Written evidence from Dr. Moshe Givoni
and Professor David Banister, Transport Studies Unit, School of
Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford (HSR 189)|
We welcome this opportunity to submit evidence to
the Transport Committee's review into the Strategic Case for HSR,
as all forms of transport must be seen as part of an integrated
strategy that facilitates door to door travel in reasonable time
and to a high quality. This is one reason why the car is seen
to be an attractive option, as it provides such a service. It
is not just the HSR element of a journey, but the means by which
it allows people to respond positively to a high quality door
to door experience, and so the total travel time should be a key
consideration and not just the HS element of that journey. Access
to and from the HS rail station is a key element in the journey.
Secondly, HSR is often marketed in terms of its maximum speed,
not even its average speed, and when the access and egress times
are also considered, this means that total door to door travel
time may bear little relationship to the maximum speed. Here we
argue for the notion of reasonable travel times (and speeds),
as this balances the desire among some for high speed with the
costs (financial and environmental) of providing such a service.
In this short submission we make a series of substantive points,
together with a clear conclusion on the need to review HSR as
part of a coherent passenger transport strategy that covers all
modes of transport including the car.
In Europe, HSR has increased its share of rail travel
from 15.9% of rail passenger-km in 2000 to 23.9% in 2008 (and
62% in France). Yet, despite this rail renaissance, passenger
rail accounts for only 6.3% of all passenger-kms (9.8% in France)
down from 6.6% in the EU27 countries in 1995. Furthermore, while
the HSR network has more than doubled in length between 1995 and
2008, the railway network as a whole lost about 6% of its route
km in that period, and HSR lines still represent only 3% of the
European rail network in 2008.
In the UK, demand for rail services is at record high, but railway's
mode share has not changed dramatically and is still relatively
minor. HSR development in the UK would probably result in similar
trends as seen across Europe, and this limits the benefits of
In the current transport paradigm, travel time is
considered to be "wasted time" and a disutility. This
means that travel time needs to be minimised and consequently
speeds need to be increased, and this argument has been central
to investment in HSR. "Time is money" and therefore
"faster is better" is a central concept in transport
planning. It is therefore not surprising that "speed"
gets the headlines in the HSR development discussion, but even
the concept of "speed" is open to discussion (Banister,
The "speed" that dominates the debate is
the maximum operating speed, but the travel times that passengers
experience are a factor of the average-speed, of which the maximum
operating speed is only one factor (Givoni and Banister, 2011).
The number of stops on the HSR line and the percentage of the
line on which maximum speed can be achieved are both crucial factors.
Each additional stop (station) can "cost" 5-10 minutes
and often trains must "slow-down" through cities, even
if they are not stopping there. While maximum speed of 350kph
is considered the new standard for HSR, most HSR services are
provided at a much lower average speed, and the world's most successful
HSR line in terms of passengers carried, between Tokyo and Osaka
in Japan operates at an average speed of less than 240 kph (for
the fastest service).
Passengers are not necessarily primarily concerned
with the station-to-station travel time when deciding on their
mode choice. Door-to-door travel time is of importance, together
with the convenience and reliability (and the cost) of the entire
chain of journeys from the beginning to end of a trip. The characteristics
of the HSR favour a minimum number of intermediate stops, and
this factor becomes more important with increases in the designed
maximum operating speed (as the costs of additional stops and
deviation from the shortest start-to-end route will increase time
more than proportionally). This means that HSR, like with air
travel, results in most of the travel time (and effort) being
spent on getting to and from the HSR station, and this constitutes
the bulk of the journey travel time. Hence this submission questions
the primary concern of a National Strategy that is only concerned
with the "High Speed" element of the total journey,
the impacts on the "Lower Speed" network that is already
well established, the environment, the priorities for evaluation
and the role of air transport as a complementary rather than a
competitive part of the Strategy.
2. DOOR TO
HSR travel is not attractive for many travellers,
despite its faster maximum speed compared to other modes, especially
when the origin and/or the destination are not close to an HSR
station. In addition, any time savings on the rail journey from
the high speed section might be lost as a result of the additional
time taken for access and/or egress journeys to/from the HSR station.
