High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents


Written evidence from Speen Area Action Group (HSR 52)

INTRODUCTION

SAAG was formed in May 2010 to represent the views of local communities against the Government's High Speed 2 proposals, and to proactively take action and campaign against the project. The Group is based in Speen, Buckinghamshire (on Alternative Preferred Route 2.5) and includes the communities of Lacey Green, Loosley Row, Speen, North Dean and Great and Little Hampden—over 1,100 households in total.

Our primary reason for opposing HS2 is that we do not believe that there is a credible demand case, there are numerous false and misleading assumptions behind the project and as a result, the business case is fundamentally flawed. In addition, the project will not have any positive impact on carbon emissions, and will irretrievably damage areas of the country which are designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The only justification for such desecration would be if the project was overwhelmingly in the Public Interest—and the case for this has not been made. All that has been produced is political rhetoric.

SAAG sincerely hopes that the Transport Select Committee will be able to take a more realistic and measured view on High Speed 2, and recommend that the project does not proceed.

1.  What are the main arguments either for or against HSR

SAAG believe that the main arguments for HS2, as currently, presented are invalid and fallacious. The key arguments are:

A.  The UK needs HS2 to solve capacity problems on the West Coast Main Line.

The Government say there is a major capacity issue that only HS2 can solve. This is not so:

(a)  The "best"option is to make incremental changes against demand; make low cost rolling stock and capacity changes first; address pinch-points when demand is strong enough.

(b)  DfT's own option solves the WCML's capacity issue through Rail Package 2(RP2) which provides more than the required capacity at one tenth of the cost in a much shorter timeframe.

(c)  Other alternatives have not been properly considered eg Government's own initiative to reduce travel (by faster connectivity with broadband, videoconferencing); rail pricing option.

B.  The London to Birmingham HS2 service along with the extension of HS2 to Manchester will divert passengers from aviation:

(a)  It is highly unlikely that HS2 will produce a significant shift in passenger journeys from domestic air services.

(b)  HS2 can only replace domestic air journeys served by its route. No one flies between London and Birmingham, and rail already has 79% of the Manchester market.

(c)  Overseas experience shows air could be decimated if HSR delivers very big reductions in journey times and rail gets below the three hour journey threshold. Given the 2011 timetable already shows Edinburgh can be reached in four hours, albeit by just one train, the HS2 promise of about 3:30-40 mins 21 years later (in 2032), makes any impact on air look marginal, at best.

Please see our response to Question 2.

C.  HS2 will help to deliver a low carbon economy:

(a)  The Government say HS2 will be "broadly neutral" for carbon. But it is unlikely to even be that.

Please see our response to Question 6 below.

D.  HS2 will deliver economic benefits and will help to bridge the north/south divide:

(a)  Government claims for transformational benefits are based on belief, not evidence .The evidence on regeneration (where HS2 acts as a catalyst) points to London winning therefore producing entirely the opposite result to that intended.

(b)  The evidence for the wider economic impacts (of the HS2 investment itself) is also small.

Pleases see our responses to Question 5.

E.  HS2 is a sound investment and provides value for money:

(a)  HS2 is not a sound investment providing poor value for money and is supported by a business case that is flawed.

(b)  There is no commercial case for spending over £30 billion on HS2.

(c)  The benefits are overstated.

(d)  The demand forecasts are excessive.

(e)  There are flaws in the models utilised.

(f)  Phase 1, on the DfT own figures only returns a CBR of 1.6 (well below the Treasury requirement of 2. They are consulting only on Phase 1, Phase 2 may never happen, there is little time benefit. They can therefore only take Phase 1 Benefits in the Business Case otherwise they should consult on the whole Route.

Please see our answers to Question 3.

F.  UK does need to catch up with Europe—many major European countries have high sped rail networks.

The UK—unlike Europe—has had a fast national railway system for a long time. As Sir Rod Eddington said in 2006 "….with [rail] journeys between London and other UK major cities performing particularly well relative to journeys from other European capitals." We also have routes capable of 200km/h (125mph)—and still have quicker rail journey times between the capital and the five largest cities than in other major West European countries:

(a)  Averaging 145 minutes in UK (or 148 mins using the same five cities as Eddington).

(b)  151 minutes in Spain.

(c)  184 minutes in Italy.

(d)  221minutes in France.

(e)  244 minutes in Germany.

Even Frankfurt/Cologne, which is a comparable distance and often quoted as a high speed rail success story, is in reality more like an intercity railway: while it halved its journey time it brought it down to little less than the fastest train we already have from Birmingham to London.

