High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from The Campaign for High Speed Rail (HSR 187)

The Campaign for High Speed Rail fully welcomes the Government's plans for a high-speed rail network to be extended across Britain and supports the proposals put forth in the Government's consultation that was published on 28 February 2011.

The below statement is in response to the Transport Select Committee's call for evidence into the Government's consultation on HS2. We have chosen to focus on the economic benefits that high-speed rail will bring to the Midlands, North and Scotland as the members of our Campaign find this to be the most compelling reason for supporting the Government's plans for a high-speed rail network.


1.1.  The Campaign for High Speed Rail is a campaign, independent from the Government and HS2 Ltd, representing employers from across the country who believe Britain needs a modern, high speed rail network to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. We are supported by hundreds of business people from up and down the country, with the vast majority of supporters coming from the Midlands and the North.

1.2  Our Director, Professor David Begg, has been advocating for high-speed rail for many years. He is also the Chief Executive of Transport Times and the Director of Portobello Partnership. He sits on the boards of numerous transport-related projects and companies including FirstGroup and BAA, as well as the Greater Manchester Transport Executive and the Business Infrastructure Commission. He was formerly the Chairman of the Commission for Integrated Transport and sat on the board of the Northern Way Transport Compact. He is also a Visiting Professor in Sustainable Transport at Plymouth University, and has an international reputation as a commentator on transport issues.


2.1  The members of our campaign support high-speed rail for many reasons, but the main reasons can be boiled down to (1) Building the economy; (2) Bringing Britain closer together; (3) Investing in the Midlands, the North and Scotland and (4) Meeting the demand for more trains.

2.2  Building the economy. I will elaborate in Section 4 on the economic benefits that HSR will bring, in particular to the Midlands and the North. Transformational changes to connectivity in the Midlands, North and Scotland will help to facilitate growth in employment, allow for existing businesses to reach new markets and stay competitive in an increasingly competitive marketplace, and allow people more time to do their business.

2.3  Bringing Britain closer together. Of our direct peers, Britain is the only country without a high-speed rail network. Employers now to look further afield for talent, and employees look across a more diverse geographic area for employment opportunities, it is only natural to build a high-speed rail network that supports our modern economic needs. Connectivity is key for business and Britain must stay competitive.

2.4  Investing in the Midlands, the North and Scotland. For too long our country's infrastructure planning has been short-sighted. The majority of money spent on transport infrastructure is spent in the South of England—Cross Rail and HS1 for example—the Midlands and North have similar infrastructure needs to the South and deserve a chance.

2.5  Meeting the demand for more trains. Demand for rail travel is not predicted to decrease and is forecast to continue to grow. The East Coast Main Line and West Coast Main Line are both already nearing capacity and will reach capacity in the coming years, so the Government will need to do something to increase our future capacity needs. Upgrading existing lines will be expensive and disruptive, without providing the economic and agglomeration benefits that come with high-speed rail. This is supported by the Government's consultation which states: "A new conventional rail line would cost 90% of HS2 but deliver 33% fewer benefits. Upgrading existing infrastructure would deliver less than 25% of the benefits of HS2."[274] Additionally, high-speed rail will then release capacity on existing networks, allowing for more frequent and more efficient commuter services, such as Coventry to London. The obvious choice for our capacity needs is to build a high-speed network.


3.1  According to government statistics, on a per capita basis, Gross Value Added in the North is just 80% of the South. GDP per person is one third higher in the South than the North. Productivity in Yorkshire and the Humber is the second lowest in England and declining. Unemployment in the North is nearly 2.5% higher compared to the South East. We need an infrastructure system that will give the North a change for economic regeneration.[275]

3.2  There have been several independent reports that have begun to quantify the economic benefits that HSR could bring to the Midlands and the North, helping to re-balance the country's current south eastern centric economy.

3.3  Accountants KPMG have quantified wider economic benefits from high-speed rail for the North of England alone at £12 billion[276] while economic partnership group, The Northern Way, valued the impact at £6 billion.[277]

3.4  The Northern Way report also indicates that, with the full Y network proposed by the Government, the North sets to benefits the most. To quote: "The Northern Way has identified that a north-south high speed rail network serving both sides of the Pennines has the potential to generate agglomeration benefits through linking the northern city region economies. In analysis pre-dating the Government's identification of the Y-shaped network as its preferred way forward and for a more extensive network, these agglomeration impacts are valued at £13 billion PV33, (using the Department for Transport's current methodology). Of this £13 billion, £5 billion is in the North of England. Proportionally, the North's economy receives a greater uplift than that in London and the South East."[278]

3.5  In that same Northern Way report, "Transforming Our Economy and Connectivity: High Speed Rail for the North", published in March of this year, the Northern Way also predicts that the £44 billion will be a multiple based on the success of HS1—they estimate that the GVA benefits could be up to three times the size of the welfare benefits assessed in a conventional cost-benefit appraisal.

3.6  A report by Greengauge and KPMG, found that areas of greater connectivity have higher wage levels and found strong links between employment density and rail connectivity. That same report suggests that areas like the North East could see more than a doubling in the rate of employment growth.[279]

3.7  Evidence from accountants, economists and transport consultants suggests that high-speed rail could have a dramatic effect on the economies of the Midlands and the North. For Britain to remain competitive in the world economy, a large portion of the workforce and population cannot continue to be ignored.


4.1  To reiterate, for too long our country's transport planning has been short-sighted and short-term. HS2 offers the chance for forward thinking and much needed long-term planning.

4.2  HS2 also helps to achieve the Government's goal of promoting more sustainable travel. High-speed rail is one of the most carbon-effective methods of mass transit. HS2 has the potential to reduce the number of internal flights, reducing aviation carbon emissions.

4.3  HS2 will link up to existing transport—airports, HS1, commuter lines, etc, bringing existing networks closer together and helping to create a unified, national transport system.

4.4  The links to airport and HS1 are critical for British business and tourism—high-speed rail will allow for better access to European and other foreign markets, in addition to sending a signal that Britain is open for business.


5.1.  On behalf of all members of the Campaign for High Speed Rail, I hope the Select Committee strongly considers what high-speed rail will do for our entire country. Everyone is set to benefit from greater connectivity. This is a project of national significance and a once in a generation opportunity that must be seized.

June 2011

274   Page 43 of Economic Case for HS2, DfT, February 2011. Back

275   Source: Table 1, Public Sector Employment and Expenditure by Region, House of Common Library, July 2010; Source: Calculations based on-Office for National Statistics, Regional Labour Market Statistics February 2011, (Table S1). Back

276   KPMG report. Back

277   The Northern Way Transforming Our Economy and Our Connectivity: High Speed Rail for the North, March 2011, page 30. Back

278   The Northern Way Transforming Our Economy and Our Connectivity: High Speed Rail for the North, March 2011, page 29. Back

279   Greengauge and KPMG, High Speed Rail in Britain: Consequences for employment and economic growth, Feb 2010, page 25. Back

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Prepared 8 November 2011