High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from the Glasgow Edinburgh Collaboration Initiative (HSR 98)

Glasgow City Council, City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Enterprise share the following position on high speed rail.

The case for building a UK high speed rail network is well established. We believe it is vital for future economic prosperity. However, the full economic and environmental benefits associated with High Speed Rail will only be realised with the construction of a dedicated HSR line over the entire route between London and Scotland.

We believe that the UK Government should further explore the opportunities to build the network from both ends and give a clear commitment to building a continuous HSL to Scotland. Current proposals to run High Speed services on existing track north of the border do not deliver the sub 3 hour journey time required to ensure maximum shift from air to rail and return on investment.

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

1.1  The main arguments for HSR are as follows:

1.1.1  Economic growth; capacity constraints on much of the existing rail network are costly to business and restricting economic growth. HSR is the fastest-growing transport mode in Europe; there is a danger of regional British cities losing out to regional European cities, in the absence of HSR connectivity.

1.1.2  As the DfT's HS2 consultation documents state, business "consistently underlines the importance of reliable transport…95% of companies agree that the UK's road and rail network is important to their business…Inter-city lines have an unrivalled capacity to enable rapid and direct journeys between central business districts…" Between 1994 - 2010, "passenger miles travelled rose from 18 billion to almost 32 billion. The fastest growth of all has been in demand for long distance travel".

1.1.3  "Many services on…Main Lines are already extremely full. Despite…the WCRM programme, long distance services on this route are regularly overcrowded. Almost half of all long distance Midland Main Line trains arriving into (London) in the peak have passengers standing…demand on the London-Manchester route will grow by around 60% by 2024…(whilst) on the East Coast and Midland Main Lines…overall long-distance growth of more than 70%...from 2007 to 2036. Even higher…on specific routes…".

1.1.4  Capacity on the existing network can be effectively increased by removing express services. This requires alternative long-distance routes. Having established the need, it is generally more cost effective to build such a route for high speed rather than 125mph/200kph standards.

1.1.5  A new HSR line will release capacity on existing lines, facilitating improved local passenger and freight rail services and encouraging more modal shift from road.

1.1.6  Reduced journey time particularly over longer journeys will help deliver the shift required from plane to train. Current journey times between Glasgow/Edinburgh and London are too long for rail travel to morning business meetings. Same-day return trips by rail leave little time in the destination city.

1.1.7  Reduced emissions; increased capacity and reduced journey times encourage modal shift from air and road to rail. The emission benefits from HSR are highest where trains run with high load factors and use renewable electricity. The greatest reductions will be on longer journeys (eg London - Scotland) where city centre - city centre journey times by rail will be faster than air and significantly faster than those by road.

1.1.8  Four major studies confirm the strategic case for HSR as an intercity rail investment:

Atkins[289] study for the SRA and 2008 Update (Transport Matters); Network Rail's[290] "New Lines" study, 2009.

Greengauge 21's[291] Fast Forward, 2009; HS2 Ltd Reports and Consultation Documents 2010, 2011.

1.2  The main arguments against HSR are:

1.2.1  Affordability; the UK is likely to be emerging from the current economic downturn by the time of major expenditure on HSR. Private sector jobs and growth, which will be unlocked by HSR, will make the UK economy less vulnerable to future economic downturn. Affordability is sometimes linked to doubts about demand forecasts. Recent ATOC figures for number of train journeys confirm the rapid growth in rail travel, which is at it highest level for 90 years.

1.2.2  Disruption; building new lines is likely to cause less disruption than widening an existing transport corridor, which would not only disrupt existing transport services but also necessitate relocation of business and homes.

1.2.3  The costs of adding capacity to the existing network are much more difficult to estimate than those for a new alignment and upgrading existing infrastructure is neither sustainable in the longer term, nor good value for money.

1.2.4  Environmental damage; environmental impact can be mitigated by sensitive design and ancillary works. In "quiet" areas, the introduction of noise where there is presently silence will have an impact, but intermittent noise from passing trains is, arguably, less intrusive than constant road traffic, night and day, from a motorway.

1.2.5  It is sometimes claimed that Britain is too densely populated to warrant or allow HSR, however, the UK's population density is therefore fairly typical of countries with, or planning, HSR.[292]

1.2.6  The argument that new communication and information technology will reduce travel is sometimes associated with a view that transport appraisal overstates the value of time savings, especially given the increasing possibilities of using travelling time productively. However, historically improvements in communications technology have not reduced travel demand; if there is any correlation, they have increased it.

1.2.7  If productive travel time was more important than a fast journey, there would already be much greater modal shift from plane to train on UK routes. But it appears that increased air journey times and inconvenience, associated with increased security procedures, have produced such modal shift as has taken place.

