Written evidence from Mr and Mrs S Loosley
I am writing to register our vehement opposition
to the multi-billion-pound proposed HS2 high speed rail link between
London and Birmingham.
Our objections are many, but essentially come down
to: prohibitive and irresponsible cost; the availability of less
expensive alternatives; the wildly optimistic predictions used
to calculate the demand for the new service, which brings the
whole project into question; and the inexcusable damage it would
do to areas of outstanding natural beautyan unwelcome legacy
that has not been factored in.
I would like you to register our opposition to the
plans, on the following 10-point basis:
would represent a ridiculously enormous outlay at a time when
our country's economic frailty is likely to last for years. According
to HS2 Ltd (the company the government set up to bring the HS2
line into being) the cost of a railway between Birmingham and
London (including the trains) would be £25.5 billion.
To take HS2 all the way to Scotland would mean a total cost of
£88 billion. Yet, this figure excludes the additional
cost of linking it to Heathrow or HS1 and, of course, the final
bill is likely to exceed this proposed budget, as all large public
projects tend to do. How on Earth can we afford this? It is an
extravagant and irresponsible use of our national funds. This
sense is exacerbated by the predicted revenue for HS2with
it being suggested that it would take an extraordinary stretch
of 60 years to even reach E15 billion in revenue. So,
it would probably take half a century to even claw back half of
the outlay of the London-Birmingham project.
wider economic gains are valued by HS2 Ltd at only £3.6 billion
over the same 60-year period. Even then, HS2 Ltd is unable to
be precise about who would gain and where these benefits would
be delivered. A study by Imperial College London shows that overall
economic benefits would be negligible and more likely to lead
to business re-location than any genuine regeneration.
3. No consideration appears to have been given
to cheaper options. When you consider the enormous rail network
already in existence right across the British Isles you wonder
why sections of this cannot simply be upgraded to High Speed at
a far lower cost. Some sections, such as the West Coast Mainline
is already capable of sustaining trains at speeds exceeding 180 mph
(which is faster than the designated EU definition of "high
speed"). Only financial pressures reduced these speeds to
125 mph. This could be easily rectified.
4. The main argument for HS2 is for increasing
capacity on the rail network. However, HS2 Ltd recently admitted
itself that meeting this capacity need could be achieved by simply
increasing the capacity available on existing rolling stock and
increasing the frequency of service on existing lines. On top
of this, the company has based its calculations on the incredible
claim that an additional 38,000 passengers per day would use the
new line just because it existed. This is surely not credible
when existing usage of the West Coast Mainline is just 45,000
per day. In fact, it is a laughable claim.
5. National statistics show that the UK public's
demand to travel has remained static and unchanged since 1995.
Yet, somehow, HS2 Ltd has forecast a projected growth in demand
of 267% by 2033 (from 45,000 to 145,000 per day). This is very
optimistic, to put it politely. Ludicrous, to put it more bluntly.
6. The number of passengers switching from planes
to HS2, according to HS2 Ltd, would only be 3.5nnillion per annumfewer
than 7% of all passengers using HS2 and less than 5% of all passengers
using Heathrow Airport. So where's the big switch from aviation?
7. HS2 Ltd has assumed that time spent on a train
is wasted and therefore there is a monetary value assigned to
the 20 or so minutes that might be saved for all travellers per
journey. In reality most travellers already make good use of time
on a train, especially for business purposestherefore,
it is not wasted. Furthermore, the value HS2 Ltd has assigned
to that time saved is exaggeratedit is equivalent to the
average business traveller earning £70,000 per annum in today's
prices, which is hardly realistic. What is more, this whole argument
is flimsy when you consider that research has shown that passengers
want reliability and value for money much more than high speed.
8. No value at all appears to have been assigned
to the damage to the environment, let alone to the nationally
protected Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, that the
HS2 preferred route would wreak. Swathes of this treasured AONB
would be irrevocably spoilt. We should be protecting the few jewels
we have left in this country, not despoiling them. And, what about
the money that tourism (both domestic and international) brings
into the area because of its status? Surely it is folly to damage
one of southern England's main assets? Historic buildings, parklands
and countryside would be ripped up, torn down or forever blighted.
9. In its justification for the need for this
particular high speed rail link, HS2 Ltd assumes a worst case
scenario for aviation emissions, when the CAA expects aviation
emissions to show a significant improvement by 2030. Similarly,
if HS2 means domestic flight slots are simply displaced at airports
by long haul flights, then HS2 will have in fact triggered an
increase in aviation emissions. Hardly "environmentally friendly".
10. Similarly, the carbon emissions generated
by the construction would be massive, and the energy used by high
speed trains will be at least double that of existing inter-city
electric trains and could end up using more than four times the
In conclusion, I would like to quote Andrew Gilligan
from an article in the Daily Telegraph, who neatly summed up the
situation like this: "The burning need in public transport
is not for sexy, pointy-nosed high speed trains whose economics
simply don't stack up. It's for boring unglamorous improvements
to the services we actually use."
We do not object to high speed rail travel, just
to this unnecessary and irresponsible HS2 project, which we want
to see cancelled.