Written evidence from Staffordshire County
Council (HSR 164)|
1. Staffordshire is one of a number of counties
that make up the central "cross roads" of Britain and
is consequently very much aware of the significance of the transport
network to the well being of the economy and the people of Staffordshire.
Part of this awareness includes the need for the networks, primarily
road and rail, to work effectively and not suffer from unreliability
and congestion. Consequently the County Council welcomes efforts
to maintain or improve the network in these respects. Upgrades
to the West Coast Main Line have and will continue to bring benefits
in terms of service improvements to various stations/settlements
2. Maintaining and improving the economic well
being of the County and its residents is the top priority of the
County Council. Much of the County Council"s activities
are focussed on this priority, including its own transportation
policies and proposals. It is against this background that the
County Council has come to its views with regard to the present
High Speed Rail proposal.
3. The primary concern regarding the current
High Speed Rail proposal with respect to the economy of Staffordshire
is the prospect of deterioration in rail passenger services available
at stations/settlements in the county, in particular in north
Staffordshire. While HS2 highlight the potential benefits of
available capacity released as a result of introducing the new
line, there are no guarantees that viable services of the existing
quality will be provided.
4. While Stafford may be served by a High Speed
train service using the classic network to Liverpool, the likely
absence of any other stop/s in Staffordshire on the HS2 "Y"
network as a very consequence of its "need for speed"
and limitation on stops, puts Staffordshire at an economic disadvantage
with the prospect of loosing economic development both existing
5. While specific to Staffordshire, similar concerns
are relevant to authorities along the route/s most of which will
not have stations on the High Speed network. Also in the wider
context, the importance/value attached to station to station time
savings as opposed to real full journey times (including time
taken to get to and from the stations) is considered to have been
grossly overstated. The wider economic benefits have been assessed
as modest by HS2, and their advisers, and international experience
has shown them to be limited in extent around stations and often
simply local redistribution of development.
6. The County Council does not deny the need
for improvements to the national transport network but is of the
view that the current High Speed Rail Network proposal, intrinsically
(by virtue of the essential characteristics and requirements of
High Speed Rail) fails to maximize the possible benefits of such
improvements across the country and presents a real risk of concentrating
future economic development rather than dispersing it away from
London and the south east.
1. What are the main arguments either for
or against HSR?
7. The UK does not need very expensive "off
the shelf" new High Speed Rail infrastructure technology
to provide the most worthwhile solution to its capacity problems
and in the process improve economic prospects across the nation.
The circumstances of the UK warrant a particular approach that
recognises the quality and speed of existing services; the potential
to improve them within the existing network and individual corridors;
the need for greater flexibility in routing in order to protect
the environment; and the need to serve many more centres than
the few on the proposed High Speed network.
8. The "high speed" characteristics
of the proposed infrastructure are unnecessary. Compared to other
countries the existing speed of rail travel between major cities
is already faster in the UK. The proposed increased speed levels
provide only marginal real journey time (trip beginning to trip
end) improvements for most journeys. Appropriate increases in
the speed of journeys on the existing network can be achieved
by the full use of existing technology in particular the use of
European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) or in cab signalling,
and specific targeted network improvements.
9. Various actions have been proposed as ways
of increasing capacity on the railway network including lengthening
trains, converting some first class seats to standard class, and
providing specific targeted line improvements together with programmed
improvements such as at Norton Bridge and Stafford, which can
be implemented at significantly lower cost and with the prospect
of much quicker benefits.
10. The case for economic benefit as a result
of faster rail connectivity is unproven. Research into international
experience clearly indicates that it is difficult to find well
defined empirical and quantified evidence on the impacts of HSR.
The wider economic effects of HSR could be significant but they
are not always obvious or predictable and can vary significantly
between different HSR projects. The possible economic consequence
is just as likely to be a "drain" of any economic benefit
into London as it is to be a "gain" for the locations
on the route. Furthermore, the increased used of e-business solutions
means that historical models that might link economic prosperity
with rail accessibility are likely to be outdated. The benefits
case for business (which makes incorrect assumptions such as the
idea that time spent on the train is "lost" working
time) is ill-conceived and overstated.
