High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill

Written evidence from Andrew Cordiner (HSR 22)


This is a personal submission by myself on behalf of my family and the village of Hyde Heath as well as the country as a whole:-

 

The projected cost of HS2 including tax and rolling stock is now in excess of £50 Billion. We have already spent over £350 million on consultants. I am a Qualified Chartered Surveyor and have over 25 years experience on major project delivery including civil engineering projects from Rail Stations and Line development to Motorway Junction and arterial route design and development. My points to the scrutiny committee are as follows:-

 

1. Why was Route 3 of Phase 1 chosen by ministers against the advice of their route proving report provider and engineer Ove Arup?

 

2. Route 3 has significant geological, geotechnical and hydrological problems associated with it. The Route proving engineer highlighted these issues in the attached appendices to the route proving report using statements to describe the strata such as  "vulnerable to shrinkage and swelling", "material has low strength and high moisture content", "contains groundwater and will be troublesome for earthworks slope stability", "careful handling required", "slope instability problems" etc etc. Why has HS2 and the government chosen to develop a route that comes with such significant engineering complexities and hydrological dangers?

 

3. I have written to Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP (letter attached) to highlight these issues. I have also highlighted that there is a real risk of tunnel collapse with this route and there is precedence in this area with the Gerrards Cross tunnel collapse onto the mainline in 2005. The cause of the collapse was Hydrological in nature with water overloading the structure – I have explained this in further detail on the attached letter. I have pointed out to Mr McLoughlin that he and his department are putting the public at risk proceeding with this route against the advice of their engineering advisers (I have written to the board of HS2 to make them aware of the same).

 

4. The response (see attached) from his department and HS2 was to highlight that they have ignored the advice of Ove Arup (one of the most respected Engineers in the world) because their work was "advisory" and HS2 are now moving to a "delivery focused organisation and is therefore required to obtain further expertise". In effect, we have chosen to ignore the advice from respected Engineers and will be seeking a second opinion from other Engineers that will tell us that route 3 can be built and delivered safely. In light of the recent cost increase in the project and in view of the route selected by ministers and the problems it presents, it is financially prudent and responsible to re-visit the route proving studies and determine whether the recent cost increase has been a direct result of route 3 selection and if so, should we be changing the route selected to offer a cheaper alternative?

 

5. The response from the Minister and Department for Transport is insufficient and ignores the cost impact of this route. However, as indicated in my letter, the eventual solution that will be presented by Engineers to build route 3 and overcome the issues will be a very expensive, over designed solution that will create substantial over spend on budgets and carries with it many unknowns as a consequence of the geology. This will all be a direct consequence of the ministers choosing to ignore the advice of their engineer and this decision will mean a less safe more expensive route has been deliberately selected?  Hyde Heath village is less than 500m from the line. A 300 km per hour derailment or tunnel collapse created by earthworks slope instability or hydrology induced collapse presents a very real safety concern for major loss of life within the village as a consequence of this route. Should the Health and Safety Executive be asked to undertake a review of the decisions taken by ministers and HS2 to determine whether their actions have placed the general public at risk as a consequence of ignoring the advice of their appointed route proving engineer?    

 

6. Any delays in delivery of the project as a consequence of the route chosen will also extend the contracts of the board and members of HS2, they therefore have a vested interest in ensuring that a more complex and difficult route is chosen. Should the remuneration package and contracts of the board of HS2 be reviewed with clawback provisions, bonus attenuation until evidence of on time delivery and meeting programme is established as well as performance related pay provisions?  

 

7. HS2 have removed Ove Arup from this section of the line and have ignored their advice on their safer alternate route through the Chilterns. This raises 2 very important questions, firstly why was Ove Arup removed given their world wide reputation sits far higher in engineering circles than their replacements Parsons Brinckerhoff or Atkins and secondly, why have the Politicians and Civil Servants made the decision to ignore their engineering advice and proceed on regardless pursuing a route that is an evident danger to the public in terms of tunnel collapse in an area where there is recent precedent for such a safety risk?

 

8. At the recent Public Accounts Committee, HS2 confirmed that the West Coast Mainline and East Coast Mainline would have reduced passenger services once HS2 commences. These passenger services will be replaced by freight services with the Rail Utilisation Strategy Report produced by network rail and the Rail Freight Lobby organisations stating that the capacity will mean every freight train can remove 60 HGV from our motorways. However, as many ecological groups have pointed out, the problem with this is the last mile delivery and this will mean 10 local delivery vans for every HGV or rather 600 extra local road movements which will lead to greater wear and tear / potholes on our local roads and moving the carbon and congestion from our motorways which can withstand it to our local roads which cannot. Have HS2 factored in the economic loss of reduced passenger services for the communities they highlighted would be affected at the recent PAC? Have they or the government consulted with any of the communities that will be affected by reduced passenger services? Have HS2 factored the economic impact and costs that the new freight strategy will have on our local roads as a consequence of HS2 capacity release?

