Written evidence from Socialist Environment
and Resources Association Scotland (HSR 149)|
The Socialist Environment and Resources Association
Scotland (SERA Scotland) campaigns for our sustainable environment,
economy and society. A transport system both environmentally friendly
and inclusive in economic terms is a priority. High Speed Rail
has particular implications for Scotland. SERA Scotland aims to
meet the Parliamentary Committee's request for concise responses.
Several millions of pounds have been expended by the Department
for Transport (DfT) and related studies on the High Speed Rail
(HSR) project. It is beyond the means of our voluntary group to
analyse completely the DfT study findings. However, further details
could be provided if specifically requested. This response follows,
as requested, the format proposed in the consultation.
1. What are the main arguments either
for or against HSR?
That Britain's South - North railway system, in particular
the West Coast Main Line (WCML), is already almost at capacity
and unable to cope with demand. Additional tracks are the only
solution. Tinkering with the already full WCML in the late 1990's
was a financial disaster. Additional tracks have to be built to
modern standards without low speed restrictions but not necessarily
to the very high speeds proposed.
Present railfreight demand is very much suppressed
by the large subsidy lavished on the road haulage sector. Transfer
of more freight from road to rail would make a more significant
reduction in CO2 emissions. The other aims of economic regeneration
and CO2 reduction by a switch from air travel are less clear.
2. How does HSR fit with the Government's
transport policy objectives?
1. 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?
HSR is designed, but only amongst other objectives,
to improve inter-urban connectivity. HSR is only fully justified
taking into account these other objectives such as increased capacity
for regional and local passenger services and railfreight services.
Increased railway capacity in terms of additional tracks is an
important investment for the future and more important than even
further expansion of the strategic road network. Investment in
the road network should be changed to the objective of safer,
more environmentally friendly roads designed so as not to increase
the overall level of road traffic any further.
2. Focusing on rail, what would be the implications
of expenditure on HSR on funding for the "classic" network,
for example in relation to investment to increase track and rolling
stock capacity in and around major cities?
HSR must justify its investment and not reduce the
effectiveness of the rest of the rail system. This will be the
duty of the Government and the Rail Businesses. It will take into
account that an objective of HSR is to free capacity on the rest
of the system. Some evidence from other countries is that their
"classic" rail operations have become very much downgraded
with the advent of their HSR. This must not happen in Britain.
It should, however, be noted that a great proportion of the passenger
overcrowding repeatedly emphasised in the DfT Study is due to
lack of rolling stock and the fixed formation train design. Outside
the S.E. England Commuter belt few trains are operating at maximum
length and the recent DfT design for new inter-city trains are
for short length fixed formations.
3. What are the implications for domestic
Nothing to which aviation cannot adapt. The bulk
of domestic aviation susceptible to HSR has already been lost
to the 125 mph railway (but not in Scotland). Aviation's challenges
are future fuel prices, security and being brought into the tax
regime. HSR may give aviation advantages in higher value longer
3. Business case
1. How robust are the assumptions and methodology
- for example, on passenger forecasts, modal shifts, fare levels,
scheme costs, economic assumptions (eg about the value of time)
and the impact of lost revenue on the "classic" network?
The assumptions and methodology cannot be robust.
The variables and timescales take us all too far into the unknown.
The DfT Study has, however, investigated as thoroughly as possible
and used all the advised methodologies and procedures. These,
in theory, allow comparison with other investment options but,
even since the study was undertaken, some of these methodologies
have been discredited or changed. The essential point is to use
strategic "common sense". Any HSR must be sufficiently
flexible to be a future asset under the almost certainly changing
World conditions of next 60 years and at an affordable cost.
The secondary point of the financial effect on the
"Classic" system is a very significant detail. The DfT
Study includes large cost savings for the classic system but this
response did not find quantification of reduction in income (it
must have been quantified). The concern is that these main lines
were working and earning at almost full capacity which may be
diluted with some diversion to HSR. It is generally assumed that
the "Inter-city" services provided the lion's share
of profitable income. This is not necessarily true as the 1990's
WCML Renewal was a financial disaster. The DfT Study appears to
concentrate on the generally correct view that there is suppressed
demand on the existing main lines which will be satisfied on introduction
of HSR. There is the issue of the Classic Lines beyond the proposed
phases of HSR and if these are not yet at capacity then HSR will
increase their demand and earnings.
