High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Warwickshire Branch (HSR 146)

High Speed 2 is the wrong type of high speed railway. What is needed is a realistic, economic and practical approach which upgrades the best of our existing major routes and adds new sections of line where necessary and environmentally feasible.

The High Speed 2 proposal is a very costly separate, segregated railway with different standards, unable to be used by any trains than those specially built. It would serve just four cities, bypass several others, and seems orientated to serve airports rather than places where people live and work.

There has been no public consultation on the principle of this concept compared to other approaches to upgrading the country's main railway network.

CPRE supports the development and improvement of our railways, so that taking the train becomes a better way to travel than car or plane where possible. But the exacting engineering specification of HS2 - trains capable of speeds of 250 mph - mean that an acceptable alignment through the Warwickshire countryside is virtually impossible. In addition to the high speeds, the tracks will need to be wider apart and tunnels larger than on conventional railways. So very high speed lines are more expensive to construct and have a greater impact on the local environment.

"Nature abhors a straight line", wrote William Kent, the C18th landscape gardener who inspired Capability Brown. An almost straight railway line across 35 miles of Warwickshire countryside with its gentle hills, ancient woodlands and patchwork of fields will conflict with the whole character and patina of our landscape, which has evolved over many centuries. The deep cuttings, high banks and bridges across wide river valleys, and the loss of some houses (even a complete small village in the first draft of the route) will do serious damage to the County.

There has been no public consultation on the design requirements. If the same speed as on the new line through Kent to the Channel Tunnel, 185 mph, is adopted, a line can be more curved, a mix of new and existing lines could be used and the county's most beautiful countryside would be avoided.

CPRE has set out five tests against which we believe that high-speed rail proposals in England should be judged. These have the objective of ensuring that new high-speed lines support sustainable development, respect environmental limits and will assist and not conflict with the sound planning of the areas it serves or crosses. They are to:

(1)  Protect the environment, by for example using existing transport corridors.

(2)  Tackle climate change and minimise energy needs.

(3)  Shift existing trips rather than generate new ones.

(4)  Improve local transport.

(5)  Integrate with planning and regional regeneration.

These tests are not met by High Speed 2.

(1)  Existing transport corridors are not to be used at all.

(2)  The energy consumption is high. 50% more energy will be required to run HS2's proposed 250 mph trains than the existing Eurostar London-Paris trains use.

(3)  There are no commercial flights from Birmingham to London to be switched to rail; instead the scheme would generate wholly new travel and lead to longer journeys as it enables more distant destinations to be reached in the same time.

(4)  The new line as so far proposed would have no links with local transport and no effective interchange with other rail services.

(5)  The line would not serve areas needing economic development - in the West Midlands Nuneaton, North Coventry, or the Black Country.


The most burdened inter-city main line is the West Coast Main Line between Euston and Rugby, and between Coventry and Birmingham. The 10-mile length between Rugby and Coventry is suitable for high speed and has adequate capacity. North of Rugby to Manchester and Liverpool, the Trent Valley line, which runs through northern Warwickshire, has considerable spare capacity following four-tracking of the two-track section in 2004-08. The need for more capacity is south of Rugby.

Widening the Coventry-Birmingham line from two to four tracks is stated by Centro (West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive) to be needed whether HS2 is built or not. The mix of fast and local trains on this line cannot be handled without separate tracks for the intensive stopping service that Centro wishes to offer. With four tracks between Coventry and Birmingham, high-speed trains could use the line and serve Birmingham International as now.

A new central Birmingham station at Curzon Street would be of great benefit. But the HS2 Ltd proposal, a terminal station solely used by its segregated service, is the wrong type. Other services would have to continue to use the congested New Street station, which the current concourse-level reconstruction will not enlarge. The Arup proposal for a through "Grand Central" station at Curzon Street remains wholly feasible and should be recommended for appraisal now. It would:

—  provide for the full length of high-speed trains that international standards specify (400 m);

—  create a national rail interchange for movements across the country, to the standard of the most modern European stations (such as Berlin Hauptbahnhof);

—  facilitate direct interchange between high-speed trains, regional express services, Birmingham suburban lines, and the city's tram system at one station; and

—  enable London-Birmingham high-speed trains to continue to Sandwell & Dudley, Wolverhampton, and (with electrification) Telford and Shrewsbury; they would not have to turn back at Curzon Street as would the trains proposed by HS2 Ltd.

CPRE Warwickshire believes that the Transport Committee should recommend:

—  reconsideration of the type of high-speed railway represented by the HS2 Ltd proposal; and

—  national public consultation over the next year on:

—  The type of high-speed rail that the UK should have - a separate railway (as in Spain and as proposed by HS2 Ltd) or additions to the existing network (as in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy).

—  The design standards of any new lines - speed, curvature, loading gauge.

—  The scope for the existing major railway routes, or parts of them, to act as high-speed lines for speeds above 125 mph (200 kph).

—  What part in the future rail network should be played by new lines.

—  The provision of separate tracks, and where necessary routes, for freight.

May 2011

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011