HS2 facts and problems

Stop HS2 – HS2 facts and problems

1.0 Overview of HS2

2.0 False Assumptions

2.1 No Business Case

2.2 No Environmental Case

2.3 No money to pay for it

3.0 Latest Strategic Case

3.1 Modal shift

3.2 Time Saving

3.3 Dismissing digital technologies

3.4 Changs since last report include:

4.0 Who will use HS2?

4.1 Fares

4.2 What’s happening in other countries?

4.3 HS2 – A link to Europe?

4.4 HS2 and the South-east airport

 5.0 There are much better alternatives

5.1 Voters do not favour HS2

5.2 Speed “almost irrelevant” but dictates everything

 6.0 Shifting Arguments

6.1 Capacity

 7.0 Rhetoric and half truths

7.1 September 2013 KPMG Report

7.2 October 2013 Network Rail Report

7.3 Inverting the internet argument

8.0 An alternative vision for a modern Britain

1.0 Overview of HS2

 High Speed 2 (HS2) is the Government’s proposed new ultra-high speed rail line. The Government says it will cost £42.6 billion to build, plus £7.5bn for the trains, in 2011 prices. Phase 1 would not run until 2026 at the earliest, with stations in just Birmingham and London. Phase 2 would have stations in Manchester, (near) Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds but is currently due for completion in 2033.

A recent YouGov poll found 53% of voters are opposed to HS2, with only 27% in favour.

Opposition to HS2 is at 53%, only 27% in favour,

Opposition to HS2 far exceeds support

The previous Transport Select Committee inquiry into HS2 in 2011 concluded:

 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmtran/1185/118510.htm

123. Many issues about the Government’s proposal for HS2 and about high-speed rail in general have been raised in the course of our inquiry. We have pointed to a number of areas that we believe need to be addressed by the Government in the course of progressing HS2. These include the provision of greater clarity on the policy context, the assessment of alternatives, the financial and economic case, the environmental impacts, connections to Heathrow and the justification for the particular route being proposed.”

The case for HS2 has got significantly worse since 2011, alternatives have been repeatedly dismissed with the Department for Transport admitting that a high speed railway is worse for the environment than a conventional speed railway, the policy context now shows that the HS2 announcement just before the last election was rushed through by the previous Labour Cabinet without proper scrutiny, and the connection to Heathrow has been dropped.

2.0 False Assumptions

Every rationale for HS2 proposed by the Government has proved to be based on faulty assumptions or misleading data. All the Department for Transport have left to use in their ‘fightback’ is rhetoric, fear tactics and half-truths. Examples of this include the recent KPMG report and scaremongering about the alternatives.

The DfT’s economic case for HS2 relies so heavily on time savings that every decision about the railway has been made to maximise speed, at the expense of connectivity and the environment. In the latest economic case, 79% of the economic case are from time savings. Meanwhile they have dismissed the greater viability and value for money of the alternatives.

2.1 No Business Case

So far the Department has made decisions based on fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions which do not reflect real life.”

From “High Speed 2: a review of early programme preparation” Public Accounts Committee, September 2013

Costing £50bn, the economic case for HS2 must stand up to scrutiny – but it it does not. Patrick McLoughlin has dismissed independent Parliamentary and non-governmental bodies as “bean counters” when they raise concerns about the huge costs and risks of HS2.

Across the world, high speed rail programmes have failed to achieve the grossly inflated passenger numbers used to justify their construction.

 The DfT’s economic case for HS2 has always relied on the assumption that all time spent on trains is wasted. With the advent of technology like tablet computers and mobile phones, even the DfT now publicly admit the assumption is outdated. But the October 2013 economic case relied even more heavily on the idea that time on trains is wasted in the Benefit Cost Ratio calculations.

2.2 No Environmental Case

A new high speed line would cost 9% more than a conventional railway and, in certain respects, would have higher environmental costs…”

From ‘The strategic case for HS2’, Department for Transport, October 2013 p21

HS2 threatens 350 unique habitats, 67 irreplaceable ancient woods, 30 river corridors, 24 Sites of Special Scientific Interest plus hundreds of other sensitive areas. The ultra-high design speed of 250mph, dictates HS2 tracks have to be as straight as possible, and cannot curve round these important sensitive sites.

For the development of HS1, the ‘Kent Principles’ were developed, which made environmental and mitigation concerns central to the choice of the route to the Channel Tunnel. As a result, HS1 follows the existing major transport corridors of the M2 and M20 and minimised damage to communities and sensitive sites. Unlike HS2, the top speed of Eurostar trains is 186mph (300kph), with Javelin trains running at 140mph (225kph). For HS2, with the emphasis on ultra-high speed, the Kent Principles have been torn up and completely ignored.

Despite the scale and complexity of the HS2, it is expected that there will only be 8 weeks to respond to the consultation on the 50,000 Environmental Statement (ten times longer than the draft) to be produced as part of the Hybrid Bill procedure. In comparison, the consultation on tractor speed limits, with a 10 page consultation document, is 12 weeks long.

The expected modal shift due to HS2 has fallen almost to nothing. HS2 Ltd say that the modal shift from air will be 1% of passengers and only 4% from cars. 26% of passengers will be expected to use HS2 just because it is built.

