Written evidence from Messrs Edwards,
King, Osborn, Rees and Sullivan (HSR 93)|
Since HS2 Ltd. published its draft and consultation
proposals for a new high speed railway linking London to the West
Midlands and, ultimately, the North West and North East, views
and attitudes have become increasingly polarised between those
against and those for. The authors of this Submission are concerned
that reasoned discussion between the two sides has become sidelined.
We support the concept of high-speed rail in Britain, accept that
some environmental damage will occur whichever route is finally
chosen but feel that possible alternatives should be re-examined.
We hope that the Alternative Approach to High Speed Rail, outlined
below, will lead to a constructive debate of this exciting project.
In our view the present Government's stated objective,
in its Coalition Agreement of May 2010, of creating "a truly
national high speed rail network for the whole of Britain"
has been thwarted by two factors. First, HS2 Ltd's enthusiasm
to operate at extreme and pioneering speeds and, second, the previous
Government's original 2009 requirement that any new high speed
line should be orientated to serve in some way London's Heathrow
This Paper offers an Alternative Approach, an approach
that has emerged from study of the technical background papers
to the High Speed Rail Command Paper published in Spring 2010
and other sources. We are persuaded that the flexibility offered
by operation at proven speeds of circa 300kph (187mph) outweighs
the incremental journey time savings achieved by higher speeds.
We are persuaded, too, that the alignment of Britain's High Speed
rail network should be dictated by the needs of the manynot
dictated by an impractical vision of improved rail-air interchange
for a small minority of travellers. We believe that the foundations
of our work are sound and its logic is solid.
Two models for high-speed rail infrastructure have
emerged from experience around the world over the past 30 yearsoverlay
and hybrid. In the absence of a clear national rail strategy,
HS2 Ltd. has chosen to address a narrow interpretation of its
brief using an "overlay" model. We have looked instead
at a broader application using high-speed network enhancements
of the existing rail network where they are beneficial in addressing
broader needs of the travelling public. We call this hybrid the
Alternative Approach. As its advantages compared with the HS2
Ltd. proposal are very significant, we believe it merits serious
consideration. It would be faster and cheaper to build, would
be more flexible to operate and would serve more of the UK population.
1.1 A truly national high-speed, or higher-speed,
network can be achieved by:
a mix of (mostly) existing main linesupgraded to higher
speed than 200 kph where technically possible; and
a limited set of new higher-speed lines, integrated with the network
and operating as a part of the wholeessentially a hybrid
New line speeds could be 320kph (200mph) while speeds
on existing, upgraded, lines could be as high as 260kph (160mph)
where curvature permits and 200kph-225kph (125-140mph) where alignment
constraints prevent it.
1.2 The hybrid approach takes advantage of recently
announced commitments to rail investment, especially Crossrail.
It circumvents HS2 Ltd's dependence on a new interchange at Old
Oak Common (OOC), resulting in greatly reduced tunnelling in London
and through the Chilterns. It proposes interconnection for London
Heathrow (LHR) similar to that proposed by HS2 Ltd, and expands
it to serve a larger population base. It suggests that greater
integration with the existing rail network is complementary to
1.3 Overlay networks, as proposed by HS2 Ltd,
provide new high-speed, end-to-end, links between major conurbations.
The Japanese were first to implement the idea; followed by China,
Spain and others, including the UK's Channel Tunnel LinkHS1.
An overlay approach was necessary in both Japan and Spain, where
the gauge of the national network is not standard. Hybrid models
have proved more appropriate in closely settled European countries
such as France, Germany and Netherlands. New sections of high-speed
line have been built between cities while existing, sometimes
upgraded lines in urban areas are shared with conventional inter-city
and regional services, and use established major stations.
1.4 During the last 30 years, speeds achieved
by high-speed trains have risen progressively from 200kph (125
mph), which were the operating speeds both the Japanese Shinkansen
at its launch (1964), and the UK's HS125 (1976). Today, the Shinkansen
operates at 300kph, the design speed on the Channel Tunnel Rail
Link (HS1) through Kent. Although experimental trains have achieved
higher speeds, operational speeds have converged across the world
in the region of 280-320kph. Consideration of energy usage, track
design and aerodynamics indicate that, with the relatively short
distances between UK cities, still greater reductions in journey
times from the higher maximum speeds proposed by would not be
justified. Importantly, lower speeds enable more curved alignments,
so that new lines can follow more closely natural landform and
existing transport alignments. Lower speeds therefore allow routes
rejected by HS2 Ltd. to be re-considered.
