High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from North West Rail Campaign (HSR 66)


The North West Rail Campaign (NWRC) is a partnership of organisations from both the private and public sector. The overarching aim of the campaign is to achieve economic growth in the North West in line with the Government's first stated priority in the coalition agreement of May 2010 of rebalancing the economy outside of the South East. In transport terms, this means investment in projects that will connect people with jobs, cities with each other, and increase the productivity of the labour market in the North West through the enhancement of infrastructure to solve the problems of capacity, specifically around the Northern Hub and on the West Coast Mainline. We believe that HSR addresses our priorities for releasing capacity around the West Coast mainline and increasing inter- urban connectivity, ultimately helping rebalance the North West economy with that of the South East.

The following paper seeks to address the issues that the Transport Select Committee wishes to examine and does so following consultation with a wide range of stakeholders in the North West—civic leaders, Local Authorities, the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, the North West Business Leadership team, trade unions, Transport for Greater Manchester, Merseytravel and the Manchester Airport Group.

1.  The Main Arguments for High Speed rail

The case for high speed rail is primarily driven by the huge increase in passenger demand seen over the past 10-15 years and the projected need over the next 20-30 years for more transport capacity, rather than a "need for speed". The West Coast mainline is due to become saturated in the next 10-15 years and this saturation will have negative economic impacts for the North West and UK as a whole as time progresses. Increasing capacity through high speed rail has real benefits for the economy, improving journey times for passengers, and improving the connectivity of the UK. Releasing capacity on the classic network has additional benefits for the movement of freight to/from the North West and local travel.

HSR will have particular benefits for inter- urban connectivity in the North West, whose economy is knowledge and high- tech based and dependent on high quality intercity links. Current poor inter- city connectivity in the North, particularly around the "Northern Hub" will act as a major constraint to narrowing the North/South productivity gap if allowed to continue. The costs of doing business and attracting labour in the North West are also higher than they need to be.

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

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

HSR meets the Government's first priority—to rebalance the economy outside of the South East. As the largest economy outside of London, the North West is well placed to address this challenge. Linking businesses in the North West with other markets in both the United Kingdom and Europe will provide a significant and sustained impetus to the regional economy. Freeing up space on the existing rail network will also create significant capacity for local and freight services.

It is also generally accepted that existing road capacity cannot meet the forecast increase in demand, is not an environmentally sustainable solution. and that other solutions have to be found. There are also physical constraints to how much road building would be feasible (especially into our urban centres) and it has been accepted by successive Governments that no one solution in itself is the answer and that an integrated approach to transport investment is the best solution to meet demand, mitigate environmental impact and encourage modal shift to more sustainable transport.

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

For HSR to be effective, the classic rail network serving the North West needs to get people to and from the new high speed services. Early investment in the Northern Hub, for example, is needed to address the capacity and connectivity constraints in the North West that currently act as blockage to economic growth—these problems need to be addressed well before HSR services begin. Government has already recognised this and the announcement of the £85 million investment in the "Ordsall Chord", connecting Manchester Victoria with Manchester Piccadilly is the first of a series of projects that will free up capacity on the Transpennine routes and allow better connections between Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. Services such as this will be essential to support the new high speed line.

3.  What are the Implications for Domestic aviation?

The advent of the Virgin Pendolino from Manchester to London, connecting the two cities within just over two hours, has already seen modal shift from domestic airlines to train and this would be expected to continue and increase with HSR. Elsewhere, the Spanish high speed network, AVE, has hugely reduced air travel from Madrid to Barcelona. In addition, this type of modal shift should take pressure away from the need to build more runways in the South East, freeing up slots at South East Airports and generating long term carbon savings.

3.  Business case for HSR

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?