2.  How does HSR fit with the Government's transport policy objectives

SAAG believes that it is highly unlikely that HS2 will produce a significant modal shift in passenger journeys from domestic air services to HS2:

(a)  HS2 can only replace domestic air journeys served by its route. No one flies between London and Birmingham, and rail already has 79% of the Manchester market.

(b)  For Phase 1 the relevant air market is the 3 million per annum who fly the NW/Scottish lowlands route using Heathrow (just 15% of all passengers), and 6 million per annum for all London airports (30% of total).

(c)  The full "Y" adds Leeds and Newcastle, but scheduled flights to Leeds ended in March 2011, and HS2 in 2032 only matches the current fastest train from Newcastle to London.

The February 2011 business case has fewer people switching from air to HS2:

(a)  DfT say 6% of HS2 trips (8,166/day or 2.9 million per annum for Phase 1 switch from air—25% less than before (11,000/day)—and 6 million per annum for the full "Y" ie twice the relevant Heathrow route traffic.

(b)  To generate even 6% modal shift DfT have to assume the domestic air market will grow—they say by 128% by 2043 (last year DfT said 178% by 2033)—and their forecast is no longer constrained by supply, meaning it's not even real air journeys that switch to HS2. That much real growth could not occur without extra runway capacity for London.

(c)  The NW/Scottish lowlands air route has been shrinking (by 32% from its 2004 peak), not growing. Some domestic air routes have grown (where surface transport links are poor, eg Aberdeen to Exeter), but overall domestic passengers have fallen by 22% from 2005 peak.

(d)  Overseas experience shows air can be decimated if HSR delivers very big reductions in journey times and rail gets below the three hour journey threshold. Given the 2011 timetable already shows Edinburgh can be reached in four hours, albeit by just one train, the HS2 promise of about 3:30-40 mins 21 years later.

3.  Business case

SAAG believes the business case is flawed for the following reasons:

(a)  Benefits are overstated by about 60%—they total more like £19 billion not £44 billion for the full "Y". The largest benefit (time savings) is based on all time spent on trains being wasted, with DfT disregarding this fundamental error on spurious grounds.

(b)  Demand forecasts are excessive, they misuse (through projecting growth for too long—35 years) an out of date forecasting model (with discredited forecasting factors). This gives a doubling in background demand to 2043—47% higher than it should be.

(c)  Appraisal uses an unrealistic "do minimum" comparator with virtually no improvements for 35 years and so inflating the benefits such as reduced crowding and shorter waiting times between trains. They disregard valid alternatives to improve the existing railway.

     The overall effect of this is to greatly worsen HS2's value for money. So HS2 in fact delivers just 30pence to 60pence benefit for every £1 of subsidy spent!

The economic case for HS2 also:

(a)  Fails to learn the lessons of HS1 on demand forecasting and competition.

(b)  Takes no account of new technology or Government's own initiative to reduce travel.

(c)  Fails to develop the "best" alternatives, and repeatedly misrepresents the alternatives it does develop (including in the March 2010 Command Paper).

(d)  Fails to properly explore the uncertainties in the long term forecasts, despite HS2's sensitivity to the level of demand forecast.

There is no commercial case for spending over £30 billion on HS2 or justification for its subsidy:

(a)  The extra fares (£27 billion) don't cover the capital (£30.4 billion) and operating costs (£13.9 billion), even for the full "Y" network, so it needs a subsidy—£17 billion.

(b)  The subsidy actually encourages travel (10 million per annum new journeys for Phase 1 alone) despite DfT's other initiatives to reduce travel, and in particular business travel.

(c)  Existing rail services will worsen—this is proven in Government's own case for HS2.

(d)  It benefits the affluent—47% of long distance rail travel is by the top 20% earning families.

The Government say there is a major capacity issue that only HS2 can solve.

This is not so:

—  The "best" option is to make incremental changes against demand; make low cost rolling stock and capacity changes first; address pinch-points when demand is strong enough. Rail experts say the "best" WCML option is:

(a)  Rebalance first and standard class; add more carriages (ultimately to 12 car except for Liverpool). Just this delivers 67% more capacity (112% in standard class), need not wait to 2026 and may be possible without any subsidy.

(b)  Eliminate the acute crowding problem on the Northampton/Milton Keynes to Euston commuting services by modifying Ledburn Jcn without delay.

(c)  Do other low cost infrastructure changes as needed, with the potential for a total of 177% extra standard class capacity providing an increased train frequency from 9 to 11/hr. This is against DfT's forecast background demand increase to 2043 of 102%, and delivered at greatly less cost than HS2.

