High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from the AGAHST (Action Groups Against High Speed Two) Federation, comprising 79 local and national organisations opposing HS2 (HSR 115)

We would like to affirm the detailed work being submitted by HS2 Action Alliance Ltd. HS2AA is the "evidence based" arm of the Federation campaign. We invite and encourage the Committee to receive oral evidence from them and myself on behalf of the Federation. The following are key points drawing on HS2AA's work.

What are the main arguments either for or against HSR?

We have no argument against HSR as such but we believe HS2 represents very poor use of resources. There are better, greener and less risky HSR options that provide the needed capacity and can be implemented much more quickly. Key points are as follows.

1.  Benefits overstated: the £44 billion claimed benefits are overstated by £26 billion because of the erroneous assumption that time is unproductive on trains, the use of inflated business income figures and the comparison with unrealistic alternatives creating artificial crowding benefits.

2.  Demand forecast overstated: the overall long distance domestic travel market is saturated and the drivers for rail growth since 1995 have largely run their course. The PVFH is not intended to provide a long term forecast and the use of v4.1 rather than 5.0 inflates the demand forecast. HS1 is running at one third of forecast demand.

3.  Environmental damage underestimated: 87% of journeys (according to HS2 Ltd) will be new journeys or transfers from lower carbon classic rail; BAA expect to use freed up domestic slots for international use; and the line cuts through an AONB, SSSI, ancient woodlands and some of the most tranquil countryside in Britain. The Green Party and many environmental organisations oppose HS2.

4.  Disruption underestimated: the complete rebuild of Euston will cause chaos for seven to eight years and work will impact the Chiltern Line and Great Western at Old Oak Common.

5.  Technical problems are ignored: the expectation of 18 train paths/hour is not feasible according to the UIC; Greengauge 21 puts the figure at 15 paths/hour. This obviously reduces anticipated benefits.

6.  Better alternatives have been ignored or buried: According to work by former SRA Director Chris Stokes, it is possible to increase standard class capacity on the WCML by 112%, MML by 100% and ECML by 87% before starting on infrastructure projects. This meets the DfT demand forecast until 2043 at a much lower cost and capacity increases can be rolled out in line with demand. The only urgent infrastructure project is grade separation at Ledburn junction, which for £243 million would relieve congestion for Milton Keynes and Northampton commuters far more quickly than HS2. The introduction of in-cab signaling will enable trains to run at 140 mph not 125 mph, a speed similar to many European lines. Significant further capacity can be achieved through work at the six other pinch points identified in RP2, the Government's own alternative, which was buried in the HS2 papers.

7.  Many would be worse off: Many towns will have a less frequent or slower service (eg Coventry, Shewsbury, Wrexham, Stoke-on-Trent) and some would experience a long delay in improvement (Midland Main Line stations). Some on the HS2 route would have less capacity (Manchester) or would not see improved journey times (Newcastle). Promises of improved classic services were not forthcoming following HS1 and would depend of a willingness by the Government to increase subsidies.

8.  Very high cost: compared with lines in Europe and compared to lower speed alternatives.

9.  No evidence of "rebalancing the economy": Most trips will be to London and 73% of the regeneration jobs will be in London.

May 2011

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Prepared 8 November 2011