High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Further written evidence from HS2 Ltd (HSR 169B)

At the Select Committee Hearing on 13 September, we offered to check certain facts. You also followed up on some points of detail. This letter provides additional information on the following issues:

—  spoil volume and disposal arrangements;

—  land take (corridor width, area, and value);

—  "18 trains per hour" external reviews;

—  long distance rail demand;

—  the impact of fares on the business case; and

—  external challenge.


The Committee asked about the volume of spoil HS2 might generate during the construction of the London to West Midlands leg of the route, should the government decide to proceed with the project and for more information on the arrangements for disposal of spoil.

The volume information is contained in an erratum issued on the HS2 Ltd website, recognising an error in the figure quoted in the HS2 Ltd Appraisal of Sustainability (p 121, 8.18.1). The corrected version reads: "An estimated total of 2.9 million cubic metres of spoil would potentially be generated by tunnelling. This assumes that a balance is otherwise achieved on surface sections between cuttings and embankments".

Please note that at this early stage of route design any estimates of spoil can be no more than an indication of the likely imbalance between cut and fill (ie the amount of spoil retained for landscaping and other construction) and the amount of spoil that will need to be removed from the route—called "offline spoil". The current route proposals include assumptions at this stage that would need to be better defined and detailed to allow any precise calculation of spoil. For example, we currently assume that cutting slopes would need to be angled at 30 degrees. In practice, cuttings in chalk based soils are likely to be far steeper and reduce spoil volume.

The figures presented in the Appraisal of Sustainability (AoS) are thus indicative of potential figures for "offline spoil" created by tunnelling. They have not been material to any of our decisions, taken to date, on proposed routes or of the balance between tunnel, cutting and surface running.  

If the Government decides to proceed with HS2 then we would use local assessments to provide an accurate determination of spoil balance. These would consider on-line spoil requirements for the construction of earthworks, noise bunding, accompanying road bridges and landscaping along the route and would look in detail at how online spoil surplus might be transported and to what use it might be put.

A standard approach to this type of construction is the use of a haul road along the railway trace. This is designed to minimise the need for licences to use local roads and to avoid local impacts to communities. Spoil can be moved along and away from the construction trace using a range of methods. The construction of HS1 in Kent involved the movement of spoil via rail and barge haulage. Proposals for dealing with all spoil within the rail construction would be done in close liaison with the local authorities and statutory environmental bodies and would become an important element of the Code of Construction Practice to which HS2 would be expected to adhere if the route is progressed.

In designing a route for high speed rail we would aim to limit the creation of spoil and to limit the amount of spoil that would need to be taken offline. It is, however, important to balance the negative impacts of spoil created from tunnelling and cuttings against the benefits that these structures would bring to communities, landscape and environment by reducing the visual and noise impacts of the line.


For the corridor width, in our original 2009 work, we used the assumption as shown in HS2's Technical Appendix December 2009 (para 4.1):

"The project shall assume an allowance of 25m of no vegetation on each side of the route, resulting in a total footprint for a two-track line of route of 75m width and 110m width for a four track railway."

During 2010, however, after further discussion with stakeholders, we recognised that a standard route-wide assumption was not appropriate. Vegetation management would reflect the types of vegetation and the positioning relative to the railway line. As a result it would need to be considered very much on a case-by-case basis at the local level.

Accordingly, in September 2010, we formally dropped the "25m each side" assumption on vegetation, replacing it with: "The project shall undertake an assessment of vegetation along the perimeter of the proposed line of route in conjunction with third parties to assess the impact of 'leaf fall' on the proposed operation of the railway and to determine the extent of any additional land clearances or permanent easements that may be required."

This updated requirement was reflected in the series of technical seminars undertaken in October 2010 with key stakeholders. The presentation is available at http://www.hs2.org.uk/publications/HS2-Ltd-Technical-Seminars-61736 Infrastructure and Technical Presentation).