Faster rail services often result in shorter travel times (in
absolute terms and in comparison with other alternatives) on only
a few selected corridors, and only for certain locations within
them. As the high speed network is often sparse, the total travel
journey distance may be considerably increased when using HSR,
and this again reduces its attractiveness.
Given the choice between time spent on the train
and on getting to it, it is likely that passengers will prefer
to reduce access time. These comments have important implications
not only for the number of stations on a given HSR line, but also
for their location, which should be accessible to the rest of
the transport network and especially to the urban (public) transport
network, the conventional rail network, the main airports, and
to car drivers.
The changing (normative) definition of what speed
is "high-speed" in rail operation has become inconsistent.
The European Commission official definition (used to collect statistics
on HSR operation), seems a reasonable one as it defines the operating
speed as being in excess of 200 kph. In China, which is in
the midst of constructing the world's largest HSR network (even
when considering Europe as one country), the government has ordered
the maximum operating speed to be cut to 300 kph, from 350 kph.
But the speed that really counts is the average speed on the total
journey. More important than average speed is the journey reliability,
comfort, security and safety and service frequency, all of which
make up the journey experience. Achieving high quality values
for these components of a journey that include a rail segment
might often mean compromising on the maximum speed achieved just
over one part of that door-to-door journey.
3. JOURNEY TIME
Improving journey time does not necessarily translate
to improving connectivity, and therefore does not necessarily
improve accessibility. The nature of HSR means that the reduction
in travel time it offers can play important element in improving
accessibility, but this also depends on the frequency of service
and its integration with the rest of the transport network, and
especially the rail network.
Adopting an HSR technology whereby the HSR can also
use the conventional rail network is an important condition, but
not a sufficient one, as many (regional) lines would still not
be served by HSR. Given the limited number of HSR stations, it
is crucial for these stations to be central nodes on the conventional
rail network, to allow passengers from a much larger catchment
area to benefit from HSR services. The difficulty and inconvenience
associated with the need to transfer between modes of transport
must be fully acknowledged, and it is possible that current attempts
to monetize this inconvenience may underestimate its importance.
When travel time and connectivity are central objectives
in rail planning there is a high value for a through station,
as opposed to an end of the line station on a spur/branch from
the main line. The nature of through stations means higher frequency
of service (in theory as all trains on the line pass the station).
This is crucial in the case of HSR as it will also mean higher
demand, which is a necessary condition for HSR services.
HSR in the UK will have substantial effect on the
geography. In many respects it will "shrink" it, but
for many (more) places it will expand the UK. HSR might turn the
geography of the UK upside down, with cities closer to London
by distance being further from it in rail travel time and convenience
This is likely to have adverse socio-economic implications for
such places as proximity to London has proven to be critical
and is likely to impact on transport demandif accessibility to
London is higher for places farther away. Overall, it might result
in more travel and even more travel by car depending on the reduction
in the level and quality of rail transport on the conventional
rail network, and the extent to which HSR stations might be more
accessible by car than by other modes.
4. RAIL VS
Rail and HSR are often considered as one mode of
transport from an overall public policy perspective. Yet, the
promotion of HSR is often at the expense, and not in addition,
to other rail initiatives. The financial discussion surrounding
HSR rail development is based on the construction costs, while
the substantial operational and maintenance costs, which may not
be covered by the revenues, are not explicitly accounted for.
This situation can result in direct competition for
public funds and policy attention between the high-speed and conventional
rail networks and services. Most of the passengers transferring
to HSR from other modes are likely to have used conventional rail
services before. In such a competitive situation, the HSR investment
is likely to take preference over other rail investments. This
can result in deterioration of conventional rail services, and
may in turn reduce the overall viability of rail transport across
a country or region, even if HSR gains significant market share
on the few city-pairs it services. Such effects can be seen in
France and Spain.
The existing rail network is already well established
and it does not need to be started from scratch, as would be the
case with HSR. The real benefits for HSR would be when a network
is established so that there are many routes that could be used,
and such a network has only really been achieved in France, Spain
and Japan, and now China. But the funding requirements are substantial.
