HS2 critics have been busy reporting and re-tweeting the news that Poland has cancelled its High Speed Rail project.
The report in Railway Gazette International can be read here.
Poland’s main source of funding for rail infrastructure comes from the EU and the restricted budget available meant that choices had to be made.
But it’s hardly the same situation in the UK, where the Transport Select Committee concluded that the business case for HS2 was affordable.
HS2 would cost around £2bn per year and benefit the Midlands, North and Scotland, as well as London. This £2bn is currently being spent on Crossrail – a project which benefits London only – but will transfer to HS2 on completion.
Poland will instead spend on upgrading and improving existing lines. HS2 critics claim the same should be done here.
But we’ve already spent £9bn on upgrading the West Coast Main Line and this has done nothing to solve capacity problems. HS2 opponents such as Jerry Marshall even claim that there is no capacity crunch. This is nonsense.
- Rail is growing at 6% per year
- We have more people travelling than any time since the 1920s (we had twice the network back then)
- We are constantly tweeted by people on crowded trains!
We need capacity to ensure our local, regional and freight services are not squeezed out of an increasingly congested West Coast Main Line.
Returning to the issue of Europe, we can see a clear switch from air travel to rail in Spain.
The number of passengers flying between Madrid and Barcelona has fallen by 40%, while air travel between the capital and Malaga has dropped 50% since the advent of high speed rail.
This is not just a story of success in Spain, or plane versus train. Paris to Brussels used to take around two-and-a-half hours on the train. In those days the train made up 24% of journeys with car journeys at 61% and a small airline market.
When Thalys cut the journey time to 1h 25m train patronage rose to 50%, while car journeys fell to 43% and airlines withdrew from the route.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Frankfurt to Cologne route is one of the most commercially successful in the world. Critics say high speed rail needs long distances, but Frankfurt-Cologne is an almost identical mileage to Birmingham-London.