Written evidence from the North East Transport
Activists Roundtable (HSR 61)|
NECTAR, the North East Combined Transport Activists
Roundtable, is an open, voluntary, umbrella body, established
to provide a forum in which the many organisations with an interest
in sustainable transport in all its forms can develop a co-ordinated
view on contemporary transport issues. NECTAR provides opportunity
for the exchange of news, studies and information.
Membership of NECTAR is open to organisations which:
the use of sustainable transport and sustainable changes to the
support integrated transport and land use policies which reduce
the need to travel;
better provision for public transport, walking and cycling; and
to minimise any negative environmental or social impacts of transport,
whilst maximising accessibility, safety, good health and quality
of life for all.
NECTAR is one of a national network of Transport
Activists' Roundtables working together with the Campaign for
Better Transport, railfuture northeast and similar national bodies
that share the core aim to promote sustainable transport.
NECTAR executive committee members currently include
Campaign for Better Transport (Tees Valley), Chester-le-Street
Station, Campaign to Protect Rural England (North East), Cyclists
Touring Club, Durham Coastliners, Friends of the Earth (North
of England and Newcastle/Gateshead), Living Streets Tyneside Area,
railfuture northeast, Tyne & Wear Older People's Transport
Forum and the Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership, but all
are welcome to participate.
1. What are the main arguments either for
or against HSR
We strongly support HS2 in principle. The main argument
for high speed rail is that the status quo is unsustainable, by
which we mean will not be able to continue as at present. Passenger
numbers, already commonly in excess of the available capacity,
are set to rise significantly according to route utilisation strategies
prepared by Network Rail. UK transport is heavily dependent on
fossil fuels, contributes significantly to UK carbon emissions,
and is responsible for serious air quality problems in places
where there is traffic congestion. Increasing capacity for road
traffic and aviation is not a strategy that can be guaranteed
to deliver the UK's transport needs.
There are also major economic benefits to be gained,
particularly the agglomeration benefits for the Midlands and Northern
towns and cities. For Great Britain to benefit fully from high
speed rail requires it to be integrated into the European high
speed network. Failing to invest in high speed rail or integrate
it into the European network runs the risk of isolating the majority
of the country that lies outside London. Britain needs a rail
network as effective as the best in Europe to be able to compete.
Finally there are improvements to health (resulting
from reduced air pollution) and safety (as accidents and injuries
from rail travel are so much less than on the roads).
2. How does HSR fit with the Government's
transport policy objectives
We are not sure what are the Government's transport
policy objectives: there has been no white or green paper from
DfT since the coalition government took office.
Secretary of State Philip Hammond has outlined long
term challenges in a speech delivered in September 2010 as follows:(1)
For long-distance, inter-urban journeys, our challenge is to make
the train the mode of choice. For short-distance urban travel,
our challenge is to make public transport or low-impact modes
such as walking and cycling the most attractive options. The Secretary
of State goes on to suggest that medium distance complex journeys
will still be made by car, although it will be electrically driven.
We agree with the general thrust of this statement, interpreting
public transport to include local rail, metro, tram and bus, all
An alliance of environmental organisations (Campaign
for Better Transport, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Chiltern
Society, Civic Voice, Environmental Law Foundation, Friends of
the Earth, Greenpeace UK, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland
Trust) has pointed out that the High Speed Rail proposals do not
form part of any comprehensive long term transport strategy.(2)
They suggest the following objectives for such an overall strategy:
reducing the need to travel, improving rail capacity and connectivity
throughout the country, reducing regional economic disparities
and ending dependence on oil.
We would agree broadly with these objectives. We
believe that high speed rail should form part of the strategy,
delivering a national rail network that provides attractive transport
links between major centres of population throughout Great Britain.
2.1 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 the strategic road network?
Transport networks in the UK are necessary for the
movement of people and goods, and these networks at present are
often congested resulting in delays and inefficiency costs to
individuals and businesses. Investment in transport networks is
therefore necessary to ensure the continuing prosperity of the
country. It is true that the majority of traffic is carried by
the road network (largely because of the road building policies
of previous decades and the construction of facilities only accessible
by car), and that the existing network must be well maintained.
Nevertheless, experience has shown that new road construction
leads only to more traffic and increased congestion elsewhere.