Improving the quality and capacity of existing rail may make better
use of available resources. In the UK there is little potential
for a HSR network, as the population centres and the distances
are not really suitable for HSR operations. Shifting the focus
away from speed to the other elements is key for rail to gain
market share from other modes.
The emission of CO2 from the construction
and operation of HST between London and Manchester is estimated
to total 14-20Mt CO2 for 40 years, including 11-18
MtCO2 related to the operation of the HST services
on the route (Miyoshi and Givoni, 2011). The analysis shows that
overall CO2 reduction is relatively small at about
90,000 t CO2 per annum in 2033, which is less than
0.02% of the total UK domestic emissions in 2007. This
is mainly because modal shift from air and road is relatively
small on the London-Manchester route, and the UK electricity used
to power rail transport relies heavily on non-renewable energy
If the UK electricity generation mix does
not improve in the future, and continue to rely on coal and oil,
an additional 1.1 Mt CO2 will be generated by HST over
40 years. It is clear that energy efficiency improvement and attracting
demand from car and air are important determinants of the environmental
benefit from HST. Overall, the Miyoshi and Givoni (2011) analysis
suggests that for meeting the UK stringent carbon emission reduction
targets, HST development does not offer much. The main justification
for the construction of HST in the UK is to increase rail capacity
and avoid congestion on the rail network, and not environmental
Rail emissions accounted for only 0.4 % of the total
UK domestic CO2 emissions in 2007. The total CO2
emission from car in the same year was 74.4 MtCO2,
from rail 2.2 MtCO2 and from air 2.3 MtCO2.
The UK Government ambition carbon emission reduction target suggests
mode substitution must play a role in achieving this, but the
development of HST it appears might not contribute substantially
in this respect. In the current financial climate, investments
in HSR will almost sure result in a postponement of the plans
for electrifying the UK conventional rail network (with some projects
already cancelled), and will likely delay environmental benefits.
The main rationale for the development of HSR in
Japan and France was to increase capacity, not reduce travel time.
Likewise, the need for HSR in the UK arises from the realization
that the main rail corridors on the conventional network are near
capacity and there is a need, if rail is to provide a greater
role in providing mobility needs, to expand capacity. However,
this initial capacity increase motivation, objective is quickly
forgotten and travel time (savings) "calculations" overtake
capacity (enhancement) "calculations" in the evaluation
of HSR. At the same time, the cost of higher speeds in terms of
energy consumption and CO2 emissions are not "calculated"
Even the overriding focus on travel time savings
(TTS) should be questioned. Up to 80% of the user benefits come
from TTS and the strong embedded assumption is that travel time
is "wasted time". The calculations are based on well
established (although questionable) values of time. There is a
new literature that questions the notions of how time is actually
used when travelling, and the particular benefits of substantial
amounts of time spent within a train. Some of this research is
empirical (Jain and Lyons, 2007; Metz, 2008; Watts and Urry, 2008),
looking at how people read, use computers, communicate, and work
- this means that this time is not "wasted". Secondly
more theoretical research examines travel time as a social construct,
the quality of which should be maximised and more highly valued
(Cresswell, 2006 and 2010). There needs to be a greater understanding
of how people use and experience travel time, as it is not just
a matter of time and speed that determine the value of travel,
but important personal (emotional, relational and experiential
factors), cultural (societal factors) and social factors that
are also instrumental in everyday decisions about travel (Banister,
7. HSR AND AIR
The railways, including HSR, have a strategic role
to play in the UK's air transport policy. It is therefore surprising
that the current debate only focuses on connection (or not) to
Heathrow airport without due consideration for the entire UK air
transport system and policy. Furthermore, in parallel to the Government
consultation on HS2, another consultation is taking place on a
"sustainable framework for UK aviation", which makes
no explicit reference to HSR, but does mention the Government's
decision to refuse permission for an additional runway at any
of London's major airports. Given the nature of HSR (planning
and operation) and the Government's general transport objectives
and that for air transport, the two consultations should be considered
together, as part of a National Transport Strategy.
