CHAPTER 5: ALTERNATIVES TO PROVIDE CAPACITY |
194. This Chapter considers the Government's
assessment in the Strategic Case of alternative ways to
deliver new capacity on the rail network. In the light of our
conclusions on the nature of the capacity problem in the previous
chapter, we consider whether the Government has undertaken a comprehensive
assessment of the other options to increase capacity.
The Government's assessment of
other ways to increase capacity
195. The Strategic Case explained that
since 2009, the Department for Transport, "with assistance
from Atkins and Network Rail has considered a wide range of incremental
investment alternatives to HS2."
Several alternatives to both Phase One of HS2 and the full network
were identified and considered, primarily by Atkins in a series
of reports between 2009 and 2013. (Atkins were also commissioned
by the Strategic Rail Authority
in 2001 to carry out a feasibility study for a high speed line
from London to the north, including assessing alternatives such
as a new non high-speed railway and upgrades to the existing network;
the 2004 report concluded that a high speed line had a stronger
196. The alternatives were compared against HS2
in the Strategic Case in terms of how they performed against
the two objectives for HS2:
· "To provide sufficient capacity to
meet long term demand, and to improve resilience and reliability
across the network;
· To improve connectivity by delivering
better journey times and making travel easier."
197. The alternatives were considered in two
contexts: "one looking just at Phase One alternatives and
the other at alternatives to the full Y network. In each case,
we selected the best performing option available from the analysis."
The two alternatives are set out in Box 5.Box
5: Alternatives to HS2 considered in Strategic Case
|Phase One alternative
The Phase One alternative set out in the Strategic Case would provide additional capacity through changes to services and infrastructure improvements on the West Coast Main Line. This package would cost £2.5 billion. Changes to services would include:
· Lengthening intercity trains to 11 carriages and converting one first class coach to standard class, and lengthening commuter services to 12 carriages.
· Increasing frequency of trains.
· Infrastructure improvements including tackling bottlenecks, modernising junction design (at Leighton Buzzard and at Colwich Junction in Staffordshire) and providing additional track in some locations (including passing loops for freight trains).
Phase One and Two alternative
The alternative to Phases One and Two set out in the Strategic Case would require extensive infrastructure works and has a capital cost of £19.2bn. The option would include the changes to the West Coast Main Line described above and work on other lines. These other changes would provide:
· An increased number of trains per hour, including additional services, for long-distance East Coast Main Line services and an increase in the maximum speed of services from 125 mph to 140mph.
· Increased long-distance services on the Midland Main Line.
· Journey time and frequency improvements from Birmingham to Manchester, Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, York and Newcastle.
· Enhancements to commuter services.
Infrastructure work required to implement these changes would include:
· On East Coast Main Line: extension of platforms, upgrades to line speeds, new lines north of London and near Durham, electrification of lines to allow more cities to be served, increase in the number of tracks and a new tunnel near Wakefield and provision of parallel routes for freight alongside parts of the Line.
· On Midland Main Line: turn-backs for suburban services, station work to provide additional platforms, upgrades of some parts of the line to allow faster speeds, electrification of certain lines and a new tunnel and four track approach at Sheffield.
· Cross Country: four-tracking schemes and junction remodelling, upgrades of some parts of the line to allow faster speeds and station and platform works in particular at Manchester and Newcastle.
Source: Strategic Case, Chapter 6
COMPARISON OF THE BEST IDENTIFIED ALTERNATIVES WITH
198. The Strategic Case compared the best
identified alternatives against HS2. It concluded that their assessment
"shows that only a new railway can fully meet the objectives
of the HS2 programme" as the alternatives "do not deliver
satisfactorily against the objectives set for HS2." The two
main reasons identified were that the alternatives do not provide
enough new seats or train paths and would cause too much disruption.
The Strategic Case also noted that the "under the
upgrade options service reliability is unlikely to be better and
may well be worse in comparison to the situation today" because
the usage of the West Coast Main Line will increase rather than
decrease as with HS2.
