High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce (HSR 95)

Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce (UK Chamber of Commerce of the Year 2009) with 2000 member companies is the leading business representative organisation in Scotland's capital. We have a wide range of policy groups and have been actively involved in promoting High Speed Rail to Scotland since 2006. Our comments on the Committee's enquiry follow:


Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce believes that the extension of HSR beyond London is an overdue and welcome investment.

It believes that we should be planning now for a fully connected line from London to both Glasgow and Edinburgh and that it is the northern end of this line which will offer the greatest cost benefit.

HSR is an imperative investment environmentally, socially, and commercially, and vital to the global competitiveness of the UK.

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

1.1 HSR offers speedier transit with environmental and economic benefits. HSR to Scotland has BCR much higher than any transport project seen in recent years. Objections to HSR are less likely in Scotland and Northern England where the main benefit is potentially to be derived and population density is lower. Failure to deliver HSR will leave the UK as a whole seriously under-provided with transport infrastructure that is globally competitive, attractive to inward investment and tourism and will accelerate the rate at which our economy is left behind by our major competitors. Given the remote nature of the UK from continental Europe and the remote nature of North Britain (which most needs development) from the South Eastern economic pressure cooker, we must accelerate the rate of HSR take-up and make a UK wide commitment to a truly national network.

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?

2.1.1 As the world's economy progresses towards a common state of City Regions as economic hubs of all successful trading nations HSR offers a crucial option for connecting those major cities to their markets. This does not mean there are nor other important transport objectives, especially in terms of local public transport and an adequate roads network, especially for freight. However it is of paramount importance in terms of giving Britain's regional cities the access to European markets which SE England already enjoys.

2.1.2 In the world of carbon reduction HSR offers the option of electricity as fuel, which can be derived from renewables. Other forms of vehicular transport are a long way from this option.

2.1.3 For the inland routes of Central Belt Scotland to London airports (the busiest in the UK) a proper end to end HSR system offers transport which is faster, more environmentally friendly, more comfortable, more central and better economically than air.

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 Investment in the existing network should continue. Apart from other considerations the lack of maintenance in the past has been shown to have dire consequences. It will be some years before there is any available expansion of HSR and demands on existing track are growing. Transfer of inter-city journeys to HSR promises to free up capacity on the existing network for both local journeys and freight (which are at capacity in many parts of the existing network).

3.  What are the implications for domestic aviation?

2.3.1 For Scotland a proper HSR network from London to Edinburgh & Glasgow would allow major changes to take place. With some seven million journeys Central Belt to London per annum, only one million are currently by road or rail. At this level ECML and WCML have little spare capacity. As many as six million journeys a year could be taken from air to rail with all the benefits mentioned above.

2.3.2 Scotland struggles for landing slots at the London airports (especially Heathrow) and when there are difficulties in the air is the first destination to have its flights out of London grounded (obviously for safety reasons a transatlantic flight being facilitated to land safely has greater priority than sending off a new internal flight which can be replaced by bus or train).

2.3.3. The freeing up of London landing slots would enable access from more northerly airports such as Inverness, Aberdeen and the Northern Isles which struggle to get access now.

2.3.4. The reduction in inland flights frees up more slots for international flights which are more profitable and access markets which cannot be reached by Eurostar.

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?

3.1.1 Completely unrealistic in the sense that the best payback and the best environmental benefit, which is from a line connecting Scotland to London is not even on the drawing board in this plan. BCR of (at lowest estimate) 3.5 fold and highest 15 fold is only achieved by including Scotland from the outset.

3.1.2 The models for HSR to Leeds/Manchester and then continuing on conventional track simply doo not stack up. HSR does not tilt and therefore would be slower on the northern end of the track than existing sets (eg Virgin's Pendolinos). Modal shift cannot be achieved as the track simply does not have the capacity to achieve a six fold increase in traffic.

