High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK (HSR 100)


The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK ("the Institute") is a professional institution embracing all transport modes whose members are engaged in the provision of transport services for both passengers and freight, the management of logistics and the supply chain, transport planning, government and administration. We have no political affiliations and do not support any particular vested interests. Our principal concerns are that transport policies and procedures should be effective and efficient and based, as far as possible, on objective analysis of the issues and practical experience and that good practice should be widely disseminated and adopted.

The Institute has a specialist Strategic Rail Forum, a nationwide structure of locally based groups and a Public Policies Committee which considers the broad canvass of transport policy. This submission draws on contributions from all these sources.

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

1.1  The capacity of the rail network needs to expand to meet growing demand for travel. High Speed Rail (HSR) is the most economically efficient means of expanding rail capacity. Major investment in developing the capacity of existing lines is both expensive and disruptive, as experience with the West Coast Route Modernisation showed.

1.2  HSR will enhance accessibility, contributing to the cohesion of Britain and thus reducing the "north/south divide". Many current rail journey times are slow and compare poorly with road. With the proposed "Y" shaped HS2 network, Leeds and Manchester to Birmingham journey times would be virtually halved, greatly improving the connectivity of these cities, both to London and between themselves.

1.3  This would also improve the classic network's ability to cope with other traffic, which is especially important for the large intermediate towns or cities (near HS2 between London and Birmingham) such as Milton Keynes and Coventry. These may otherwise be faced with increasingly limited access to long distance trains, due to such services being full before these cities are reached.

1.4  HSR helps address the under-appreciated challenges associated with population growth, ageing and distribution, and an increasing propensity to travel.

1.5  The arguments against HSR centre on affordability, the possible reduction of funds to support the classic network, alternative means of expanding capacity by more modest multiple investments, and what might more loosely be called "environmental concerns".

1.6  The last of these can be mitigated by careful routeing of HSR away from sensitive areas and sound protection measures such as noise barriers. Environmental impacts should be seen on a "net" basis, taking account of reductions in effects associated with road and air traffic movements.

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

2.1  HSR represents a major infrastructure enhancement which will contribute to achieving Government's sustainability and carbon reduction objectives. It will relieve congestion on the strategic road network, reduce pressure on London's congested airports and by reducing pressure on the classic rail network enable it to meets the challenges of commuter and regional demand more effectively.

2.2  As a means of connecting different regions and urban areas, HSR may be seen as an enabler for economic development, by reducing journey times and providing the necessary capacity. Faster journeys by HSR also mean greater productivity for the transport providers. In broad terms, halving the journey time allows the same number of trains and staff to provide twice as much service.

2.3  A degree of ring fencing between an HSR network and the classic network could be introduced, as it was on London Underground with the construction of the Jubilee Line extension in the 1990s.

2.4  The problems of urban/suburban networks on the classic railway will be affected only marginally by HSR and the continued relevance and need for investment there will remain. Similarly, freight will continue to depend on the classic network, where all the freight terminals are located.

2.5  Contrary perhaps to popular belief, the British internal market for aviation is not strong, due to railway developments in both speed and frequencies in recent years. It does however have niche domestic markets, and these include services where water crossings are involved, such as the Scottish islands, Ireland/Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. What remains of the main trunk routes serves markets close to airports, such as the Thames Valley from Heathrow or Canary Wharf from London City, or passengers interlining at Heathrow for longer distance flights.

2.6  There is thus little scope for further reductions in domestic aviation. It is relevant to note that airport operators and some airlines are fully supportive of HS2, because they feel that it would enhance connectivity to air services.

3.  Business case

3.1  The approach adopted in the preparation of demand forecasts and in the appraisal of benefits is robust. An appropriate methodology has been adopted and the assumptions and appraisal methodology have been subject to peer review.

3.2  The classic railway system has done very well to accommodate around 40% growth on a more or less fixed network over recent years, but there are practical limits as to what more can be achieved. Gradients and especially track curvature limit future expansion, whilst the four tracking of double track lines (for instance) imposes both land take and the adoption of the standards used by the original railway builders.

3.3  HSR has a strong international precedent demonstrating business benefits. For instance French Railways built their first high speed line as the most economic way of enhancing capacity between Paris and Lyon.

3.4  The building of a new classic railway may be suitable for urban areas, but would be a missed opportunity for an intercity type operation. It might possibly be cheaper, but the benefits would also be much less. There is no reason to conclude that it would avoid environmental problems. It could not provide the same capacity gains as HSR without a fundamentally different approach.

3.5  Any new railway infrastructure designed to link the core cities of Britain and raise the standards of connectivity needs to be built to high speed standards. Such standards also need to be those adopted internationally, if the future holds large scale increases in the demand for such travel.

3.6  Pricing on the existing network is clearly an important issue, and there are precedents for controlling demand by above inflation price increases. But such an approach ignores Government objectives of facilitating travel and social and economic regeneration. Managing strategic demand growth through pricing action will tend to reduce mobility and stifle economic growth to the detriment of the economic and social wellbeing of the nation.

