High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Mo Smith (HSR 54)

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

Autumn 2010 National Passenger Survey show record overall satisfaction levels at 84%, with 85% satisfied with their scheduled journey times ie.speed. A high speed rail network is necessary in the U.K. and we already have one, travelling faster than some of our European neighbours, at 125 mph. which in Europe qualifies as high speed. We currently have quicker rail journey times between our capital city and the next five largest cities than in Spain, Italy, France and Germany (larger countries!!). This speed is only limited on some existing routes by safety standards that require in-cab signalling for speeds above 125 mph. Therefore with investment (lower than HS2 spend), current and accurately assessed future needs can be accommodated, at greater value for money. (A DfT requirement—see Secretary of State for Transport, Decision Making 27 April 2011)

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

1.  HSR is designed to improve inter-urban connectivity. How does that objective compare in importance to other transport policy objectives and spending programmes, including those for strategic road network?

HS2 represents selective inter-urban connectivity, with a number of large cities and local journeys not on line, having a reduced service. It is questionable whether it is "inter-urban" as the stations are outside the major conurbations eg HS2 goes to Water Orton (West Midlands Interchange) outside Birmingham—given the speeds required it cannot go into the city, therefore a new station is proposed in Birmingham.There are already three stations in the city (Birmingham New Street currently undergoing a major refurbishment costing millions of pounds) and the proposed site of the fourth station is not in close proximity to the other stations—where is the "inter-urban" connectivity? Whilst there is limited information available on the "Y" route- here too is mention of a "Manchester outskirts" station—where is the connectivity?

Additional road journeys will be required to reach few and far between stations on the proposed HS2 route—will this require greater investment in the road network to handle increased car journeys?

2.  Focussing on rail, what would be the implications of expenditure on HSR on funding for the "classic" network, for example in relation to investment to increase track and rolling stock capacity in and around major cities?

Current plans eg doubling of commuter capacity planned for Milton Keynes-London c 2016, service improvements from Rugby not progressed, Lichfield (where HS2 will not be travelling at proposed speeds), Tamworth, Nuneaton, Stafford, Crewe- potential service improvements not taken forward.

3.  What are the implications for domestic aviation?

HS2 projects that only 6% of journeys will be transfers from air travel. There are no air journeys between Birmingham and London, so unclear how this can be achievable in Phase1. Phase 2—flights between London, the North-West and Scotland have been in decline since early 2000. Should air space be freed—BAA have publically stated that it will be replaced by more long and medium haul flights out of Heathrow.

3.  Business Case

1.  How robust are the assumptions and methodology—for example, on passenger forecasts, modal shift, fare levels, scheme costs, economic assumptions(eg about the value of time) and the impact of lost revenue on the "classic" network?

Long distance travel has not increased in the past 15 years and is now approximately the rate of population growth (Evidence supplied and accepted by the Select Committee for Transport, October 2010). HS2 has used the Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook which is more appropriate for short term forecasting. In any event the DfT have used an out of date PDFH—version 4.1 which was superseded in August 2009 by version 5, explaining that they did not want to change methodologies. However the time frames were changed from March 2010 (forecast year 2033) to February 2011 (forecast year 2043), therefore "methodology" can be changed. The calculation for modal shift is questionable with HS2 predicting air shift of 6% and car at 7%, whilst the biggest shift (65%) is from existing rail passengers. If this is the case it will be to the detriment of income on the "classic" network that can be expensive and is already heavily subsidised. No account has been made for time on train journeys as "working" time, nor for the additional time taken on car journeys to reach the few HS2 railway stations ie door to door. There is no recognition of technological advances which negate the need for personal face to face interaction.

2.  What would be the pros and cons of resolving capacity issues in other ways, for example by upgrading the West Coast Main Line or building a new conventional railway?

There is no requirement for a new conventional rail network. The DfT assess alternatives on a "do minimum" basis which would be fine for short timescales; however they have extended the period by 10 years, 2043! Note—HM Treasury "National Infrastructure Plan 2010" puts the best use of the extensive assets already in place, at the top of a new hierarchy for infrastructure investment—is this compatible with HS2? The HS2 Business Plan has no recognition that improvements in train journeys are happening this year and there needs to be serious consideration given to reducing first class compartments, increasing numbers of platforms, in-cab signalling etc. RP2 can deliver the capacity improvements even when using the same base as HS2-2008. Changes to WCML can be incremental without major disruption to trains and passengers.

3.  What would be the pros and cons of alternative means of managing demand for rail travel, for example by price?

Experience has shown that the demand and increase in train travel has been due partly to the availability of airline style pricing with internet booking—"overcrowding"on cheaper train journeys—the cheaper the price, the busier the train - hence demand can be predicted.

4.  What lessons should the Government learn from other major transport projects to ensure that any new lines are built on time and to budget?

The World Bank "High Speed Rail: The fast track to economic development" July 2010 "high-speed projects have rarely met the full ridership forecasts asserted by their promoters and in some cases have fallen far short". HS1 is such an example, and we only have to look abroad to much larger countries such as China and at least three American states, who have abandoned future plans for high speed rail.

4.  The Strategic Route

1.  The proposed route to the West Midlands has stations at Euston, Old Oak Common, Birmingham International and Birmingham Curzon Street. Are these the best possible locations? What criteria should be used to assess the case for more (or fewer) intermediate stations?

