High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Stoneleigh Action Group (HSR 65)


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

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 the strategic road network?

HSR is to be considered a negative feature of an overall rail programme. Negative because it is likely to drain financial resources from other low key but essential developments. Should the focus be on inter-urban connectivity per se, or should it be directed towards an overall enhancement of the rail network?

Again looking at transport as a whole, there is a danger that other projects will be shelved in favour of HSR.

What overall vision is there for HSR, ie after HS2, will there be HS3 etc and might it not be an idea to consider this?

If we can provide an example from our own area, Kenilworth our local town, has a population of approaching 30,000 people, no station (closed in the Beeching cuts) and may get two railway lines within its boundaries if HS2 goes ahead. To get onto HS2 would involve a 11 mile commute to Birmingham International or a commute to Coventry or Leamington main line stations. Both of these activities rely on carbon fuel. We understand that a possible subsidy for a station in Kenilworth is now severely in doubt, but these are the sort of interventions we would rather see, not politically brash, but essential.

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?

We understand that HSR would drain financial resources from classic rail as above. The danger then is that the classic rail network then starts to fall apart as evidence from France.

3.  What are the implications for domestic aviation?

Between London and Birmingham there are no flights, a search of Birmingham Airport's website reveals no flights to London, so HS2 will achieve no modal shift here. There is the possibility that if modal shift occurs for flights over longer distances, the tendency is for airport operators to attempt to replace these with even longer flights, so any environmental objectives will be compromised.

3.  Business case

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?

We would just wish to comment that time on a train now with technologies cannot be considered to be time lost. The only point to stress here is that seating capacity must be provided but that would not matter whether classic or HSR.

We will leave others to comment on robustness of models but there is always the danger that models can be fitted to support an argument pro or anti.

Have the proposals taken into account the nature of future work. We are educating our secondary school children today for jobs that do not exist now but will when they leave school seven years later. What is the likely impact of technology on business travel? Why travel when you do not need to? We are then looking leisure/personal travel.

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?

We would urge the Committee to look at the implications of RP2a. Its critics have said that this is not future-proofed, but if the predictions turn out to be true, the network cannot wait for the advent of HSR in 2025, so some form of RP2 will need to be implemented. Has that been factored into any financial equation?

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

Since the rail companies have introduced an airline style of pricing this has undoubtedly increased demand, especially for leisure travel. It is fair to say that leisure travel is more price sensitive than business travel and that the latter will always be a primary market. This will not achieve any modal shift of sufficient quantity. If business travel is well catered for and classic rail then starts to unravel, there is a danger that mass market movements will revert to road.

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?

Employ independent companies to carry out review, pricing etc without political restraint, and publish the results without any adaption. Set realistic timescales and prepare thoroughly before starting. These proposals seem rushed especially the proposal of the Y network north of Birmingham which "feels" like an unresolved afterthought to counter opposition to a London to Birmingham route which does not offer any significant time savings, one of the chief arguments for HSR. We would argue that reliability, safety and cost are more important.

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?

It seems a very complicated route structure and these intermediate stations counter the desire for high speed, but acknowledge the difficulties of putting HSR into established urban areas. More stations would again slow trains so the argument for very high design speeds is weakened. However, if HSR is successful it creates economic winners and losers, eg Birmingham wins Coventry loses as classic inter-urban rail travel diminishes. Our view is that a reduction in the design speed allows for a better alignment of the track and also allows the opportunity to reroute it along an existing transport corridor.

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

Evidence suggests that the busiest transport corridor is north-west from Birmingham, so this is a probable priority. Once again the case for High Speed Rail is weakened by the close proximity of cities in the north west of England. So the question again is: will HSR and its high design speeds provide the right fit? We think not.

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

If it is so badly needed, which we dispute, then what timescales are on offer?

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?

Certainly there is a common perception of being able to board one train in say Manchester and getting off in Paris. This is not the case and many people remain unaware of this.

What is the point in surcharging Heathrow, an airport we are told that is already under heavy load? Other regional airports exist and have capacity, but does the Government want to encourage air travel or can we believe that the so called modal shift is being done for environmental reasons?

5.  Economic rebalancing and equity

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


What other incentives will there be to spread economic activity away from London as opposed to creating a super economic hub in London?

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

What evidence is there that this will help at all? We have a rail network with good inter-urban connectivity so will this really be a seismic shift? We doubt it. We see a proposal which will aid regional pockets and which is not inclusive.

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

It seems to us the South East and white collar and professional/ management groups. Does a rail line have a greater priority for the movement of goods than of people? This would then favour manufacturing which can then locate where conditions are favourable.

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?

Yes they should. This is the only equitable way to distribute a partial way of generating wealth. This could be in the form of a percentage tax on economic activity.

What is the role of the Local Authorities with regard to emergency provision on the section of track within their area? If they have to make provision as is likely, what will this provision consist of and how will it be funded:

(a)  in implementation; and

(b)  in ongoing costs.

If we take the case of Warwick District Council, or local authority, there is the potential for an economic liability for no economic return, so they will require subsidies.

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?

We have already commented on what appears to be a confused set of objectives. We have our commitments to Kyoto Earth summit etc.

What consideration of the following carbon costs has been allocated in the proposals:

the embedded carbon cost from construction and the construction carbon consumption, eg construction traffic, deliveries etc?

the size of the electricity demand and its generation?

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

No we believe not. It appears to be a net loss to the physical environment without obvious gains.

If we concentrate on acoustics, there is no data available for trains running at the maximum speed (400kph), data only goes up to 360kph and although responses stated are typically that trains will get quieter and initially trains will not run at that speed etc, then reconsider the track alignment. There appears to be no modeling for trains passing each other. It is clear that airborne noise dominates above 300kph and since we have been running high speed trains for 30 years, the nose design must have been optimized, so there is no apparent magic solution waiting to be discovered to reduce the train-in-motion noise.

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

If we are to believe this there will be more slots for freight but there is also talk of improving local train routes so the two may be incompatible.

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

This is not something we wish to comment on. Clearly there will be disruption and Euston is a pinch point.

May 2011

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