High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Manchester Airports Group (HSR 68)

1.1  This submission is made by the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) in response to the Transport Select Committee's call for evidence. MAG welcomes the opportunity to respond. This submissions acts as a group-wide MAG response on behalf of MAG's four airports.

1.2  MAG is the second largest UK airport operator and comprises the airports of Manchester, East Midlands, Humberside and Bournemouth. 24 million passengers travelled through MAG airports in 2009-10 (across all four airports) and the Group handled 409,000 tonnes of air freight. MAG generates around £3.2 billion for the UK economy and supports over 130,000 jobs nationwide.

1.3  MAG firmly supports proposals for HS2. We believe that if HS2 is to really deliver for the UK economy, and achieve its core objectives, then it must continue beyond the West Midlands. Indeed we believe that the economic case for HS2 is most persuasive when the high speed network serves Manchester.

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

2.1  We believe that HS2 has a vital role to play in the economic regeneration of the UK regions outside the South East, and will greatly assist the Government's commitment to rebalancing the UK economy.

2.2  The North West has the largest economy, the highest value of manufacturing output and the greatest population of any region outside of London. With the current transport links to the capital (M6, M1, West Coast Main Line) already stretched (and the West Coast Main Line expected to be at full capacity by 2025), it is essential that the North West improve its connectivity to the South East and beyond.

2.3  We endorse the research by the Northern Way which concluded that benefits to the economy will be significantly greater than the Government's initial £44 billion estimate (Northern Way, March 2011). The Northern Way also argue that High Speed Rail will accelerate the North's economic growth and help rebalance the economy North South.

2.4  The potential agglomeration benefits (the increase in productivity due to improved connectivity) are worth in excess of £6 billion. Northern Way's research indicates that, proportionally, the North will receive a greater agglomeration uplift than London and the South East.

2.5  The economic case is further endorsed by the North West Business Leadership Team's analysis which argues that HS2 is essential for promoting investment and employment in the North of England. Reduced journey times, more capacity and more frequent services will benefit residents and businesses across the Midlands and the North.

Question 2: How does HSR fit with the Government's transport policy objectives

3.1  HSR is crucial not just to transport, but, more importantly, wider economic policy; particularly the Government's broader ambition of rebalancing the UK economy. Strategic transport networks and gateways are a basic building block for regional growth. We believe that HSR has a vital role to play in connecting major conurbations, gateways and London.

3.2  Linking Manchester Airport to High Speed Rail boosts the attractiveness of the recently declared Manchester Airport Enterprise Zone as a major new business destination. This proposal is critically dependant on capitalising on high quality regional, national and international transport links. Given the Government's commitment to putting Enterprise Zones at the heart of its economic strategy for UK cities, it makes sense to ensure that the Zone is properly linked with the wider transport network.

3.3  In line with the Government's aspiration of constraining the South East airports and encouraging other UK airports to take the strain, HS2 would offer greater and more efficient access to Manchester Airport. It would allow the airport's catchment area to extend, thus attracting more passengers and so helping make viable additional direct air routes and increased frequencies that business in the region needs, whilst making the airport a more attractive proposition for airlines, since journey times would be reduced.

2(a)  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?

3.4  MAG has no comment to make on this specific issue.

2(b)  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?

3.5  The committee will be familiar with the "Northern Hub" proposals to address the bottle-necks in the rail network, especially around Manchester. Our view is that both the Northern Hub and HS2 are needed, and that the Northern Hub proposals should be progressed as a matter of urgency - within the next five years. It is no good having high speed connections in and out of major cities, if travellers are then faced with a congested and inefficient network at the local level. Onward connections and integration with the rest of the transport system is a prerequisite for HS2 delivering benefits across the North.

2(c)  What are the implications for domestic aviation?

3.6  HS2 should be seen as complementary to domestic aviation, not a replacement for it. Both are needed.

3.7  HS2 does have the potential to reduce the need for flights from Manchester to Heathrow, in that it helps facilitate more direct services from Manchester. As mentioned above, if HS2 shortens journey times for a greater number of passengers, it effectively gives Manchester a wider catchment to serve, and with it the potential to enhance the range and number of direct flights. This in turn would help avoid the leakage to London of passengers who cannot yet get direct flights from their local airport. Anything that can help "thicken" our thinnest routes and encourage new ones should therefore reduce the need for passengers to fly to/out of London.

