High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Leeds City Region (HSR 127)

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

There are a number of arguments for HSR. These are:


There is a strong economic case for enhancing the capacity and performance of the north-south intercity network. The benefits are particularly important in re-balancing the economy.

The Government's own analysis shows that HSR would deliver economic benefits worth £44 billion over 60 years. These benefits are conservative. Work undertaken by Northern Way[90] has demonstrated around £6 billion worth of agglomeration benefits. Work undertaken by Leeds and Sheffield city regions[91] shows over £2 billion worth of wider economic benefits to the two city regions alone.

The development of a high speed rail network in the UK with significantly quicker journey times will also help to address the challenges of global competitiveness of the UK. Other countries are developing high speed rail networks. HSR will support transformational economic change across the UK and in particular the north of England. This will help to achieve the Governments objective of rebalancing the economy. These transformational benefits have not been quantified in the DfT's appraisal which means the published benefits are conservative. Furthermore, the experience of European and other countries in the development of HSR networks suggests that there are significant transformational benefits to regional economies (see Lille in France as a good example).

There is also the issue of global competitiveness of the UK. Other countries are developing high speed rail networks as the solution to meet the lower carbon mobility needs of their modern economies. The UK risks being left behind if it decides not to go down this path.

Providing additional rail capacity

Evidence[92] shows that the classic network will run out of capacity within the next 10 years which will limit the potential for economic growth. The development of a high speed rail network not only addresses the capacity problem on existing classic rail networks, but through the reduced journey times allowed by high speed rail, enables transformational economic change and benefit to the UK and in particular the north of England.

The "freeing-up" of capacity on the classic rail network will provide capacity to provide new and better inter urban services on the East Coast, Midland and West Coast Main Lines to centres not served by HSR as well as being able to accommodate additional freight movements by rail.

Lower carbon mobility

The evidence suggests that demand for mobility will continue to rise over the next decades.[93] Should this demand be met by provision of additional capacity on the road network, carbon emissions and other harmful environmental impacts are likely to increase, congestion will worsen and quality of life for a large number of areas will worsen. If the UK is to meet its carbon reduction targets but at the same time enable economic prosperity and growth, then a solution to meet future demands for mobility is needed. HSR offers a solution to both of these challenges.

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

—  The government's high level transport objectives relate to economic growth, rebalancing the economy and carbon reduction - HSR fits with both of these high level objectives, albeit over the long term.

—  The Local Transport White Paper envisages more sustainable local transport - the link between high level/ national projects such as HSR and local transport is not yet well-made.

—  Investment will be needed in existing main railway lines to enable new and improved services between important centres not served by HSR, and to facilitate in rail freight traffic.

—  HSR stations will have significant impacts on local transport networks and there needs to be an effective policy framework to make the link. Investment in city region transport systems will be crucial in order to ensure a high level of accessibility to HSR, and to distribute the benefits as widely as possible.

—  The National Policy Statement on transport networks has yet to be published - this is now urgently required.

2.1  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?

Inter-urban connectivity is extremely important to modern city region economies. Bringing labour markets and economic centres closer together has been shown to deliver significant economic benefits[94] through agglomeration. Indeed, the Leeds City Region Transport Strategy[95] emphasises the importance of improved connectivity to other city regions, including London, Birmingham, the East Midlands, Sheffield and to Manchester.

This does not however negate the importance of other transport policy objectives and spending programmes such as within city regions. Lower carbon connectivity within city regions is also extremely important from an economic, quality of life and carbon reduction perspective.

Evidence from city region studies shows that typically 70-80% of all journeys are within city regions. Therefore, more effective integrated city region transport networks and systems will support agglomeration and economic growth, and contribute towards the Government's low carbon agenda.

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?