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 programmes, including the strategic road network?

2.1.1  Britain faces a long term economic challenge to move into recovery and growth, competing on an international stage. It is our cities that will drive this growth and underpin the national economy. The Core Cities and their primary urban areas alone produce 27% of England's economic output, more than London, with Glasgow and Edinburgh home to just over 20% of Scotland's population but generating around 31% of Scotland's economic output.[293] They could do more with the right infrastructure in place.

2.1.2  Enhancing the strategic road network can improve local capacity but ultimately generates more traffic, leading to greater congestion elsewhere. By contrast, investment in HSR creates capacity for an alternative travel mode. Congestion costs business £23.3 billion a year. HS2 is an important first step to avoiding this costly problem.

2.1.3  Road schemes dominated investment between 1945 and circa 2000. From a strategic and long-term perspective, current rail investment (including HSR) merely goes some way to restoring the balance between modes of transport.

2.1.4  Over longer distances, (eg Scotland-London), HSR will also abstract air traffic significantly reducing carbon emissions. It will also produce economic benefits as HSR journey-time can be used more productively than air travel.

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  Spending on new HSR need not reduce spending on the existing network. The argument that HSR funding should be reallocated across the existing network, or that HSR would distort investment funding, misunderstands the nature of priorities and finance in government.

2.2.2  "High-cost" rail projects are already under construction: London Crossrail (£18 billion over around seven years) and Thameslink (£5.5 billion over around eight years). These do not appear to have affected funding for the "classic" network; note for example Great Western Main Line and ECML enhancements, IEP, and further WCML enhancements. The peak annual spend on HSR is likely to be similar to that on Crossrail, which will be largely complete as HS2 construction starts. Crossrail has a BCR of 1.87, which is less than that of HSR.

2.2.3  It is very doubtful that equivalent funding could be invested in the existing railway. There is a limit to the amount of work that it can sustain at one time. The cost of HS2 phase one spread across the existing network is equivalent to implementing the WCML upgrade on the WCML and the ECML simultaneously.

2.2.4  HSR may constitute the most cost effective means of increasing capacity in and around major cities.

2.3  What are the implications for domestic aviation?

2.3.1  HSR services between London and Birmingham would have little impact on domestic aviation. Extending HSL to Manchester and Leeds would reduce journey times between London and Scotland sufficiently to encourage some transfer of domestic air travel to rail. It would probably eliminate any remaining air services between London, Manchester and Leeds, except, perhaps, for some interlining.

2.3.2  To achieve a significant modal shift from air to HSR, however, a new HSL over the full distance between London and Scotland is needed, eliminating the current time penalty by rail. In 2009, some 20% of journeys between Edinburgh/Glasgow and London were by rail. If the rail journey time were reduced to less than 3 hours by a new HSL throughout, it is anticipated that around 80% of journeys would be made by rail, saving 4 to 5 million domestic air trips on these routes.

2.3.3  Reducing domestic air travel between HSR-served cities could release capacity for additional domestic flights to cities beyond the reach of HSR (eg Aberdeen and Inverness) and/or international flights. These could bring economic benefits in excess of those already calculated from the construction of a HSR network.

3.  Business case

3.1  How robust are the assumptions and methodology eg passenger forecasts, modal shifts, fares, costs, economic assumptions (eg the value of time) and the impact of lost revenue on the "classic" network?

3.1.1  As noted above, Atkins, Network Rail, and Greengauge 21 separately researched the case for HSR. Each considered a slightly different network, but all produced a case for a north-south spine route linking the major cities between London and Edinburgh/Glasgow.

3.1.2  HS2 Ltd's methodology is based on standard DfT and Treasury models and cannot, therefore, be challenged in isolation.

3.1.3  It has been argued that HS2 Ltd assumed that time on trains is "un-productive" and therefore overestimated the benefits of HSR. In fact HS2 Ltd made no such assumption. Furthermore Greengauge21 reported that counting time on HSR trains as "working-time" marginally increases the overall benefit:cost ratio for HSR (because the productive time gained by passengers transferring from car and air outweighs the working time lost by passengers transferring from classic train services of longer duration). HSR may also create a better working environment than current rail services, affording greater productivity for passengers than other modes.

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?

3.2.1  The recent West Coast Main Line upgrade added significant capacity but this is rapidly being filled as passenger numbers rise; it is likely to be exhausted by 2020. Even if additional capacity was created, this would soon be exhausted too. Consequently, Network Rail concluded that the only realistic long-term solution for travel between London and West Midlands is to provide an additional line.

