Written evidence from Richard A Lloyd
1. What are the main arguments either for
or against HSR
Every mode of transport has an optimum speed at which
energy consumption, productivity, environmental impact, safety,
construction cost, and operating cost are balanced. For road transport,
speeds much above 100-120 km/h produce significant impacts with
little benefit in the real world. For rail, using steel on steel
technology, the break point seems to be 200-250 km/h, above which
the penalties are disproportionate, again with little benefit
when all factors are considered.
2. How does HSR fit with the Government's
transport policy objectives
Inter urban connectivity is of little concern for
most people. By definition, a city will have all the facilities
of a regional centre, and in most cases, making other centres
more accessible will have a negative impact on facilities and
thereby increase the need for travel with its attendant pollution
and wasted time. For occasional journeyscultural, business,
medical, judicial etcthe concern is with the door to door
journey, and its timing, comfort, security, and cost. Rail systems
work best when origins and destinations are crowded around the
stations. Personal rather than shared transport systems are the
most effective end to end solution in most cases, the main constraint
being the lack of adequate parking in "town" situations.
The strategic road network is of far more general
use and importance than HSR, because of the way it can interface
seamlessly with local access. Unfortunately, in recent years,
the network of Trunk Roads and A roads has received little attention,
and measures to reduce speeds and noise in towns have diverted
flows onto longer but quicker routes. (These comments do not apply
to Scotland, where upgrading roads seems to remain a priority.)
Given the parlous economics of the rail industry,
any further subsidy should be directed to where there will be
most benefit, and this means local radial and cross-country services,
rather than high-cost express services for a few.
HSR will have little if any impact on domestic aviation.
The route planning appears to be heavily influenced by aviation
interests, linking major airports rather than population centres.
This negates the local connectivity advantage enjoyed by conventional
rail systems. A specific example is the siting of the West Midlands
HS2 station at Bickenhill, where only car access is practicable.
Because of the cost of HSR and the connecting monorail to Birmingham
Airport, little diversion of domestic aviation can be expected.
Similarly, neither will there be any stimulation of long range
flights, because HS2 provides no improved access for the whole
of the natural catchment area for Birmingham Airport.
3. Business case
The same hugely exaggerated claims as were made for
HS1 have been repeated with HS2. It's not only cost that will
deter new usersall the stations (except Euston) are inconveniently
located, and without quick and economic transport for the last
few miles, trains are unattractive. HSR will have the added disadvantage
of security measures to deter terrorist attacks. The measures
will not be so intrusive as at airports, but would clearly be
an encouragement for private car use, in the same way as airlines
have seen migration to private aircraft.
The capacity issues on the West Coast Main Line are
very localised. Very few trains are overcrowded, and the tracks
are not fully used for much of the route. In the West Midlands
(Birmingham to Rugby and Northampton), there is plenty of scope
for adding carriages and services without any need for work on
the track. The present peak-hour schedule is divided up by mixing
local and fast trains. By segregating them, much more resilience
can be provided against delays, and the available time can be
better-utilised permitting many more expresses. In addition, if
the demand really was there and the additional services provided,
it would be possible to have long distance trains stopping at
"local" stations rather than Birmingham International.
This would have a dramatic effect on overall journey times and
comfort, and would do much to raise the attractiveness of rail
With the mixed traffic on the WCML, an increase in
the speed of express trains is predicated on improving the transit
times of local services. This can be done with higher performance
rolling stock. Freight services are to be moved off the line in
the near future, but are less of an issue because they are non-stop
and can operate off peak.
Managing demand by price has some attractions, but
needs to be closely regulated to avoid abusive practices. No-one
is fooled by the sort of add-ons and subterfuge used by the low-cost
airlines. It would be more honest to have reserved seating and
first-class accommodation available at more sensible pricesor
else increase capacity by going to one class throughout.
There is no prospect that HS2 will be built on time
and budget. There has been no detailed design work, or investigation,
done for most of the route, and the proposals for all four stations
and the HS1 and Heathrow links are deeply flawed with regard to
interfacing with existing railways and maintaining services during
construction. Any changes here, or any mitigation measures elsewhere
on the route, will have a major knock-on effect. This process
is all too familiar in the defence industry, and the remedy is
blindingly obvious: don't develop your plans in secret by discussion
with vested interests, and don't try to rush a half-baked scheme
4. The strategic route
The route for HS2 is nonsensical. There is no schedule
or capacity need to come to the West Midlands, and the selection
of Euston as the terminus is driven by the unnecessary Heathrow
connection. While the costs of HSR look distinctly unattractive,
the only way to confirm the suitability for the UK is to do a
detailed study of a realistic routefrom HS1/St Pancras
directly north to Manchester centre. Adding massive infrastructure
like this, after the towns and cities have been built, can only
be done by massive demolition work or extensive tunnellingbut
shouldn't we do a study to find out?
It is ridiculous to start construction on the high-cost
section which has little need. If (and only if) the costs of HSR
can be brought down, the obvious first application would be Glasgow
The Heathrow link is completely unnecessary. Local
rail links across the south east into Heathrow are far more important
(eg the proposed Airlink from Guildford). However, no work on
rail should be done until the overall airport issues are resolved.
If it's true that Heathrow is at its limit, then no money should
be spent on additional rail links. Stansted or Thames Estuary
locations would be far more accessible from the north of the country,
and would justify major rail construction (only if operating costs
could be brought down).
5. Economic rebalancing and equity
There is no cogent reason to expect HSR to reduce
inequalities. Construction work will boost employment, but that's
true of all such projects. However, with major borrowings and
no economic return, the diversion of money from more productive
projects, and high on-going running costs, the long-term effects
could be disastrous.
To answer the question about locations and socio-economic
groups, Think Concorde! Heathrow and New York may have benefited,
but so did Bristol and Toulouse. The problem with HSR is that
most of the materials will be imported.
Yes, local authorities should make an appropriate
contribution: nothing. Particularly in the West Midlands, massive
disruption and intrusion for large numbers of people is bad enoughexpecting
them to pay for it could result in civil-disobedience or more
direct unrest. One should be perfectly clear about this: if the
proposal was from a private company to build and run a new transport
system, and they were seeking permission to do so, it would be
an entirely different process of evaluation. Depending on the
details, it might be found proper for the public purse to assist
and facilitate some aspects of the project. However, with HSR,
it seems taxpayers will carry the whole risk while private contractors
are guaranteed a return in perpetuity.
The effect on CO2 emissions will be detrimental,
during construction and afterwards. HSR depends on peak-time electricity,
which will be fossil fuelled for the foreseeable future. It is
entirely wrong to go for a new system that uses three time the
energy of known and satisfactory current systems. By the time
HSR is widely in service, road traffic will have hugely reduced
carbon emissions. Local personal transport will be battery-powered,
charged off-peak from renewables or nuclear.
In twenty years time, aircraft will be twice as fuel
efficient, and could be more so if it was international policy
to reduce cruise speeds. One only has to look at the ultra-efficient
military UAVs which can stay airborne for tens of hours.
Moreover, aviation isn't going to go away or go into
a serious decline. Synthetic liquid fuels will be developed and
produced by countries with sufficient foresight. As CO2
concentrations rise, yields from plants and algae will improve
Sadly, there has been no proper accounting of environmental
impacts. Compensation won't be payable except for property valuations.
Sustaining the quality of life is vital in the national interest,
and can be quantified by considering the cost of substitution
of resources. For instance, there is the CAVAT methodology for
assessing the financial value of amenity trees.