Written evidence from Great Missenden
Stop HS2 (HSR 147)|
1. Great Missenden Stop HS2 is the umbrella organisation
for communities in the Misbourne valley in the very heart of the
Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This includes
the villages of Little Missenden, Great Missenden, Ballinger,
South Heath, Heath End and the larger settlement of Prestwood,
a population totalling well over 10,000.
2. In this submission, we avoid any discussion
of the local impacts of the HS2 preferred route as that lies outside
the scope of this inquiry. We would however like to extend an
invitation to members of the select committee to visit Great Missenden
in due course so that members can have an opportunity to discuss
the many outstanding issues relating to the Government's preferred
route and in the absence of a full Environmental Impact Assessment.
3. Great Missenden Stop HS2 would respectfully
remind the Transport Select Committee of the Public Accounts Committee's
observations of November last year that:
"The unique and complex structure of the rail
industry makes it inherently cumbersome and expensive, and provides
little external challenge to its vested interest in its own growth.
The Department should conduct a fundamental review of the rail
industry's structure, to ensure better accountability and value
for money, with the aim of reducing conflicts of interest, aligning
efforts on maximising efficiency, and restraining the tendency
to seek solutions through growth." This should form part
of the Transport Select Committee's considerations.
Question 1. "What are the main arguments
either for or against HSR?"
4. The committee's starting point should be consideration
of how the term "High Speed Rail" is defined. Great
Missenden Stop HS2's understanding is that for newly constructed
lines, "high speed" is a minimum of 140 miles per hour.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England points out that:
"While High Speed 1, the Channel Tunnel Rail
Link, was designed for 300 km/h (186 mph), HS2 is proposed to
cater for very high speeds of 400 km/h (250 mph). No services
in Europe currently operate faster than 330 km/h." (Campaign
to Protect Rural England, August 2010, High Speed 2 Statement
Speed is key here because it determines the design
of the route and the amount of energy required, both of which
are of huge environmental significance.
5. It is also noted that the Inquiry is into
the strategic case for High Speed Rail, although this is not defined,
rather than the specific case for High Speed 2. GM Stop HS2 believes
strongly that it is possible to support the strategic case for
"high speed rail" as defined as a minimum speed of 140
mph, without endorsing HS2.
6. Indeed, we take the view that it is crucial
that the two ie HS2 and "high speed rail" remain distinct.
This is because the HS2 proposals envisage an ultra-high-speed
not high speed line with trains travelling at 225 - 250 miles
per hour - well above the defined minimums and in excess of the
European average for high speed rail. There are specific issues
relating to the proposal of a dedicated line capable of accommodating
those speeds. To quote the CPRE again:
"400 km/h was chosen as the maximum track speed
[for HS2] - without any consultation - as it was believed to the
maximum speed possible for track based trains
. 'Lines designed
for very high speeds have to be very straight, making it harder
to fit them in with the landscape and avoid sensitive areas. In
addition a bigger gap between tracks is needed, while tunnels
must be wider to allow trains to pass safely. So very high speed
lines are considerably more expensive to construct and have a
greater impact on the local environment
very high speeds
much more energy is needed for propulsion. For example,
a train travelling at 36 0km/h requires 50% more energy than one
travelling at 300 km/h. Very high speed rail would only save a
couple of minutes for most trips at huge cost financially and
to the local environment.' (Campaign to Protect Rural England,
August 2010, High Speed 2 Statement)".
Question 2. "How does HSR fit with the Government's
transport policy objectives?"
7. Question 2.1 asks:
"HSR is designed to improve inter-urban connectivity.
How does that objective compare in importance to other transport
policy objectives and spending programmes, including those for
the strategic road network?"