1.5 HS2 Ltd's proposal for a "Y" network
links just four citiesLondon, Birmingham, Manchester and
Leeds. It would not be a truly national high speed rail network;
its lines would not reach Scotland, Wales, the West Country, and
East Anglia, much of the East Midlands or central Southern England.
An alternative, hybrid approach addresses these omissions to serve
an increased population. The likely environmental impact appears
favourable, though HS2 Ltd has produced no Environmental Impact
Assessment to support their preferred route and, therefore no
numerical comparison can be drawn.
1.6 HS2 Ltd's programme envisages services to
Manchester and Leedsthe Phase 2 "Y" routebut
at a later date than Phase 1London to Birmingham, arguably
the two best connected conurbations in the country today. By reducing
cost and complexity, the alternative hybrid network creates the
opportunity of including Manchester and the East Midlands cities
within the timeframe proposed by HS2 Ltd for Phase 1.
1.7 HS2's proposal includes an entirely new interchange
in northwest Londonat Old Oak Commonlinked with
Euston via a long and very costly twin bore tunnel. This is justified
by the need to reduce pressure of increased passenger numbers
at Euston. We propose instead to greatly reduce London and South
East commuter use of Euston, by re-routing outer suburban services
directly into Crossrail at Old Oak Common, and transferring the
inner suburban (Watford dc) service to the Bakerloo Line. The
former is foreseen by Transport for London as a potential additional
arm to Crossrail; the latter is a TfL proposal already. HS2 Ltd
makes much of the additional population centres served by locating
its second London station on Crossrail at Old Oak Common (OOC)implicitly
emphasising the London centric view that underpins its vision.
By contrast, the hybrid alignment creates opportunity to serve
population centres outside London ignored by HS2in particular,
the growth triangle of Milton Keynes, Bedford and Northampton,
and the manufacturing cities of the West and East Midlands, Coventry
and Leicester. An additional served population (1.5 million people)
is reached without penalising either cost or journey time.
1.8 To satisfy the (unproven) needs of international
travellers from the Northwest (Manchester) and North East (Leeds),
HS2 Ltd. has proposed a tunnelled spur from HS2 directly into
Heathrow (LHR) at a cost of £3-4 billion, to be constructed
during Phase 2 of the project. We propose that both travellers
and airport staff should instead access LHR using existing and/or
upgraded rail routes - linked to an electrified GWMLwithout
the need for a new railway and its concomitant tunnels. We believe
that overall end to end differences in journey time are marginal
and do not justify the enormous costs proposed by HS2 Ltd.
1.9 HS2 Ltd. states, in its Consultation Document,
that a dedicated high-speed line will relieve pressure on the
existing West Coast Main Line (WCML), allowing more paths for
both fast and commuter passenger trains and for freight traffic.
However, HS2 appears not to have studied the implications of freight
demand on the WCML (nor the other main lines), in order to substantiate
its claim. We suggest that new capacity for Fast Passenger and
Slow Freight services on the West Coast (WCML) and Midland (MML)
Main Lines would be more beneficial if it facilitated dedicated
freight transport on two tracks of the WCML and released the (currently
under-utilised) MML for passenger use.
1.10 Inevitably new high speed rail infrastructure
has both positive and negative impacts on the environment. Its
positive impacts result from modal shiftfrom road and air
to rail. However, HS2 Ltd has failed to recognise that operation
at unnecessarily high speeds unnecessarily damages the environment
through excessive energy usage, inflexible (straight) track alignment
and increased noise. The alternative approach impacts all of these
by reducing speed and has also considered opportunities for modal
shift through improved rail access for local travellers and airport
staff. We believe that HS2 has also ignored the opportunity for
modal shift of freight from road to rail, available if capacity
released on WCML is optimised for freight transport.
1.11 Consideration of both freight and passenger
utilisation studies of Network Rail indicates that the extension
of High Speed Rail services north of London does not require long,
expensive and inherently risky tunnelling. Instead, the Alternative
Approach follows the MML Corridor, already shared with the southernmost
section of the M1, via a short tunnelled link from Euston Station
and thereafter largely follows the M1 corridor to its junction
with M6 at Crick (near Rugby). Our mapping confirms that 300kph+
operation is readily achieved virtually everywhere on this alignment.
1.12 If the Centro (West Midlands Passenger Transport
Executive) proposal for 4-tracking the congested line between
Coventry and Birmingham is accepted, the alternative approach
would use the existing track from Crick through Rugby to Birmingham;
otherwise new track would be required.
