Written evidence from TravelWatch NorthWest
TravelWatch NorthWest is an independent organisation
representing all public transport users in NW England. We are
pleased to give the following views on the questions raised by
the Committee on High Speed Rail. A document setting out our Position
Statement (Revised) on High Speed Rail is also attached.
1. What are the main arguments either
for or against HSR
The majority of the TWNW Board is in favour of the
principle of HSR in Britain.
The main argument for HS2 is primarily an increase
in capacity to meet growth beyond the capacity of the existing
system. It will also bring economic benefits to the north. A high
speed rail network provides fast and convenient city to city transport
over distances of up to 500 miles. Deutsch Bahn have found HS
rail a highly effective competitor to air on rail journeys of
up to four hours and still competitive up to six hours due to
the hassle factor of travel to and from the airport and potential
problems at the airport.
The main arguments against are its very high cost
and the environmental impacts along the route. A minority view
from the TWNW Board is that ultra high speed lines of the type
proposed have to be very straight and are therefore very unforgiving
to the landscape and the communities they pass through in visual
terms and in the noise they emit. They have to be serviced by
trains which demand so much energy that their carbon footprint
is at best neutral and at worst negative. And, in return for these
downsides, the time saved would be marginal in a small county
such as the UK, existing rail services would be seriously impaired
and the benefits promised are questionable. It could well be the
case that the only place which really benefit is London and having
a slightly faster journey to it from Birmingham and Manchester
merely encourages more people to live in those two cities but
work in London
2. How does HSR fit with the Government's
transport policy objectives
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?
Inter-urban connectivity is important but the need
to reduce the north-south divide and the need to combat climate
change is also important. There is little point in spending large
sums on the highway network. Additional road building takes up
more space than rail, is more intrusive to nearby residences,
raises air quality issues in the surrounding area, generates more
unsustainable travel and currently is less environmentally friendly.
It is also equally expensive and leaves cities with major problems
in dealing with incoming cars.
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?
It is vitally important that concentration on the
HS2 project does not deprive the existing route network of investment
or continuing development. HS2 expenditure must be in addition
to ongoing spending on rail. In addition the spin-off benefits
of HS2 on other parts of the rail network must be fully exploited.
Investment in local rail based systems must continue
and be expanded, including light rail in cities such as Leeds
and Liverpool. HSR will not achieve its full potential if local
connections are still slow, unreliable and infrequent.
Recent announcements by the government for further
major rail investment in the classic network, including route
electrification in the north west, seems to belie concerns about
diversion of investment into a high speed project.
2.3 What are the implications for domestic
Domestic aviation should be reduced or even eliminated
because of its adverse environmental impacts and the need to reallocate
airport capacity to longer haul flights, without the need to invest
in new runways. HSR will assist that change.
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?
Forecasts that the development and increasing use
of information technology would reduce the demand for travel have
not been borne out by the evidence in passenger numbers throughout
the British rail system. Increasing congestion of roads and motorways,
coupled with rapidly increasing fuel costs and a growing environmental
awareness, have done, and will continue, to drive more passengersand
freightonto the railways.
Recent figures show that even in the middle of a
major economic downturn, passenger usage is up by 6.6% during
the 12 months to March 2011. This figure is likely to rise further
when the economy returns to normal and fuel costs increase for
It is noticeable that practically all UK line and
station re-openings have exceeded the passenger numbers expected
by government estimates.
Note should also be taken of the anticipated increase
in population in the UK and the attendant increased travel demands
that will bring.
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?
Experience in the on-line upgrading of the West Coast
route, the main works of which were extended at vast sum over
a period of 10 years up to 2007, is not one which users of the
line would wish to see repeated with the extensive disruptions
to services and unreliability they endured during that time. In
any case most of the route is not suitable for further upgrading
to HS engineering requirements.
It has cost approximately £10 billion to increase
the speed of the existing West Coast line to 125 mph. To increase
its speed to 140 mph (the potential top speed of current stock)
and increase the number of tracks to meet a necessary increase
in capacity is likely to end up costing as much as HS2 without
the High speed access to other UK and European cities which is
the base case.
3.3 What would be the pros and cons of alternative
means of managing demand for rail travel, for example by price?
Pricing rail travel off the system to reduce demand
(which is already happening on a significant scale) is bad for
the economy, bad for global warming, bad for modal split and is
likely to lead to more travel demand by road. Alternative modes
are already at or near capacity.
There is little evidence that computer working has
so far reduced the demand for travel in general. On the other
hand, with increased free time, leisure travel is growing. It
is noticeable that despite the depression passenger growth on
many rural/tourist lines in the North West have shown continued
growth. It is in Britain's economic interest to foster tourism
from overseas which is also growing as other countries become
more prosperous. Tourists tend to visit environmentally sensitive
cities and rural areas and are thus best transported by rail.
Many tourists prefer to use rail in view of the confusion caused
by driving on the left.
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?
Projects that have been built on time and within
budget should be compared with those that have not to define the
features that are essential for success. We should learn from
those who have done it, particularly the French, instead of trying
to re-invent wheels.
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)
It is vitally important that major stations along
the HS2 route, eg London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, are all
built in close proximity to existing stations to avoid the inconvenience
and time penalty of changing with the classic network. To build
any station on the outskirts of a city and then expect passengers
to change onto a transport link will prove to be a disincentive
to travel and will negate the attraction of an otherwise high
For example, any terminus in Birmingham would need
to be co-joined to New Street station. In London to terminate
HS2 at a separate station from HS1 would make connections worse
and discourage usage. Ideally a terminus with in-station pedestrian
connection to HS1 and Euston would be preferable, with allowance
for trains from the North to stop and continue their journeys
to the continent without changes.