HSR is a national, strategic, economic intervention that is critical to a sustainable competitive economic future of the UK economy. It will help close the north-south economic divide and rebalance the economy. It should be therefore be funded with this in mind and not be at the expense of the current rail spending on services and infrastructure enhancements on the classic network such as on the East Coast mainline, Transpennine and other City Region rail networks which are desperately needed in the interim/short term.

2.3  What are the implications for domestic aviation?

The Leeds City Region has already lost direct air links to London Heathrow and also recently to London Gatwick. Whilst total numbers on these routes were relatively small in comparison to inter-city rail travel to/from Leeds City Region, the Heathrow route in particular was important as an inter-lining hub for long haul business and leisure travel. As a result, Amsterdam Schiphol is now the City Region's inter-lining hub, effectively transferring domestic aviation to international aviation for inter-lining from Leeds City Region. A fast high speed rail link from the City Region to London Heathrow would enable "inter-lining" again via Heathrow, however this time via a lower carbon mode.

3.  Business case

3.1  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?

As previously mentioned, the economic benefits are likely to be understated as the transformational benefit that HSR would bring to the North's city region economies has not been fully accounted for using existing appraisal methodology. Evidence from our own economic analysis has been accepted previously by HS2 Limited and used in making the case for investment in a "Y" shaped network.

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?

The experience of the West Coast Route Modernisation programme shows that in addition to the huge disruption to passengers of upgrading existing lines and the resulting negative impact on revenue, the cost of upgrading existing lines to similar standards would be hugely expensive. In addition, it has provided a medium / long term solution and the West Coast Main Line is predicted to be at capacity again in less than 15 years.

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

Managing demand through pricing for longer distance rail travel will have a negative impact on the economy through discouraging economic activity and business, the environment through an increase in carbon and other harmful emissions due to increased demand for motorway travel and domestic aviation, and quality of life through increased congestion, noise, and additional land take for extra road space. Whilst pricing clearly has a role for spreading demand for rail to encourage better utilisation of capacity, any choking off of inter-city rail demand by pricing would be a retrograde step for the Leeds City Region economy, and the Government's efforts to rebalance the economy.

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?

No comment.

4.  The strategic route

4.1  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?

No comment.

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

—  There is a need for the development of a national HSR network that connects the major cities together.

—  The Y network represents a good starting point, but further connections are required to the Tees Valley, Tyne and Wear and Scotland. There is also a need to ensure that the proposed Y shape has sufficient capacity to ensure that future demand from all parts of the country can be accommodated to facilitate not only inter-city links, but also connectivity to Heathrow and also HS1 to mainland Europe.

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

—  Whilst it is inevitable that a national high speed rail network will need to be delivered in phases, it is important that the full network is delivered at the earliest possible timescale. Legislation for the Leeds and Manchester legs should be brought forward at the earliest possible opportunity. There should be a firm commitment to the whole of the network - either through provision in the Hybrid Bill or through the National Policy Statement on transport networks. A clear plan for delivery with an indicative programme will give confidence on wider investment decisions in the economy, and enable alignment with other strategic policies.

—  It is particularly important that both legs of the "Y" to Manchester and Leeds are delivered in parallel to avoid any economic imbalances. The eastern part of the proposed national high speed rail network will deliver greater economic benefits than the western part. Previous work undertaken by HS2 Ltd has estimated that the eastern route between Birmingham and Leeds has a higher BCR (5.6:1) compared with the western route between Birmingham and Manchester (2.6:1). The Eastern route would deliver greater wider economic impacts than the western route, with those being £2.5 billion and £2.1 billion respectively.

—  Given that the benefits of HSR are about rebalancing the economy and that there are huge wider economic benefits to be had by bringing northern cities closer to other city regions and London, there is a strong argument for beginning construction of HSR simultaneously in London and the north. Critically, the Government should include in its plans for the first phase of HS2, a connection from HS2 to the Midland Main Line (which itself should be electrified). This would allow cities along the eastern leg to benefit from the initial phase of HS2 and would begin to help further those economic linkages that are vitally important to the Leeds City Region economy.