We believe that the railway is better suited to a
future in which carbon emissions must be reduced and in which
fossil fuels may not be available in the quantities in which the
world has become used to consuming them. It therefore follows
that investment in the classic rail network and in high speed
rail is a priority, not least because the primary fuel source
for rail traction does not have to be oil or indeed fossil fuel
dependent. The increasing availability of non-combustion driven
transport provides an opportunity to ensure that the polluter
2.2 Focusing 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?
The present plans for HSR do not anticipate serious
levels of expenditure before 2015, but the key expenditure programmes
on the classic rail network need commitment now. The classic rail
network is already seriously stretched throughout the country.
A much smaller proportion of the network is electrified than in
other European countries. Wales is almost unique in Europe in
having no electrified rail or light rail services. Despite considerable
investment in new trains, much of the fleet, particularly in the
North of England, is old and increasingly unreliable (witness
the current Rail Accident Investigation Branch investigation of
an incident at Durham (3) in which part of the drive
shaft from a class 142 Pacer train dropped on to the track, something
that turns out not to have been an isolated instance). To meet
the challenges of the future, considerable investment will be
required in the classic network now. Many opponents of high speed
rail believe that HS2 will starve the classic network of investment
funds. The Government can show that this is false by continuing
(and even expanding) its plans for electrification and new rolling
stock either within or outside franchise contracts.
2.3 What are the implications for domestic
In other European countries, the introduction of
high speed rail services has resulted in declining passenger numbers
for domestic aviation and the consequent withdrawal of services.
On environmental grounds, we are entirely comfortable with this
3. Business case
3.1 How robust are the assumptions and methodology
- for example, on passenger forecasts, modal shifts, fare levels,
scheme costs, economic assumptions (eg about the value of time)
and the impact of lost revenue on the "classic" network?
The business case has been contentious, criticised
on the one hand by those opposed to HS2 as depending on unrealistic
numbers of passengers and on the other by supporters as being
unduly pessimistic. We do not have the capability to make a detailed
assessment of the business case, but would say that in many other
parts of Europe patronage of high speed rail has met or exceeded
projections. Nearer to home, HS1 now delivers around 80% of all
ticketed journeys between London, Paris and Brussels.
The track record of forecasting passenger numbers
in this country is one of seriously underestimating use almost
immediately after a new line is opened. Recent examples include
Bathgate to Airdrie, Stirling to Alloa, and the Ebbw Vale line.
Improved forecasting techniques have been developed by Network
Rail (see for example the East Coast Main Line 2016 Capacity Review
and the draft Northern Route Utilisation Strategy).
The latest rail passenger figures show a marked increase,
which has been attributed to increasing fuel prices and consequent
higher cost of motoring. This is a continuing trend despite disproportionate
fare increases imposed by Government. Rail travel in Britain is
already the most expensive in Europe.
HS1 shows that it is possible to deliver a high speed
rail project on time and on budget. Extensive economic modelling
has shown that high speed rail has overwhelming economic benefits
for the national economy.(4)
We should also reiterate the fact that time spent
driving a vehicle is time lost to any alternative activity: time
spent as a passenger can be used for other purposes, to suit the
needs or wishes of the passenger.
It is therefore likely that the business case rests
on reasonable economic assumptions and that estimates of passenger
numbers are more likely to be pessimistic than optimistic.
3.2 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 line?
High speed rail fits badly with other trains on mixed
use lines. The greater disparity of speeds reduces capacity. Signalling
requirements mean that every other train using the line has to
be fitted with dedicated equipment. This argument was rehearsed
in the early stages of the last West Coast Mail Line upgrade,
when other operators balked at the cost of equipment that would
allow Virgin West Coast trains to run at 140 mph.
The West Coast Main Line upgrade concluded in the
last decade was an object lesson in how not to go about increasing
capacity: the process resulted in serious disruption to passengers,
massive cost overruns, and convulsed the rail industry and government
during the years that it was underway.
High speed rail will remove one class of long distance
trains from some of the classic network. This will allow expansion
of regional and commuter services on the routes concerned. There
is already discussion of how stations on the West Coast Mail Line
can benefit from the extra timetable space.
3.3 What would be the pros and cons of alternative
means of managing demand for rail travel, for example by price?
UK rail fares are already the most expensive in Europe
and are set to increase by RPI + 3% for the next three years.
