Opponents’ preferred alternative to HS2 is a red herring, says Philip Hammond

Philip Hammond at the Fringe event

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond told a packed Fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference that the alternative to HS2 was a red herring.

Mr Hammond told the audience at the Transport Times event last night (October 3) that the West Coast Main Line was ‘all but out of capacity’

“The growth we are seeing cannot be accommodated with expansion (of the existing network)” he said.

Mr Hammond added that alternatives suggested by opponents, such as Rail Package 2 and the recently-added RP2+, had not calculated costs for reliability or resilience.

“The evidence does not support that you can accommodate rail growth – This is a red herring,” Mr Hammond told Jerry Marshall from HS2 opponents AGHAST.

Mr Hammond said HS2 was vital to the UK regions.

“If we neglect our transport infrastructure, we neglect the competitiveness of our economy,” he said.

The room was crowded, mainly with those supporting High Speed Rail, but there were opponents eager to put their case including Mr Marshall and a councillor from north London.

Mr Hammond said HS2 would allow ‘a levelling of the playing field, away from London and the South East.’

“All of our nation must be able to contribute otherwise we are tackling the world with one hand tied behind our back,” he said.

He said transport infrastructure was needed to bring investment:

“The Victorians built the rail network and did a great job, but our rail structure reflects the commerce and travel patterns of 150 years ago not the 21st century.”

He said that HS2 was not all about speed, despite what was being written and discussed.

“Between London and Birmingham/Manchester it’s all about capacity. The alternative (if we don’t build HS2) is pricing people off our railways. And not being able to accommodate freight,’ he added.

He was asked why work could not begin in the north and south and meet in the middle.

He explained that the business case built as the line headed north. He said the funding for HS2 (around £2bn per annum) would be diverted from the completion of the Crossrail project.

Finally, Mr Hammond asked Tom McCarthy, managing director of Bechtel, to sum up his thoughts on the West Coast Main Line.

“It’s at its technical limit,’ he said.

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8 Responses to Opponents’ preferred alternative to HS2 is a red herring, says Philip Hammond

  1. Hammond: #HS2 ‘all about capacity’. No need for environmentally damaging ultra high speed then.

    • gohs2 says:

      Released capacity on the WCML (provided by HS2) yields pathways for more local and regional services, as well as freight services, relieving our congested roads. HS2 would be typically 11-metres wide (22m at widest) although many opponents have incorrectly suggested ‘swathes of countryside’ or ‘tracks the width of Wembley’ The land-take is far less than an 8-lane motorway.
      Speed brings the economic benefits. It only costs around 10% more to build HSR compared to a conventional line, but the economic return with HSR is far greater. Thanks for posting.

  2. It does seem that most politicians have grasped that the existing West Coast line is full, and most anti-HS2 groups haven’t. Unfortunately, the politicians have yet to understand that HS2 is a relatively low capacity solution, not in seats/hour, but in terms of trains/hour. And low trains/hour (12tph due to 400kph, more would be better than anywhere else in the world) means few destinations can be served which is wrong for UK geography, where we need services to smaller towns and cities, not just big ones. The HC-Midland proposal addresses these issues http://ukrail.blogspot.com/2011/07/hc-midland.html

    • gohs2 says:

      Thanks for your comments, Stephen. We believe there are real benefits for the West Midlands from the capacity released on existing lines by HS2, which certainly will aid smaller towns and cities – more services in Wolverhampton, Walsall etc., as well as freeing paths for freight traffic.

      • I hope that in private with Government you are slightly more critical of the detail of HS2. The current proposal does not free train paths west of New Street nor in all probability east of it. Wolverhampton and Coventry will still need through trains to London, at least in part because of the total lack of integration of Fazeley Street wrt new Street. As such, the same fast trains along that corridor will still be needed, thus no paths are freed (for passengers or freight). If you support the HS2 and the West Midlands (and not just Birmingham), you really need to back the Birmingham Central station proposal, particularly as it strengthens the HS2 business case and usability. http://ukrail.blogspot.com/2011/08/improving-hs2-birmingham-central.html

  3. arnaud.lenoir says:

    @Stephen Colebourne about http://ukrail.blogspot.com/2011/08/improving-hs2-birmingham-central.html.
    Thinking about it, it will seems more logical to have Birmingham has a through HS2 station that continues to the North and not stopping only to Birmingham.
    That may require more space and more money, but to have a super train station in Birmingham, seems to be a nice idea and will open more possibilities for the future.

    Lille Europe in France is station where Eurostar & TGV & Thalys go through and Lille Flandres is terminal for TGV between Lille and Paris that is only 10 minutes walk (taking easy) from Lille Europe or 1 underground station (with the VAL).
    Lille Paris is around 1h4min
    Lille London is around 1h20min
    Lille Brussels is around 35min

    To join the stations in Birmingham city centre, you could do like between Birminghan International station and airport with the free ‘Air-Rail Link’ monorail system.

    Now, if No HS2 for UK, it’s a little bit like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OjkEOdZj3A … (going backward)

  4. gohs2 says:

    Thanks for your comments. Although a few independent commentators have drawn attention to the fact they believe capacity isn’t sufficiently released in the West Midlands the majority of leading experts and bodies disagree and believe there will be capacity released on existing lines for more local, regional and freight services.

    • You can’t magic train path capacity out of a hat. Can you point us to the document that specifies which services that currently run into New Street will cease to serve it? And which services currently running on the two track Wolverhampton-Coventry line will cease to run? The London service will still need to run as otherwise Wolverhampton and Coventry will cease to have services to London, which is unacceptable (especially as those passengers cannot and will not change to HS2 due to the lack of integration).

      More generally I’m astonished by the lack of imagination and desire by Centro and the West Midlands councils. I’m pointing out clear and obvious flaws in the *detail* of the HS2 proposal that Centro/councils should be lobbying to improve, just like TfL is lobbying for Crossrail 2 to relieve Euston.

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