Written evidence from VoxOpp (HSR 35)|
VoxOpp (Villages of Oxfordshire Opposing HS2) is
an association of local people representing Oxfordshire villages
most affected by the plans for HS2. We recognize that the Transport
Committee does not intend to examine the issues that affect individuals.
However, while investigating the proposal for HS2 in order to
inform the people we represent, we have gained knowledge and insight
about both it and HSR generally. We welcome the opportunity to
submit our views to the Committee.
As transport develops it progressively gets
faster. VoxOpp opposes ultra high speed rail, such as HS2. It
does not oppose HSR generally. By now, the HSR debate should have
led to development of a more detailed overall plan for the future
rail transport needs of Britain and its people. Priorities for
future acceptable levels of fares, journey time, reliability,
frequency, comfort, environmental effects and other criteria should
have been established for the whole system. Instead, Government
has focused on a very costly ultra high speed train with limited
access. The opportunity should be taken to plan a more accessible
system providing more people in Britain with wider benefits. This
would better enable prioritisation of rail projects and HSR's
place in them.
Existing and developing HSR systems elsewhere
should have been examined more critically. While development of
HSR generally would bring Britain further into line with other
countries in Western Europe including France, Germany, the Netherlands
and Spain, it should be noted that all of these countries have
experienced serious problems arising from HSR, the main ones being:
have been variable. The notion that all cities connected by HSR
should increase in prosperity has been disproved.
costsin both France and Germany the high investment in
their HSR systems has led to inadequate investment in their other
the Netherlands and Spain all have routes that are loss-making.
In Holland one route is used so little that the whole system is
now at risk.
1. THE MAIN
The main arguments against HSR development as currently
cost for HS2's very limited coverage and limited additional time
energy consumption of ultra high speed trains;
elsewhere shows investment on existing networks tends to suffer;
economic outcomes along HSR routes generally; and
solutions exist which are better in a number of ways in a small
country with low potential for modal shift.
2. HOW DOES
HSR FIT WITH
1. HSR is designed to improve inter-urban
connectivity. How does that objective compare in importance to
other transport policy?
Statistics from DfT
indicate the relative sizes of the three main forms of transport
we wish to compare in terms of person/kilometres travelled (and
journeys are by far the highest used at about 85% (and 82%);
journeys account for about 8% (and 3.4%); and
air travel about 1.1% (and less than 1%).
The estimated spend on major road improvements
over the whole of Britain for the period 2000 to 2017 is around
Against this, the £17 billion cost of constructing just HS2
Phase 1 that would link only London and Birmingham is huge. In
the context of transport costs this cost is excessive for such
little substantiated benefit.
2. Implications of expenditure on HSR on funding
for the "classic" network
France and Germany have found that the high
costs of investing in their HSR systems has led to a reduction
in the money available for maintenance and development of the
rest of their railway systems. In both countries their classic
non-HSR system are falling into some decay. A more fully classic
compatible system would help avoid this pitfall.
3. What are the implications for domestic
There are no scheduled flights between London and
Birmingham. Looking further into the future, there are only around
15 scheduled flights daily from Manchester to London,
carrying around 2,000 passengers.
As far as modal shift is concerned, the numbers would be insignificant
to HS2. There could be a small loss of business for domestic aviation
but they have 15 years to consolidate their market share if they
3. BUSINESS CASE
1. Robustness of assumptions and methodology
At the technical seminars we attended last year it
appeared that most assumptions made in HS2 Ltd documents are largely
extrapolations on past statistics. There seems to have been little
significant use of market and other types of research to establish
future travel patterns. The "estimates" of likely usage
made may be little better than guesses.
The business case relies heavily on a half hour saving
being made by each business traveller on each journey, and on
that time being monetised, ie additional money being realised
(at a rate of £50 per business person/hour).
This is nonsense. It assumes that journey times will not be reduced
within the next 15 years anyway and that all time spent travelling
is wasted time. Also, and confusingly, the Secretary of State
for Transport has recently said that 70% of travellers on HS2
would be leisure travellers.
Fares need to be high to make a profit for such an
investment but this seems to be at variance with the Government's
aim of attracting more people to travel by rail. The Government
appears to be arguing against itself.
2. Pros and cons of resolving capacity issues
in other ways
Solutions other than HS2 could resolve existing
problems and increase inter-urban connectivity. More
consideration should have been given to projects such as:
Package 2 (improvements to the WCML which could increase its capacity
Hub plan (improvement in connectivity of rail services across
northern England which would include faster, non-stop trains between
West rail (a new line linking east and west of England, relieving
routes through and around London and improving freight connectivity
Removal of existing pinch points and remedying other
current infrastructure problems which require trains to slow would
reduce journey times and enable an increase in the number of trains
on the WCML. Work such as these three projects would not only
resolve capacity issues but would deliver a good result more quickly
than HS2 could, at less cost and in a more environmentally friendly
manner. A new HSR system may still be required but the benefits
of a non-ultra high speed line over a dedicated ultra high speed
line would be that:
could be designed to fit better into its surroundings (whatever
the route) as the need for such straight lines and level track
would be reduced at the lower speed.