1.13 The alternative approach provides a full
capacity connection with HS1, without further tunnelling, replacing
the long, costly and inflexible single bore tunnel projected by
HS2 Ltd. It also facilitates direct connection between mainland
Europe and the Thames Valley, West Country and South Wales using
an electrified GWML (now committed).
Q1 Main arguments for and against HSR
Principal case for: need for additional capacity
to reinforce constraints of the Victorian Network, encourage modal
shift from road and air, promote business and regeneration, and
extend European HSR north of London. This submission supports
the principle of High Speed Rail. However, it strenuously opposes
HS2's proposed overlay solution as technically over-ambitious,
outrageously expensive, and unnecessarily risky. Substantially
better financial performance (BCR) can be achieved along with
improved sustainability and reduced environmental damage. We believe
that a hybrid approach would be cheaper and faster to build, meet
the key objectives of the remits given HS2, serve more of the
population and cause less environmental damage.
Q2 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?
Increased rail capacity for both long distance and
commuting passengers and for freight, targeted at pinch points
of the current network, is fundamental to a successful transport
2.1.1 HS2 proposes initially to serve only intercity
travel between Birmingham and London, already the UK's best connected
cities by rail and road. Other major communities, and the devolved
capitals of Edinburgh and Cardiff, do not benefit from HS2, as
currently proposed. Potential travellers from these communities,
who wish to benefit from HSR face additional journeys, typically
be car, to reach the few rail heads served.
2.1.2 Construction of a new parkway interchange
for Birmingham will necessarily increase traffic on already heavily
loaded stretches of the motorway network and its feeder roads
eg M40, M42, M4, and M6.
2.1.3 Provision of new rail connection to Heathrow
only at OOC, does nothing to reduce road congestion of M4, M40,
M25 and their feeder roads, (see also 2.2.1).
2.1.4 HS2 repeatedly states that it will relieve
capacity (unquantified) for freight on the WCML. However, increased
inter-modal freight volumes, the area of greatest growth and greatest
environmental benefit, merit not just increased freight movements,
but a dedicated freight line on the WCML alignment.
2.1.5 HS2 programme includes heavy costs for
environmental mitigation, funds which are therefore not available
to Highways Agency to meet commitments under the Noise Regulations
(2006). Environmental funding for HS2 could be reduced if its
alignment used existing transport corridors (which the A413 is
2.1.6 With commitment to electrification of GWML,
trains from Thames Valley, West Country and S Wales could run
directly to HS1.
2.1.7 HS2 has ignored the potential for an interchange
at Milton Keynes with the East West Line between Reading, Oxford
and Bedford / Cambridge, which would provide access to a large
swathe of South Central England, currently ill-served for rail
connection beyond London and Birmingham.
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?
2.2.1 Four-tracking of the line between Coventry
and Birmingham is stated by Centro (West Midlands PTE) to be necessary
by 2021 whether or not HS2 is built. The high cost to the public
sector of the published HS2 Ltd plan would make very unlikely
the funding of 4-tracking Coventry-Birmingham.
2.2.2 HS2 would involve a massive eight-year
rebuilding of Euston. The provision of such a large station, providing
for London & South East suburban services too, would use up
funds that could be better spent on connecting the WCML at Willesden
to Crossrail and avoiding the need for such a major rebuild of
2.2.3 Airtrack (regrettably cancelled) would
have permitted commuters from southern Home Counties eg Surrey
to travel by train via Heathrow to destinations served by Crossrail,
Euston (by extended Heathrow Express) and HS1. Funding is less
likely to be made available for this scheme if HS2 is built.
2.3 What are the implications for domestic
2.3.1 HS2 prejudges the outcome of a UK strategy
for airports, by focussing on two airports whose growth is constrained
by proximity to major population centresLondon Heathrow
and Birmingham. Potential at other airports is ignored by HS2
2.3.2 In the absence of flights between Birmingham
and London, HS2 has no impact on these routes.
2.3.3 Rail already dominates the market for travel
between Manchester, Leeds and London. A fast train service to
Heathrow from either of these would presumably be attractive to
relatively small numbers of interchange passengers, but the £4.3
billion cost could never be recovered from an acceptable fare
2.3.4 HS2 ignores the potential for an electrified
loop on GWML to provide interchange at Heathrow not only for Thames
Valley, the West Country and South Wales, but for Southampton
and Birmingham (via Oxford). The latter would go some way to achievement
of direct termination at Heathrow, using largely existing tracks.
3. Business case
3.1 How robust are the assumptions and methodologyeg
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?
