing operating cost per
passenger km across the system, allowing additional capacity for
regional and local trips to provided more cheaply.
3.9 Lessons from other major projects:
The successful completion of HS1 into St Pancras contrasts heavily
with the huge problems associated with the WCML upgrades started
by Railtrack and taken forward by Network Rail. We believe the
key lessons to take on board are:
and managing interfaces with the existing network effectively,
including planning carefully to mitigate impacts on passengers.
We believe work on the Thameslink Programme by Network Rail has
demonstrated how this can be achieved even on a heavily used rail
construction and development of the HSR network, reducing risk
exposure to all parties and allowing early provision of benefits
where possible. This was achieved on HS1 through construction
of an early section reducing journey times into Waterloo International,
and providing revenue streams to support further construction
an early stage, robust external challenge by potential contractors
of proposals, including technical and design standards, to drive
down costs, eliminate any unnecessarily high specifications and
4. The strategic route
4.1 Station locations: The reports by
HS2 have shown that there may be a case for an intermediate station
between London and Birmingham - possibly up to £2 billion
present value (PV) in user benefits and £1 billion PV in
revenue, depending on station location.
This level of benefits and revenues would outweigh the costs of
any station or services. However, in turn, stopping HS2 services
at an intermediate station would have detrimental effects on a
similar scale on passengers travelling between London and the
North, and would reduce overall line capacity.
4.2 We agree with HS2's assessment that, in the
long term, the disbenefits of an intermediate station to longer-distance
passengers would outweigh the benefits for users of that station.
This situation would only change if capacity on the line, either
because long-distance patronage was much below forecast or if
a second HSR route into London was developed which diverted HSR
services to the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East away
4.3 The strategic locations for new stations
in the West Midlands provide access to central Birmingham as well
as accessibility by car from a large area of the West Midlands.
We stress the importance of providing effective interchange with
existing stations at New Street and International.
4.4 At present, the spur line into Birmingham
is planned to be operated as a self-contained HSR route. The government
should examine whether this section of route, which would neither
be intensively used by HSR services nor operated at full high
speed for significant lengths, could be developed as a conventional
line, to allow more long-distance high speed services to be released
from the existing crowded corridors in the West Midlands area.
We also stress the importance of physical connections from the
HSR station in central Birmingham to the existing rail network,
to allow HSR services to continue south from Birmingham to the
South and South West.
4.5 In London, Euston is by far the most appropriate
central London location for a high speed rail station, from an
engineering, economic and planning perspective. The case for a
station at Old Oak Common is largely driven by providing access
to a much wider catchment area via Crossrail, particularly from
the East and West of London, and alleviating pressure on the Underground
network at Euston station. However, we regard provision of this
station as adding incremental value to the scheme, rather than
an essential component.
4.6 Shape of proposed network: The "Y"
network proposed by HS2 has significant strategic advantages,
by using the additional capacity between Birmingham and London
to benefit both the East and West Midlands, and both Yorkshire
and the North West. This configuration also gives an opportunity
to extend beyond Leeds and Manchester to Edinburgh/Glasgow via
a west coast route, and to Newcastle via an east coast route,
linking London by HSR with the largest core urban areas.
4.7 Depending on the level of passenger growth
and on technical views of the effective capacity a new HSR line,
there remain doubts as to whether a single route into London would
be sufficient to provide HSR service to all major urban centres.
At present, a combined total of 19 long-distance services (serving
markets more than 100 miles from London) operate every hour on
the WCML, ECML and MML routes, rising to 22 services in peak hours.
4.8 If only a single HSR route into London were
to be provided, then inevitably some major urban centres more
than 100 miles from London would not have direct HSR services,
although they would continue to be served by residual services
on the existing network. We note that there are currently four
HSR lines from Paris, each of which carry about eight-12 TGV services
an hour to both "online" and "offline" urban
centres, and believe that it is likely there is a case for developing
two separate high speed rail lines into London from the north,
providing direct HSR services to many more regional centres. If
sufficient capacity is provided, we believe there is a strong
case for connecting as many cities as possible to the HSR network,
through using HS2 as a "trunk" route, and accessing
smaller stations on the existing network, as is the case on the
German and French high speed rail networks.
4.9 We stress that the "Y" network
does allow a further leg into London to be built, probably from
the East Midlands, at a later stage. It is important that any
route through the East Midlands is planned to facilitate a suitable
second HSR route direct to London to be provided subsequently.