199. The Strategic Case provides the following
assessment of the capital costs and benefits, capacity provided
and the disruption caused for the alternatives and each phase
of HS2:Table 16: Assessment of the
alternatives to HS2 Phases One and Two
|HS2 Phase One
||Phase One Alternative
||HS2 both phases
||Phase One and Two Alternative
|Capital costs and benefits
|Capital costs (£bn)
|Additional peak hour seatswest coast corridor only (London Euston)
|Potential Freight Capacity Release (additional daily paths southern section of West Coast Main Line)
|Network resilience: Fast line path utilisation (West Coast Main Line Southtrains paths per hour released)
|Disruption (indicative number of weekend closures)
|Local Impacts: additional mileage of double-track railway (route length rather than track length)
Source: Strategic Case, Figures 6.1, 6.5, 6.6
(Data from HS2 Ltd and Steer Davis Gleave)
200. The Strategic Case concluded that
the two alternatives "do not provide sufficient additional
capacity to meet the long term needs for the north-south railways"
and "do not provide significant additional released capacity
for commuters and freight on the West Coast Main Line."
201. The Strategic Case illustrated when
today's level of overcrowding would be reached on commuter trains
under the Phase One alternative:Figure
11: Commuter demand and route capacity achievable through upgrading
the existing West Coast Main Line
Source: Strategic Case, Figure 3.2 (Steer Davis
202. In terms of long-distance trains, the Strategic
Case said that assuming 5 per cent annual growth in peak demand,
by 2028 there would be as many passengers as seats across the
evening peak hour, "which in practice means serious levels
203. The Strategic Case also considered
further upgrade measures that could be carried out:
"The evidence from earlier work on this
type of alternative showed a pattern of diminishing returns
On the West Coast Main Line itself, if the upgrades assessed here
were carried out, the next capacity increment would be likely
to require a radical step change such as the provision of further
tracks over the London-West Midlands section. The cost of that
would be many billions of pounds
it is clear that a high
speed solution offers best value for money and that the best return
on tax-payer investment is likely to lie with HS2."
204. As the Department does not provide an estimate
of the cost of building further tracks over the London-West Midlands
section, it is not clear that HS2 offers better value for money
than carrying out that work after the Phase One and Phase Two
Alternatives (estimated cost £19.4 billion).
205. The Strategic Case consideration
the disruption that would be caused by the alternatives, concluding
that the alternatives:
"Would significantly disrupt services on
existing lines as construction work is carried out over a period
of many years. In the case of the full Y alternative, there would
be large scale disruptive work on the three main north-south lines.
Network Rail has estimated that this could result in up to 14
years of service disruption which the Government considers is
206. The Strategic Case says that the two alternatives
"fail to offer a robust solution to the problem of resilience
and performance, particularly on the West Coast Main Line which
suffers from unacceptably high levels of unreliability."
Mr Prout of the Department for Transport said that to improve
reliability "you can only get that kind of huge step change
by building a new railway."
The Secretary of State observed that "If you think back to
just last winter, every railway line had disruptions save one,
and that was HS1 because it was built to a modern engineering
Professor Vickerman agreed that a dedicated high speed network
would increase reliability. He commented that "reliability
is something that people will pay a price for."
207. HS2 Action Alliance did not agree that HS2
would deliver reliability improvements. They suggested that the
high number of trains running on the line (18 compared to 12 in
France) and not being a closed network meant that it was "hard
to see how such improvements are deliverable."
208. Figures 12 and 13 below show the punctuality
Virgin Services and the West Coast Main Line average against the
long-distance sector average. Figure 15 shows that Virgin's Anglo-Scottish
services have a lower average punctuality than its North West
or West Midlands services, which are close to the long-distance
sector average.Figure 12: West Coast
train operating companies' relative punctuality performance
Source: Strategic Case, Figure 4 (Office of Rail
Regulation data)Figure 13: Punctuality
performance of Virgin West Coast Main Line services against long-distance
Source: Office of Rail Regulation, Disaggregated
PPM at sub operator level for Virgin TrainsTable 3.28 and
Public Performance Measure by sectorTable 3.43 [accessed
IS THE GOVERNMENT'S ANALYSIS OF THE ALTERNATIVES
209. We heard evidence from Councillor Martin
Tett, representing the 51m Alliance, a group who have proposed
an alternative to HS2 (referred to as '51m') which is similar
to the Phase One Alternative discussed above. He believed that
their proposal was "never properly compared against HS2."Box
6: 51M proposals
|The 51M Alliance of Councils have proposed what they describe as a £2 billion package of measures to increase capacity on the West Coast Main Line. The main proposals are similar to those which make up the Phase One alternative:
· On long-distance trains, change one first class carriage to standard and lengthen trains from the present 9 or 11 cars to 12 where possible.