 

9. The Rail lobby groups have publicly stated that the last mile problem can be mitigated in part by introducing Electric Delivery vehicles.

 

10. The UK have signed up to a European wide Rail freight strategy with a commitment to increase goods from the EU coming by Railfreight via the Channel Tunnel rather than HGV. The Channel Tunnel is owned by Eurotunnel and this would provide Eurotunnel with a monopoly on EU Railfreight. Why is the government, via HS2, handing a Rail Freight monopoly to Eurotunnel?

 

11. I should point out that according to wikipedia, Tim Yeo MP occupies a seat on the board of Eurotunnel, Eurotunnel own Railfreight GB and Tim Yeo is also a non executive Chairman of Eco-City vehicles who, according to their own website "Eco City Vehicles is in the process of expanding its product lines by distributing environmentally friendly vehicles through its existing channels to market, targeting local authorities, urban vehicle fleet owners (e.g. supermarket chains) and other business users" or in other words, the last mile. I raise no question from this, I am implying nothing from this other than stating facts as they have been presented to myself.

 

12. In the HS2 Engineering study, Ove Arup provided estimated cost and delivery structures for the routes. I noted from this section (P67 onwards) that HS2 is to be paid 8% for project management and 8% for design and consultancy. I believe these figures are incredibly inflated in the current market. A project manager would charge between 1% up to 3% for a major project and as regards the design and consultancy, if HS2 are to receive 8% for taking on the design then the contractor costs should fall. However, I note between Prelims, site supervision, testing, training and spares, the contractor is to be paid 22%. Any normal contracting entity would expect between 12 and 15% depending on design responsibility. While I appreciate these estimated costs are out of date, I believe a thorough and substantial independent review of the cost structures, HS2 appointment and consultancy remuneration must be undertaken by an independent body?

 

13. Turning to the question of how could this money be better spent in the local community. The rural communities such as Hyde Heath, already operate at a significant economic disadvantage to London and the urban conurbations of the UK. Here in the Chilterns, we have some of the most dangerous roads in the UK as a consequence of the many potholes. In the last 3 years, we personally have had to replace 4 (repeat 4) whole wheels due to pothole damage. The county council have embarked on a significant programme of road repair but with their under funded limited budget they are unable to achieve anything more than minor fixes and basic repair. Already the minor fixes undertaken last year have been destroyed by last winter and the work is required again. Given that successive Economic Advisors have stated that HS2 will not delivery the projected benefits to Northern Communities as much as it will benefit London, should the government not consider suspending their program of expenditure weighted towards Urban London and instead spend HS2 money on direct investment into northern communities and some in the rural communities such as Hyde Heath and the Chilterns?          

 

14. Last summer the government imposed a hosepipe ban in the UK despite it being one of the wettest summers on record for the past few years. Water is a far greater issue in rural communities than Urban. This ban is a result of no attenuation of water / no new reservoir construction to capture the run off. Should the HS2 money not be better spent on a programme to build more reservoirs and water attenuation and flood mitigation measures?  

 

15. We pay in the UK one of the highest gas prices in Europe and the world. This again is a consequence of no storage facilities. Germany have 17 days supply and far lower prices, we have 3 and are therefore hostage to the wholesale market for gas prices. Building more gas storage would reduce consumer prices. Furthermore, in the past 5 years, the cost of Liquid gas has fallen from $12 a barrel to $3 a barrel. We cannot take advantage of this price fall because we do not have sufficient facilities to import and store LNG. Rural areas by their design nature are several degrees colder than Urban areas and therefore energy costs are a far greater issue. Should the HS2 money not be better spent on a programme to build more gas storage and networks for LNG to take advantage of the significant price fall rather than allowing large businesses to capitalise on the infrastructure and capacity shortfalls within these markets at the expense of the rural consumer?

 

16. Emerging Solar technology as a consequence of rapid advances in silicon use within the industry together with better storage capacity means Solar electricity is expected to hit grid parity inside 5 years.

 

17. Hyde Heath is a rural village in the Chilterns. Peaceful and beautiful. There are many challenges and costs associated with living in such a peaceful neighbourhood and the rural area in general such as the fact many of us are forced to live off grid. Why isn’t the government spending HS2 money on rolling out Solar or any of these other ideas as a means to support the rural areas energy needs and diversifying away from centralised grid networks which favour urban conglomerations and where major institutions can profit from the capacity issues or off grid pitfalls of living in the rural area?