non-dedicated line could incorporate stations along the route,
thus making the line a viable alternative to the car for more
people (or could link with the existing infrastructure to allow
could include places, perhaps at the additional stations, where
HS non-stop trains could pass slower ones, as is intended with
the Northern Hub project.
rolling stock and freight could use the line giving greater flexibility.
consumption would be less, making the trains more environmentally
sustainable which would sit well in a sustainable low CO2 transport
3. Pros and cons of alternative means of managing
demand for rail travel
Transport policy is for sustainable green solutions
for all our transport needs. Managing demand for any rail system
by price where high occupancy is achievable would be counter-productive.
We should be working towards a rail network which has affordable
fares and maximum usability.
Managing demand for travel at all is a separate matter.
The Government is, for example, promoting working from home and
web-driven meetings. Country wide fast broadband would enable
this and better support companies developing this approach.
4. Lessons the Government should learn from
other major transport projects
The Government should take more seriously the problems
encountered with HSRs in other countries. The information is available
and the positives should not be seized on without paying even
greater attention to the negatives. Downsides must be recognised
in both effect and scale when decisions are made. Britain does
not need to risk building the fastest HSR. The Government should
be careful about embarking on what may become an emblematic project
where national prestige is seen as just as important as the delivery
of a cost-effective transport solution.
4. THE STRATEGIC
1. Suitability of planned locations of HS2
A new line designed to promote inter urban connectivity
should connect the urban centres that it is designed to serve.
Out of town hubs like those proposed at Birmingham and Old Oak
Common (and later at Manchester) are likely to encourage car usage
rather than reduce it. The France/German approach of high speed
trains running to many destinations, not just on special high
speed lines, and reaching into the hearts of cities would be better
for Britain. The DfT dismissed the idea of classic compatible
trains yet a need to change trains to reach a city centre is apparently
At the London end, Euston is the least well connected
of all the north orientated main line stations yet has been chosen
for a multi billion pound makeover. To encourage modal shift from
car and air to rail, the rail option must terminate at a main
line London station which would immediately connect to HS1 and/or
the Heathrow express.
2. Cities which should be served by an eventual
high speed network
The full HS2 plan includes dedicated ultra high speed
lines to connect London to Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and a
station each in East Midlands and South Yorkshire. Trains going
on to Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, etc. would have to be classic
compatible anyway as they will have to travel along existing classic
The HS2 configuration with dedicated ultra high speed
trains connecting just a few of Britain's richest cities to London
mainly benefits London (see working paper referred to in paragraph
5.3). London is hogging it. There are no current plans for further
high speed lines of any sort linking the East and West of the
Despite their current rail problems, France's approach
of using only classic compatible trains has been successful for
thirty years. A similar approach in Britain, using trains that
could reach many destinations by use of the classic network would
allow lines to be updated and improved on a more incremental basis.
Other destinations (Bristol, Cardiff, etc) could be included earlier
enabling wider inter-urban connectivity.
3. Is the Government correct to build the
network in stages, moving from London northwards?
The value of time saving on the shorter HSR journeys
is more questionable than for longer journeys and yet the maximum
possible time saving was one of the reasons that the classic compatible
train option to Birmingham (and Manchester and Leeds) was dropped.
These already well-linked cities are the only destinations to
which dedicated high speed trains will go.
4. The Government proposes a link to HS1 as
part of Phase 1 but a direct link to Heathrow only as part of
Phase 2. Are those the right decisions?
HS1 terminates at St Pancras and HS2 would terminate
at Euston. A link is necessary only because of the decision to
use separate London termini. If more thought had been given to
the future of the whole network earlier a different approach to
the linking of any new lines, HSR or otherwise, might have been
5. ECONOMIC REBALANCING
1. What evidence is there that HSR will promote
economic regeneration and help bridge the north-south economic
Even pro-HS2 organisations admit the HSR cannot deliver
regeneration, it can only help support it. There is little evidence
for any other conclusion. HS2 Ltd confirms the line only links
places for which regeneration is planned or is already underway,
although the DfT has also claimed there will be strategic benefits
which are "unquantifiable".
Lille, with its HSR link to Paris, and despite its
claimed regeneration, has a level of unemployment
which is considerably higher than that of France as a whole. In
fact, unemployment in Lille has risen in the period since the
TGV link was built.
The Northern Hub project is a much more credible
plan than HS2 to contribute to regeneration in the north by enabling
easier access to jobs through increased mobility between the big
cities of the north and a large and mobile workforce across the
region to draw from which might encourage companies to locate
2. To what extent should the shape of the
network be influenced by the desirability of supporting local
and regional regeneration?
We believe that all HSR should be on an integrated
classic compatible basis designed to spread benefits across the
country more widely, rather than restricting them to a few selected
3. Which locations and socio-economic groups
will benefit from HSR?
