High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (HSR 179)

1.  What are the main arguments either for or against HSR

1.1  Capacity: Network Rail's West Coast Rail Utilisation Strategy (December 2010) concluded that the southern end of the line would soon run out of capacity. To cater for expected growth the only effective solution would be to build additional capacity. This scenario will be repeated in the future on both the East Coast and the Midland Main Lines.

1.2  Speed: This is a more important benefit for North of England and Scotland where rail still has a relatively low share of the inter-city travel market and where only HSR can facilitate a "speed step change" in modal share from air to rail.

1.3  Local Rail Travel and Freight: Capacity will be released on existing main lines in particular the West Coast, which will cater for additional local and freight services

1.4  Economics: The link between economic development and transport connectivity has been long established. Combined with effective Land Use and Development Strategies, HSR can act as a catalyst to sustainable economic growth in the regions.

1.5  Redistribution of wealth: Experience in other countries has shown that HSR can help stimulate economic activity out-with the Capital City.

1.6  Environment: Increased capacity and reduced journey times will stimulate transfer from car and air to rail. Rail is the only mode with the potential to transport large volumes of passengers over long distances between city centres in a sustainable manner, especially if an increasing proportion of the primary energy source becomes renewable.

1.7  Against: Any arguments against (other than local disruption and noise/visual intrusion which do not form part of this consultation) could be based on opportunity cost arguments—iethat other investments (whether on transport or not) would be more cost effective - and/or that greater priority should be given to local transport improvements.

2.  How does HSR fit with the Government's transport policy objectives

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?

2.1  Inter-urban connectivity, whilst the primary policy objective, is not the sole objective that will be met through HSR. Wealth re-distribution and more sustainable transport would also be achieved via HSR.

2.2  Whilst some of these objectives could be met by investing in other transport modes, when compared with roads, rail is more environmentally sustainable (air quality, energy use, land use) and is better suited for travel between and access to city-centres.

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?

2.3  Impact on investment elsewhere on the rail network need not be compromised given that major rail schemes have, currently and in the past, been delivered without directly affecting funding for the "classic" network.

2.4  There is already commitment to invest in a significant number of classic rail projects, such as Great Western Main Line electrification, Intercity Express Train Replacement Programme (IEP) and significant further enhancements to the East and West Coast Main Lines—Manchester and Liverpool area etc.

What are the implications for domestic aviation?

2.5  Whilst the experience in the UK and on the continent is that some domestic flights are withdrawn where HSR operates on the same corridor, the specific impacts will depend on the precise nature of end to end journey times, fares and potentially reliability.

2.6  However, out of the 8.8 million air journeys, as many as 6.7 million start or finish in Edinburgh or Glasgow so in order to make significant modal change, it is vital that in the longer term, the construction of a high speed rail network also includes new lines across the Border.

2.7  The 2009 rail market share of the Edinburgh/Glasgow to London rail/air market was around 20% with rail journey times of typically 4 hours 30 minutes.

2.8  The freeing up of London Airports slots could go to domestic air routes that do not directly benefit from High Speed Rail, such as Aberdeen and Inverness, so that these cities do not "fall behind" in respect of London connectivity.

3.  Business case

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  A number of fairly in-depth studies have been undertaken into a UK High Speed rail Network in addition to the HS2 study, in particular the following three major studies:

—  Atkins study (on behalf of SRA), later updated for the Government in 2008.

—  Network Rail "New Lines" study (2009).

—  Greengauge21 "Fast Forward" study (2009).

3.2  These studies looked at different HSR solutions and had different objectives behind their proposals. However, there were common strands such as a north-south network linking in the major cities between London and as far as Edinburgh and Glasgow. They all showed positive cases for a HSR network with benefit/cost ratios in the region of 2 -> 3.5 and costs and passenger forecasts comparable with those found in the HS2 study.

3.3  Passengers transferred from car and air could gain productive working time. This is likely to be most valuable for those making longer distance trips (eg Scotland/Northern England to the south) and may not wholly be reflected in the appraisal process.

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?

3.4  The most recent upgrading of the WCML saw significant added costs in terms of disruption to services and reduced capacity during construction. If these costs are added to the £9 billion (the most recent cost estimate) for a scheme that will give less additional capacity than a new line, it is almost certain that such an upgrade will not be better value than a new line.

3.5  A new conventional line (restricted to c125 mph) would largely resolve the capacity issue but would not enhance journey-times and would have more limited benefits to the North of England and Scotland where journey times become increasingly important. Without journey-time savings, there will not be a significant shift to rail from the less environmentally sustainable modes of car and air. The cost of a conventional line would have to be substantially cheaper than the cost of a High Speed line before substantial cost/benefits would accrue from such a scheme.

What would be the pros and cons of alternative means of managing demand for rail travel, for example by price?