3.1.3 Fare levels need serious consideration. With rail fares above the levels of most of our competitors already, a continuation of the same pattern would result in reduced take-up and continuing lack of global competitivity. We should aim to replace lost revenue on the existing routes with increased local passenger traffic and greater freight traffic, reducing road congestion.

3.1.4 If best possible modal shift is to be achieved then it is vital the Euston-Birmingham (and successive) links are built with adequate capacity to carry the completed network. That should include six million journeys, p.a. from a major modal shift from air on the Scotland/London routes.

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?

3.2.1 A joke. Having spent £11 billion upgrading WCML over many years with gross disruption to existing service a speed benefit of 10mph is a poor outcome. Signalling upgrades might make a small difference but in reality there will be no increase of capacity unless more lines are built in which case the only sensible course of action is to make them HSR.

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

3.3.1. Whilst there are strong arguments for lower ticket prices at times when demand is low (late at night, overnight, early morning,) any government committed to growing the economy as its first priority should be planning transport systems which aid commerce not hinder it.

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 Simplify contracts to eliminate grounds for dispute. Build in costs for variability. Reward on time delivery. Examine international models which have worked (eg South Korea).

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?

4.1.1 The point of HSR is negated if further stops are introduced.

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

4.2.1 Initial Priorities would be:

(It is reasonable that a Glasgow Edinburgh link should be part of a "Y" at Carstairs)



London-Bristol- Cardiff.

London- Bristol-Exeter.
(Birmingham-Bristol would be an obvious later addition)

This network would include other options for routes between Cities. Parkway stations might be appropriate in some instances. Airports present one opportunity for location.

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

4.3.1 It is inevitable that the network will be built in stages. One at a time south-north is not the only answer nor is it the right one. We should start in Scotland and build South at the same time. You don't build a bridge from one bank to the other- you start at both ends. And often in the middle as well. HSR offers a major opportunity to rejuvenate the economy. That need is now.

4.3.2 Throughout this process we have heard time and again that HSR will be built from London "to the North." This is a major psychological error- especially for a government committed to defending the Union. Every railway runs in two directions- none run from-to, they all run between. If the government (and HS2's) statements about the need to strengthen the UK's regional economy have any validity then surely this point should be self-evident?

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 Yes.

5.  Economic rebalancing and equity

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

5.1.1 We are not repeating information given in previous studies of which the committee will be well aware. Aditionally:

—  The models of France and Spain well demonstrate that on a similar distance of air traffic as Edinburgh/Glasgow to London HSR achieves a modal shift of 80% or better.

—  This modal shift is achieved when the transit time drops below two and a half hours.

—  On such a frequency London is easily accessible from Scotland without an overnight stay (a major cost saving and a major incentive to SME's).

—  On such a frequency tourism is much easier and pleasanter by rail.

—  Onward transit to European markets by Eurostar becomes a realistic option from Scotland (which it isn't currently).

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

5.2.1 100%.

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

5.3.1 The City Regions which it accesses, and at the end of the day potentially all socio-economic groups (witness the Lille experience) as businesses will want to be where they can access the network.

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?

5.4.1 Absolutely yes to TEN-T. The government should definitely seek private sector involvement in financing the network.

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?

6.1.1 Carbon benefits from modal shift will be greater the greater the extent of the network. Our remarks above apply. 80% from inland air would be a reasonable objective. Road shift is left the further the journey time, and will be minimal for Scotand-London.

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

6.2.1 If anything we believe they are understated. This is borne out by the continuing growth of rail as transport of choice, beyond historical predictions.

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

6.3.1 A proper Scotland -London network would free up major capacity for additional freight on the existing network.

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

6.4.1 Disruption can be minimised and will happen most when completed sections are joined in to the existing network. This will be necessary for joing sections of complete HSR into areas where there is yet no service, for some City centre access, and to provide "escape route" alternative lines during essential maintenance/incident management.

May 2011

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Prepared 8 November 2011