 

18. Many of the rural villages such as Hyde Heath are still operating at antiquated broadband speeds of 1.5mb. The government is promising to address these issues but it will be many years, if ever, for Hyde Heath to have a basic service that London takes for granted. Britain’s economic success in history was a direct result of invention and adoption of new technology before other countries and our advantage came from our competitors relying on old communication technology. We adopted ways to communicate faster, further and more efficiently. We mastered sailing ships to defeat the Spanish and open the new world. We built canals when the Spanish cardinals refused to and committed themselves to donkey and horseback. We built steam engines and railways to transport our goods when france was using horse and cart. We developed copper bottomed steamships and traded around the world when the Spanish empire was going bankrupt. We invested our wealth in invention and developed wireless and telegraphic transfer when other countries were using pigeons. We developed telephones and television and our latest and greatest invention is the internet. But instead of embracing the internet by investing the £50bn in broadband and the communication advantages it brings globally, we are instead embracing an old communication technology of railways because lobby groups with vested interests persuade the government to do so. The Cardinals of Spain persuaded Phillip to stick with donkeys informing their king that Englands canals will give them no advantage and if canals were meant to cross Spain, the Lord god would have put them there. Why are we not using the £50 bn to fully embrace the communication advantages the Internet can offer us to trade globally vrs getting to Birmingham 30 mins quicker?

 

19. In 2010 the United States commissioned the brightstar report. In this report they calculated the energy needs of the USA as a consequence of the impact of the internet. By far the biggest concern was the emergence of the Datacentre which stores all this information. Whoever controls these datacenters, controls significant amounts of world trade, think facebook, amazon, apple etc. We have very few of the genuine supercentres in the UK because our energy and broadband is last century and not fit for purpose. These datacenters are now millions of sqft of computing space and it’s estimated that the worlds Datacenters are using up to 2% of our energy generation. To put this into context, they found that on 1 day alone (new years day) the global community uploaded enough video and photo onto facebook to grab 1% of their entire data storage – just 1 day. Datacentres are predicted to quadruple their traffic and size in the next 10 years and the USA and other countries are gearing up for this. This entire community is transient, it can work anywhere on the globe and go anywhere with its money and investment if the conditions are right. The report estimated that the USA would have to build 2 nuclear power stations a year for the next 10 years just to meet the datacenters future energy needs. There is no escaping the fact that datacenters, broadband and the internet in general is a step change in the global trade war. While China and USA are embracing this concept at lightening quick pace, we are slowly rolling out broadband with little or no consideration for our true energy needs, the cost of these needs (high gas and electricity prices) and how we can make it cost less to allow us to be more competitive globally. HS2 is supposedly an engine for growth, but its impact will be felt regionally at best with a few jobs created and some marginal advantages in domestic economic improvements. However, in the 20 years it takes to roll it out we will have lost any advantage in a far great major trading environment that we in Britain invented and created. In view of the marginal domestic economic benefits should we divert the HS2 spend away from this old technology and deploy it fully into a 21st Century energy, broadband, internet information and communication investment wrapping up all of the infrastructure necessary to make us the most competitive internet country on the globe ensuring millions of jobs for the future?

 

20. A final point, when considering the costs of HS2 and any perceived benefits. There is no carbon saving and might be a disbenefit, the cost to travel on the line will be prohibitive for most other than business people, Hyde Heath and the Chilterns derive no benefit and our councils funding is cut to pay for it, it will hand Eurotunnel a freight monopoly, it will increase the amount of freight on our East and West Coast Mainlines which will in turn increase the wear and tear on these lines until they need replacing (heavy freight causes huge maintenance issues vrs lighter passenger services, the freight lobby are campaigning for the capacity but at the same time are refusing to pay an increase in their charge for using the lines even though their damage is greater, it will increase local road congestion, pollution and degradation and all the while there are cheaper alternatives to HS2 that deliver the same economic benefits at much lower cost. If the freight lobby want more capacity, should they pay for it and not derive it and a monopoly from HS2?

 

21. On the cost of £50 billion, regardless of whether this figure rises or not, the annual interest charge on this investment will be £1.5 bn a year @ 3%. £50 billion could buy you 2000 brand new / redeveloped secondary schools fit for modern education or 7500 new primary schools or 1000 modern fully fitted hospitals all fit for the 21st Century. Think of the economic step change in benefits that could be derived from new secondary schools or primary schools with children learning in modern fresh vibrant environments. In addition, the annual interest cost alone is enough to pay for 60 new secondary schools or 225 new primary schools or 30 new hospitals EVERY YEAR………or we can have HS2? Should we have an independent enquiry into whether the flawed economic justification provided by HS2 to date is substantial and robust enough to deliver on its economic promises relative to the economic benefits that could be derived from the above?

 

July 2013

Prepared 16th July 2013