· Increase commuter capacity by introducing faster rolling stock, increasing all shorter distance commuter trains to 12 cars and changing stopping patterns to allow more commuter services.
· Modernising junction design at three junctions (Leighton Buzzard, Nuneaton and Colwich Junction).
Source: 51m Alternative Investment Infrastructure
210. Mr Weston from HS2 Action Alliance thought
the 51m solution was "a sensible way to go about it, because
you do not have to take a view now on what demand is going to
be in 2036."
Professor Glaister thought the 51m solution "could in fact
provide quite a bit of capacity at much less cost [than HS2],
to at least delay the need for the decision to expand on the scale
of high speed rail."
211. Mr Steer of transport consultants Steer
Davies Gleave thought the 51m proposals "probably have some
merit as an interim kind of measure, but once you take responsibility
for the longer term you cannot really contend that they provide
the capacity needed."
Rupert Walker from Network Rail said that "they are minor
benefits that, in the longer run, do not provide the level or
the scale of intervention that will be needed."
Mr Scott from Virgin Trains said that "you cannot, in practical
terms and acceptable terms, upgrade the line and provide the capacity
that you need. The only practical solution that would be acceptable
to passengers would be a new line."
212. Network Rail assessed the 51M proposals
in its report, Review of Strategic Alternatives to HS2.
The report concluded that although the proposals "provide
additional capacity on the WCML, for a variety of reasons these
proposals are not the best long-term strategy for the route."
The report said that the proposals would not provide enough capacity
to meet predictions of demand to 2026, that some additional infrastructure
changes would be required to deliver the proposals, that reliability
would not be improved and that it was "unacceptable to undertake
a programme of works that would cause this level of disruption
on the route to deliver a service that would not solve overcrowding
at the southern end of the route."
IS THE GOVERNMENT'S ANALYSIS OF THE ALTERNATIVES
213. Mr Scott also thought that improvements
to the existing railway would be too disruptive: "a patch-and-mend
approach on the West Coast Main Line would just result in an unacceptable
level of disruption, which is why we believe that the only solution
is a new line."
Dr Matthew Niblett, of the Transport Studies Unit, University
of Oxford, said that "studies have shown that the disruption
to the national rail network of such upgrades would be such that
the cost to travellers would be much higher than is commonly imagined."
214. We considered in Chapter 2 whether the cost
of disruption had been factored into the overall cost of HS2.
Other alternative solutions to
the capacity problem
215. As discussed in Chapter 3, the current capacity
problem manifests itself on busy commuter trains in the morning
and afternoon peaks and long-distance trains on Friday evenings
and weekends. We heard evidence that overcrowding could be addressed
by using ticket pricing to encourage people to travel at less
busy times. Professor Glaister said that "if you are willing
to use a different pricing policy to spread the load to the times
when there are empty seats, you could, at least for a number of
years, solve this problem without spending £30 billion on
a brand new railway."
216. New services have been introduced between
London and Kent which run on HS1. These services are faster but
more expensive than the slower services which run between the
same locations on a different route. Mr Prout told us that the
Department would publish an interim report on "the impact
of HS1" which would be "largely built around cost-benefit
ratios". He was unable to provide a date for the publication
of this report.
The Government should use the opportunity of this review to
consider how the higher prices for faster services from London
to Kent on HS1 have affected demand for these services, to apply
the lessons to HS2.
217. Dr Wellings thought that increasing fares
during peak travel could "spread the load and make better
use of existing capacity."
Mr Plummer of Network Rail said he supported the principle of
improved use of pricing to send price signals, "but the scale
of shift that you would be looking to achieve, I suggest, would
be beyond what is possible in order to change the business case
for the interventions that we are talking about."
218. The Strategic Case stated that the
Government had "explicitly ruled out any 'super peak' pricing."
It explained that to use fares to manage demand would require
very large price increases during the busiest times. Evidence
was cited that to "produce a 3% switch in travel away from
the morning peak hour would need a 40% fare differential. To suppress
demand across the network would therefore involve very significant
and highly undesirable price rises."
