HS2 – responding to those misleading claims from opponents

HS2 brings £1.5bn to West midlands economy per year

HS2 brings jobs to the West Midlands and releases capacity on our existing lines

The following letter has been sent to the Kenilworth Weekly News by rail journalist Alan Marshall in response to Stop HS2’s latest press release.

MAY I draw your readers’ attention to a classic example of how Kenilworth’s Joe Rukin’s Stop HS2 campaign can mislead the general public.

Since the speech on Monday (19 March) by the Prime Minister to the Institution of Civil Engineers about national infrastructure, the Stop HS2 website has accused Mr Cameron of being ‘schizophrenic and delusional’ over HS2.  The report, posted by Joe Rukin on the Stop HS2 website, states that the Prime Minister “said that pushing through HS2 was to ‘hold fast to our vision in the face of vested interests’.”

But anyone reading the full text of the speech will see that Mr Cameron made no such comment with reference to HS2.

The Prime Minister actually spoke about national infrastructure (not singularly about HS2, but about transport, including roads and airports as well as railways, and about telecommunications and energy generation) and said: “I am determined to show that this Government is serious about building for the future.

“We will take difficult decisions.

“We will risk short-term unpopularity.

“And we will hold fast to our vision in the face of vested interests … because our motivation and our duty is to protect and champion the national interest.

“So let me indicate some of the specific areas where I think we need to act soon, to secure the things our country needs.”

He then spoke about transport and said: “The transport challenge facing us is clear.

“Demand for rail is higher than at any point since the Second World War.

“Our roads are congested.

“Our key hub airport is full.

“By 2030 the distance travelled by road and rail in the UK is expected to increase by at least a third.

“Without world class transport we will not get growth, people won’t invest here and regions in decline will be further left behind.”

At no time did the Prime Minister say — as claimed by Stop HS2 Campaign Coordinator Joe Rukin in his comments on the StopHS2 web site — that those “fighting” against HS2 are “those with vested interest who should be opposed.”

Against this background, I would invite your readers to treat the contents, and the accuracy, of the Stop HS2 web site with considerable caution.

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7 Responses to HS2 – responding to those misleading claims from opponents

  1. aboodoo says:

    Unfortunately, the campaigners for HS2 miss out a number of important issues:

    1. The railway is not full. Demand exceeds supply largely because we run the smallest and shortest trains in Europe. The German equivalent of CrossCountry, for example, runs with 14 coach trains as opposed to our 4. Platform lengthening and new carriages are relatively cheap. Also, ERTMS Level 2 should eek out some extra capacity in congested locations, but also there is potential for new flyovers and retimetabling to reduce conflicts.

    2. High Speed should not take precedence over local transport. Most journeys are local, and 25% of all car journeys are under 2 miles. Cars are inefficient, expensive and polluting over short distances in cities, and our urban public transport, walking and cycling facilities are inadequate. HS2 addresses none of these issues, and in fact, with a network of out-of-town stations serving suburban sprawl, will not encourage use of public transport, because if you drive a long way to the station, you might as well drive the while way there…

    3. We have 50 years’ experience of High Speed railways worldwide. With this in mind, in Britain, if we decide that a High Speed network is the right way to go (and I question whether we’re at that position yet), we should take the best of what has been done worldwide and apply it to the UK. HS2 Ltd has produced a project which encompasses Global Worst Practice – from failing to integrate with city centres and the conventional railway, to out-of-town stations (which worldwide have performed below expectations) to poor consultation and the rejection of alternatives without properly investigating them.

    4. The demand for travel is predicted to grow massively – yes it is, but the predictions are “wet finger in the air” at best. Planning for the DfT requires use of figures in TEMPRO, an application which “knows” how many jobs, houses and people will be in every location in the UK in 30 years’ time. It takes no account of economic conditions, changing technology or saturation in demand due to lack of infrastructure (this happens, and is one of the key economic arguments for improving urban transport), and also takes no account of the opposite, the generation of traffic purely by the existence of new infrastructure.

    Should you need chapter and verse on all of this, I can supply it, but I’ll leave you with a parting shot from Chris Green, former Director of British Rail InterCity, who had looked at the potential for High Speed Rail in the 1980s, at a time when similar levels of growth in rail travel were being experienced (albeit for a shorter length of time), which was that they could not forsee the need for a High Speed Line in the UK, even under the most optimistic assumptions, for the first half of the 21st century.