3.1.1 HS2's assumptions and methodology have
been challenged by many critics, elsewhere and will not be dealt
with here. As no project can make firm predictions for a 60 year
life, proponents of any such project must reduce cost and de-risk
their proposal to the greatest possible extent. This HS2 has signally
failed to do.
3.1.2 Service only for few conurbations, excessive
speeds, over dependence on tunnelling increases capital and running
costs while restricting revenues. The result is a BCR of 1.6 (2.0
with Wider Economic Impacts (WEIs), and a risk premium of 64%.
3.2 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?
3.2.1 The WCML needs additional capacitya
new lineonly south of Rugby. North of Rugby its divides
into two, and the main Trent Valley line has spare capacity following
4-tracking of the 2-track section in southern Staffordshire in
2004-08. There is no case for a wholly new line north of Rugby.
Where new capacity is built, it can be designed for 300 kph (186
mph) running; a new conventional line would not be a suitable
3.3 Pros and cons of alternative means of
managing demand for rail travel, for example by price?
3.3.1 Even in China's controlled society, government
plans to operate its high speed train network at 300kph to achieve
3.3.2 Restriction of travel by rail would increase
pressure of travel by road, which is noisier, more dangerous,
less environmentally friendly, and slower.
3.3.2 Rationing freedom of travel by price would
be politically unacceptable.
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?
3.4.1 UK can achieve success with major programmes
(LHR T5 and Olympic).
3.4.2 Design goals must include minimise
of risk. This has not been done by HS2eliminate excessive
tunnelling, large work packages, gating of the entire project
by one critical element, operation at unproven speeds, excessive
project duration, big-bang rather than progressive introduction.
3.4.3 Form one team that comprises best experience
available, can contribute all necessary skills
3.4.4 Avoid "mission creep".
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)
4.1.1 Euston is the only London station capable
of operating as the London terminus. It currently carries two
commuting streams, whose diversion (to LU and Crossrail) would
facilitate adaption potentially within the existing footprint
and with reduced disruption to services. On completion of Crossrail
which will serve Heathrow, the Heathrow Express service can be
re-routed to Euston instead of Paddington. Removal of commuting
traffic from Euston reduces pressure on its limited onward connections.
4.1.2 Hence, OOC appears unnecessary and should
be replaced by a station at Milton Keynes (MK), to serve the travelling
population of MK, Bedford and Northampton. Journey times would
continue to be based on a one stop strategy.
4.1.3 We remain unconvinced of the overall benefit
of introduction of constructing additional parkway stations. Upgrade
of the city centre stations at Coventry and Leicester should be
considered instead, at a frequency justified by travel volumes.
4.1.4 Curzon Street is the best location in Birmingham
for a major national interchange. New Street cannot take more
trains, or full-length high-speed trains. The HS2 Ltd proposal
for a separate Curzon Street station for high-speed trains only
would not enable interchange or connections with other services.
It should be designed as Birmingham's main station, with New Street
acting primarily for suburban and regional commuter services.
4.2 Which cities should be served by an eventual
high speed network? Is the proposed Y configuration the right
4.2.1 The Y network appears to be driven by a
vision that the overlay high speed network ultimately evolves
to be more and more independent of the existing networkimposing
ever higher costs for ever reducing returns as it progresses north.
HS2 appears to base the Y network on an untested assumption that
there should be a hub at Birmingham International Interchange
rather than in Birmingham City Centre, where existing lines meet.
We question both these fundamental assumptions.
4.2.3 The distance between Birmingham and Manchester
is approx. 110 kmsless than London to Birmingham. Even
operating at 400kph cannot hope to save more than a few minutes
compared with upgrading WCML via Crewe and Wilmslow. Any speed
advantage would be negated if the Manchester HS2 station is not
one of the existing main stations (Piccadilly and Victoria) so
that interchange from other services was not possible. As far
as is known, HS2 Ltd does not propose to use either of these stations.
4.3 Is the Government correct to build
the network in stages, moving from London northwards?
4.3.1 The immediate focus should be relief of
capacity constraints on existing lines, which are most severe
on (but not exclusive to) lines emanating from London.
4.3.2 Similar priority should be given to capacity
relief elsewhere permitting progressive service introduction.
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?