Mr Scott agreed:
"You could increase the prices of the very
busy services, but what you will be talking about there is pricing
people off the railways in some cases, which is not what we want
to do. We do not want this to be a railway for the elite. It should
be a railway for everyone."
219. The Chairman wrote to the Secretary of State
to ask whether train operators have the flexibility to implement
dynamic pricing on trains as used by airline operators. The Secretary
of State confirmed that operators were permitted to use dynamic
pricing and Advance tickets offered by train companies used "yield
management systems." The sales of Advance tickets has grown
from 8% of revenue in 2007/08 to 14% in 2012/13. The Secretary
of State explained that the price of certain types of rail fares,
including commuter fares, certain season tickets, day singles
and returns were regulated by setting "the average maximum
amount that the specified 'basket' of regulated fares can increase
year-on-year for each franchise."
220. Professor Glaister said "you may have
a few trains at 7 o'clock in the evening that are crowded, and
that crowding is exacerbated by the pricing policy that is being
used at the moment."
The previous Chapter noted how the first off-peak Virgin Trains
on the West Coast Main Line are often very overcrowded but afternoon
peak services are only 50 per cent full. Professor Nash thought
that the Friday evening problem "could be eased to a degree
by a more sensible approach to fares regulation."
Table 10 (Chapter 4, above) showed peak and off-peak fares on
Virgin services from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly on
a weekday evening. A return journey travelling outward on a peak-time
train costs substantially more than a return journey travelling
outward on an off-peak time train.
ALTERNATIVE PROPOSALS FOR A NEW RAILWAY
High Speed UK
221. High Speed UK (HSUK) submitted evidence
to us outlining their proposal for a new four-track high-speed
railway that would run along the M1 corridor from London to Scotland
via Leeds with spurs from the "spine" to Birmingham,
Manchester and Glasgow. The proponents of HSUK told us that it
would deliver "10 times better" connectivity than HS2,
improve 488 out of 528 journeys possible on the UK railway network
and "double the capacity of HS2 on the core London 'stem'"
for a lower capital cost than HS2.
222. Steven Leigh of the Mid-Yorkshire Chamber
of Commerce and Kings Bromley Stop HS2 Action Group both supported
HSUK in evidence to us, arguing that it would benefit more towns
and cities than HS2 proposals at a lower cost.
Lord Adonis, however, suggested that the proposed route up
the M1 would be more controversial than HS2: "The idea that
building next to existing transport corridorswhich would
also include having to significantly widen transport routes through
major towns and citieswould be less controversial than
building HS2 is for the birds." He argued that such a route
would be more expensive than HS2.
223. We asked the Government whether they had
made an assessment of HSUK's proposals. Mr Prout told us
that "The main elements of the central railway proposal were
looked at in the 2013 alternative study for the East Coast Main
Line." He argued that "the reinstatement of the central
railway is by no means as simple as HSUK would have us believe."
A new conventional speed railway
224. In Chapter 2 we considered the suggestion
that the maximum speed of 400 kilometres per hour (250 mph) added
significantly to the cost of HS2. In addition to cost benefits,
some witnesses suggested that building for a lower maximum speed
would have enabled different design choices that would have greater
benefits than HS2.
225. Chiltern Ridges Action Group said that "If
such speed constraints were dropped, alternatives, such as [51M],
could provide the required capacity inflicting far less damage
on our environment and at far less cost to the taxpayer."
Chris Belk, a private individual, said that "speed priority
dominance has been replaced by the need for increased capacity
and the generally accepted need to shrink the 'N/S Divide'but
the opportunity to reroute Phase One to remove the cost and damage
legacy of speed optimisation at all costs has so far been ignored."
226. Mr Prout told us that the maximum speed
of HS2 had not been the reason for the route chosen: "the
alignment that we have chosen is to minimise the environmental
impact of the railway
I do not accept the premise that
you would necessarily have a different alignment."
227. The Strategic Case stated that there
is a choice when building a new railway between classic rail,
or high speed rail:
"A conventional speed line would cost 9%
less than a high speed line, but would deliver far fewer benefits
in terms of journey time savings. A conventional speed line would
have impacts on local communities, as would high speed rail. Overall,
the journey time benefits from high speed outweigh the additional
costs when compared to a conventional line by a factor of more
than five to one."