The requirement is also reflected in the 2011 consultation material, which refers both to vegetation management and to the 22m standard width of a line running at surface level which Professor McNaughton referred to during the hearing. This is set out in our HS2 Railway Cross-Section factsheet at:


A figure for the total area of land take that would be required should the project go ahead has not been calculated at this stage of the project.

In order to carry out such a calculation, a wide number of assumptions would be required which could lead to an over- or under-representation of the final route figure which could be potentially misleading. For example, assumptions would include local road diversions, mitigation such as landscaped earth sidings, retained cuttings, etc. It should also be borne in mind that the final route is not yet settled.

If the Government chooses to proceed with the proposals for HS2, then a detailed assessment of land take requirements would form a necessary part of the preparation of hybrid Bill documentation that would be put before Parliament. The assessment of the environmental impacts of land take would include a further round of stakeholder consultation before the Blll is deposited.


A figure for value of land that would need to be taken for the London to West Midlands leg of the recommended route is given in the HS2 Ltd 2009 report, High Speed Rail, London to the West Midlands and Beyond and in table 7 of the HS2 Ltd Economic Case. The figure cited is £930 million and represents the estimated land cost - including costs for dwellings and businesses. It excludes additional risk provision which is included elsewhere in our costings.

The figure was estimated for HS2 Ltd by consultants CBRE. Their methodology was based on estimates of numbers of properties and land values within an assumed distance corridor, rather than on land area.


In addition to the original review by the HS2 Technical Challenge Panel in 2009, the following reviews of the maximum potential operational capacity of the HS2 scheme as currently specified have been commissioned and are either complete or due for final completion by the end of September and thereafter available for publication:

1.  Review of HS2 Ltd technical assumptions and calculations of capacity by Professor Roderick Smith FREng, President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Research Professor of Future Rail Research, Imperial College, London. Status: complete.

2.  Review of HS2 Ltd technical assumptions and calculations of capacity by Andrew Simmons CEng FIET FIRSE, Director, Future Train and Operational Control Systems, formerly Professional Head of Signalling, Network Rail; UK lead expert on ETCS development and implementation. Status: complete.

3.  Independent calculation of HS2 capacity and signalling headway for development of junction and station design by Dr Jeremy Palmer CEng MIET FIRSE, Global Leader, Train Control, Arup Ltd. Status: draft report received.

4.  Independent calculation of HS2 capacity and signalling headway by Bombardier Transportation Ltd led by Roderick Muttram FREng FIET FIRSE, Principal Technical Specialist, Rail Control Solutions. Status: draft report received.

5.  Independent calculation of HS2 capacity and reliability as an element of an HS2 Ltd commission to undertake develop of the HS2 system-wide Operational Concept by Systra S.A. Status: draft report received.

Each report or draft report supports in principle the HS2 Ltd calculation that at least 18 train paths per hour can be achieved on the London to West Midlands HS2 route using the currently specified system design and technology.

Review 1 added supplementary comment and advice based on the author's expert knowledge of the Japanese high speed rail system, especially in respect of the adequacy of station size and passenger movement design.

Review 2 included advice on system design solutions for reliable operation and handling of temporary or emergency speed restrictions whilst maintaining capacity.

Report 3 discusses signalling headway in the context of system design to maintain capacity slowing for, stopping and accelerating away from stations and junctions.

Report 5 discusses signalling headway within the wider context of normal and degraded mode operation in order to highlight critical areas for design attention should the HS2 project proceed into a development phase.


I can confirm that our assumption for the underlying average growth in long distance rail demand is around 2% per annum up to 2043, as quoted during the hearing [Q464]. The figure is also cited in our response to question 1 of the supplementary written questions put to us by the Committee.

I understand that the Committee may have received higher figures from other sources. The reason for the disparity in numbers may arise from the fact that HS2 Ltd's figure is for the underlying growth of long distance rail travel in GB without HS2—the business case "input". If one were to calculate the growth in long distance travel once HS2 has been built—the business case "output"—then one would obtain a higher figure. Different figures may also arise from considering growth on specific routes or corridors rather than a GB average.


