Written evidence from Catherine Calow
I am writing to you not as an expert but as a voter
who has put a lot of time and effort into gaining an understanding
of the issues of concern here. My home will not be affected by
the proposed route of the HS2 line and I prefer here to consider
whether there is a case for HS2 at all.
I would like to comment on some of the points I understand
you are covering:
1. IMPACT ON
I have looked at all the flights that are currently
scheduled between all the UK mainland airports that may be affected
by HS2. It seems a good argument that HSR will reduce domestic
flights. However, I have found that apart from a small number
of flights between London and Manchester and Newcastle, there
would only be a point to HSR if it reached Edinburgh or Glasgow,
to which there are a high number of flights a day. But there is
no plan to extend beyond Leeds or Manchester. So, there is hardly
any benefit in reducing domestic flights.
2. IMPACT ON
For journeys to and from town centres rail is an
excellent solution, it resolves problems of car parking, inner
city congestion and is less stressful. I am sure most business
people do take the train when possible. However, I cannot see
that the demand figures used in the forecasts can be accurate.
For example, visits that are anywhere much outside the centre
of town require one to take taxis etc and it doesn't take much
to make a car journey still more viable. Eg I am HR Director for
a large industrial company in the UK and we have a lot of national
and international travel. However, unless you are going into central
London for a meeting you take the car. We are based in High Wycombe
and have a sister company in Birminghambut it's in West
Bromwichthe car is the only viable way to travel and if
there is more than one person it is by far the cheapest. If you
need to carry anything you will also go by car.
3. VALUE OF
(a) The whole idea that businesspeople don't
work on the train is archaic. I am sure MPs' work on the train
as do most people now. So, the need for a quicker journey time
is redundant, and hence the need for a special high speed solution
that is a straight line. As time progresses businesses are more
and more using video and telephone conferencing. As the true cost
of their carbon footprint becomes measured by including travel
there will be more pressure for this. Professional people are
increasingly working from home. The need for excessive business
travel should be reducing.
(b) The notion that leisure travellers will spend
more money by arriving in Birmingham (or more likely in London)
quicker is illogicalpeople only have a certain amount of
money so will just get a later train or go home earlier.
(c) The only benefit of speed that I can see
is that rich commuters will be able to consider living in Birmingham
and working in London, thus benefiting from cheaper house prices
and London levels of pay. This will further enhance London at
the expense of cities further north.
(d) I suspect that the whole notion of a high
speed rail line is to compete with the neighbours. This has already
been considered by the committee. However, I cannot believe that
tourists don't visit the UK because we don't have a high speed
rail system. They may stay predominantly in London but that is
more to do with our heritage and marketing than anything else.
As long as people mostly fly into a London airport they will continue
to stay in London.
Please recognise that England is a small and crowded
country. We are not like France or Spain with vast areas of empty
land and a small population. So what if we get low scores on some
international rating?we get low scores for areas that are
much more serious like crime, teenage pregnancies etc.
The projected cost of the HS2 line is around £33
billion. Therefore, it is likely to be close on £50 billion
from normal project experience. In a time of austerity is this
really the best use of our money? HS1 was sold off for a loss
so there is no track record that HS2 will ever be financially
viable. This is a white elephant project that was devised by Labour.
Some of them are now walking away from it. Please take this opportunity
to have a long look and decide to spend the money on something
elseeg improving congestion in the northern cities, improving
links between the northern cities. Don't allow London to get even
bigger. We need more sustainable centres in the north and better
networking there. Take advantage of the plans to improve the WCML
that are already in existence and which could give the capacity
and most of the speed at a much lower cost.
From a carbon footprint perspective a 250 mile an
hour train cannot be efficient. The massive works to build a new
line with all the digging and concrete required must be taken
in to consideration when calculating energy efficiency. I do not
see any evidence that a high speed rail line will be environmentally
friendly and will reduce other forms of transport in any significant
way. There will be no impact on domestic aviation if it doesn't
reach Scotland and if it did then the airport authorities would
give the slots to long distance routes.
The line is planned to cross the widest point of
the Chilterns, an AONB. What is the point of establishing protected
areas if they are they ruined?
A far better environmental approach would be to improve
the WCML which already exists and don't be seduced by the concept
of trains at this ridiculous speed.
I do hope that you will take my arguments into account
in your deliberations and come to a decision that is logical and
8 May 2011