With the issue of additional runway capacity in the
South East still open, there is a possibility that (a future)
Government would make a decision to expand an airport other than
Heathrow (eg Stansted airport), and this would change the location
of London's and the UK's future main (hub) airport. This would
mean that Heathrow would remain with an expensive connection to
HS2 but no need for it. Consequently, it is likely that current
decisions on HS2 will dictate the UK air transport policy in the
South East and therefore the rest of the country.
HSR development decisions are likely to lock-in UK's air transport
policy for decades, and this decision will be taken before air
transport policy is decided. Therefore the two must be considered
At present, the voice of the UK air transport industry
is relatively silent in the public HS2 debate and on the issue
of a possible connection to Heathrow. This strategy might be due
to the industry's priority on promoting additional runways as
solution to the lack of airport capacity, but in any case the
opinion of the industry must be sought and included in such an
important debate on HSR Strategy.
The need and importance of a direct rail (and HSR)
connection to Heathrow airport has been explained in past submissions.
Such a connection will require substantial investment, but is
expected to be beneficial. Yet, the emerging solution of a "loop"
or a "spur" is likely to result in perhaps lower cost
but very likely with no substantial benefits. A better approach
would be to make an informed decision on whether to include Heathrow
in HS2 via a station on the line, or not include it at all. We
recommend the former.
Embarking on construction of new HSR lines that strive
to set new standards for speed may have a series of important
(a) It may reduce the role of rail transport
within a national perspective, even if absolute number of passengers
continues to increase.
(b) There is a risk that efforts to develop new
HSR services will reinforce current trends, where HSR gains an
increasing market share, but the share of rail overall remains
largely unchanged or declines.
(c) From a spatial perspective, many more "places"
will see rail travel diminish in attractiveness as compared with
those seeing it improving. Thus, overall HSR will reduce connectivity,
especially for rail transport and therefore accessibility. The
discussion must give due consideration to the regional and wider
spatial effect of developing HSR.
(d) The environmental case for additional speed
(and noise) should be set against the greater benefits from lower
speed rail travel on a more extensive network.
(e) Funding for HSR should not come at the expense
of funding other rail projects, and the alternatives should all
be seen as part of an overall rail strategy that in turn is consistent
with a National Transport Strategy.
(f) The attraction of ever greater speed for
part of any journey needs to be set against the additional costs
of access and egress, the need for understanding the total journey
experience, and the ways in which passengers use time spent travelling.
(g) If increasing rail capacity is the motivation
for HSR development, then the best value for money alternative
for increasing capacity, and not reducing travel time, should
be adopted. Currently, there is no comparison between alternatives
in terms of the capacity they provide.
(h) HSR must be developed in full integration
with other current and future transport infrastructure projects
and transport policies. This approach will ensure HSR contributes
to an integrated transport system and not to further fragment
it. Current plans partially acknowledge the need for integration,
but they have not been thought through and are likely to prove
costly and probably ineffective.
The HSR debate seems to be led by engineering and
not planning objectives and by financial and not economic considerations.
16 June 2011
Banister, D (2011) The Trilogy of Distance, Speed
and Time, Journal of Transport Geography 19(4): 950-959.
Cresswell, T (2006) On the Move: Mobility in the
Western World London: Routledge.
Cresswell, T (2010) Towards a politics of mobility,
Environment and Planning D 28(1): 17-31.
Givoni, M and Banister, D (2011) Speedthe
less important element in High-Speed Train. Viewpoint point submitted
for the Journal of Transport Geography.
Givoni, M, Brand, C and Watkiss, P (2009) Are railways
"climate friendly", Built Environment 35(1):
Jain J and Lyons G (2007) The gift of travel time.
Journal of Transport Geography 16(1): 81-89.
Martínez Sánchez-Mateos, H S and Givoni,
M (2010) The accessibility impact of a new High-speed Rail line
in the UKa preliminary analysis of winners and losers.
Paper presented at the 50 ERSA conference, 19-23 August, Jönköping,
Metz, D (2008) The myth of travel time saving, Transport
Reviews 28(3): 321-336.