2. What would be the pros and cons of resolving
capacity issues in other ways, for example by upgrading the West
Coast Main Line or building a new conventional line?
This is THE most important question and depends on
what is meant by "conventional". It is clear that additional
tracks are essential. The existing WCML cannot be tinkered with
any more. The 1990's attempt to renew the very busy railway while
trains were running was a disaster. It must not be tried again.
The other main lines can and should be improved but would still
provide insufficient capacity. Additional semi-independent tracks
are essential but at what speed? There can be little doubt that
a reliable, comprehensive 100 mph railway system would meet better
all the objectives except competition with motorways and airlines.
Environmentalists are concerned about the negative effects (particularly
energy consumption) of the 225 mph design and it is understood
Network Rail expressed concerns about the increased costs of maintenance
at these speeds. Energy demand is approximately proportional to
the square of the speed and at some speed HSR will have no energy
advantage over air travel. SERA Scotland believes a sustained
155 mph is possibly the best compromise with much lower CO2 emissions
and costs although it is appreciated that track alignments should
allow for higher speeds. These 155 mph speeds, if sustained, should
be competitive with air between Central Scotland and London. Even
225 mph would not be competitive with air between Northern Scotland
and London. The train at 125 mph has effectively already captured
the airline market between London and Birmingham, Manchester,
Liverpool, Yorkshire and even Newcastle. The DfT Study should
review the design speed. Its findings are that the very high speed
would divert more traffic at higher fares giving a better business
case. This depends on assumptions such as "Load Factor"
which is a difficult assumption and, in any case, is supposedly
already at a maximum south of Newcastle and Lancashire. Should
an assumed business case take precedence over an environmental
The other view is that for the 225 mph design proven
equipment is available "off the peg" from overseas.
This is not exactly true because of loading gauge restrictions
but there is a concern about designing a "British" solution.
It is understood that in France and China, leaders in HSR, a lowering
of maximum speeds is under way because of high running costs.
What would be the pros and cons of alternative
means of managing demand for rail travel, for example by price?
The railway is already doing this, fares are too
high and complex, and it is damaging our environment and social
and economic inclusion.
What lessons should the Government learn from
other major transport projects to ensure that any new high speed
lines are built on time and to budget?
Careful consideration by Government, designers and
practical, experienced contractors and operators such as Network
Rail. Many large projects are built on time and budget, and, if
this is the implication, it is not just some rail projects which
go over budget. The DfT Study costings include large "optimisation"
costs which are unhelpful and effectively a "fiddle factor".
One important point is that any statutory acts for HSR must include
all the margins needed for construction works, not just the final
product, and comprehensive site investigation is essential prior
to costing .
4. The strategic route
1. The proposed route to the West Midlands
has stations at Euston, Old Oak Common, Birmingham International
and Birmingham Curzon Street. Are these the best possible locations?
What criteria should be used to assess the case for more (or fewer)
There is concern about the Phase 1 Route through
the "greenfield" Chilterns. This is chosen primarily
because it is cheaper to construct through undeveloped countryside
rather than along an existing corridor. There is something environmentally
wrong with this even if the same decision has been taken in the
past for routing motorways. A route along the existing WCML/M1
Corridor would be preferred, even at higher cost, but not intertwined
with the existing WCML tracks. The DfT Study has put a lot of
consideration into this decision and we appreciate the dilemma.
There are many other advantages and disadvantages in following
the developed WCML/M1 corridor but space in this response does
not allow a repetition of the arguments.
There is no justification for a station between Old
Oak and Birmingham International.
It is felt Euston is the right terminal but although
Old Oak Common is a very clever intervention to meet the new Government's
changed specification it does have other implications and it has
to be asked if it should be either Old Oak OR Euston rather than
Old Oak and Euston. The Birmingham City terminal should be at
New Street but the difficulties are understood and a Curzon Street
Terminal is unlikely to affect Scottish interests but where will
HSR trains from the North terminate in Birmingham?
2. Which cities should be served by an eventual
high speed network? Is the proposed Y configuration the right
All the northern cities should be served one way
or another. Serious thought should be given to Glasgow, Edinburgh
and Carlisle and this may be included in the December 2011 announcements?
The "Y" proposal is correct, notwithstanding the preference
for the "Y" to follow the existing transport corridor.