11. Even if a case could be made to link economic
growth with rail, the presumption of limited stopping restricts
the number of localities that could potentially benefit from any
service improvements and consequently places those localities
not served, included all of Staffordshire, at a potential disadvantage
that can be made worse by the possible deterioration of services
available as business and income is diverted onto the new high
12. In terms of environmental impact, the proposed
infrastructure will have significant and inappropriate adverse
impacts in terms of accommodation within the environment.
2. How does HSR fit with the Government"s
transport policy objectives?
13. Inter-Urban Connectivity: HSR is partial
in the extreme in its improvements to inter-urban connectivity
and may actually cause a deterioration. This is by virtue of
the limited number of stations that are proposed and indeed are
required in order to achieve the speeds sought. The passenger
numbers required to justify the HSR proposal while potentially
providing new path opportunities for new services on the classic
network, put in question whether they could be economically justified
or that the necessary subsidies would be available. Consequently,
there is a real prospect of deterioration in inter-urban connectivity
for many major urban areas and significant settlements.
14. Carbon Reduction: The proposed HSR is at
best carbon neutral and even this is based in part on the large
increase in passenger numbers and speed of travel that are essential
parts of the justification for the project. The Government is
committed to reducing carbon emissions and yet is proposing transport
infrastructure that, by virtue of these two fundamental requirements,
is making no contribution to such a reduction. Contrary to the
fundamental feature of HSR, Government/Department for Transport
is positively seeking ways of reducing travel and in particular
business travel. It is monetary value attached to time spent
on such travel that is critical to the business case for HSR.
3. Business case
15. There is no doubt that the use of the railways
by passengers and freight has been increasing over the recent
past. Similarly there can be little to counter the prospect of
this increase continuing for some time to come both of its own
accord and positively encouraged by the diversion of traffic from
less sustainable road and air travel. Improvements in transport
and communications over history have undoubtedly had economic
benefits for the country albeit with varying impacts on different
regions/areas/places depending on the localities served or ignored/bypassed.
16. Some projections of future travel demand
have been based on relationships with forecast levels of economic
growth. This should not be the basis for assuming that economic
growth is founded on increased capacity to travel, rather that
travel demand may be generated by increased personal wealth.
The HS2 business case confirms this by anticipating 70% of future
passengers/journeys will be for leisure purposes.
17. The basis for high future travel requirements
needs to be questioned in the context of government aims to cut
the need for business travel being investigated by Department
18. There is much debate around the basis for
forecasting future travel demand particularly over the long term
which provides the context for the assessment of the high speed
rail network. There is concern that the Government"s proposal
and its justification are based on unjustified projections of
travel requirements including substantial new demand expected
to be generated by the existence of the high speed service, and
with over optimistic expectations of modal shift.
19. Both policy and technology are working to
reduce the need to travel. The Government/Department for Transport
is positively seeking ways of reducing travel and in particular
business travel as part of its "green" commitment.
Technology forms part of this search with recent advances in e-technology
including e-conferencing often removing the requirement to travel
completely. As a consequence of these developments forward projection
of travel demand should be approached cautiously.
20. The evidence for linking significant economic
development with high speed train facilities is inconclusive.
A particular set of circumstances would appear to be necessary
for significant economic development to take place (well established
or strongly developing service sector with extensive local public
transport networks) and most of this development would appear
to be simply diverted from other localities rather than totally
21. The material presented in support of the
proposal with respect to new job creation shows a clear emphasis
on it being located in and around London in the south east rather
than remedying the north-south divide as claimed elsewhere. At
the Birmingham end of the current defined route, supporters of
the proposal show future economic activity focussed increasingly
on central Birmingham and to a lesser extent near the interchange
facility, to the detriment of other parts of the conurbation and
the rest of the region including virtually all of Staffordshire.