3.2.2  The WCML upgrade was initially estimated at £2.1 billion; the cost after a decade of disruptive work was £9 billion, with less capability than originally planned. Moreover, the new timetable was developed only by a series of compromises that restricted development of commuter services, cross country and freight.

3.2.3  The recent ECML capacity review indicated that stakeholders' realistic aspirations might be achieved only to the medium term. The new timetable (May 2011) was achieved only after several years work; it is still not optimal.

3.2.4  Proposed improvements on existing routes are not detailed, so cannot be tested, or their feasibility verified. However, an alternative "Rail Package 2a" was set out as the best of a range of alternatives to HS2 examined by the DfT. On completion, RP2a could be followed only by route upgrades with BCRs of 1.11 to 0.85. At which point HS2 would still have to be built.

3.2.5  The "High Speed Rail Strategic Alternatives Study" indicates that the best performing of three scenarios has a BCR of 1.4; considerably less than the HSR network, but still expensive (£13 billion). Another option would cost £24 billion. These proposals produce a second-rate outcome, whilst requiring significant expenditure, and probably need further subsequent expenditure.

3.2.6  It is more effective to remove long distance express services from these routes so they can be optimised for other rail services.

3.2.7  The railway network was developed in the 1800s primarily to serve local markets, not as a national network. Trying to achieve HS objectives by upgrading existing routes would be like building the motorway network by upgrading A roads.

3.2.8  Increasing capacity on existing routes does not deliver additional terminal capacity. As upgrades or new conventional lines would not deliver the passenger numbers of HSR, the business case for expensive new terminal capacity may not be justified.

3.2.9  A new 125mph line could deliver increased capacity but would not reduce journey-times and would therefore be less attractive for longer journeys. Therefore there would be less modal shift from road and air and consequently reduced environmental benefits. Furthermore, it may not remove sufficient long-distance journeys from the existing network to free capacity on it for local journeys and freight.

3.2.10  Proposals for a new conventional (125mph) line are likely to generate the same opposition on the line of route as proposals for a HSR line. A new conventional line therefore appears to be a non-starter.

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

3.3.1  Managing demand by higher fares or by not providing more capacity would encourage passengers to travel by less sustainable modes. Passenger surveys score existing rail services poorly on value for money. The government's policy is to allow fares to increase by RPI +3% (except in Scotland). Furthermore, the relative and absolute cost of public transport has risen over recent decades, whilst the relative cost of car travel has declined. Any national policy aim of encouraging sustainable travel has to contend with this, before confronting any concept of managing demand through price. Furthermore, it is not clear why public transport demand should be managed by price when car travel is not, other than in London and Durham.

3.3.2  There is a role for price in maximising efficient use of the rail network. Differential pricing according to time of travel and speed of journey could assist in maximising train load factors on both the classic and high speed networks.

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  The construction of new rail lines (as opposed to rail upgrades) has a reasonably good track record in terms of time and budget (eg HS1 and the Airdrie-Bathgate project).

4.  The strategic route

4.1  The proposed route to the West Midlands has stations at Euston, Old Oak Common, Birmingham International and Curzon Street. Are these the best possible locations?

4.1.1  Atkins identified that city centre stations are critical to a high-speed network. Non-urban stations on the French TGV network are often very lightly used. Without direct access to city centres, HSR risks replicating the access problems of airports. Nevertheless, "parkway" stations can have a role to play; as well as connecting the HSR network to airports (as at Birmingham International), it is unrealistic to expect all passengers to access HSR by sustainable modes to/from city centre stations.

4.1.2  Curzon Street is adjacent to Moor Street station, thus well-connected to the existing network.

4.1.3  There is an overwhelming connectivity case for a London terminal in the Euston/Kings Cross/St Pancras node.

4.1.4  Given the scale of London, the multiple potential origin/destination points within it, and the benefits of dispersing HS passengers across the Underground, there is a case for two stations in London.

4.2  What criteria should be used to assess the case for more (or fewer) intermediate stations and 4.2 Which cities should be served by an eventual high speed network? Is the proposed Y configuration the right choice?

4.2.1  A High Speed network by definition serves a limited number of strategic locations. TGV network managers admit that their system attempts to serve too many small urban centres. Frequency is important, and dispersing services so that everyone gets a train every four hours is not good use of HSR.

4.2.2  Population size, demand and connectivity should be the primary criteria; they generally coincide. The Government's proposed network is not just about new lines, but services. Within the timescales foreseen in the HS2 proposal, services should include London, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Nevertheless, the Y network should be seen as a work in progress, not a final product.

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

4.3.1  It is not feasible to build a national network in a single effort, and therefore phased construction is necessary. However, it should not preclude early completion of route sections further north. We believe that the government should strongly consider building the network from both ends in light of the high BCR on sections of the line North of Manchester.