—  Rail experts also say there are low cost "best" solutions for ECML and Midland Main Line too.

—  DfT's own option: even the rail options developed for DfT solve WCML's capacity issue:

(a)  Rail Package 2 (RP2) involves more rolling stock and removing seven pinch-points. This delivers 151% more capacity against DfT's background demand growth of 102%, not the 54% as Government misleadingly claim .in addition RP2 has less crowding.

(b)  RP2 looks like being over twice the value for money of HS2 for just one sixth the net cost, and this is despite Government latest attempts to distort and bury RP2.

(c)  RP2 won't be disruption-free but neither is it comparable with the wholesale replacement of WCML under the last upgrade, or the eight-year rebuild of Euston that HS2 requires—described as like "open heart surgery on a conscious patient".

(d)  Other alternatives: these are not properly considered eg Government's own initiative to reduce travel (by faster connectivity with broadband, videoconferencing); rail pricing option.

4.  The strategic route

The question of the stations along the proposed route is a secondary consideration in the opinion of our group, as this pre-supposes that the scheme in its entirety has any merit, which we believe it does not.

Similarly, considerations of the cities to be served by HS2 is a question that cannot be answered in the context of:

(a)  The lack of need for a new railway.

(b)  The fact that unlike the majority of our European neighbours whom we seem desperate to emulate with high speed rail, this country already has an extensive and effective rail network in place.

Government money on the railways would be better spent on improving local services for commuters and to create new links using classic rail technology (for example, to provide a link between Oxford and Cambridge).

Government decisions on linking HS1 to either HS1 or Heathrow are flawed: There is no evidence to substantiate this level of investment based on either modal shift or expected levels of European travel.

The experience of HS1, where traffic levels are at a fraction of those forecasted, and which resulted in a very critical report to the DfT insisting that more realistic forecasting was undertaken in future (it has ignored this entirely in the development of the HS2 case), should provide a salutary lesson that no-body seems to want to learn.

5.  Economic rebalancing and equity

—  Evidence on regeneration (where HS2 acts as a catalyst) in fact points to London winning:

(a)  DfT say more than seven out of 10 of the 30,000 jobs created by HS2 around stations will be in London ie not the Midlands or the North. (Old Oak Common, with 20,000 jobs wins most).

(b)  Most of the jobs claimed will not be genuinely new jobs but ones that have moved from other areas in the region. HS2 Ltd concluded this, after consulting respected academics.

(c)  DfT say 59% of extra HS2 trips are for leisure; given DfT assume trips to London grow at twice the rate of those from London, so more people and more money will go to London.

(d)  HS2 impacts on the service sector, in which London is dominant. So work is more likely to move to London, not away from it—therefore it is more likely to re-enforce the North/South divide and not help to bridge it.

—  The evidence for the wider economic impacts (of the HS2 investment itself) is also small:

(a)  The productivity benefit from shorter journey times is the key benefit, but it's already in the business case (and is overstated now DfT admit that time-on-board is not wasted).

(b)  The Wider Economic Impacts of better connectivity are relatively small, £4-£6 billion, and are mainly driven by use of freed-up capacity, which will need a new further subsidy to realise.

(c)  HS2 Ltd asked Imperial College if faster connectivity had any further direct benefits—they said "very little" (max £8 million per annum)—but their conclusion was left out of the White Paper and not even referred to in the consultation materials.

6.  Impact

—  The Government say HS2 will be "broadly neutral" for carbon. But it is unlikely to even be that:

(a)  Trains that travel at 360km/hr use three times the energy of 200kmph trains.

(b)  87% of journeys on HS2 indisputably create more emissions—all the brand new journeys (22%) and all those switching from existing rail services (65%).

(c)  DfT say just six in every 100 travellers on HS2 switch from flying. But this assumes the decline in relevant air routes reverses, and satisfying "suppressed" not real air demand.

(d)  The air emissions savings depend on the freed-up slots not being used for long haul, which BAA say they will, and the use of out of date numbers on the modal switch from air.

(e)  HS2 Ltd's "Carbon neutral" assertion requires electricity generation to be significantly "cleaner" than at present and will rely heavily on alternative sources of electricity, such a nuclear, wind or wave power. There are no clear plans in place to achieve the low-carbon electricity generation required, and recent events with Fukushima in Japan will have a severe limiting effect on nuclear adoption.

15 May 2011


 
previous page contents next page


© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011