NWRC believes that the assumptions made by HS2 Ltd are conservative and have recently been revised in line with updated data. Estimates of cost have been derived from a detailed assessment of the needs of the scheme and comparisons with costs of construction of HS1 and other rail schemes. There is also a Treasury-inspired "optimum bias" built in which adds 64% to infrastructure capital costs— these costs have been tested with HS2 and a panel of independent experts. Within these estimates there are ranges to reflect different views of the risks and performance of the rail network. There is an underlying assumption that the scheme would be entirely Government funded, but the Secretary of State has already made it clear that there is an expectation of private sector contributions, particularly where station locations would offer specific local economic benefits. Private sector contributions would increase the benefit:cost ratio (BCR), lowering the costs to Government.

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

The West Coast Mainline saw completion of a major upgrade in 2008, having taken 10 years, cost of £9 billion, and caused significant sustained disruption to rail services over much of that period of time. This level of disruption was a major cause of concern to businesses across the North West of England over most of the last decade—it led to significantly extended journey times, very poor weekend services, and major periods of bus replacement both on local and longer distance services, and rail diversions. The House of Commons Public Accounts committee concluded in 2007 that some parts of the West Coast mainline were already near or already at peak capacity, and that by 2015-2020 the line may not have enough capacity to meet demand.

Building a new conventional line is estimated to cost only fractionally less (9%) than building a high speed line. The small additional cost to Government of a high speed line over a conventional upgrade yields significant extra benefits. The BCR for a new classic line is estimated to be around 1.6—conversely for HS2 London to Birmingham it is 2.0.

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

There is a logic for variable pricing, eg charging higher fares for peak time travellers. Generally speaking, though, pricing passengers off trains and onto roads for long journeys would only serve to increase road congestion and act as an impediment to economic growth—it would also give no advantage in terms of the speed of journeys.

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?

It is important that when planning major transport projects that Government does the detailed engineering and planning analysis well in advance, so that adjustments to stations, track etc are thought out well in advance in order to avoid the mistakes of previous projects. We are concerned that without proper planning for the North West services in phase one that expenditure might be wasted as happened in respect to investment in Waterloo station in the HS1 project. It is therefore vital that any modifications to the infrastructure between Birmingham to Manchester to accommodate the phase one services is planned for as part of phase 1 (London to Birmingham).

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?

Linking two of Britain's main cities, London and Birmingham, has major economic benefits in terms of agglomeration. In the longer-term the high speed network will also release capacity on the Midland Main Line and East Coast Main Line, both due to reach peak capacity by 2030. In assessing whether fewer or more stations should be considered, time consumption in slowing down and then speeding up in and out of stations should be taken into account, as adding longer journey times starts to decrease the benefits of high speed rail.

The selection of interchange or intermediate stations should consider both the best usage of the HS2 line and the onward connections from any intermediate station onto the classic network. A few key nodes need to be identified on both networks where interchange can take place effectively. Any station opportunities should also link to wider economic development plans to ensure the investment captures the wider GVA benefits. For example, in the North West, Crewe is a key node on the classic rail network, so enhancing connectivity there would benefit a large number of other North West towns and cities. With its strong rail heritage, it also provides a potential site for an HS2 maintenance base which would be consistent with existing plans for its role to grow as a key economic growth point.

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

It is important that the major cities of Britain are served by High Speed Rail, to give the benefits of agglomeration and to start the rebalancing of the economy outside of the South East, in line with the Government's first stated priority. As the North West region has the second largest economy outside of London, high speed rail will help to grow the economy of this region, greater connectivity will be an impetus to further growth. In Manchester, in particular, and has the potential to attract further investment, being well connected to a major international airport. The extension of the high speed rail network to Glasgow and Edinburgh offers those cities the economic growth potential and agglomeration benefits of Manchester, Birmingham and London. Conventional services between the northern cities need to be much better developed through the hub programme and further electrification. . High speed rail will also free up existing rail networks for local commuter travel and freight services. The logic of Manchester International Airport as an interchange station, is strong. This airport provides for good inter modal connectivity, being currently served by rail, bus and major motorway links.

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

The Government is correct to propose building in HSR stages, but we question why there is such a proposed delay in the construction between phase 1 and 2, given that the development work for phase 2 is only 18 months behind that of phase 1. As noted above it is vital that proper planning is done for services to Manchester, and infrastructure that might be needed north of Lichfield, as part of "phase one".