228. The benefits referred to were calculated
using assigned values of time for each type of traveller. We consider
this in detail in Chapter 8.
Have the Government considered
all the options?
GOVERNMENT'S CONSIDERATION OF THE ALTERNATIVES
229. We asked witnesses whether the Government
had properly considered all of the alternatives proposed to meet
the objective of providing more capacity on the UK rail network.
Professor Overman criticised what he perceived as the Government's
failure to provide a full assessment of the different options
which could achieve the objective of providing additional capacity:
"I felt that if I was a Member of Parliament
being asked to think about alternatives, having someone say to
me, 'We have these two alternatives for dealing with congestion,
one of them has a benefit-cost ratio of 2.3 for every pound you
spend. Here is this other one that has a benefit-cost ratio of
3.1 but we feel this one would be far too disruptive and here
is my back-of-the-envelope calculation that gives you some feeling
for why that is', is not a satisfactory position to put decision-makers
in when they are asking about things."
230. Mr Prout responded to this criticism
and told us that the Department had "done a huge amount of
work on alternatives." He cited four reports produced by
Atkins and Network Rail between 2010 and 2013 which were "really
substantial, thick reports on alternatives, dealing with road
and rail alternatives". He said that these reports:
"have BCRs attached to them, assessments
of the amount of capacity that you would generate, assessments
of the kind of disruption that would be generated by the construction
of these alternatives. You do not get the same level of cost estimation
as you do on a much more mature scheme like HS2, where we know
much more about it, but we deal with that by optimism bias and
Has the Government properly considered
the alternatives to provide additional capacity?
231. The alternatives in the Strategic Case
were rejected for two main reasons: they only provide a third
of the number of extra seats that HS2 does and the work required
would be too disruptive to the existing network. The Government
has not made a convincing case that the number of seats provided
by HS2 is required and has not put a price on the disruption caused
by the alternatives or by HS2. So on both grounds, the comparison
Chapter 5: Conclusions and recommendations
232. The Government should use the opportunity
of this review to consider how the higher prices for faster services
from London to Kent on HS1 have affected demand for these services,
to apply the lessons to HS2. (Paragraph 216)
233. The alternatives in the Strategic Case were
rejected for two main reasons: they only provide a third of the
number of extra seats that HS2 does and the work required would
be too disruptive to the existing network. The Government has
not made a convincing case that the number of seats provided by
HS2 is required and has not put a price on the disruption caused
by the alternatives or by HS2. So on both grounds, the comparison
is unproven. (Paragraph 231)
237 Strategic Case, p 120 Back
A non-departmental public body set up in 2001 to provide 'strategic
direction' for the railway industry. It was abolished in 2006. Back
Atkins, High Speed Line Study: Summary Report, 2005: http://issuu.com/greengauge21/docs/
[accessed March 2015] Back
Strategic Case, p 126 Back
Strategic Case, p 122 Back
Strategic Case, p 135 Back
Strategic Case,p 127 Back
The Strategic Case estimates that the scale of work required to
implement this alternative would require 14 years of weekend closures
across four lines to complete the work. Back
Strategic Case, p 135 Back
Strategic Case, p 70 Back
Strategic Case, p 134 Back
Strategic Case, p 135 Back
Strategic Case, p 135 Back
Written evidence from HS2 Action Alliance (EHS0037) Back
Punctuality is measured using the Public Performance Measure (PPM).
PPM measures the percentage of trains arriving at their terminating
station within five minutes of their scheduled arrival time for
commuter services and within 10 minutes for long distance services. Back
Network Rail, Review of Strategic Alternatives to High Speed
2, November 2011, pp 17-18: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/28572/hs2-review-of-strategic-alternatives.pdf
[accessed February 2015] Back
Strategic Case, p 66 Back
Letter from the Secretary of State to the Chairman, 12 February
Written evidence from High Speed UK (EHS0077) Back
Q134 (Steven Leigh) and Written evidence from Kings Bromley
Stop HS2 Action Group (EHS0004) Back
Written evidence from Chiltern Ridges Action Group (EHS0059) Back
Written evidence from Chris Belk (EHS0030) Back
Strategic Case, p 71 Back