It may also be worth examining whether a more direct connection
from the main East Midlands centres to the main HS2 route to London
further south of Birmingham could provide faster journey times
to London from more centres in the East Midlands.
4.10 We also recommend further examination of
the relative merits of extending the "Y" network to
Glasgow and Edinburgh via Newcastle, rather than a western route
via the Lake District.
4.11 Staging: The first stage of the high
speed network in the UK should be from London to the Birmingham
and the Midlands, as this section would provide the greatest relief
to the most heavily used sections of the UK long distance rail
network and offer reduced travel times for the highest number
of passengers and freight services.
4.12 However, there may be a case for considering
completion of other regional sections of high speed rail at an
earlier stage, to provide a greater spread of benefits across
the UK. For example, early completion of a HSR route between Sheffield
and Leeds, in conjunction with electrification/upgrade of the
Midland Main Line route and a simple connection to the HS2 route
near Lichfield, could provide reduced journey times from London
to Derby (55 min from 1 hour 33 minutes), Sheffield (1 hour 20
minutes from 2 hours 07 minutes) and Leeds (1 hour 40 minutes
from 2 hours 15 minutes). Journey times from Birmingham to the
same areas would be similarly reduced, for example to Leeds by
up to 45 minutes.
4.13 In turn, capacity could be released on the
Midland Main Line and East Coast Main Line routes for more services
from Nottingham, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh to London in advance
of completion of high speed rail to those areas. Further sections
of HSR route in other locations, such as between Newcastle and
York, could also reduce journey times between London Kings Cross
and Newcastle/Edinburgh in advance of connection to the London
to Birmingham leg of the network.
4.14 Links to HS1 and Heathrow Airport:
Until completion of a more extensive HSR network across the UK,
which could be capable of accepting standard European high speed
train sets, the prospects of extending HS1 services north onto
HS2 are relatively limited - only Birmingham would be available
during Phase 1. The connection between the two lines should only
be built at an early stage if there are significant construction
savings by doing so.
4.15 The phasing of any link to Heathrow is more
complicated, and needs to be planned in conjunction with a wider
strategy of medium and long-distance rail access to Heathrow.
If any major new rail infrastructure to access Heathrow is built,
it should be developed and designed in a way that facilitates
rail access from other areas, including South West England and
4.16 We note that the vast majority of Heathrow
travellers, even those from outside London, come from areas which
would not be directly served by HS2 services. As such, we recommend
that links to any new Heathrow rail infrastructure are provided
to the existing Chiltern, WCML, MML and ECML routes, allowing
areas not on the HSR route, particularly closer to London, to
benefit from connections to Heathrow.
4.17 Finally, we note that extending HSR services
from HS1 at St Pancras through to Heathrow Airport would have
the potential to reduce demand for short-haul flights from Heathrow
to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. When combined with potential
government intervention on prioritisation of flight slots at Heathrow
and through-ticketing on HSR services, this could allow complete
removal of some short haul flights at the airport.
5. Economic rebalancing and equity
5.1 Economic regeneration: The extent
to which HSR can assist in economic regeneration is heavily influenced
by station location and the willingness/ability of individual
cities to adapt their economic, land-use and transport policies
around a new HSR hub. There is inevitably controversy and differing
views on whether HSR provides net increases in inward investment
in particular areas, or only diverts investment towards the HS2
hub and away from areas less well-served. We recommend this is
examined further to ensure that cities and towns not currently
proposed to be served by the HS2 network are not adversely affected.
5.2 Figures produced by HS2
demonstrate that the majority of the economic benefits from high
speed rail would accrue to residents and businesses outside London
and the South East. While transport investment on its own cannot
eliminate the north-south economic divide, the faster journey
times between regional centres and London provide a significant
incentive for businesses to locate significant skilled capability
in regional centres, while still being able to maintain contact
with the huge international base of potential customers in London
and the South East.
5.3 We are not aware of any estimates of figures
of job creation in individual areas which would be served by HSR.
We emphasise again the need for local economic development and
transport planning to be shaped around the increased inter-urban
accessibility provided by HS2, including review of potential job
creation for individual business sectors for each location. The
benefits of HS2 come from joining up economic development and
transport policies, not just from faster journey times.