If HS train length is an issue with station location
and design consideration could be given to double-deck trains
which would obviate the need for very long platforms and hence
stations by almost providing a full train capacity in just over
half the length. However if HS trains are to travel onwards on
the existing classic network (as they should following completion
of stage 1) this would mean two fleets, unless major gauge enhancement
work was carried out on appropriate parts of that classic network.
This is a complex area to which the Committee should give careful
Selective Park and Ride stations should be an integral
part of HS2, whilst keeping the number of station stops as low
as possible to avoid destroying the benefits of high speed (some
"skip stop" operation may be necessary). The criteria
should be to minimise total journey time including access time
and ensure maximum connectivity with other main line and local
4.2 Which cities should be served by an eventual
high speed network? Is the proposed Y configuration the right
The Y configuration is basically the right choice,
serving Manchester and Liverpool on the west and Sheffield and
Leeds on the east. It is important that HS trains should continue
beyond Birmingham and beyond the limits of subsequent stages (as
on the Continent) to serve the NW, Yorkshire, the NE and Glasgow/Edinburgh.
HS stations should be located in the regional centres with good
interchange with existing rail networks rather than at regional
airports. This will mean tunnelling in most cases.
To serve the East Midlands and to allow HS travel
between provincial cities consideration could be given to extending
the Y into a diamond shape with the left hand proceeding Birmingham-Manchester-Leeds
and the right Nottingham-Leeds.
4.3 Is the Government correct to build the
network in stages, moving from London northwards?
We have always advocated that any HSR proposals are
seen as logical parts of a much longer term strategy for the provision
of a network of new lines to connect the various nations and regions
of the UK with London and each other.
However the current proposals do not indicate how
a high speed network would be extended to serve the further parts
of northern England, Scotland or other regions of the UK. The
lack of a longer-term and wider strategy could well lead to costly
white elephants as has resulted with the concentration of HS1
services at St Pancras International leaving the expensive development
of Waterloo station and its connections now abandoned after a
life of little more than a decade. Questions needing to be answered
now include that of whether Manchester should be served by a terminus
station or a through station which would allow trains to proceed
onwards to Scotland.
Admittedly, building the network in stages starting
from London is probably the only practicable option but it is
crucial that the network is planned and approved as whole system
and built as a rolling programme, not separately funded and approved
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?
The link to HS1 as part of Phase 1 is an important
one for through travel to and from the continent. We originally
felt that the case for linking the NW and Heathrow was limited
but we recognize the need for major improvement in the connectivity
between Heathrow and the North of England. The route as planned
now is some distance from the Airport. If the Governments argument
for HS2+ involves reduction of internal flights thus lessening
the need for a third runway it is important that high speed rail
transport to the Midlands, North and Scotland is provided at Heathrow
at some stage.
5. Economic rebalancing and equity
5.1 What evidence is there that HSR will promote
economic regeneration and help bridge the north-south economic
The only real evidence in the UK is the economic
benefits of HS1 which are considered to be much greater than estimates.
Similar evidence can probably be found from France and Spain and
of course Japan.
Subsequent extension beyond Birmingham (which should
be a through station) and construction of the diamond (above)
would enable the introduction of a high speed rail service between
these cities eg Birmingham-Manchester-Leeds-Newcastle which would
do a lot to promote provincial growth
5.2 To what extent should the shape of the
network be influenced by the desirability of supporting local
and regional regeneration?
Local and regional regeneration should be taken into
account but not at the expense of the key criteria.
5.3 Which locations and socio-economic groups
will benefit from HSR?
While the higher socio-economic groups may be expected
to be the main beneficiaries, spin off benefits onto other rail
routes will benefit a wide range of users and locations, some
which are not anywhere near the actual HS route.
The HSR provision should not be seen as the "rich
man's railway" by virtue of charging premium fares.
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?
It will be extremely difficult to attract financial
contributions from Local Authorities or businesses. Added land
value taxes may be one avenue worth exploring but difficult to
administer. Any possible EU funds including TEN-T should be fully
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?
The overall direct impact of HSR on carbon emissions
may be small but the overall impact including all spin-off benefits
should be substantial as it will encourage rail travel in place
of car or air. Actual figures can only be determined by relevant
6.2 Are environmental costs and benefits (including
in relation to noise) correctly accounted for in the business
Environmental costs including noise should be fully
accounted for in the business case, either as quantified or unquantified
costs. A separate audit of the business case may be needed to
ensure this requirement is met. The alternatives of further air
and road travel growth are currently more likely to cause environmental
and noise damage in excess of HS2. The latter also has options
for varying power generation sources.
6.3 What would be the impact on freight services
on the "classic" network?
By removing substantial passenger movements from
the classic network it should be possible for some paths to be
released for additional freight movements, with consequential
environmental benefits. However this must be balanced with the
provision of more frequent local train services using capacity
released from removal of longer distance trains.
HS2 could also provide a suitable route for international
freight movements. Tests are currently under way on HS1 with high
speed freight trains. New locomotives and stock are not required
for this as the existing container trains already run through
to the continent via the tunnel and the class 92 locomotives can
also work through to France.
6.4 How much disruption will be there to services
on the "classic" network during construction, particularly
during the rebuilding of Euston?
It is inevitable that there will be substantial disruption
during construction but the fact that most of the route will be
on new alignment should reduce the impacts of existing rail services
to those locations where the two systems are adjacent, eg Euston
and Birmingham International.
The environmental problems which have been highlighted
will mainly be short term during the building of the line, and
will be offset by the obvious difference between an electrified
high speed railway and six lane plus motorway which would be the
13 May 2011