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?

Given what has already been said about the importance of inter-lining at the Heathrow hub to the Leeds City Region economy, it would be preferable to have a direct link to Heathrow from Leeds City Region via an electrified Midland Main Line and HS2 as part of the first phase,

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?

This has largely been covered in previous sections through the citing of evidence based work produced by The Northern Way and Leeds and Sheffield City Regions on the economic case for HSR and the importance to northern city region economies.

The Leeds City Region has, jointly with a number of other City Regions along the proposed eastern alignment of the Y, commissioned further work to strengthen the evidence base that supports the case for high speed rail along the eastern alignment. This work will be published shortly, however it confirms the significant economic benefits to the eastern city regions due to HSR, as well as to Birmingham and London.

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

Investment in city region transport networks and systems will be vital to ensure a high level of accessibility to HSR, and to distribute the benefits as widely as possible. More effective integrated city region transport systems will support agglomeration and economic growth, and contribute towards the Government's low carbon agenda.

The shape of the network needs to help deliver objectives around promoting economic growth, helping to reduce carbon emissions and improving quality of life, from a national strategic perspective. Governments have long sought to close the economic divide between the north and south of England, and despite some progress, have so far not succeeded. HSR provides a huge opportunity to do this and so the proposed Y shape is considered critical by the Leeds City Region.

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

—  City centre locations and associated business and employment near to HSR stations will be the primary beneficiaries, though there are also other beneficiaries such as leisure travellers. Evidence[96] produced for the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions suggests that the sector to benefit most from HSR in the Leeds City Region is that of "Producer Services" i.e. business and financial services. This is to be expected given the importance of this sector to the Leeds City Region economy.

—  The benefits of HSR can be extended by improving connectivity into city centres by investing in local transport to maximise the potential of HSR.

5.4  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?

No comment.

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?

Two of the Government's main policy objectives are economic growth and carbon reduction. One way of supporting economic growth is bringing people, businesses and economic centres closer together through faster and improved transport connectivity. However, if this is done by increasing inter-city road travel or domestic aviation, then future carbon emissions will not be minimised. High speed rail offers a solution to help to achieve both of these objectives.

It should also be noted that by freeing up the existing classic rail network up to other traffic such as freight, carbon emission reduction from other economic activities is also enabled.

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

No comment.

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

Additional rail capacity should be freed up on the East Coast, Midland and West Coast Main Lines for freight. This would be extremely positive for the Leeds City Region in terms of the future role of logistics in its economy. Rail freight distribution centres in the City Region are situated at Wakefield Europort and Stourton in Leeds. Network Rail's Strategic Freight Network programme will mean that the rail network to these freight centres will soon be gauge enhanced. Improved rail capacity on the national rail lines connected to these freight centres by the development of HSR will further facilitate growth in rail freight to/from the City Region freight centres which will help support and create logistics jobs in Leeds City Region, on the back of lower carbon transport activity.

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

No comment.

May 2011

90   http://northernwaytransportcompact.com/North_South_Connectivity.html Back

91   http://www.wymetro.com/NR/rdonlyres/47DE8EB2-132A-4BBF-8AA4-F0FE4B3D6E9C/0/EconomicCase_HighSpeedRail2.pdf Back

92   www.networkrail.co.uk Back

93   Tight, MR;Bristow, AL;Pridmore, AM;May, AD What is a sustainable level of CO2 emissions from transport activity in the UK in 2050? Transport Policy, 3, 12, 235-244, 2005 Back

94   http://northernwaytransportcompact.com/Transport_the_Economy.html Back

95   http://www.leedscityregion.gov.uk/content.aspx?id=230 Back

96   http://www.wymetro.com/NR/rdonlyres/47DE8EB2-132A-4BBF-8AA4-F0FE4B3D6E9C/0/EconomicCase_HighSpeedRail2.pdf Back

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Prepared 8 November 2011