4.  The Government proposes a link 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?

NWRC supports the proposals for a link to HS1, as part of phase 1 construction, as access to European markets will allow North West businesses to achieve economic growth through direct access to the channel tunnel.

We agree that a future HSR link to Heathrow is needed, making Heathrow more accessible to North West passengers as part of Phase 2 plans. The investment into Manchester International Airport as an interchange station would provide a good link between HSR phase 2 and Heathrow.

5.  Economic rebalancing and equity

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

Evidence that HSR will promote economic regeneration and help bridge the North-south economic divide comes from other areas in which HSR schemes have been integrated with a range of transport modes, enabling modal shift quickly and efficiently and enabling easy access to job markets and major cities. Agglomeration benefits are achieved when travel between cities brings them 'closer' together in terms of accessibility, eg Paris and Lyon, the latter having seen significant economic growth since the introduction of a high speed link. Early local estimates are that approximately 10,000 jobs would be created in the North West by the introduction of HSR, generating almost £1 billion of economic output (GVA).

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

The shape of the network should be influenced by the need to support regional and local economies. The proposed "Y" shape achieves this, linking London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow.

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

The city centre station locations will likely benefit from HSR, with the expected creation of economic growth around station locations and therefore local job markets and increased productivity. The benefits of HSR are not limited to these areas, however and it is expected that the "ripple" effect of HSR-related growth will be felt across the region. Freeing up capacity on the classic network will also allow for expansion of local train services, connecting people with those job markets.

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?

Through the careful development of the Hybrid Bill, the Government can ensure that steps are in place to extract appropriate financial contribution from the major beneficiaries of HSR, in order to reduce the burden on the taxpayer. For example the Crossrail Bill included the use of a supplementary business rate to levy funds from the private sector, drawing in £150 million. The private sector could be involved in Section 106 style planning agreements where businesses will directly benefit from development around stations on the new line.

6.  Impact

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

HSR could significantly reduce carbon emission levels in the UK as faster modes of land travel will naturally encourage modal shift from car and air travel (see section 2 above). Research by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) concludes that HSR travel produces only 1/3 of the carbon emissions of car travel and ¼ of the emissions of an equivalent trip by air, bearing in mind the different loads on each mode. It is estimated that the line between London and the West Midlands alone will provide carbon savings of 5 million tonnes of CO2 over 60 years—if that line were extended up to Scotland, the CO2 savings would be approximately one million tonnes each year by 2055. De-carbonisation of the UK's electricity generation facilities should reduce carbon emissions even further.

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

NWRC believes that assessments of environmental costs and benefits are conservative and based on both detailed assessment of demand in the future and future carbon environmental. Significantly they exclude long term effects that might accrue from impacts on housing location through wider shifts in future transport patterns. The impacts of HS1 and other rail schemes have also formed part of these assessments.

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

It is essential that some of the classic network capacity is freed up for freight, in order that connectivity can be improved to ports and airports. Volumes of freight are due to increase by 140% by 2030, according to Network Rail's Route Utilisation Freight Strategy and it is essential that this demand is met by increasing capacity, or this will have a negative impact on the North West's economy.

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

There is bound to be disruption to the classic network during the construction phase, but not nearly to the extent seen in the upgrade of the West Coast mainline. This phased upgrade was more complex and expensive than predicted and saw journey times increase and modal shift move away from rail to car and air during and after construction. North West businesses feel it is important that these problems are not repeated. The disruption caused by the upgrade of the West Coast mainline is in itself a strong argument for the construction of a brand new rail line. The North West has many areas of high environmental value and the commitment to building an HS2 line to the highest possible standards of environmental protection is essential to minimise the impact on residents and communities and the natural, historic and built environments. The use of cuttings, cut and cover and box tunnels for example can go a long way to mitigating against negative environmental impacts.

May 2011

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011