A working paper
from the University of Barcelona indicates that when two large
towns/cities are joined by HSR, both may benefit but there is
a tendency for the larger city to be the bigger winner. The main
beneficiary of HSR in France has been Paris. The same is likely
to happen here with most benefit going to London, not the regions.
The paper also reports that while some locations served by the
lines benefit, others inexplicably do not. Large towns and cities
in the vicinity of, but not served by, an HSR line may suffer
a negative impact where the city which is linked feels a positive
impact. This may indicate that in some instances increased prosperity
for one is merely a reallocation of prosperity on a local basis.
HS2 Ltd appears to be assuming, in monetising the
half hour saving per business person/trip, that the average business
person travelling on HS2 would be earning about £65k p.a.
The Secretary of State for Transport has stated that "fares
will be unaffordable for many"
and has suggested the possibility of using fares to control usage
of the line. Since then, he has added that leisure travellers
could get cheaper fares provided they book them well in advance
but inevitably business users would be from the higher socio-economic
groups. This proposed HSR would not at all be a train for the
During the build phase, work is available for people
in the construction business who are likely to be from wider socio-economic
groups. However, this is equally true for any large-scale development
of the railways.
4. Financial contributions and risk-sharing
of major beneficiaries
Out of our scope.
1. Overall impact of HSR on UK carbon emissions
and size of modal shift from aviation and roads needed for HSR
to reduce carbon?
It is clear from the Booz & Co report in the
appendix 2 to the AOS
that insufficient information exists to make a sound forecast
of likely carbon emissions due to HS2. More work should be done
As power consumption increases with speed,
significantly higher carbon emissions would be produced by HS2
than for a conventional or even a classic compatible HSR train
on the same route. HS2 Ltd. and the
DfT promote HS2 as being progressively greener as the source of
the power it uses becomes less dependent on fossil fuels and moves
to nuclear driven power stations. Plans
for a sustainable transport system should take account the fact
that power does not come for free and wanton squandering of power
cannot be sustainable. It has been claimed that HS2 could last
100 years. In that period prodigious amounts of power would be
used to reduce journey times over a 120 mile route for a relatively
very small number of people.
We do not believe the HS2 estimates of modal shift
are accurate. The estimates were made largely by modelling an
extrapolation of past travel statistics supplemented with a small
amount of market research into the future.
2. Are environmental costs and benefits (including
in relation to noise) correctly accounted for in the business
On 14 October 2010 Andrew McNaughton, Chief Engineer
HS2 Ltd, stated at a Technical Seminar that "in all likelihood
the route and profile of the proposal line will change significantly
as a result of the Environmental Impact Assessment". The
EIA has not yet been carried out (we understand it will be done
only after the consultation process). Environmental impacts and
costs are therefore not fully accounted for in the business case.
Noise information provided by HS2 Ltd is inadequate
They have used a best-case scenario for modelling noise. They
averaged noise levels over a 19 hour period ignoring the WHO recommendation
that both average and peak noise levels (Lmax and SEL) should
be used to assess impacts.
The difference between peak (97dBa) and average (81dB(a) noise
levels is 16db which means that HS2 Ltd are using a measurement
which is about 1/40th of the actual noise level from a train.
No noise profile maps have been published with the
consultation documents, contrary to standard practice. According
to HS2 Ltd, they have not been produced. (FOI request FOI10-153).
This is another indicator that not enough work has been done to
assess objectively the impact of HS2 noise.
Finally, there is no evidence that HS2 Ltd. has researched
the effects of the type of noise or the effect of the frequency
of trains passing on people (despite the existence of published
evidence covering increased blood pressure, risk of strokes, cardiovascular
disease and cognitive effects).
3. What would be the impact on freight services
on the "classic" network?
The WCML currently has capacity to run some 60 freight
trains per day but currently runs only 36 trains per day south
of Rugby and 44 trains per day north of Rugby.
Broadly, a third of existing capacity currently remains unused.
An ongoing upgrade on the Felixstowe-Nuneaton cross-country route
is likely to take a further 20 trains a day off these totals.
Any freeing up of the WCML due to HS2 would be of no short-term
benefit to freight on the existing network.
4. How much disruption will be there to services
on the "classic" network during construction, particularly
during the rebuilding of Euston?
Works at Euston station will take eight years. A
representative of HS2 Ltd stated that during construction six
of the 18 platforms will be closed and substantial re-jigging
of the timetable would be necessary. Disruption to existing services
is likely to be extensive.
39 http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/01/netherlands-rail-idINLDE71025P20110201 Back
modal charts Back
2, page 5 Back
http://www.hs2.org.uk/assets/x/77834 para 3.5 Back
http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/hs2capacity.pdf-page 5 Back
http://www.who.int/docstore/peh/noise/ComnoiseExec.htm p.9 Back
Chris Stokes Back
HS2 Ltd engineer at MK road show-audio recording Back