We note that a significant plank of the Department
for Transport's policy has been omitted - the travel reduction
8. The travel reduction strategy was announced
by Mr Hammond last autumn. In a speech on Sustainable Transport
at the START Summit on 14 September he said:
But you might be surprised to know that the most
innovative change we have made in the Department for Transport
in the last four months is to introduce a portfolio responsibility
Promoting alternatives to travel is a key part of
the sustainability agenda. And although it has not traditionally
been thought of as a transport responsibility, I have decided
that we should integrate it into our transport agenda. So my colleague,
Norman Baker, is working with colleagues at DCMS, in BIS and in
other Departments to look at reducing the demand for travel, particularly
Encouraging home working; promoting the use of high-speed
broadband for both business and leisure purposes and encouraging
the uptake of video conferencing as an alternative to long-distance
No, it is not the mission of the Department for Transport
to stop people travelling, but unnecessary travel is expensive
in environmental and financial terms and, if we can help businesses
to understand the opportunities to operate efficiently with a
need for less travel, we will be advancing both their agendas
and our own. (Rt Hon Philip Hammond, IBM START Conference)
9. Hence alternatives to travel should be considered
as one of the transport policy objectives. This is particularly
the case with High Speed Rail since Mr Hammond specifies video-conferencing
as an alternative to long-distance travel.
10. We recognise that firm evidence of the take-up
of business broadband as an alternative to travel is limited because
it is happening so rapidly. Nonetheless the National Statistics
Office's latest report, published in November 2010, states that
the largest businesses continued to lead
the way with adoption of new technology. However, smaller businesses
were closing the gap with increasing numbers using broadband and
mobile Internet, developing websites and using the Internet to
interact with public authorities
Just over 91% of businesses
had Internet access in 2009, with 87.4% connecting via a broadband
connection." (Office for National Statistics, 26 November
2010, E-commerce and ICT activity 2009, Statistical Bulletin).
11. In addition, the Government itself is investing
in video-conferencing equipment - for example in the Welsh Office
- to reduce travel and so cut costs and increase efficiency.
It is now possible for businesses that do not have
their own facilities to rent video-conferencing facilities for
specific meetings through companies like Regus, which provides
serviced office accommodation. Travel companies are now offering
"video-travel" packages as an alternative to arranging
12. These changes offer the likelihood of a reduction
in demand for business travel which should be taken into account
when projecting long distance rail passenger demand into the future.
Question 5.1 What evidence is there that HSR will
promote economic regeneration and help bridge the north-south
13. The Government claims that one of the major
benefits of HS2 is that faster journey times will reduce the North-South
divide, but it is more likely that regional disparity will increase
as business investment and leisure travel is drawn to the capital.
14. Far from boosting regional employment during
construction, the department for Transport's new business case
suggests that 70% of the jobs created by high speed rail will
be in London. In addition, outside the immediate urban centres
served by HS2, it is likely that the wider regions will suffer
as investment and jobs are sucked away from towns and cities off
the route, reflecting the experience in France for example.
Question 6. What will be the overall impact of
HSR on UK carbon emissions?
15. We agree with Friends of the Earth and other
environmental organizations, that at best the impact of HS2 on
reducing UK carbon emissions will be negligible and that at a
time of austerity the Government should be prioritizing upgrading
our existing rail network and other genuinely sustainable transport
16. Although Ministers have largely dropped the
"green" justification for HS2 in recent months, carbon
emission reductions are still a claimed benefit of the scheme,
in part because of the promised reduction in domestic air travel
that the Department suggests will follow once the Y section of
the route is complete. The first stage of the scheme will have
no such benefits as there are no domestic flights between London
and Birmingham. We would submit however that HS2 is likely to
lead to significantly increased emissions due to its energy demands
as noted in paragraph 7 above.
17. The danger with HS2 specifically (as opposed
to more incremental improvements to deliver "high speed rail")
is that it will actually lead to an increase in domestic air travel
emissions, as Birmingham airport expands significantly to take
advantage of the reduced train time to central London and Heathrow
airport runway slots are used instead for more carbon intensive
long haul flights. The only way in which this could be avoided,
if HSR is really intended to form part of a strategic solution
to long-term transport carbon emission reductions, would be to
retire the domestic flight slots altogether.
18. The vast majority of emissions from UK domestic
passenger transport, come not from domestic air travel, diesel
train services or long distance commuting at all but from short
car journeys. HS2 and HSR will not provide a low carbon alternative
for these trips of typically less than five miles and where the
Committee on Climate Change has pointed out that comparatively
small investments in car journey alternatives deliver significantly
greater carbon emission reductions.