High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Robert Andrew Kemp (HSR 63)

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

The arguments for HSR are based on claims taken from the Department of Transport document "Consultation" dated February 2011.

We believe a national high speed rail network from London to Birmingham, and onward to Leeds and Manchester, can transform the way Britain works and competes as profoundly as the coming of the original railways in the19th century.

A far cheaper and more environmentally friendly method to transform the way Britain works would be to invest in high speed communication lines to allow increased use of technology such as video conferencing by businesses, thereby reducing the need for business travel.

There can be no doubt that the coming of the railways transformed the economy of the country primarily by the movement of freight from one part of the country to another. This is clearly not part of the HSR strategy as it is not planned to carry freight traffic.

HSR has the potential to help bridge the North-South divide that has for too long limited growth outside London and the South East.

The DFTs figures estimate that 70% of jobs "Created by HS2" will be in London. Most of the jobs that are claimed to be created will not be genuinely new jobs, but will have moved from other parts of the country.

A high speed rail network has the potential to generate a massive £44 billion of benefits. It would directly deliver thousands of jobs constructing and operating new lines, development of our world class engineering talent and regeneration of key areas of our inner cities, including in West London and Birmingham's Eastside.

There is little evidence that higher "performance" trains support economic growth.

While it is true that thousands of jobs will be created constructing the new line, these will only short term contracts whilst the line is being built.

There are clearly more sustainable methods of investing money to generate jobs and regenerate inner city areas.

Other infrastructure improvements are likely to provide a better investment to support economic growth and can be achieved sooner.

High speed rail is also an important part of our plans for a low carbon economy, helping us meet our climate change targets by encouraging millions out of their cars and off the planes onto the train.

It is estimated that high speed rail will use approximately twice as much energy as a conventional train and therefore create greater emissions of greenhouse gases.

The HSR proposal estimates that 2% or less of motorway traffic would switch to HSR so carbon emission savings form car journeys switching to trains will be minimal.

Domestic air travel is currently in decline. Few, if any people fly form London to Birmingham, and rail already has 79% of the Manchester market.

For phase 2, scheduled flights to Leeds ended in March 2011 and HSR in 2032 only matches the current fastest train from Newcastle to London.

Today's railways face a huge capacity challenge. Rail passengers are familiar with overcrowding, used to long queues and are almost certain to have found themselves standing on a long distance journey at some point. And demand is set to rise sharply in the years to come. On the West Coast Main Line, in particular, new rail infrastructure will be essential.

The additional capacity requirements can be met very easily and achieved much more quickly by investment in the existing infrastructure and rolling stock.

It is likely that most people would prefer improvements to their existing service.

The DFT has produced its own solution to this issue in the Rail Proposal 2 (RP2) documents.

Our competitors already recognise the huge benefits high speed rail can bring and are pressing ahead with ambitious plans. Britain cannot afford to be left behind. Across the globe we have seen how high speed rail can revive and regenerate cities. We must ensure that the UK's principal population centres benefit from this high speed effect.

The UK, unlike other European countries, has had a fast national rail system for a long time. The average journey times between the capital and five major cities in the UK are faster than journey times in other European countries.

For example 145 minutes in the UK compares with 221 minutes in France to 244 in Germany.

The Government believes high speed rail is crucial to Britain's future success. Our plans have the support of political and business leaders across the United Kingdom.

There has also been opposition expressed in writing to the HSR proposal.

The following lists a small number of those opposed:

Patrick Barbour (Former chairman, Microgen plc);

Toby Baxebdale (Founder, Direct Seafoods);

Chris Kelly (Chairman, Keltruck);

Lord Lawson of Blaby;

Sir David Naish; and

Matthew Sinclair (Director, Tax Payers' Alliance).

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

Because of the extremely high cost of this project, it is likely that less finance would be available for other transport projects. It seems foolhardy to spend this amount of money on a single project. A more even distribution of funds to various transport schemes would seem to be a more sensible use of limited funding.

An alternative scheme for increasing capacity of the existing network has already been mentioned in paragraph 1.

The implications for domestic air travel have already been mentioned in paragraph 1.

The station at Birmingham International will be located next to Birmingham International Airport which is currently running well below full capacity. This is very likely to mean an increase in international flights from this airport adding further carbon emissions.

3.  Business case

The business case assumes that rail travel will increase by 100% over the next 35 years without HSR. The demand for long distance train services is overestimated by some 47%.

The demand does not take account of the improvement in telecommunications negating the need for business travel

It seems likely that leisure travelers will use HSR "because it is there". This seems to be at odds with the Government's travel reduction policy. Do we build transport infrastructure to satisfy demand or to stimulate demand?

Over 40% of the estimated benefits of HSR are based on the assumption that all time on trains is wasted. Anyone who has travelled by train recently will see that this is not the case. The use of laptops and mobile communication devices is already widespread

4.  The strategic route

The proposed route passes through the middle of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (The Chiltern Hills). This has the same status as a National Park and there would clearly be a severe impact on the environment.

Much of the route through this area would be above ground. There is no indication of a tunnel under this area of countryside used by very many people each year as an area of recreation. The tunnelling that is proposed is of the "cut and fill" type.

24 areas of woodland would be affected by HSR including nine ancient wood land sites.

The total area of woodland destroyed would be around 17.75 ha.

13,700m of hedgerow would be destroyed with obvious implications for wildlife.

With the exception of Old Oak Common, there are no stations proposed between London and Birmingham. For residents living in Berks, Bucks, Herts, Middlesex etc, it will actually take longer to reach Birmingham by HSR than travelling using an existing rail route as the journey will involve travelling to central London to catch the train. This clearly provides no local benefit to any of these areas.

5.  Economic rebalancing and equity

As explained in paragraph 1, the impact on the North South divide is likely to be minimal.

There is evidence that it will actually benefit the London area to a greater extent.

It is important to provide a transport infrastructure for the whole country. This scheme is clearly of little or no benefit to Wales, the West country and East Anglia.

It seems likely that this scheme will only benefit the wealthy socio-economic groups.

There is no mention of proposed fares but it not envisaged that this will be a cheap form of transport.

On a personal note, on planning a recent trip to Germany, the cost of travelling by HSR worked out at approximately twice the cost of travelling by air.

6.  Impact

The impact on UK carbon emissions is not expected to be significant. This has already been covered in paragraph 1.

The environmental impacts are covered in the proposals "Appraisal of Sustainability".

This is misleading and contains incorrect information.

It is misleading on carbon emissions as stated above.

Noise contours are not provided.

Impact of noise is measured incorrectly and does not conform to World Health recommendations. It uses average measure of noise exposure rather than more appropriate peak emissions.

It is estimated that the rebuilding of Euston station will take eight years to rebuild which will clearly cause disruption to existing travelers using this station.

May 2011

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011