Written evidence from D.J. TOLLEY (HSR
A submission in general terms confined to the itemised
questions set out in the announcement of 18/3/2011.
1. Main arguments
An overall case has already been submitted by letter
to the Committee although inevitably some of the arguments will
be repeated under the specific headings here.
As regards the remit statement, it is a matter of
concern to read that issues regarding impact assessment and property
rights affected by the proposed route of HS2 "would be
dealt with in due course by a hybrid Bill committee",
which the writer hopes is conditional not implying what many people
already believe to be the case.
The project is referred to here as HS2 rather than
HSR, since it can hopefully be assumed that even if built,
there is unlikely to be an HS3; one "lesson" that has
been "learned" is that that there has been no successor
to Concorde, imposed by a previous government against reasoned
As previously outlined, [letter] the main arguments
against are economic disadvantage, minimal contribution to transport
capacity, higher travel costs, higher energy demand and widespread
2. How does HSR fit in with Government transport
2.1 HS2 is designed to improve inter-urban connectivity?
Initially it would link only London and Birmingham centres with
possible extensions to Leeds and Manchester and ultimately perhaps,
This is of no benefit to the many other urban centres
around the country, including the proposed "enterprise zones",
which rather suggests that government/DfT transport policy is
not joined up with other objectives.
The alleged purpose of HS2 is to provide high
speed travel between limited centres which, in the case of London-Birmingham
is relatively marginal, especially as present routes are already
planning to shorten journey times.
As repeatedly pointed out, at a fraction of the quoted
costs, significant improvements could be made to the road
and rail networks with increased economic/environmental benefit
to the country as a whole, not to limited "centres".
2.2 On the presumption that there is a substantial
economic deficit, HMG cannot spend money twice.
Even the initial quoted cost of HS2 for stage 1,
which surpasses cancelled defence projects and essential security
services, obviously prejudices any extensive improvement in the
existing rail network.
2.3 The main advantage which HS2 appears to offer
over domestic aviation is that it is presumably more environmentally
This conflicts with the government's case which is
to have high-speed travel: if speed alone is the main criterion,
on longer distances air is likely to be faster.
This raises the fact that the entire project is only
justifiable by executive travel. Business class is probably the
sector which has a need to travel comparable with air, or could
afford the premium fares that must apply if the project is not
to lose even more money operationally.
Another class might be foreign tourists, but in this
connection, I reproduce the faxed comment of an American visitor
to UK who travels from Scotland to the south of England and London.
The project has Chambers of Commerce support: it
is well known that business people like to travel quickly and
in comfort, an argument previously advanced for Concorde.
The committee should take note of comments by Sir
Philip Green, that he expects his people wherever possible to
use video conferencing which, if speed is the real criterion,
cannot be beaten.
3. Business Case
3.1 These questions are impossible to forecast:
although it is likely that apart from diversion of government
funding to support the existing network the impact on network
travel will be relatively small.
1(a) The public outside of the proposed centres
will not want or be able to pay the premium fares of HS2
1(b) No-one in their right mind, for example,
is going to want to travel, say, to Birmingham from Coventry to
visit London, which would be longer and costlier for them to do.
3.2 This addresses capacity: obviously the West
Coast line is a strong candidate for improvement. Whether new
"conventional" lines are necessary is open to question.
Apart from upgrade of the existing rail network, another option
would be to look at the possibility of reopening previously closed
cross country routes of which a number exist and could be brought
back into use, if only for freight.
If this question has been properly understood, it
implies managing capacity by price.
In relation to itself, HS2 will take care of this,
unless some governmental fudge subsidizes the project to an unbelievable
As regards the rest of the network, the writer was
under the impression that it was generally the policy of all parties
to encourage people to use public transport, wherever possible.
Thus the exclusion of people from rail travel makes
no economic sense: it needs to be understood by any government
that travel, and other component costs, needs to be kept as low
as possible because these reflect ultimately on the nation's economic
performance and inflation.
3.4 This question implies that there will be
other high speed rail projects. As stated above, if this project
is ever completed, it is likely to be another case of retrospective
As may be inferred from the general tone of this
submission the writer is greatly unimpressed by government departmental
costing, of which there have been many unfortunate examples.
4. The strategic route
Despite the disclaimer in the cover document, questions
4.1 to 4.4 are all route related. The sequence of questions seems
to imply that the project is regarded as "a done deal"
as some objectors have described it.
As this writer clearly regards the whole project
as financially and environmentally irresponsible these questions
do not apply, but it is pointed out that as regards 4.1, if "speed"
is the basic justification, then intermediate halts, while servicing
more people, negate the purpose of the project.