The Committee was also interested in the effects of fares on the business case for HS2.

In assessing the business case we have assumed that average fares on HS2 would be the same as those on conventional rail services; implicitly we are also assuming a similar fares structure. We have carried out sensitivity tests with different assumptions about the rate of growth of average fares, keeping fares on HS2 and conventional services the same. The results of these tests are described in the supplementary material we provided in August in response to the OXERA questions (Q11).

Previously, in our work for our March 2010 report, we had undertaken some work to investigate the possible effect of premium fares. The conclusions from this work are reported in the supplementary material we provided in August in response to the Committee's questions (Q15). However, the business case results we have presented for HS2 do not assume, or depend on having, premium fares on HS2.


The Secretary of State offered to ask us to provide additional information on our external challenge groups. A relevant extract from our draft Corporate Plan is annexed to this letter.

23 September 2011




8.1  HS2 Ltd's three external challenge groups provide independent expert scrutiny on different elements of our work. We also established a Consultation Peer Review Group in 2010-11, which provided additional independent challenge

Strategic Challenge Group

8.2  Focused on offering an overall view and sense check of the programme as a whole and on providing an independent perspective on our overall approach.

8.3  Membership includes:
Prof David BeggPublisher, Transport Times Magazine
Richard Brown CBEChief Executive, Eurostar UK Ltd
David HigginsChief Executive, Network Rail
Stephen Joseph OBEExecutive Director, Campaign for Better Transport
David LeederVice Chair, Commission for Integrated Transport
Sir Roy McNultyChairman, Advantage West Midlands
Anthony SmithChief Executive, Passenger Focus
Jim SteerDirector, Greengauge 21
Tony TraversDirector, Greater London Group, LSE

Technical Challenge Group

8.4  Focused largely on peer review and challenge of the engineering and environmental specifications and assumptions, including costs and mitigation.

8.5  Membership includes:
Prof Chris Baker MA, PhD, FICE, FIHT, FRMetS, CEng Professor of Environmental Fluid Mechanics, Director Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, University of Birmingham
Keith BerrymanEngineering Advisor, Crossrail
Clive Burrows FREngDirector of Engineering, First Group
Alan DykeFormer Chief Engineer and MD, Channel Tunnel Rail Link Project (HS1), now an Independent Consultant
Prof Robert Mair CBE FREng FRS Cambridge University
Hugh Norrie OBE FREng Government's Agent for Channel Tunnel Rail Link
Prof Roderick Smith FREng Chair, Future Rail Studies at Imperial College and Vice President of the IMechE

Analytical Challenge Group

8.6  Focused on the appraisal and modelling of options, scrutinising the relevant evidence base, as well as providing technical advice on key methodologies.

8.7  Membership includes:
Prof Robert Cochrane Transport planner and visiting Professor, Imperial College London
Prof Stephen Glaister CBE Director, Royal Automobile Club Foundation and Professor of Transport and Infrastructure, Imperial College London
Prof Peter MackieResearch Professor, Institute for Transport Studies, Leeds University
Prof Henry OvermanDirector, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE
Dr David SimmondsDirector, David Simmonds Consultancy Ltd
Prof Roger Vickerman Director, Centre for European, Regional and Transport Economics, University of Kent

Consultation Peer Review Group

8.8  Focused on the 2011 London to West Midlands route consultation, providing an independent challenge to the planned approach.

8.9  Membership included:
Ted Allettformerly of Crossrail Ltd
Ginny ClarkeDirector Network Service and Chief Highway Engineer, Highways Agency
Henry ClearyDepartment for Communities and Local Government
Julie KingHead of External Relations, Olympics Delivery Authority,
Nicky LeggattHead of Stakeholder Engagement, Communications and Community Liaison, Jacobs
Chris Waiteformerly Kent County Council

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011