High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from London Councils (HSR 155)

London Councils represents all 32 London boroughs, the City of London, the Metropolitan Police Authority and the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. We are committed to fighting for fair resources for London and getting the best possible deal for London's 33 Councils. We lobby on our members' behalf, develop policy and do all we can to help boroughs improve the services they offer. We also run a range of services ourselves which are designed to make life better for Londoners.

London Councils' Transport and Environment Committee (TEC) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the questions posed by the Transport Select Committee's inquiry into high speed rail. Due to the nature of our organisation not all of the questions posed are of equal relevance for London and therefore we have answered questions 2.2, 3.1, 4.1, 4.4 and 5.4.

2.2  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?

2.2.1  One of the strongest elements of the case made in the government's recent consultation document "High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain's Future" is the potential financial boost high speed rail could bring to the national economy. On the basis that a high speed network would generate significant economic benefits (estimated at £71 billion over a 60 year time frame; a cost:benefit ration of 1:2.6), we would not wish to see initial investment in it come at the price of much needed funding for the existing network. Overcrowding is already a problem on many suburban lines in the capital, limiting both the city's economic potential and quality of life for many Londoners.

2.2.2  Network Rail's draft Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS), published in December 2010, anticipates that over half of London's suburban lines will face significant capacity issues by 2031, including the East Coast, Great Eastern, West Anglia and Midland main lines.[371] The RUS highlights the opportunity high speed rail represents to free up capacity on the West Coast Main Line but cautions that additional interventions may be necessary to manage large numbers of passengers arriving at Old Oak Common and Euston stations and to alleviate disruption to the North London line caused by a link to High Speed 1 (HS1). The RUS outlines the benefits investment in Crossrail 2 (the Chelsea-Hackney line) would bring in alleviating many of the additional burdens high speed rail would impose on London's existing transport infrastructure, and for this reason TEC advocates funding for Crossrail 2 being made available in line with the development of high speed rail.

2.2.3  Though this question specifically addresses future investment in rail services it is important to consider the wider role of sustainable transport options for passengers arriving in London. Bus services, walking and cycling are crucial forms of transport, particularly in inner London, and funding for improved provision of all three should be incorporated into plans for the development of both Old Oak Common and Euston stations.

3.1  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?

3.1.1  TEC committee welcomes the Department for Transport's recent update of the economic appraisal of the London—West Midlands high speed route. TEC member's had shared concerns expressed by some commentators that the original "value of time" assumptions did not adequately take into account the use many business passengers make of laptops and wi-fi to continue working on train journeys.

3.1.2  Though complex and challenging, it is critical that such appraisals are realistic. In the case of HS1, demand forecasts proved to be significantly optimistic and have been previously criticised by the Transport Select Committee. It would not be desirable to see future high speed rail fares having to be raised to balance lower than forecast demand, a situation that would impact on the attractiveness of high speed rail to potential passengers and undermine the potential capacity and environmental benefits that stand to be gained from the project.

4.1  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) intermediate stations?

4.1.1  London Councils' TEC committee does not have comments to make on the specific location of stations on the West Midlands route but is supportive of the decision to include an interchange station in West London. Indeed, the consultation document's proposals for Old Oak Common are expected to create up to 20,000 new jobs and be accompanied by new housing, office and retail space, all of which will bring welcome economic benefits to the local community in what is currently a deprived area.

4.1.2  In contrast the use of Euston station as a terminus raises a number of concerns, particularly around the impact a high speed line will have on local suburban rail services. The consultation document anticipates that an extra 5,500 passengers could arrive at Euston during the three hour rush hour period looking to use the underground to reach their onward destination. The Victoria and Northern lines are often already overcrowded at these times, and though the figures may represent an only two per cent increase in the number of passengers it is obvious that the existing infrastructure would struggle to cope.

4.1.3  The current high speed proposals will require the demolition of around 200 mainly local authority owned homes on the Regent's Park Estate. It would not be appropriate for any local authority to be disadvantaged in terms of the number of socially rented homes or social amenities available to local people. We urge project partners to ensure that upheaval and disruption to London's communities throughout the construction phase is minimised.

4.4  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?

4.4.1  Ensuring that any future extension of Britain's high speed rail infrastructure is integrated into the existing international rail network is crucial. Britain's first purpose-built high speed line, HS1 (linking London to the Channel Tunnel), has transformed travel between London and mainland Europe. Already Eurostar services account for 80% of journeys made from London by both rail and air to Paris and Brussels. A direct link between HS1 and HS2 will ensure reduced journey times and greater convenience for passengers choosing to travel by rail and will therefore help to maximise the environmental benefits of building the whole HS2 line. The government's consultation document states that, for technical reasons, tunnelling for this direct link must be completed before the interchange station at Old Oak Common is operational. Therefore not including it in phase one would represent a very significant missed opportunity.

4.4.2  London Council's TEC committee is also supportive of the government's proposals not to include a direct link to Heathrow in phase one of the scheme. The principle aim of building a high speed rail network should be to support the provision of low-carbon travel choices, rather than support any expansion in air travel. Including a direct link in phase one will increase journey times between Birmingham and London, making high speed rail a less appealing option for inter-city travel.

4.4.3  Around half of passengers flying from Heathrow begin their journey in London, and already have access to the airport by rail (access that will improve with the expected completion of Crossrail in 2018). However travellers accessing Heathrow from other areas, in the Midlands, South East, Wales and the South West are at present poorly served by rail services. In 2007, 63% of journeys to Heathrow were made by car.[372] Enhanced environmental benefits may be better achieved in the long-term by a full examination of how existing rail services across the South of England could better connect with all the airports in the South of the country, rather than just a possible link between the proposed high speed line and Heathrow.

5.4  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?

5.4.1  London's local authorities are concerned about potential future funding burdens that could be placed upon them if the construction of high speed rail goes ahead. The current Crossrail project is being partially funded by contributions from section 106 planning agreements and also through the imposition of a Mayoral CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy). In the case of the former, only commercial developments within the Central Activities Zone (CAZ), Isle of Dogs and within the reach of a Crossrail station (which therefore stand to benefit from its construction) will be charged. The Mayoral CIL, however, is to be levied on all development over 100sqm, both commercial and residential, within London's boroughs, meaning that even those too far away to feel the benefit of the new line must pay.

5.4.2  The Mayoral levy is likely to be introduced in summer 2012, and will continue to be charged until a £300 million target has been reached. The Mayor predicts this will be in 2018-19, (already after 2017 when the government's high speed rail consultation anticipates construction beginning). Reaching this target could, of course, take longer.

5.4.3  The ability of London's boroughs to implement their own CIL will be affected by the introduction of a Mayoral levy (a situation not found elsewhere in the country). With the viability of many potential developments in London severely limited by the economic climate, many boroughs have been concerned that the implementation of their own local CIL on top of the Mayor's Crossrail CIL would see fewer much-needed developments, particularly of affordable housing, come to site. The proposed arrangements, as they stand, will reduce London's local authorities' ability to invest in the valuable social infrastructure needed to enhance their local communities, a situation that could be significantly prolonged if a further charge for high speed rail is introduced.

May 2011

371   Network Rail (December 2010) "Route Utilisation Strategy. Draft for Consultation"  Back

372   CAA data cited on p.46: Bow Group (2010) "The right track",

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Prepared 8 November 2011