3.6  Managing demand by higher fares or by not providing more capacity would push passengers back onto less sustainable modes such as car or air. Similarly journeys not undertaken in the first place could be damaging in overall socio-economic terms.

3.7  There must also be doubts if price alone could realistically manage to reduce demand sufficiently to avoid investing in additional capacity. Currently regulated fares on the UK rail network are already amongst the highest in Europe and increasing these fares further in real terms could make rail travel only affordable by the more well-off in society again damaging in socio-economic terms.

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?

3.8  Recent construction of new rail lines (as opposed to rail upgrades) in Scotland has a reasonably good record in keeping to time and budget, eg Airdrie-Bathgate opening.

4.  The strategic route

The proposed route to the West Midlands has stations at Euston, Old Oak Common, Birmingham International & 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  The most important issue for high speed rail is that stations serve the city centre. Rail is the most efficient mode in respect of land use to access city centres and without city-centre termini the advantage of high speed rail will be seriously eroded. Any station locations out-with city centres will depend on local circumstances.

4.2  Additional stations should only be provided where there is sufficient demand for long distance rail travel. Any temptation to add stations to cater for high volumes of shorter journeys such as commuting, should be presumed against as it would erode the journey-time benefits of HSR.

Which cities should be served by an eventual high speed network? Is the proposed Y configuration the right choice?

4.3  Most studies have considered networks that include London, Birmingham, Manchester, East Midlands, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. These should be considered as the core cities for the high speed network. The "Y" network would fit in well with this scenario.

Is the Government correct to build the network in stages, moving from London northwards?

4.4  It makes sense to start the HSR network with the London-Birmingham section. It is the most capacity restrained section on the West Coast Main Line and potentially the most complicated section to plan and construct. The link to London is the most essential element of the HSR network, so should the London-Birmingham section be rejected, it is unlikely that a national network could evolve.

4.5  Future phases do not necessarily have to be in a consecutive northwards order. The most speed restricted sections of the network are typically across the English-Scottish border so consideration should be given to start construction from both ends. In this respect greater commitment to plan the future network north of Manchester and Leeds should be shown by the Government.

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?

4.6  The link to HS1 should be part of phase 1 for technical reasons but it will also cater for West Midlands-Europe traffic.

4.7  Heathrow could be catered for through the Old Oak Commons interchange as part of phase 1 so it is reasonable that further expenditure on this link could come later.

5.  Economic rebalancing and equity

What evidence is there that HSR will promote economic regeneration and help bridge the north-south economic divide?

5.1  European experience has shown that most cities directly connected to the high speed network achieve higher economic growth and there is no reason why this should not be the case for the UK.

5.2  The 2009 Greengauge21 study also found that Regional economic benefits from a "full" HSR network between London and Glasgow/Edinburgh would amount to around £80 billion and would be widely distributed but with Scotland, the North West and the South East benefiting most.

To what extent should the shape of the network be influenced by the desirability of supporting local and regional regeneration?

5.3  The most important element of a High Speed Network is to improve connectivity between main centres of population in the UK particularly with London. By serving strategic City Centres, high speed rail will indirectly support regional regeneration.

Which locations and socio-economic groups will benefit from HSR?

5.4  The release of capacity on the existing network will benefit other travellers and commuters in particular, as such, all socio-economic groups would benefit from HSR.

5.5  The majority of the population of the UK enjoys reasonably good links with the Cities that will be directly served by a future HSR network extending as far north to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Many cities will also experience improved connectivity by increased service levels on the classic network so most of the UK will benefit from HSR.

5.6  Certain locations will benefit less or more indirectly (eg North of Scotland, parts of Wales and the South West of England) and transport investment in these areas could be identified (for example rail electrification or, for the north of Scotland, improved air connectivity) to ensure distribution of benefits.

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?

5.7  There may be examples from other countries with HSR that could be used as models.

5.8  As a UK HSR Network will "replace" current classic rail links that form part of TEN, support should be sought from relevant EU budgets.

6.  Impact

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?

6.1  HSR has a considerably lower carbon footprint than car and air and also matches that of classic rail when the higher capacity of HSR trains are taken into account. If it can be assumed that the primary energy source is renewable, the carbon footprint from HSR operations (after construction) should be relatively small.

Are environmental costs and benefits (including in relation to noise) correctly accounted for in the business case?

6.2  Yes.

What would be the impact on freight services on the "classic" network?

6.3  The release of capacity on the classic network, in particular the West Coast Main Line, should in part be utilised by rail freight services so the impact on freight services by HSR should be very positive.

How much disruption will be there to services on the "classic" network during construction, particularly during the rebuilding of Euston?

6.4  Disruption could be reduced through service changes/improvements to some of the existing local services terminating at Euston. Additional East Coast Main Line services could cater for some Scottish traffic but, if at all possible, longer distance services should be maintained during construction.

May 2011

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Prepared 8 November 2011