Making an already expensive railway even more costly is unreasonable,
especially for taxpayers who are compelled to support the system
but cannot afford to use it.
It must be remembered that through Government intervention
rail travel has been made increasingly expensive over the past
four decades, while the cost of motoring has been held flat in
real terms. Recent examples include the 1p reduction in fuel tax
this year whilst imposing RPI + 3% increases in rail fares. The
inevitable consequence of these price signals is the levels of
road congestion that we currently experience. The increasing Government
funded availability and artificially constructed cost advantage
of road transport (including the differing fares and taxes already
alluded to, together with the recent subsidy for trading-in old
cars) has also led to high levels of car dependency. The adverse
impact resulting from this dependency is well documented, but
in this context the financial consequences are widespread. The
cost to the health service alone in dealing with obesity, respiratory
disease and road traffic accidents is considerable.
There is a role for decreasing demand for travel
overall. Business is increasingly using techniques such as teleconferencing.
Promoting alternatives to travel is a recent addition to DfT's
agenda. Nevertheless, if road traffic is to be reduced then capacity
on the railway must increase significantly. Given the current
modal shares of road and rail transport, even small shifts from
road to rail will mean that minor reductions in road traffic will
correspond to large demands on rail capacity. This points to the
need for a modern transport strategy that takes these factors
into account and provides a context for the contribution expected
from high speed rail.
3.4 What lessons should the Government learn
from other major transport projects to ensure that any new high
speed lines are built on time and to budget?
Consult widely, agree the specification in detail
before work begins and don't change it. HS1 sets a good precedent.
4. The strategic route
4.1 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)
High speed rail ceases to deliver significantly shorter
journey times if there are too many stops en route. We
are not otherwise concerned to debate the merits of alternative
station locations, but note that the key strategic link required
is with HS1 to bring Britain into the European network (see 4.4).
4.2 Which cities should be served by an eventual
high speed network? Is the proposed Y configuration the right
The proposed Y configuration is far better than the
alternative reverse S route, which would have seen journeys between
London and Leeds going via Manchester. However, the key word is
network; as in France, Germany, Spain Italy, Japan, China and
elsewhere, the eventual network should link all the main towns
including but not necessarily limited to Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh,
Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham,
Leicester, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff, Bristol,
Exeter, Plymouth and Southampton. The Y route is a good core southern
line but a national network is an imperative. High Speed 1 delivers
London/Brussels in 2 hours 15 minutes; the indicative HS2
time for London Newcastle is 2 hours 37 minutes, hence the
need for a high speed network. Britain has a lot of catching up
4.3 Is the Government correct to build the
network in stages, moving from London northwards?
The lengthy planning, consultation and parliamentary
phases of the project mean that building HS2 in stages is likely
to reduce the time taken to get the first stage finished. Nevertheless,
we believe on the basis of continental comparisons that a high
speed network could and should be constructed and in operation
very much more quickly that the present plans suggest.
Opponents of HS2 who live in areas affected by the
current alignment claim that there is no need for high speed rail
because the UK is a small country. This is not true in terms of
distance: for example London is further from Edinburgh than Paris
is from Zurich. It also ignores the benefits of faster journeys
and extra capacity on the network. There is a pressing need for
greater capacity between cities of the North of England, where
overcrowding on services between Leeds and Manchester is severe.
Existing transpennine services are slow and follow circuitous
routes. We believe that high speed rail might have got off to
a less contentious beginning if a route linking Newcastle, Leeds,
Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham had been proposed.
4.4 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?
Yes, it is important that HS2 links to HS1 from the
start in order to encourage through travel to Europe by train
from regions of Britain outside the South East. It is important
to project the concept of a European high speed rail network;
the feeding of intercontinental flights by rail is less important.
5. Economic rebalancing and equity
5.1 What evidence is there that HSR will promote
economic regeneration and help bridge the north-south economic
International comparisons suggest that destinations
linked into a high speed network experience a significant increase
in prosperity. The classic example is the transformation of Lille.
It should not be forgotten that Ebbsfleet International station
was built on HS1 specifically to regenerate the surrounding area.
We would hope to see this effect in the North of England. The
agglomeration benefits of high speed links from Birmingham through
the Midlands towns to Teesside, Tyneside and Edinburgh would develop
a "centre" (measured as journey time) of population
as large as London with the associated impact on regional output.