5.4 Decisions on network shape: The development
of a new HSR network is a national planning decision. The overall
shape of the network has to be guided by transport and economic
development priorities at a national level, reflecting the significant
investment by the government.
5.5 Decisions on how individual cities and towns
would be served after completion of HS2 should take local economic
development needs into account. We stress that there are a number
of options of how centres can be served, whether by dedicated
stations on the HSR line itself, by services running off the HSR
line and onto the existing network to serve multiple stations,
or by improved long-distance services making use of released capacity
on the existing network. These decisions should take into account
development plans and priorities in the surrounding areas.
5.6 Distribution of benefits: The majority
of benefits from HSR accrue to areas outside London, as described
in HS2 reports and other research on HSR. This is principally
due to the fact that more long-distance trips are made by residents
and employees of firms based outside London and the South East.
5.7 Different socio-economic groups will benefit
from HS2 in different ways: while long-distance trips are generally
made by higher income groups, the released capacity on the existing
network will primarily benefit those making shorter commuting
trips and inter-regional trips, improving accessibility to employment
opportunities for many communities.
5.8 Contributions from major beneficiaries:
It is important that areas and businesses which benefit from HS2
contribute appropriately to the costs of the scheme. At the same
time, higher local contributions may act against the aim of encouraging
economic regeneration - a key objective of the HS2 scheme in the
first place. However, it would be appropriate to require cities
and towns to ensure transport and economic development policies
maximise the impact of central government investment in HSR in
their areas, and for businesses to contribute towards provision
of other enabling infrastructure.
6.1 Impact on carbon emissions: Estimating
the net impact of HSR on UK carbon emissions is not straightforward,
and depends on a complex balance between the higher energy consumption
of HSR compared to conventional rail, the energy mix used in electricity
generation in the UK, and the amount of modal shift achieved by
6.2 For HSR to contribute towards a significant
reduction in carbon emissions, it needs to encourage modal shift
to rail not just from air - which makes up a relatively small
proportion of transport-related carbon emissions in the UK - but
also from car, particularly for shorter, urban car journeys on
congested roads. It is vital that the planning of HS2 is not just
around introduction of new, faster, long-distance rail services,
but also about improving local and regional rail services to provide
an attractive alternative to commuting by car. This also reinforces
the "step change" advantage of developing a HSR network
that piecemeal upgrades of the existing network cannot achieve.
6.3 Constructing a new line to operate at lower
speeds might result in lower ongoing energy consumption for the
rail network, but the much lower levels of mode shift achieved
would mean that associated reductions in carbon emissions for
air and car would be greatly reduced compared to HSR.
6.4 Environmental costs and benefits:
We do not have any specific comments on the methodology used to
calculate environmental costs and benefits in the HS2 business
case. From a technical perspective we note that it is difficult
to provide a quantified comparison between the environmental benefits
at national and regional levels, and the disbenefits at local
levels caused by construction of the route and operation of HSR
services. We recommend a focus on assessing what appropriate levels
of mitigation against local environmental disbenefits should be.
6.5 Impact on freight services: Again,
we emphasise that the key advantage of HSR is the step-change
release in capacity across the network. The current rail network
is particularly constrained in peak periods, with extremely limited
opportunities for freight services to operate due to the density
of passenger train operation and the need to maintain overall
rail network service reliability. HSR will provide much greater
flexibility to operate freight services throughout the day and
reduce vulnerability of freight service operation to closures
of the "classic" rail network for maintenance and upgrade
6.6 We emphasise again the need to develop an
overall strategy for how the existing rail network - particularly
the WCML route - can be used to provide maximum benefits for passenger
and freight users from the released capacity.
6.7 Disruption during construction: The
recent work to upgrade the WCML route demonstrated the massive
disruption that reconstruction of the rail network can cause,
and is one of the main advantages of HS2 over further capacity
enhancements on the WCML and other routes. The published HS2 proposals
provide an outline plan of the areas and timings of how the existing
rail network will be affected by HS2 construction. We note that
the existing network will be affected not just around Euston,
but also on the Great Western Main Line through the construction
of the proposed Old Oak Common interchange.
6.8 While the staged approach at Euston, making
best use of the much larger site for the final station, will alleviate
disruption to passengers, we believe there is merit in looking
at whether some services could be diverted into Paddington, using
some of the capacity released by Crossrail, to alleviate disruption
to passengers during works at Euston.
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