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  The timing of the HS2-HS1 link arises largely from construction/technical constraints. Later construction would be practically very difficult, particularly expensive and disruptive.

4.4.2  The Heathrow link should be subsequent to the Manchester and Leeds extensions, as a simple Heathrow link may not be the best option. Connecting at Heathrow to a much wider network south and west of London should be examined, so the objectives of the Heathrow link need to be reframed.

5.  Economic rebalancing and equity

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

5.1.1  A recent study by Oxford Economics[294] showed that the newly designated "Local Enterprise Partnership" areas around the eight Core Cities alone could produce an additional 1 million jobs and £44 billion economic output over the next two years, dependant on a number of growth factors, including infrastructure investment. A full HSR network linking the major cities of the UK would cost up to £69bn and would generate over £125bn of economic benefits. These benefits are derived from improvements in journey times, and crowding, reductions in road congestion, environmental improvements and the economic benefits arising in the release of capacity on the conventional rail network. It also includes the beneficial effect on the productivity of businesses through changes to employment patterns and agglomeration effects.

5.1.2  There are examples of European cities that have not benefited economically from HSR but what these cities have in common is that they took little or no other action after gaining an HS service. Cities which co-ordinated their social, economic and planning policies and activities to capitalise on HSR have benefited.

5.1.3  In Scotland, necessary actions were identified by a study by Halcrow for the Glasgow-Edinburgh Collaboration Initiative. Furthermore, we believe that the social, economic and cultural infrastructure of Central Scotland is such that it has the potential, given the right infrastructure, to unlock greater economic growth.

5.1.4  Greengauge 21 identified a reported upsurge in businesses relocating to Ashford after completion of HS1. The South East England Development Agency expects it to be the fastest growing economy in Kent in 2010-11.

5.1.5  HS2 serves city centres and should, given the right conditions, promotes urban regeneration.

5.1.6  Nations across Europe are investing in HSR, and this is both a threat and an opportunity: it makes other countries a better location for investment, but it offers the prospect of getting multiplier benefits from our own investment by linking to European networks.

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

5.2.1  HSR is about making areas outside south east England accessible and economic development balanced so it is inherently linked to strategic regeneration.

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

5.3.1  In absolute terms, all. However, relatively the Midlands, north of England and Scotland will particularly benefit. A study by KPMG work showed changes in average wages following construction of HSR, comparing a scenario with Greengauge 21's H network with no HSR at all.[295]

6.  Impact

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  See above. The Edinburgh and Glasgow - London flows alone account for a quarter of total UK domestic air traffic.

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

6.2.1  Overall, HS2 has taken a very cautious (pessimistic) approach.

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

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  See above.


Atkins; Because Transport Matters (2008).

Atkins; High Speed Line Study Summary Report (2004).

City of Edinburgh Council: Local Transport Strategy 2007-2012 (March 2007).

Glaeconomics; Reviewing the evidence on carbon emissions from rail and air travel (2010).

GECI/Halcrow; High Speed Rail Wider Economic Benefits Study (2009).

Greengauge 21; Fast Forward: A High Speed Rail Strategy for Britain (2009).

HS2 Ltd/DfT; reports, 2009-2011.

Network Rail; New Lines Report (2009).

Network Rail; West Coast Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy Draft for Consultation (2010).

Network Rail; London and South East Route Utilisation Strategy Draft for Consultation (2010).

Network Rail; East Coast Main Line 2016 Capacity Review (2010).

May 2011

289  Atkins was commissioned to study the feasibility of a north - south HSL. The full network option included Glasgow and Edinburgh Back

290  Network Rail's study was designed to identify how to relieve congestion on the WCML and proposed a high speed line to Glasgow and Edinburgh with spurs to Birmingham, Liverpool, and Manchester Back

291   Proposes the most comprehensive HSR network of the four studies, and a benefit:cost return (BCR) of 3.5:1 . GG21's H shaped network assumes 200mph operation and a London-Scotland journey time of 2hr 40mins Back

292   The UK is less densely populated than Taiwan, South Korea, the Netherlands, India, Belgium, Japan and Vietnam but more densely populated than Germany, Italy, China, Indonesia, Russia, Portugal, France, Turkey, Morocco, Iran, US, Sweden and Saudi Arabia. Back

293   Measured as Gross Value Added using NUTS 2 data Back

294   'Our Cities, Our Future', Core Cities Group 2011 www.corecities.com  Back

295   High Speed Rail: Consequences for employment and economic growth. KPMG for GG21 Back

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Prepared 8 November 2011