The more curve to the line, the slower the train, HS2 stating that it will be "high speed" to Birmingham International—not so, passengers will have to alight at the West Midlands Interchange Station and board an Automated People Mover. The Government has already pledged money to Birmingham Council to improve road facilities around the "proposed" location of the West Coast Interchange Station—is this in preparation? Birmingham Curzon Street will be the fourth station in Birmingham with no connection to the other three and the furthest out of the City Centre. Given the curvature of the line from the West Midlands Interchange, it will not be able to achieve "high speeds".

2.  Which cities should be served by an eventual high speed network? Is the proposed Y configuration the right choice?

This is difficult to assess as little has been published on the Y route until 13 April, well after the publication of the Consultation. It is invidious therefore to seek comment or include the Y route in a public consultation. Communities and Local Authorities (or have HS2 already contacted councils up the line?) north of Birmingham are possibly uninformed or at worst, unaware. There are issues with service assumptions and benefits. How can the project aim to reduce overcrowding, whilst the areas that arguably require regeneration and connection to other cities have no overcrowding issues? In any event, stations in Phase 2 may not serve cities- merely the outskirts of cities, and require further travel either by foot, car or people carrier.

3.  Is the Government correct to build the network in stages, moving from London northwards?

Regardless of how the programme would be managed it would cause severe disruption, not only the actual build but the transfer of materials, spoil etc.

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 these the right decisions?

It is an expensive solution (in cost and for the environment) to supplying a "fourth runway" for London Heathrow—as Birmingham airport has been dubbed.

It is debatable whether this is actually required given the DfT changes to air passenger demand.

5.  Economic rebalancing and equity

1.  What evidence is there that HSR will promote economic regeneration and help bridge the north-south economic divide?

HS2 predict 30,000 new jobs, however these will mainly be in the vicinity of the new stations and seven out of 10 jobs will be in London. It is thought that it will be service sector jobs that are affected. London is the major player in the financial services market so travel to London will continue. HS2 anticipate growth in leisure trips to London due to the high speed line, outstripping trips from London—widening the North-South divide.

2.  To what extent should the shape of the network be influenced by the desirability of supporting local and regional regeneration?

Certainly this should be a major consideration, however in areas that require this e.g. the Potteries, it would not be feasible due to the need for the line design to achieve speeds, and limited stops, which again would impact on proposed speeds/times.

3.  Which locations and socio-economic groups will benefit from HSR?

Almost 40% of HS2 perceived benefits attribute to business time and reliability savings. Long distance travel is made predominantly by the more wealthy (calculated by HS2 as households with an income in excess of £70k per annum) and this is where HS2 assess the most benefit—the business users. Should the U.K. taxpayers subsidise the high earners?

There is a dichotomy in that the Government has initiated a review into how people, in particular those in the business sector, adopt alternatives to travel.

4.  How should the Government ensure that all major beneficiaries of HSR (including local authorities and business interests) make an appropriate financial contribution and bear risks appropriately? Should the Government seek support from the EU's TEN-T programme?

The cost of HS2 will be met by the UK taxpayer, with private funding requested for rolling stock (who will supply this as there are no manufacturers in the UK?) and stations. Businesses and Local Authorities seem to be very vocal in supporting HS2, as a means to regeneration and perceived increased business opportunities. However to ensure that they share the responsibility, they should be charged with earmarking funds towards the cost (if necessary held in escrow) to ensure that they pay for the benefits which they believe HS2 will bring to their business/community. (Put their money where their mouth is)

EU's TEN-T programme aims to improve transport for "goods and people to circulate through member states". Would HS2's published Business Case meet these criteria?

6.  Impact

1.  What will be the overall impact of HSR on UK carbon emissions? How much modal shift from aviation and roads would be needed for HSR to reduce carbon?

See 2.3 BAA have publically said that released short -haul slots (including those to Europe) would be re-used for more profitable medium and long haul flights.

There is no recognition in the Business Case for innovations in the automotive industry, to reduce carbon emissions for the period up to 2043!

HSR will use daytime electricity consumption (18 hours) however HS2 continue to use overall total 24 hour electricity generation in their calculations.

HS2 acknowledge that it is "carbon neutral"—that is inequitable when as a country we are planning to conserve energy.

2.  Are environmental costs and benefits (including relation to noise) correctly accounted for in the business case?

As with carbon emissions, there are inaccuracies in the way HS2 measure noise pollution. HS2 are using a measurement system which looks at average noise over an 18 hour period (Leq)—standard occupational noise exposure for public places, such as high streets. This is inappropriate for HS2—short bursts followed by quieter periods. Part of the planned timetable is what is deemed as "night-time" (World Health Organisation) - these do not appear to have been acknowledged.

3.  What would be the impact on freight services on the "classic" network?

There is an already an excess on the W.C.M.L. Network Rail is currently upgrading Felixstowe-Nuneaton cross country which will create greater capacity. Capacity north of Nuneaton can be increased—not by HS2 but by infrastructure investment to relieve specific pinch points.

Increasing freight movement is correct; however it can also bring an increase to short road journeys. The containers at the rail depot, still have to be transferred to their end destination.

4.  How much disruption will there be to services on the "classic" network during the rebuilding of Euston?

HS2 acknowledge that work will take eight years and "possibility of some disruption to both services and the station concourse". The WCML and its passengers will be affected for this period, unnecessary as there are alternatives to reducing disruption in shorter timescales and at less cost.

May 2011

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Prepared 8 November 2011