4.4.1 Government proposes the link to HS1 in
phase I only because the necessary very expensive tunnel cannot
be constructed later. But a simple linkage can be made with HS1
at low cost by using the North London Line from the Primrose Hill
tunnels through the former Chalk Farm station, building one new
two-track bridge over Camden High Road to double trackage here
from two to four tracks, and lay double track on the viaduct which
connects the NLL with HS1. This viaduct was built for stock movements
north of St Pancras as part of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Phase
2. This means a connection is possible for through trains at relatively
4.4.2 We do not believe there will ever be a
case for construction of a tunnelled link to Heathrow from the
proposed HS2 alignment. The economic and effective link would
be to operate Heathrow Express from Euston instead of Paddington,
once Crossrail is carrying air passengers between Central London
and the airport terminals.
5. Economic rebalancing and equity
No comments offered.
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?
6.1.1 HS2 Ltd has chosen to design the route
to support speeds of 400kph (250 mph), substantially faster than
any other operator, despite its claim that it will not be a pioneering
solution. (Even China, acknowledged by HS2 Ltd to be the driving
force in HSR has reduced its target speed to 300 kph in view of
high ticket costs and safety hazards involved in travelling faster,
and despite the much greater distances between cities compared
with UK). A reduction of max speed from 400 to 320 kph (250 to
200 mph) will save approx 1/3 of energy used and an equivalent
reduction in greenhouse gases, if power is predominantly generated
by non-renewable sources. A railway designed for a maximum speed
6.1.2 A route designed for a maximum speed of
320kph will reduce the energy and cost associated with the direct
cost of tunnelling by 75%, since fewer and shorter tunnels are
required. Contributions to energy usage and cost for removal of
spoil, the volume of which HS2 Ltd appears to have grossly underestimated,
are similarly reduced.
6.1.3 HS2 Ltd has ignored the benefit to the
environment available from modal shift of freight from road to
rail enabled by transfer of passenger capacity from existing to
new high speed lines. As it has failed to analyse the capacity
released to freight on WCML, it is not possible to comment on
6.1.4 HS2 Ltd has examined extension of the line
in phase to provide direct access at London Heathrow, at a cost
of some £4bn to serve some 2,800 travellers daily. It has
ignored the much more pressing opportunity to improve local rail
service at Heathrow for its 48K workers and 200,000 passengers
daily whose journeys start or end within 50 miles of the airport.
(When LHR was closed by volcanic ash and strikes early this year,
the beneficial impact on traffic volumes and therefore flows was
remarkable for a radius of at least 20 miles from the airport.
6.2 Are environmental costs and benefits (including
in relation to noise) correctly accounted for in the business
6.2.1 In the absence of an EIA, this question
cannot be answered. It is extraordinary and completely unacceptable
that HS2 will not release an EIA until the final route has been
6.3 What would be the impact on freight services
on the "classic" network?
6.3.1 HS2 Ltd claims that capacity for freight
will be increased by the existence of the high speed line. It
provides no evidence to substantiate the claim. We believe the
scheme should be allowed to proceed only if, as result, 2 tracks
of the WCML between London/Southampton and the West Midlands can
be dedicated to freight.
6.3.2 HS2 proposes to route high speed trains
on the WCML initially from Lichfield north and in the longer term
from the interchange for Manchester/Liverpool. For freight travelling
on WCML further north (including Scotland), where the WCML is
a two track line, the consequences are disastrous. Each additional
high speed train will displace three to five freight trains and
therefore force 100 to 150 HGVs back onto the M6 motorway at high
energy cost. Many of these will necessarily travel at night to
avoid congestion, an increase of perhaps 50% on roads which are
already unacceptably noisy at night.
6.4 How much disruption will be there to services
on the "classic" network during construction, particularly
during the rebuilding of Euston?
6.4.1 HS2 Ltd indicates that reconstruction of
Euston will take 8½ years, the longest single element of
the entire programme. It therefore determines the critical path
to completion. Choice of an alternative route could lead to service
introduction on the high speed line up to five years earlier,
bringing benefit rather than disruption to the UK's over stretched
6.4.2 HS2 Ltd's solution to overcrowding
at Euston station is construction of an entirely new interchange
at Old Oak Common, for which connections must be provided by tube,
cross rail, bus and taxi. Introduction of these additional services
in a busy area of North West London will create further disruption
during construction and congestion in operation.
6.4.3 Overcrowding at Euston can be resolved
by routing commuter traffic unto either London Underground or
Crossrail using existing and new links. Disruption during reconstruction
at Euston would then be greatly reduced, and it is possible that
the reconfiguration could take place within the existing footprintavoiding
destruction of homes and disruption of the lives of hundreds of
6.4.4 A similar approach to distribution
of traffic between New St and the proposed Curzon St stations
in Birmingham would offer similar benefits.