High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents


Written evidence from Chris James (HSR 28)

SUMMARY OF MAIN POINTS

The business case is seriously flawed. The main benefits, business time savings are incorrectly evaluated, the impact on the environment has not been properly completed prior to a decision, the proposed routes and investment have not been properly reviewed against other alternatives eg RP2. It will also have no impact on economic rebalancing as according to HS2 data most of the economic advantages accrue to London and the South East.

1.  HSR FIT WITH THE GOVERNMENT'S TRANSPORT POLICY OBJECTIVES

Based on the data that has been presented I don't believe it does for the following reasons:

—  Rational increases in demand can be met by developing the West Coast Main Line under Rail Package two proposals which will cost less than 1/10 the cost of HS2, create minimal environmental impact and provide a scaleable solution for the future.

—  Rail Package 2 offers a cheaper alternative to addressing reasonable estimates of future demand, therefore this high speed rail network does not provide the best value for money, which it must do, particularly in the current economic climate and with the general issues of government debt.

—  As the Consultation does not provide sufficient details of alternative solutions and different scenarios for future demand growth—simply taking an extreme growth case, by definition it is not possible to determine whether this is the best value for money.

—  Overall domestic travel shows signs of saturation for short and long distance journeys, the DfT's rail demand forecasts are excessive and take no account of impacts from high speed internet connectivity on future travel trends.

—  Alternative scenarios have been not been developed to evaluate the benefits of this investment, for example versus improvements in commuter services or road transport.

—  Large scale enhancement to the rail network should only be done in a way that ensures the rail network will cause significantly lower carbon emissions after the enhancement takes place—HS2 is carbon neutral.

2.  BUSINESS CASE

—  The business case is flawed and provides no supportive basis for investing such a large sum of money.

—  The benefit is based on business people not doing productive work when travelling, which is absolutely wrong. Everyone uses the internet for business during travel.

—  There are cheaper alternatives that have not been properly evaluated versus HS2 eg RP2.

—  The passenger demand is seriously overstated, although already it has been significantly reduced from the original estimates. The HS1 demand was also very overstated and proved to be wrong.

—  Costs are understated eg Interest charges are not included.

—  It is likely to lose money and require subsidy over time, not factored into the case.

—  The trains schedules are not proven at the proposed speeds so capacity estimates may be wrong.

—  Detailed environmental costs and impacts have not been provided or costed at a realistic level in the data available and will only be complete after the decision.

—  The current business case is for the London to Birmingham phase only. That business case is flawed. There should be a business case for the entire HS2 programme before decisions to commit £bns are made.

3.  THE STRATEGIC ROUTE

—  International experts agree that for high speed trains to be really worth building, the distance between stations should be at least 150km. Britain is a small island compared to other European countries with high speed rail and its major cities are closer together. By the time the proposed route has got out of London to an area where trains can run at maximum speed, the distance will be far less than 150km. Hence the route chosen by the DfT and HS2 Ltd is not suitable for Britain.

—  A better value approach would be to leverage the existing rail network like RP2 suggested.

—  Less disruption if the route follows existing major transportation routes eg M1 or M40 corridors.

—  The route ignores AONB, green belt, farming land, footpaths, ancient monuments and listed buildings.

4.  ECONOMIC REBALANCING AND EQUITY

—  I have seen no evidence this will help bridge the north south divide.

—  Most new jobs will be created in the South, and even then will be re-distribution of existing roles.

—  Economic investment in the North would be a much better way of addressing this.

—  It is likely to increase commuting into London from further out.

5.  IMPACT

—  Chapter 5 of the Consultation has a short summary of the Appraisal of Sustainability: the actual document is extensive. However, despite the length of that document the Environmental Impact Assessment has not yet been published. It is therefore inappropriate to proceed with a major infrastructure project without such detailed assessment, particularly as it is already known that HS2 threatens 160 wildlife sites; there will also be loss of 21 ancient woods, in existence since 1600 AD, and huge swathes of agricultural land.

—  Vibration will impact on a further 27 woodlands. The HS2 route goes through 4Wildlife Trust reserves and 10 Sites of Scientific Interest. There will be irreparable damage to the Chiltern aquifer which supplies water to millions of homes in London and the South East.

—  There are no proven savings in CO2 emissions because of the speed and resultant power consumption of the trains, and despite the rhetoric, as accepted by HS2's Sustainability Report; there will be no significant modal shift from air or car travel to trains.

—  The new trains will use around three times the amount of power of existing trains and cause more pollution than any other form of travel other than air.

—  The construction period and its aftermath will have a significant, detrimental and permanent impact on the leisure and tourism industry along the entire route.

—  I have not been able to find a detailed "noise map" of the proposed routes and there is no information on the effects of vibration on properties locate on or close to tunnels.

—  There is no information on how noise, dust, and vibrations will be controlled during the construction process.

—  Construction traffic congestion will cause major disruption through small towns and villages all along the route.

May 2011


 
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Prepared 8 November 2011