The previous view of a sinusoidal route through the middle of
practically every northern city was completely impractical and
counter-productive. It should be appreciated that with a maximum
capacity of 15 trains per hour on HSR compared to all the longer
distance departures from the four north London terminals then
a single HSR will be insufficient and that a "Kings Cross"
route more direct to Yorkshire will be required at some future
date. However, the "Y" branch to Yorkshire would be
fully utilised on just NE to SW services.
3. Is the Government correct to build the
network in stages, moving from London northwards?
It cannot be done in any other way although the main
justifications given, diversion from airlines and freeing capacity,
cannot be achieved until Central Scotland is included. Effective
air diversion has already been achieved from Lancashire and Yorkshire
southwards. It is Scotland to the South, including Manchester,
where the gains are to be made. SERA Scotland also suggests that,
given financial uncertainties, the big terminal constructions
at Euston and Curzon Street (and even Old Oak) should be phased
later while capacity and speed gains are made on the main part
of the route at an earlier stage. Initial use of existing terminals
has been a feature of British, and many other, HSR proposals.
The Chiltern route may preclude this but the other British practice
of chipping away at costs will surely re-visit this aspect of
Note that Network Rail's WCML Rail Utilisation Strategy
suggests only minor journey time reductions to Scotland within
the early phases of HS2 compared to "conventional" trains
with a similar reduced number of station stops.
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?
Yes, and for the clear reasons given in the DfT Study.
5. Economic rebalancing and equity
1. What evidence is there that HSR will promote
economic regeneration and help bridge the north-south economic
The DfT Study tries hard to find evidence but is
not convincing. As is the case with motorways an individual change
in transport tends to move development around with some locations
more advantaged, others disadvantaged and just a slight overall
improvement. The suggestion that a new terminal will "create"
400 new jobs cannot be justified any more than a new supermarket
would create 400 truly additional jobs. Jobs are gained and jobs
are lost. Safeguarding our transport system against oil price
rise and availability is important for the North-South divide
but if motorway and airline services ever become unaffordable
then HSR, in contrast to conventional rail, would become less
of a priority.
The actual construction work would be a welcome improvement
to employment with expenditure mainly retained within Britain,
unlike the purchase of foreign built trains. Apparently, according
to industry sources, Britain is so far behind with HSR technology
that we cannot teach China anything.
2. To what extent should the shape of the
network be influenced by the desirability of supporting local
and regional regeneration?
In contrast to the above response HSR can advantage
and disadvantage local and regional economies and this has to
be thought out. However, the main objectives of HSR, environment,
capacity and possibly commercial return, should not be lost in
attempts to serve all markets by primary HSR services. There is
a well founded concern that existing centres will lose good train
services and that on the "classic" lines HSR extended
services will be pre-eminent and squeeze off local passenger and
freight train services. A further study by DfT is due to report
in December 2011.
Throughout the DfT Study there is continuous mention
of "releasing capacity" on classic lines by-passed by
HSR but there is no guarantee that previous services will actually
be replaced by local/regional services. In particular, the DfT
Study mentions many times the City of Lille in Northern France
where a declining industrial city campaigned and won a HSR line
through the city centre with a station served by HSR trains. There
is not, however, a single mention of a British "Lille"
in the DfT Study. In fact the inference is that potential "Lilles"
will be bypassed and that cities such as Carlisle will not be
on the eventual HSR system at all.
3. Which locations and socio-economic groups
will benefit from HSR?
Considering the thorough detail in the DfT study
this subject is not well treated. Some locations will gain a competitive
advantage but there must be an absolute commitment to having a
second and third tier of train services which will connect into
HSR services and fill gaps left by HSR lines. The faster and more
segregated a HSR service is then the more likely premium fares
and supplements will be charged. This is not made clear in the
Study. If not properly guaranteed then less wealthy people will
lose out on HSR, especially for short notice travel and it is
often the least wealthy who cannot take advantage of loss-leader
advance fares. Additionally, without safeguards, people may have
to have a car to access HSR services both adversely affecting
poorer people and damaging the environment. These are dangers
which must be addressed.
How should the Government ensure that all major
beneficiaries of HSR (including local authorities and business
interests) make an appropriate financial contribution and bear
risks appropriately? Should the Government seek support from the
EU's TEN-T programme?