To this end, it is essential that Leeds station is developed as
a through station from the start and not as a terminal. The increasing
integration of Edinburgh and Glasgow through the current frequent
rail service gives a small indication of what could be achieved.
5.2 To what extent should the shape of the
network be influenced by the desirability of supporting local
and regional regeneration?
It is unrealistic to expect local regeneration directly
from a high speed rail network. However regional regeneration
is a highly desirable consequence, that is implicit in the forecasts
of classic rail travel growth across the north seen in the Northern
RUS. To that end, the high speed network should link the nation's
major centres of population, particularly along routes that are
not currently served by fast services, eg, Birmingham, Leeds,
Newcastle, Edinburgh and Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Hull. Just
as Broadband has transformed electronic communications, high-speed
rail has the potential to transform physical connectivity.
5.3 Which locations and socio-economic groups
will benefit from HSR?
Locations directly served by the new line will benefit
most directly, but there will be indirect benefits for others.
These include locations on the classic rail network that benefit
from better services, as well as those areas that suffer from
road congestion or heavy goods traffic where these movements can
be attracted to rail. The benefit is likely to be seen across
the socio-economic spectrum either directly or indirectly through
the jobs created in manufacturing, tourism and the service industries.
Labour movement would be more effective and travel more efficient.
University and science based businesses would be brought more
closely together for the benefit of all.
5.4 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?
As a central government scheme, the core funding
and risk should be carried centrally. However, there are major
opportunities for local authorities and private businesses to
contribute to specific projects such as stations and station environments
both in the construction and operation phases. The consultation
makes no mention of TEN-T funding. In principle, the Government
should seek funding from any source, European or otherwise, willing
to provide it.
6.1 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?
Overall, the impact would be a reduction in carbon
dioxide and other pollutant emissions: any shift from air or road
would make a positive contributi0on. However, quantification of
the impact on UK carbon emissions of high speed rail (and the
existing network of electrified railway which is planned to increase
with the electrification of lines from Paddington to Cardiff)
will depend on how the required electricity is generated. A detailed
discussion lies outside the scope of this response, but without
doubt the low carbon technologies and green economy manufacturing
capabilities of the North East would benefit, thus building on
the region's unique balance of trade surplus and contributing
towards a relative growth in the economic output of the north
6.2 Are environmental costs and benefits (including
in relation to noise) correctly accounted for in the business
It is hard to quantify non-economic costs and benefits.
It must be acknowledged that some areas will suffer from noise
and other disruption. It must also be acknowledged that other
areas experience noise, disruption and air pollution from road
traffic congestion and noise from domestic aviation, all of which
high speed rail will diminish. So far as we can tell, these effects
have been taken into account in the business case, but others
are better placed to discuss the detail. The experience of HS1
is that fears expressed before its construction have mostly not
6.3 What would be the impact on freight services
on the "classic" network?
The impact of high speed rail on freight services
will be wholly beneficial because of the extra capacity made available
by the rerouteing of fast passenger services to the high speed
network. The effect would be of two-fold benefit to freight in
that the timetable space released by the services removed could
be made available to freight and the resultant nearer match in
speed of the traffic using the classic line would increase the
6.4 How much disruption will be there to services
on the "classic" network during construction, particularly
during the rebuilding of Euston?
Precedents for this exist in the construction of
the original channel tunnel terminus at Waterloo and the subsequent
construction of the High Speed 1 terminus at St. Pancras. Given
this experience gained, it can reasonably be predicted that the
disruption would be proportionately reduced. However, the proposal
for Euston station is for it to be completely rebuilt and hence,
as with all construction projects, disruption to existing passenger
services is inevitable. The consultation document specifies the
final shape of the station and states that careful planning will
mitigate as much as possible the adverse impacts. Outside the
station areas, a major benefit of the new railway concept is that
there will be minimal disruption to users of the existing network.
Transport, Speech by Philip Hammond to the IBM START Conference
Business Summit, 10 September 2010 http://www.dft.gov.uk/press/speechesstatements/speeches/hammond20100910
(2) The Right
LinesA Charter for High Speed Rail, CPRE, April 2011
into an incident at Durham station, 10 April 2011, Rail Accident
(4) The Economic
Case, YES to High Speed Rail http://www.campaignforhsr.com/the-economic-case