3.7  A related and perennial issue for transport is capturing wider economic benefits, such as increases in time saved by users or in land values, none of which shows in the operators' accounts.

3.8  Transport projects can and have been delivered to time and budget. Evidence from HS1 and other major transport projects suggest that the key requirements are a clear project plan, a funding plan, strong project management and good stakeholder communications.

4.  The strategic route

4.1  CILT agrees with HS2 Ltd's choice of stations, both the number and locations. Euston requires improvements in access to the Underground and the capacity of the Underground lines serving it, but its superiority to any other reasonably available site is also apparent.

4.2  The Old Oak Common site for a Crossrail interchange, with its own access to Central London, is well conceived and potentially very useful. That extends to connections with services operated on the Great Western main line, which could offer substantial benefits to travellers to South West England and South Wales.

4.3  The proposed route of HS2 is commendably direct. It does not pass near any major towns, and any case for additional stations is correspondingly weak. HS2 Ltd seem to have taken much care in minimising the undesirable effects on the communities through which HS2 is likely to pass and it is not possible to undertake such major transport infrastructure projects without some effects on third parties. Existing trunk rail routes, even when they include major structures such as Welwyn Viaduct, Hertfordshire, and the Royal Border Bridge, Berwick, do not seem to have had a seriously adverse effect on nearby local areas.

4.4  The Y network concept should be supported, albeit as perhaps an intermediate development stage. Success is likely to result in popular pressure to extend the network to Newcastle and Edinburgh, and then to Glasgow, so later extensions to these cities are a distinct possibility. Comprehensive plans for a national High Speed network are desirable and passive provision for later construction should be made, where and when sensible.

4.5  There are two reasons why construction should begin at the London end of the route. Firstly, there are the practical matters of rolling stock and infrastructure maintenance depots, for both of which suitable sites have been identified. Secondly, working north from London would maximise early fares revenues.

4.6  The connection to HS1 is desirable and the option identified is probably the best that can be achieved physically. As matters stand, it will however have to rely solely on revenues from international passengers from Birmingham and those who join at Old Oak Common. (It is assumed that passengers from Stratford, Ebbsfleet and Ashford will have alternative provision). The additional ability to carry wholly domestic passengers on these trains would have a substantial beneficial effect on service viability. This is a matter which needs to be resolved by the Borders Agency as a matter of urgency.

4.7  The proposals to interchange with Heathrow services at Old Oak Common are appropriate for Stage 1. Filling 1,100 seat trains, which have a modest service frequency from the West Midlands, direct to Heathrow, is a substantial challenge. It is not going to happen quickly, and probably needs the stimulus of the services from Manchester and Leeds under Stage 2 to make it a viable proposition.

5.  Economic rebalancing and equity

5.1  On its own, HSR cannot provide economic regeneration, but it can make a major contribution. London Docklands provides a useful precedent. The area could not have been revitalised without large rail transport investments, but it did need the input of entrepreneurial bodies. Development had to be underpinned by local authorities providing planning permission, and the judicial investment of public money.

5.2  HSR is however more about regional benefits, particularly those to business. Effective distances are shrunk and the disadvantages of the time taken in having to travel 100-250 miles are much reduced. The cities in the North/North West and the Midlands become that much more accessible, between each other as well as with London and the near continent.

5.3  Care though has to be taken that the High Speed railway does indeed remain as such, so stops are necessarily limited. Benefits for those places which are not served directly may be secured by good quality connectional arrangements, but the freeing up of the classic network will in itself allow substantial improvements to be made.

5.4  Planning for HSR should be in terms of the network which might exist in perhaps 50 years time. It is important that all interested parties; the cities and regions, industrialists, economic and social planners, the transport industry, rail passengers and freight users and the general public, should know what is intended and be able to plan ahead accordingly.

5.5  Funding should be sought from a wide variety of sources including local authorities and potentially businesses. The EU's TEN-T programme should also be regarded as an appropriate source of funding. In this context, the connection to HS1 and hence the rest of the European High Speed Network will be an important factor.

6.  Impact

6.1  Rail is the most environmentally friendly transport system and remains the only proven and demonstrably effective way of using electricity as a source of propulsion in long-distance transport.

6.2  The environmental costs and benefits are properly accounted for in the business case. However, the local environmental impacts, notably noise and visual intrusion, will need to be assessed in detail to ensure that the final design minimises the environmental impact of HSR.

6.3  Freight would remain a classic network customer, and would be able to benefit from the additional train paths being made available. The need for operational flexibility is a characteristic of the freight business, where some traffic flows can change quickly, so the freeing up of capacity would provide opportunities to serve this market better. This additional capacity would be shared by other passenger services, whether long distance, regional or local, its apportionment between these interests subject to regulation.

6.4  The service disruption challenge from Euston reconstruction is significant but preplanning can mitigate the impact considerably, as has been shown with the successful regeneration of St. Pancras station.

7.  Conclusion

7.1  CILT(UK) understands the planning, construction and funding challenges of HSR but is fully supportive of this vital project being progressed.

May 2011

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011