22. Given the regular and consistent over running
of major infrastructure project costs in this country there is
little reason to expect the already high costs of the proposed
high speed rail network to be anything other than a minimum cost.
The benefits are at best contrived in terms of the amount and
valuation of travel time savings and otherwise minimal (wider
economic impacts) or un-quantified (the statements of support
from business). The method of financial appraisal effectively
pre-empts the form of the proposal, maximum speed with limited
stops thus fundamentally questioning the appropriateness of the
evaluation process used.
23. The level of government subsidy included
in the HS2 business case already amounting to £17 billion
is likely to exceed this level if project costs were to increase
and the projected passenger numbers were to prove unrealistic
overestimates. This was the case with HS1 and is increasingly
becoming the experience in many parts of the world. Most recently
reports suggest the Dutch high speed rail is rapidly heading for
bankruptcy and several states in America are pulling out of the
President"s high speed rail programme with fears that traffic
forecasts are over-inflated.
24. The costs (or disbenefits) need to include
the reductions in the number and quality of services from settlements/stations
that currently have a good intercity service. While the potential
released capacity on the existing/classic network might provide
new paths for new services, whether they would be economically
viable or receive the necessary level of public subsidy is a matter
4. The strategic route
25. As commented under other headings, the strategic
route and stations proposed are essentially determined by the
project requirements in terms of speed and necessary journey time
savings. If these "essentials" are changed then the
ability to serve more stations, either existing or new, with improved
services is increased with potentially greater economic benefits
for more settlements and communities. Alongside the north Staffordshire
conurbation, Stafford and Burton within Staffordshire are recognised
as potential growth locations that could benefit from inclusion
on the enhanced network.
26. The idea of a phased roll-out of network
improvements is fully supported but on a different scale to that
attached to the current proposal, the first benefits of which
would not be available until 2026 at the earliest. Incremental
improvements to the existing network such as included in Atkins
Rail Package 2 would allow benefits to be realised on a phased
and more prompt implementation.
27. Linking directly to the High Speed 1 line
to the Channel Tunnel would have potential benefits for more distant
parts of the country including Staffordshire.
5. Economic rebalancing and equity
28. There appears to be little evidence that
HSR will/can promote economic regeneration and help bridge the
north-south economic divide. As commented under other headings,
international evidence appears to suggest the need for very specific
circumstances to exist (well established or strongly developing
service sector with extensive local public transport networks)
and that most development would appear to be simply diverted from
other localities rather than totally new.
29. Furthermore, the evidence presented by HS2
would suggest that the greater part of the economic benefits will
accrue to London and the south east thereby further enhancing
the north-south divide.
30. While appreciating that to date much of the
Appraisal of Sustainability has been of a strategic nature, it
must be realised that this seriously underestimates the impact
of the proposal. In particular, the visual impact on local communities
has not been addressed or the impact on the local landscapes;
the impacts on biodiversity are downplayed by underestimating
impacts on designated sites and failing to address impacts on
species and of fragmentation of ecological networks; impacts to
Grade II Listed structures which, by their nature are also considered
to be of national significance are currently ignored; vibration
and noise from works and increased traffic along surrounding roads,
as well as within the construction corridor may have a considerable
impact. There are a number of shortcomings in assessments of
noise impacts included in the Appraisal including: the absence
of site surveys or baseline noise surveys having been carried
out for the noise appraisal; probable need to adapt the assessment
procedure to take into account the aerodynamic noise effects which
occur at very high speeds; the need to take account of the potential
adverse noise impact from the short term high pass by noise from
individual trains; the possibility of locally lower ambient noise
levels than those assumed in the Appraisal that mean for the section
of the line through Staffordshire, being primarily rural and routed
away from urban areas, the noise impact could
be significantly greater than currently indicated.