3.8  However, it should be remembered that most travellers flying from Manchester to Heathrow (75% in 2009) are doing so to catch a connecting flight. Since connecting to LHR is likely to involve at least one change, HS2 will remain an unattractive option for connecting passengers.

3.9  In addition, HS2 will only really compete with flights on services between London and Manchester or Newcastle, and even on these routes passengers will want the benefit of choice in their mode of transport. HS2 will not remove the need for domestic air links to and from cities such as Belfast or Aberdeen.

Question 3: Business case

3(a)  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?

4.1  We have no reason to disagree with the case put forward by HS2.

3(b)  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?

4.2  We agree that there would be harmful impacts that would result from another period of sustained disruption caused by upgrading the existing heavily used West Coast Main Line.

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

4.3  We do not support further prices rises which increase costs for passengers and business if this is motivated by a desire to suppress increased demand.

3(d)  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?

4.4  MAG would draw the committee's attention to the recent David Ross report, High Speed Rail, How to Get Started (February 2010). As David Ross reports, major public infrastructure projects are generally plagued by overly long processes, lack of clear direction, poor project management, rethinks and reviews, which add risk and uncertainty and greatly inflate costs. Typical characteristics of the current process are over specification, over elaborate design, risk aversion, over complex front end processes, and front end costs which appear much higher than they should be.

4.5  Ross also argued that In addition to the issues raised above, the first phase line should be kept as simple as possible (more stops means a slower service and greater complexity), linking Old Oak Common on the Crossrail route with Birmingham and Manchester Airports. Following these recommendations could see HS2 delivered for around £6 billion instead of £20 billion. We strongly support both his analysis and recommendations.

Question 4: The strategic route

4(a)  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?

5.1  As mentioned above, MAG believes that the most compelling case for high speed rail is the London-Manchester link, and that HS2 should go at least as far as Manchester. We suggest that the first priority should be to construct the route from Old Oak Common to an out of centre Manchester station, with an intermediate stop. That will be the cheapest per mile; most cost effective, easiest and quickest to construct and allow for early realisation of benefits. The more complex, expensive, disruptive sections into the heart of city centres should then follow in line with their own individual business cases. This is similar to the way that the UK's motorway network was first developed.

4(b)  Which cities should be served by an eventual high speed network? Is the proposed Y configuration the right choice?

5.2   MAG is comfortable with the cities and configuration proposed.

4(c)  Is the Government correct to build the network in stages, moving from London northwards?

5.3  MAG would ideally like to see HS2 extended as far as Manchester in the first Phase. We believe that priority should be given to the Old Oak Common to Manchester Airport link in the first phase, as this is where the line adds most value most quickly. Penetrating city centres should be a lower priority (Phase 2), and should proceed at a later date and as and when the business case supports it.

4(d)  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?

5.4  We believe that the Heathrow spur of HS2 presents considerable physical and economic challenges, and we are not fully persuaded of the need for it. Our understanding is that passengers will still need to change at the new Heathrow terminus HS2 station onto the Heathrow Express to then connect to their respective one of five terminals (as through running HS2 trains are not considered viable). If this is the case, then we would suggest the same single change can be achieved at the Old Oak Common interchange, linked to the existing Heathrow Express, which already serves all five terminals.

Question 5: Economic rebalancing and equity

5(a)  What evidence is there that HSR will promote economic regeneration and help bridge the north-south economic divide?

5(b)  To what extent should the shape of the network be influenced by the desirability of supporting local and regional regeneration?

6.1  See responses to Questions 1 and 2 above.

5(c)  Which locations and socio-economic groups will benefit from HSR?

6.2  This will be dependant on pricing to an extent, but all groups should benefit from the expected regeneration.

5(d)  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?

6.3  We believe that the Government should certainly seek support from the TEN-T programme.

Question 6: Impact

6(a)  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?

7.1  We have not done any modelling on the likely impact of HSR on carbon emissions, but would make the point that, as argued above, HSR could help Manchester Airport attract and maintain direct long haul services. Direct flights are a more carbon efficient means of reaching long haul destinations than hubbing, since they involve fewer landing and take-off cycles.

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

7.2  MAG has no comment to make on this specific issue.

6(c)  What would be the impact on freight services on the "classic" network?

7.3  We believe it should help in capacity terms, but otherwise MAG has no comment to make on this specific issue.

6(d)  How much disruption will there be to services on the "classic" network during construction, particularly during the rebuilding of Euston?

7.4  MAG has no comment to make on this specific issue.

May 2011

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Prepared 8 November 2011