Self-evidently a non-mass transit premium service,
carrying no freight can make negligible contribution to economic
performance, compared with that already provided by the motorway
As indicated in 3.2 above, a better option would
be the development of rail freight services. As regards non freight
business see Sir Philip Green's comments on the use of electronic
Drawing another example, from air travel, the committee
should compare the economic results from the high-cost "prestige"
project Concorde against the substantial success accruing from
so-called "jumbo jets" developed by USA.
The UK, it seems has "learned no lessons".
As regards the "north-south divide", it
needs to be explained how a high-cost, non-mass transit system,
carrying no freight, can change what the motorway network is presumably
seen as having failed to do.
5.3 Substantial communities by-passed along the
route corridor will gain nothing, but may lose if the constraints
placed on government infrastructural funding resulting from HS2
prejudicially affect these areas. HMG cannot spend money twice
over. The business class is the only identifiable beneficiary
which is why the project is supported by CoC's, whose record in
this field is not good.
5.4 As the main beneficiary the business class,
which as usual expects others to fund it, including those communities
and interests penalised, should be challenged to bear the overall
cost, which may temper its enthusiasm for massive expenditure.
This question also suggests that local authorities
will be among the "major beneficiaries". A mistaken
assumption: presently, County councils and other affected local
authorities along the proposed route do not see it that way and
are pledged to oppose the project.
The presumption of the question may be that local
authorities are likely to change their minds, which raises the
subject of what inducement or pressure may be applied by HMG for
them to do this.
Reference to the EU Ten-T programme, adds a new dimension
to the debate:
It is well known that outside of the permanent way,
UK is not fitted to provide the hardware for this project, which
is likely to come from France.
SNCF is reportedly seeking to supply HSR projects
to Australia and the USA, where space and distance may make such
projects viable. In order to sugar the project in the USA, the
SNCF management found it necessary to apologise for having transported
Jews to Germany during WW2, even though the present management
can have no responsibility for that tragic event.
The conclusion to be drawn from this is that there
are no ethical limits to this kind of promotional activity, which
should be taken into account.
6.1 Probably impossible to predict, although
doubtless some consultancies or university-based studies will
provide a series of predictions, depending on the provenance of
The DfT should be challenged to provide substantive
figures, to show where they come from and how they are arrived
at. To date, no-one seems convinced by the vague predictions,
plucked out of the air to justify this project.
Even without data, it is certain that the energy
demand to supply this project will be enormous. Where is the electricity
This again questions the consistency in government
policy by the fact that in the not far distant future UK is going
to face electricity generation problems, to which high speed rail
is certain to add.
France, the leader in high speed rail, is strongly
provided with nuclear power but the future nuclear power provision
for UK is presently uncertain.
Unless this project is to be as exempt from the professed
Low Carbon economy as it has so far proven to be from public spending
restraint, the committee must ask DfT to calculate how many wind
turbines the network will have dedicated to it and where they
will be sited. Again, where's the energy coming from?
6.2 This writer has not seen any substantive
"business case" nor, according to many concerned people,
has anyone else. The public is subjected to unsubstantiated predictions.
An example of this was provided in an interview given
by Birmingham Chamber of Commerce to Richard Savage of Radio Northampton
which harped on about the "economic benefits," claiming
something like 20 or 25 billion, which left the interviewer understandably
A public meeting presentation in Leamington by a
Birmingham based supporter claimed 20 billion: 20 billion on a
forecast (!) of 17 billion, does not sound like a reasonable return,
given all the disadvantages of such a destructive project.
This return would look better if it could be established
if it was after construction and operating costs were met, neither
of which can be absolutely predicted, probably accounting for
the vagueness of the case.
6.3 Impact on freight services
This is not understood. HS2 will carry no freight.
Is it thought that enough passengers will transfer from the classic
network to enable these lines to reduce passenger traffic thereby
increasing freight capacity?
This is unlikely unless HMG is considering a kind
of "introductory subsidy" on fares, to initiate the
project. Otherwise, Fares will be too high, only those people
with immediate access to destination points will travel anyway.
It should be noted that the present Transport minister
has significantly raised fares across the rail network, presumably
as means to decrease demand, without regard for social or economic
6.4 Disruption: [to existing Network]
Impossible to predict, disruption to the classic
network would only be temporary, but the disruption and damage
done to people's lives and businesses in the corridor areas, will
be serious, costly and, unlike Concorde, consequentially irretrievable.
This is a situation which should never be allowed
Even without the deficit, this country has greater
priorities than a mere vanity project instigated as the result
of lobbying and a seriously mistaken sense of priorities by the
present and preceding governments.
2 May 2011