Miyoshi C and Givoni M (2011) The environmental case
for high speed train in the UK: examining the London-Manchester
route. Paper submitted for publication in International Journal
of Sustainable Transport.
Watts, L and Urry, J (2008) Moving methods, travelling
times. Environment and Planning D 26(6): 860-874.
453 European Commission (2010) Energy and Transport
in Figures, EC. Back
The world record for average speed of a commercial HSR service
is 313kph, held by a non-stop service between Wuhan and Guangzhou
in China (2009). Since then the speed on this route was reduced
and a station added, reducing the average speed. Before that a
French TGV service held the record with an average speed of 279
Current HS2 plans suggest a new HSR station will be built in Birmingham
city centre, only several hundred meters from, arguably, the most
central station on the conventional rail network, Birmingham New
Street. New Street station is currently being redeveloped to create
a "transport hub for Birmingham and the West Midlands". Back
The planned HSR station in Birmingham is on a spur from the London-Manchester
line. This means many of the London-Manchester (and Scotland)
HSR services will bypass Birmingham, and Birmingham city centre
would have much lower frequency of services than otherwise to
the rest of the HS2 cities. If services from London to the North
stop at Birmingham city centre, this will entail considerable
travel time penalty (and the need to "turn" the train).
Only recently, the city centre railway station in Antwerp, Belgium,
which was on a spur from the line leading from Brussels to the
north, turned into a through station to accommodate the new HSR
line from Brussels to Amsterdam, a case worth examining in detail
in the Birmingham case. Back
Martínez Sánchez-Mateos and Givoni (2010) analysed
travel time accessibility to London in a study of stations on
the conventional network close to London, Birmingham, Manchester
and Liverpool (and based on Network Rail proposal for HS2) and
concluded that in terms of ranking the cities by travel time before
and after HSR development there were substantial changes. At the
extreme cases, Buxton and Chinley, close to Manchester, were ranked
114th and 98th respectively in terms of
current travel time to London amongst the 114 cities in the sample.
With HS2 in place, these cities will see their ranking go up by
79 and 76 places respectively, turning them into one of the closest
cities to London. At the same time, Loughborough and Radcliffe
which before HS2 were ranked 22nd and 31st
amongst the cities in the sample will see their rankings drop
by 69 and 72 places respectively. It is clear how HS2 can turn
the geography of the UK upside down - cities which are about 100km
closer to London will experience longer travel times to it (by
Leuning T, Swaffield J and Hartwich O M (ed.) (2007) Cities limited.
Policy Exchange, London. Back
The London-Manchester air travel market is relatively small (eg,
817,000 passengers and 47,000 tonnes CO2 in 2006) compared
to the whole London-Scotland air travel market (eg, 8.6 million
seats and 0.43Mt CO2 in 2006) (Miyoshi and Givoni,
Energy White Paper: Meeting the Energy Challenge, CM7124.
Department of Trade and Industry UK, May, 2007. Back
Givoni et al (2009) calculated that electrifying the entire
UK rail network, to replace all passenger services currently operated
by diesel trains with electric trains, would save about 200,000
t CO2 per year, based on 2006 UK electricity energy
mix. This will increase to 250,000 t per year in 2020 with the
expected changes in the electricity mix. The value of such reduction,
over 50 years, is valued at about £300 million in net present
Another overlooked issue is that of Birmingham International airport.
Under current HS2 plans this airport will be 40 minutes from London
and more accessible to many than Heathrow. Birmingham International
airport is not designed and planned to be able to meet this additional
Givoni M and Banister D (2009) The future of aviation. In House
of Commons Transport Committee, The Fututre of Aviation,
First report of session 2009-10, Volume II, Oral and Written evidence,
Current HS2 documents suggest that the increase in travel time
on the journey between London and Birmingham with a stop at Heathrow
would be under two minutes and will add a £2 billion
to the cost. A third runway at Heathrow would require a 6th Terminal.
Terminal 5 at Heathrow cost £4.3 billion. Back