Further written evidence from The Chiltern
Countryside Group (HSR 178B)|
THE CHILTERN MAINLINE: COMPETITION FOR HS2
AND THE WEST COAST MAIN LINE
A NEW FAST
A newly upgraded fast line between London and Birmingham
opened 5 September http://www.chilternrailways.co.uk/mainline.
Details of the Chiltern Mainline have recently been
1. Journey Time
The fastest Chiltern Mainline trains will do the
London-Birmingham trip in 90 minutes. They will operate at peak
periods and journey times will be competitive with the West Coast
Main Line (WCML) (journey time 84 minutes).
The Chiltern Mainline London terminus is Marylebone.
The Heathrow Express at Paddington Station is just
two tube-stops away from Marylebone. Oxford Street similarly is
just two tube-stops away.
Apart from Marylebone having its own underground
station, Baker Street Underground is five minutes' walk away.
This is served by the Jubilee, Bakerloo, Circle, Hammersmith and
City and Metropolitan lines.
Baker Street provides quick links to the City and
Chiltern Rail's Moor Street and Snow Hill are a similar
distance from the city centre as the WCML's New Street Station.
All these stations are more conveniently situated
than HS2's planned Curzon Street Station.
3. Cost of Travel
Chiltern Mainline London-Birmingham standard off-peak
return is £50, super off-peak return is £25 and anytime
travel return is £75.
This can be compared with the WCML. Standard off-peak
return London-Birmingham tickets by Virgin and London Midland
cost £43.30 and £44.30 respectively, and anytime travel
return is £74.70 and £149 respectively. Super off-peak
fares on the WCML are £19-£26. (Cheaper WCML tickets
can be bought but only for tickets booked in advance for specific
4. Working on Trains
Chiltern Rail is promoting comfortable carriages,
landscape windows and freshly cooked food on its Mainline service.
We are told free WiFi was available in every Chiltern Mainline
carriage at the launch of the service.
Chiltern Rail clearly sees a niche in meeting the
needs of passengers wanting to work while travelling: Mainline
trains will have dedicated Business Zones. These areas will have
extra large seats, more spacious tables with free WiFi, at-seat
power sockets, and a host allocated for their catering requirements.
Tickets in the Chilterns Business Zones are not first
class, and can be obtained with just a £20 supplement.
From the date when the new Chiltern Mainline rail
service came into operation - 5 September - passengers from Birmingham
have a choice of fast trains into either Marylebone or Euston
with a similar journey time and cost. Given that Chiltern
Line journey times will have been cut by 20%, and that the service
will have good connectivity, superior comfort and attractive working
arrangements, the Chiltern Mainline service will undoubtedly draw
passengers from the WCML releasing capacity there.
Passengers using the Chiltern Mainline will release
capacity on local Chiltern Line trains. Commuters in the Chilterns
can drive to their station of choice to access either local Chiltern
or WCML stations and will doubtless take advantage of this extra
space on the local Chiltern trains, thus again releasing pressure
on the WCML.
It is clear that there is underused capacity on
the Chiltern Line with scope to absorb passengers, thus releasing
capacity on the WCML.
Is there then a case for spending £17 billion
on a new line - HS2 - serving the same population centres?
(b) Time Working on Trains is not Wasted
It is clear that Chiltern Rail's forward-planners
for its Mainline have met the needs of an important market sector:
passengers wanting to work on board for a relatively small fare-increase.
Chiltern Rail's decision to install Business Zones
on Mainline trains demonstrates one of the mistaken premises of
HS2 Ltd's business case: assuming time spent on trains is wasted.
1. HS2 and Strategic National Corridors
Strategic National Corridors (SNCs) are designated
to reflect the significance of transport links between the largest
urban areas, ports and airports. These corridors have been identified
as carrying the largest volumes of long distance passenger and
freight traffic (1).
HS1 - the Channel Tunnel Rail Link - travels over-ground
almost exclusively in association with SNCs in Kent - the M20,
A2 and M2.
In contrast, the vast majority of the proposed phase
1 HS2 route does not follow SNCs.
In the Chilterns the planned HS2 route travels in
association with the A413. This road is not an SNC.1
In addition, the A413 is mostly single-lane in each direction.
Nor does this road carry the volume of traffic, nor anything like
the volume of freight traffic, of an SNC.
Thus the noise and visual impact of HS2 is much greater
than if it were associated with SNCs.
2. HS2's Appraisal of Sustainability acknowledges
the Route - as planned - will adversely affect the AONB
1. HS2 travels for 20.5km in the Chiltern Area
of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). HS2's Appraisal of Sustainability
tells us that 14kms of this is on the surface2 ie 68%.
Is this appropriate considering the level of protection
afforded AONBs (Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 s85; Planning
Policy Statement 7 paragraphs 21 and 22)?
2. The Appraisal of Sustainability2
acknowledges that the route - as currently planned - would result
in "adverse impacts on the character" of the AONB.
It suggests, however, that the effect on the character
of the AONB would be made acceptable by the introduction of bunds:
"At this stage of design development, the
length of the surface route (including cutting) through the AONB
is about 14km and adverse impacts on the character of this area
would occur. But revisions to the scheme design have reduced the
magnitude and it would be possible with further earthworks to
provide bunds (earth banks) and false cuttings that would further
conceal the alignment".2
(a) Use of the word "character" with
reference to landscape has a specific meaning.3
An AONB is a "precious
landscape whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so
outstanding that it is in the nation's interest to safeguard them"4
(Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000; PPS7 paragraph 21 and
22; draft National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 167).
Thus, by definition, bunds
introduced in the Chilterns AONB will not help protect the character
of the AONB, as the developer seems to believe; rather, they will
contribute to altering it and damaging it.
(b) If bunds were to be provided in the AONB,
they would be limited by the presence of natural and historic
features (2nd TSC submission Chiltern Countryside Group: Spoil).
In addition, many question the need for bunds for noise mitigation
in the AONB because, apart from a few sites, for much of its length
the route in the AONB is in deep cutting and is travelling through
sparsely populated areas.
(c) If bunds were to be constructed, land-take
and alteration of the AONB landscape would potentially be considerable:
ie a reasonable width allowance
for a five metre-high bund would be in the order of 30-35 metres
allowing for a gap between the top of the cutting and the perimeter
of the bund (Derek Godfrey FICE pers. com.). Thus a bund built
on both sides of deep cuttings (65-90 metres wide at the top)
would produce a corridor 125-160 metres wide in the AONB. Such
cuttings make up nearly 8 kms of the HS2 route in the AONB.
In conclusion, HS2 was right to acknowledge that
the line would result in "adverse impacts on the character"
of the AONB.
HS2, however, was wrong to suggest in the same paragraph
that this damage could be mitigated by providing bunds. Given
this, is the route in the Chilterns AONB valid?
6 September 2011
1 Promoting Connectivity
between the Capital Cities of the United Kingdom http://www.parliament.uk/deposits/depositedpapers/2010/DEP2010-1733.pdf
2 Appraisal of
Sustainability Main Report Volume 1 page 84 paragraph 8.4.5
3 Landscape Character
4 National Association
of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
7 September 2011