    • gohs2 says:

      Thanks for stopping by.

      To take your points in turn:

      1) Network Rail say WCML will be full by early 2020s, but demand is outstripping forecast so this already seems very optimistic.
      ATOC confirms rail is growing at 6% per year. West Midlands regional rail has doubled in the last decade and grown every year. We believe it’s too simplistic to say adding more carriages will do the job. This is dealt with in greater depth here – http://bit.ly/GCyHEG

      It doesn’t make headlines, of course, but adding carriages/services is already happening right now. Virgin and London Midland are adding carriages and services ( a lot of info on this blog and Nick Kingsley’s) but there is still overcrowding. I agree the issues are obviously worse at peak times, but that’s when people want to travel. We have already lost stations and services and Network Rail say we will lose more if the alternative to HS2 went ahead.

      2) Agreed. In the West Midlands a lot of work is taking place and it’s essential HSR fits in with local, regional transport. Centro is extending the Metro tram from New St to Snow Hill and looking at links from New St to HS2, for example. Birmingham City Council discussed these projects (involving buses, cycle etc) at their Transport Summit last week.

      3) Confused a little by this one. There are only four stations detailed (phase one). Euston is central London and has excellent connections (although of course work is needed), Old Oak Common will connect with Crossrail and help regenerate areas of west London. Birmingham Interchange is next to the Airport/NEC and within reach of millions and the motorway network. Birmingham city centre HS2 is next door to Moor St and 5 minutes from New Street.

      4) Absolutely agree that forecasting is difficult. But we can say for a fact that there are the same numbers using rail NOW as in 1920s and we had twice as much track then. So there is huge growth. If we are to ignore this demand or cross our fingers that we’ll all be communicating via new technologies and not travelling (as some opponents claim) we surely take an enormous risk.

  2. M. Bullock says:

    All rather odd and under-informed. Surely the vested interests are principally to be found amongst the supporters of HS2, in particular the engineering firms and engineering consultancies?

  3. aboodoo says:

    Thanks for replying. It’s essential that we do have a rational debate about this, and I hear that in my neck of the woods (Leeds), the ICE is planning to do so later in the year, or possibly in early 2013.

    I just want to come back to you on a couple of those issues. Like many of those opposing the HS2 project, I am aware of issues in the rail network and have worked on the railway in a research and consultancy capacity (with a Research Masters project on rail demand modelling, supervised by one of the authors of the Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook; followed by researching the rail industry with papers comparing the operational and planning frameworks of six national railways, and competition for space on the timetable; then work on cost-benefit analysis of railways in the Scottish Central Belt). So, if you don’t ming, I’ll come back on each of those points in turn:

    1. You talk about growth in regional rail. This is good for Birmingham as it helps commuters to get to the city to work, and other people to get around for business and pleasure. This is entirely different from growth in InterCity rail, especially in a country as centred on its capital, as we are with London. Making Birmingham 40 minutes from London by train (shorter in time terms than a local train from the edge of London to the centre), is all about turning the second city into a suburb of the capital. Experience on other high speed networks is that jobs and investment on balance go to the larger city at the expense of the smaller. While Londoners will love this, I happen to have rather a soft spot for the West Midlands (in no small part from my undergraduate degree at Birmingham and three years living in the city) and have no desire for the business heart to be ripped out of the city. What Birmingham needs for is economic recovery and survival is to built a strong regional economy which does not depend on London.

    Like demand for all transport modes, the availability of supply will constrain demand (we can measure this on the railway, and unfortunately I can’t tell you at the moment to what extent this is true – although I have a colleague doing PhD research on this very topic who is also convinced that HS2 is a very bad idea).

    As for the West Coast Main Line, extending Pendolinos alone (with the 11 coach “long” Pendolinos as the base case) can give another 50% increase in seating capacity within a short period. In the longer term, double deck is a reasonable aspiration, requiring an extra 37cm height (and suitable designs were produced some years ago by a UK Design Agency which has designed double deck coaches for other railways). The requirement for tilt can be alleviated by some work to curves in certain locations (I’m afraid I can’t remember where my “Five Mile Line” Civil Engineering diagrams of the route are, as it’s a long time since I last used them), and the Swiss Federal Railway is currently introducing double deck tilting trains which for here would require only changes to track separation which would be easier and cheaper than a new line.

