High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from James Russell (HSR 190)

1.  I have a extensive experience in the senior management and science of transport, especially in air, freight and public transport. Having had the opportunity to examine the written evidence submitted to the High Speed Rail Inquiry after consulting colleagues I believe that I can make two responses that may assist the Committee and thus be of sufficient utility to be accepted at this stage.

2.  The evidence on carbon and climate change impacts in response to question 6, 1 lack any authoritative discussion of the science appropriate to the climate change impact of increasing or decreasing the volume of Electric Traction. Such a discussion makes understanding and assessing the widely varying viewpoints much more practical. In the course of a study in which I have been involved Professor Nash has identified Professor Kageson as a key authority. I believe that Professor Kageson's paper 'Environmental Aspects of Intercity Transport' will be of great assistance to the Committee and ask that they take it into evidence.

Professor Kageson establishes that the impact of electric rail is to increase the level of coal burning above what it would otherwise be. He also treats some aspects of modal transfer and thus of congestion relief. The effect of his findings is to indicate that until Carbon Capture and Storage can be implemented on at least a pan European basis the carbon intensity of electric propulsion energy is that of coal not the average carbon intensity of the generating fuel mix. The carbon intensity of coal as a generating fuel is around double that of the current average of the generating fuel mix so the estimated propulsion emissions of high speed rail must be doubled and the estimation that that HS2 will be carbon neutral seems unviable.

The requirement that CCS be implemented on a pan European basis arises from the operation of interconnectors and [eventually] super grids. If a state, such as France, with little or no coal burning increases its use of electricity for traction it has less low carbon electricity to sell to replace coal burning in Germany or remoter parts of the EU. Similarly if new sources of low carbon electricity are bought on stream but total electricity demand is increased by electric traction some or all of the low carbon electricity is not available to reduce coal use. For illustrative purposes Professor Kageson assumes that CCS might be implemented on a sufficiently wide scale by 2025 but he does not examine the realism of this assumption which may be highly optimistic given the technical uncertainties and extent of the area over which existing power stations would have to be replaced. A joint examination by the Transport Committee and the Committee on Energy and Climate Change of the timing for adequate introduction of CCS to support transport electrification would be valuable.

The possibility that an area larger than Pan Europe must be considered arises when coal burning is reduced by increasing consumption of lower carbon generating fuels such as gas. In a world with limited gas supplies the pre-emption of supply by one user may enforce coal burning on another.

The Professor Kageson's report can be found here.[465]

I have corresponded with Professor Kageson and he has confirmed that recent research has established that an RFI of 1 is the e carbon intensity appropriate to short haul domestic air services. His paper uses an RFI of 1.5 which substantially overestimates the carbon intensity of domestic air services.

Professor Kageson concludes "… The rail sector, however, often claims that investment in rail infrastructure will bring large environmental benefits (Banverket, 2008, UNIFE 2008, UIC 2008). Independent research, on the other hand, concludes that these benefits are not so important (de Rus, 2008, WSP and KTH Järnvägsgruppen, 2008, Nilsson and Pydokke, 2009). The results of this report support the latter view. Investment in high speed rail cannot be expected to contribute much to climate change mitigation. Investment in conventional fast trains may in some circumstances be significantly more beneficial. It may be time for many environmentalists to reconsider their attitude to high speed rail …".

3.  The submissions offered in response to questions 2 and 5 seem inadequate in the context of the recently completed Inquiry into Transport and the Economy. Many respondents do not consider how far projects of greater economic value may be unaffordable due to a commitment to HS2. Unfortunately the current regime does not facilitate judgements of how far commitments to what Eddington describes as "grands projets" and "solutions in search of a problem", displace higher value projects which enhance the existing road and rail network. There are indications in the SW region that existing rail "grands projets" may be having this effect. The value of the inquiry will be greatly increased if the respondents can be pressed to examine this aspect further, at least to the extent of identifying what funding they seek for other projects whose value is equal or higher than that of HS2.

Some other projects may be found to be essential on implementation of HS2 but may not yet have been identified and have a low intrinsic value. For example since DfT has shown that across all journeys by train to and from London 25% involve a trip to the train by road so there may be highways works necessary to provide improved access to rail stations.

4.  My intention in offering these comments is more that of a friend to the inquiry than that of a witness but if I can assist the inquiry by expanding on 2 and 3 in any way I shall do my best to respond.

June 2011

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Prepared 8 November 2011