No Go-Slow for HS2

HS2 route selection

Review of HS2 Route Selection and Speed – HS2 Ltd January 2012

No Go-Slow for HS2

In the first of a two-part post Alan Marshall examines claims made (ahead of this week’s Judicial Review) that the top speed of HS2 could be reduced. 

ON the day before a series of judicial reviews were due to begin in the High Court The Independent on Sunday newspaper ran a report that the Government “is looking to slice around 100km per hour off the top speed of the controversial High Speed Two (HS2) rail connection proposed between London and Birmingham. Officials at the Department for Transport are understood to have asked the state-owned body overseeing HS2 if it agrees with criticisms that Government had focused too much on the need for speed.”

HS2 design speed

Only at the end of its report did the newspaper add that a Transport Department spokesman had said there were no plans to reduce HS2’s maximum design speed of 400km/h (250mph).

However, had the newspaper bothered to check the facts (something, perhaps, that Lord Leveson would encourage) it would have found that the question of HS2’s speed was raised last year — and replied to at length as long ago as last January in the ‘Review of HS2 London to West Midlands Route Selection and Speed  – A report to Government by HS2 Ltd.’ (copy of cover alongside)

This stated:  “We designed HS2 to permit speeds of up to 225mph [360km/h] initially, similar to routes currently being developed elsewhere in Europe for which there is proven technology,” adding: “Our view is that 250mph [400km/h] represents a reasonable maximum design speed, given likely technology development over the coming decades.”

HS2 and the Chilterns

But the report also made clear that the route now recommended — including various levels of mitigation incorporated after feedback from public consultation in 2010 — has a maximum speed of only 155mph (250km/h) between Old Oak Common and West Ruislip, and a train leaving London would only reach 360km/h after 28 miles [because of speed limits in the many tunnelled sections now proposed up to and through the Chilterns].

Only about 68 miles (109km) of the stage one route, between Amersham and the Birmingham Interchange Station near to the National Exhibition Centre, would have the maximum design speed of 250mph, HS2 Ltd said.

“Given the sizeable loss of benefits from lower speeds, and the scope to mitigate environmental effects, we remain of the view therefore that the current design speed is appropriate. . . .  In summary, we have found that the sustainability benefits that could be achieved by adopting a lower design speed are, at best, marginal.”

The case for speed

The report added: “The only environmental improvements delivered by a lower maximum design speed would be a marginal reduction in noise impacts, which would be outweighed by a substantial reduction in economic benefits.”

In reconsidering the case for adopting a lower maximum speed, HS2 Ltd said it had developed alignments for two alternative corridor options having the same maximum line speed as HS1  (186mph/300km).

The two alternative options are examined in the following post…..

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3 Responses to No Go-Slow for HS2

  1. Ian Brooker says:

    Useful, thanks. I hope the second part of your post will be soon!

  2. Why is the “only” benefit of lower speeds less noise? Surely there is a huge energy saving too?

    I’d accept the argument that lower speeds meant less chance to compete with domestic air – if HS2 was competing substantially with domestic air in the first place, which it clearly is not.

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