    2. HS2 takes transport funding away from more local transport solutions. Investment in local journeys will always benefit more people and be more equitable in benefitting people from all parts of society. Largely, the demand for peak travel (where demand is constrained). I personally think Birmingham City Council are missing the point, and one of the many flaws in HS2’s proposals is that Birmingham Curzon Street is to be a terminal station with no rail connection to other lines, making the city at the heart of the national rail network into somewhere at the stub end of a branch line.

    3. HS2 Ltd are adamant that the whole “Y” network is seen as one project. Changes to the planning system will mean that greenfield development around Birmingham Airport will be easier, and the network topology (the relationship of links) means that the Airport station will be far better connected. As the number of trains proposed for the full network is way in excess of rhe design capacity (25 trains per hour as opposed to a design capacity of 18), the trains from Birmingham Curzon Street to the north will be the first to be chopped once the timetablers realise that they’ve made a massive mistake. The main capacity constraint on the Y network is between Birmingham Junction and the Y Junction.

    It is very likely that we will see a sea of sprawl east of Birmingham. This is likely to, following from changes to the planning system in the National Planning Policy Framework and Planning Policy Statements, result in a car-dependent sprawl with little public transport access, and that will not be conducive to walking or cycling. Why does this matter? Because most journeys are local, and the people living and working in those areas will be making predominantly local journeys. Cars are inefficient at low speed and over short distances, and really efficient at high speeds and over long distances, so the priority for reducing CO2 emissions must always focus on reducing car use for local journeys first, by designing new developments to be better for walking (this is the subject of my own PhD, incidentally).

    4. I am not suggesting (unlike many) that new technologies like Skype are the answer here. I am a frequent user of Skype and it’s great, and it has saved me a few train fares; but big problems need big questions to be asked. We have an economy which is overly centralised on London, which leads to overheating of the London economy at the expense of elsewhere. Experience on the French and Spanish High Speed networks suggests that this centralisation will only be exacerbated (and here I admit that, despite living and working in Leeds, think Birmingham should really be taking its place as one of the most important regional economies in the UK, and to do that, it needs not to have stronger connections with London, but for West Midlands businesses to not have to go to London for clients or suppliers. It needs improved rail connections with the other Core Cities, but to basically ignore the draw of London. I’m not saying I know how to do this though!

  4. CommuterRant says:

    There is no such thing as a tilting double-decker, the one you refer to is brand new, untested and the engineers are sceptical. As usual with Bombardier, they are testing new concepts in the live field, something that others don’t do. Besides, a tilt degree of 2 degrees means nothing, you can do that by pitching the track.. If you gauge cleared the entire WCML, the actual journey times will be increased as 125mph on the WCML is only attained when the train can tilt. Plus think of the cost and disruption of clearing the entire line for tilting double deckers! You clearly have no idea how this works, or indeed, use a train on a regular basis on a congested line.

    To add to this, London is the capital, this is where all the jobs are, get used to it. I am from the Midlands also, and I have lived in Leeds for a long while. London is where it is at, if it becomes easier for people to get to London without having to live in London then surely that is a good thing?
    If people earning lots of money are actually spending it in their local area, then perhaps that is GOOD for the local economy no?
    Also you haven’t considered what a Hybrid bill does in Parliament. For those hard of reading, ie you, a Hybrid bill built the channel tunnel, once that was complete, they used it for a jubilee line extension, now they are using it for crossrail, then it will be HS2. ALL of these are SEPARATE from Network Rails control period budget.

    I guess you’ve missed all the electrification, line upgrade, station upgrade, train lengthening, speed improvements, new train announcements then?

    You have absolutely no facts to back up any of your hypotheses, your points have already been debunked in the national media and by most rail commentators. You’d have thought before posting such a long response,you’d have done some background reading, especially when you are studying transport. Unbelievable really

  5. dadumdadidadumdada says:

    If it can’t work commercially in the US state of California, I’m not sure how it would work here. Any professional manager will tell you that increasing capacity cost effectively is the right solution.
    Go Aboodoo !

  6. HH says:

    Even so California IS pursuing HSR despite the infection of road and air lobbies.

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