While all funding streams should be assessed we do
not recall, for example, motorway building being funded by local
businesses and local authorities. This is essentially a duty for
railway Businesses and Government (including Scottish Government).
Local authorities can help by co-operation on planning and roads
issues. Professional planning can save a lot of money and time.
We imagine that at this very moment planning authorities somewhere
are granting consent for adverse development on previous and potential
railway land or insisting that rail projects in their area fund
incidental road improvements.
1. What will be the overall impact of HSR
on UK carbon emissions? How much modal shift from aviation and
roads would be needed for HSR to reduce carbon?
The DfT Study gives a wide range of CO2 savings or
increases, depending on assumptions, with which SERA Scotland
concurs. It seems that most divertable domestic air travel from
Lancashire/Yorkshire southwards has already been diverted. For
CO2 a compromise on speed is essential. SERA Scotland suggests
155 mph but that is arguable. Secondly, the diversion of heavy
freight from road haulage is an essential element. Road haulage
should pay more of its true costs and there should be no further
increase in the size of lorries operating on the public street.
Additionally, HSR must not be an incentive for people to drive
long distances to major park and ride terminals. A comprehensive
second and third tier train service (as well as integrated buses)
is essential to connect with HSR and fill gaps left by HSR.
The advantage of railways is the ability to run on
electricity. CO2 emissions depend on the method of electricity
generation but the trend, fully supported by SERA, is towards
renewable low CO2 modes of generation. One eccentric concept is
that, as HSR is new then its electricity must be drawn from the
marginal pool and therefore coal generated. This should be dismissed.
Another is that of "embedded" CO2 which the DfT Study
considers. As railways last for a century or more and as all rails
are inevitably recycled it is difficult to see railways being
worse than the alternatives.
A particular issue for CO2 comparison is load factor
and this is essential in making CO2 comparisons between different
modes. Presently the conventional main lines are at very high
load factors (according to DfT Study) and it is difficult to see
how occupancy could be raised further. To do so would require
practically all travel to be booked in advance which would be
counter-productive. People would just go by car instead. Flexible
length train formations would help load factors.
2. Are environmental costs and benefits (including
in relation to noise) correctly accounted for in the business
Probably not despite good attempts by the DfT Study.
Environment aspects always have to be considered both in
and outside the business case. While noise is important it can
be overstated. The author of this response lives next to the WCML
which operates 24/24 (HSR is proposed to operate 18/24). This
community does not appear affected by the train noise and, in
reality, people try to build new houses right next to the railway.
When planning consent has been withheld they have gone to appeal
and won. It is the change of circumstances which gets people upset
not the actual noise itself. Existing transport corridors should
be prioritised for HSR.
3. What would be the impact on freight services
on the "classic" network?
Beneficial where capacity is released but very problematical
should HSR trains be prioritised beyond the new HSR line limits,
in particular the lines to Scotland where HSR extended trains
may conflict with freight and local passenger services. DfT is
to report later in the year and Scottish Government should take
4. How much disruption will be there to services
on the "classic" network during construction, particularly
during the rebuilding of Euston?
A lot less than previous WCML disruption. Euston
will probably be reviewed with the possibility of a deeper low
deck, shorter HSR trains (but longer than at present) or even
abandoning Euston in favour of an Old Oak Common Terminal. A practical
review should be made by Network Rail.
An additional double track between London and Scotland
is essential for capacity.
Design speed should be commensurate with objectives
and not the highest attainable.
The existing WCML cannot be modified again to increase
A long term investment, HSR should be capable of
mixed use in future if required.
The "Y" route strategy is supported, an
additional east HSR may be needed in future
The main route should follow the WCML/M1 route corridor
The HSR case for CO2 reduction is not clear cut.
The HSR case for total economic regeneration is not
HSR would provide some protection against increased
oil prices and shortages.
HSR may advantage and disadvantage different areas.
It is essential that local train services connect
into or fill gaps left by HSR.
Long distance car driving to HSR terminals should
Fares must not exclude less wealthy sectors of society.
Phasing of construction and design is unavoidable
Terminals may be phased later after new line capacity
Issues with connection to Scotland should be addressed
Issues with remaining and by-passed "Classic"
lines are under consideration.
Statutory actions should include all land needed
Site investigation is an essential, not an add-on.
Connections to HS1 and Heathrow are correctly phased.
Heathrow to be reviewed?