To achieve the speeds proposed on HS2 at least three times as much energy will be needed as on conventional inter-city trains.

While ministers have claimed HS2 will be ‘broadly carbon neutral’, this omits the carbon cost of constructing the line. The power requirement is 350 Mega Watts just for Phase 1, the output of some UK power stations. HS2 Ltd do not know how much extra electricity will be needed for Phase 2.

No value has been put on the lost output from farming or tourism during the construction and operation of HS2. Last year, HS2 Ltd dropped the value of the countryside that would be destroyed by the HS2 tracks from £4bn to £1bn.

The DfT say HS2 has no effect on road building plans. And the Davies Commission says HS2 does not change the need for new airports.

With negligible modal shift and no carbon benefit to offset the environmental damage, there is definitely no environmental case for HS2.

2.3 No money to pay for it

“It is not possible to give a definitive figure for expenditure that will result as a consequence of this Bill.”

from House of Commons Explanatory Notes, High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill, May 2013

The expected cost of HS2 from London to Manchester and Leeds was originally £33bn, in 2009 prices, but earlier this year, at the time of the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill debate, the cost leapt to £50bn, in 2011 prices. This still excludes such things as localised infrastructure to connect with HS2, foot bridges and farm bridges to cross it. In addition, this does not include the Heathrow Link or any provision for changes to the scheme. The contingency is there, because HS2 Ltd will get their sums wrong again and they have demonstrated an inability to keep contracts on budget.

Despite political rhetoric that there will be ‘no blank cheque’ for HS2, the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill allows unlimited spending on preparatory works, but many of the items specified were included in the 2010 budget. Although the bill asks for annual expenditure reports, the first one will not be put before Parliament until after the next general election.

This Bill is not a necessary part of the process of building HS2, but was introduced to Parliament because the original budget was seriously underestimated and costs to date are already significantly over budget. Most companies awarded contracts for design work in 2011 have gone over budget.

Projected costs for HS2 were grossly inaccurate. The rebuild of Euston station was underestimated by £500 million: the plan is now to leave the existing 1960s building and add an extension for the HS2 tracks. This will still be hugely disruptive for travellers and local residents for about 8 years: the budgeted £1.2bn compensation for HS2 is likely to be spent in full in London alone.

3.0 Latest Strategic Case

3.1Modal shift

With every economic case, the modal shift has dropped. With the latest revision, only 5% of passengers are expected to have shifted from air or car.

Classic Rail

New Trips

Air

Car

2010 economic case

57%

27%

8%

8%

2011 economic case

65%

22%

6%

7%

2012 economic case

65%

24%

3%

8%

2013 economic case

69%

26%

1%

4%

3.2 Time Saving

The benefits attributed to time savings have risen to 79% The number of expected business travellers on the train has doubled in the HS2 calculations, to approximately 60-70%, depending on the precise journey being made. This in spite of Transport ministers agreeing publicly that time on trains can be productive.

3.3 Dismissing digital technologies

The latest strategic case document claims

And despite predictions that new technology would take the place of travel, our demand for both has soared. We’ve seen the launch of Skype, Twitter and faster, smarter tablets and phones, all in just over 15 years. In the same time, rail journeys have doubled to 1.5 billion a year.”

 The implication conflicts with detailed studies by Government departments. Overall long-distance travel has been falling, and car usage has been static for the last 15 years, following a period of growth from the 1950s. In contrast, rail usage was static for much of that period, before it began to grow again, after privatisation.

In recent years, owning and running a car has becoming increasingly expensive: The costs of fuel and car insurance have rocketed, pricing younger drivers out of cars. Anti-congestion measures have further discouraged car use in towns and city centres. By ignoring changes on other modes of transports, HS2 Ltd is appearing to encourage a simplistic and one-dimensional view of the interactions between transport and communications technology

It is a deliberate twisting of the argument, and HS2 Ltd have not used any studies to argue for this assertion. Instead they have dotted a few events in internet history on a graph of rail growth from the Office of Rail Regulation, but this assertion that improved technology will increase travel is not borne out by detailed studies by other government departments such as by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. A report produced for them, and published in November 2013 says

Large corporates have made significant inroads over the last few years into reducing their travel costs (and emissions) by reducing the need for face-to-face meetings through the use of collaboration software and video-conferencing. With affordable faster broadband with low latency now widely available, we anticipate that the next few years will see this trend increasingly applying to smaller businesses.” p41 UK Broadband Impact Study

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/257006/UK_Broadband_Impact_Study_-_Impact_Report_-_Nov_2013_-_Final.pdf

3.4 Changs since last report include:

Liverpool does not now have a station on HS2. Journey times compared to London will be longer than from Manchester, and according to KPMG report Liverpool may actually lose out with HS2.

The Heathrow link has been ‘paused’

The planned rebuild of Euston has been dropped, because of the underestimated budget.

4.0 Who will use HS2?

Most high speed rail projects forecast far more passengers than use the service when the project is completed, including HS1. The HS2 business case assumes that rail growth will continue for decades, even though long distance travel across all modes is falling. The continued uptake of digital technologies is likely to decrease this further.

4.1 Fares

On HS1, not only are the high speed tickets more expensive, but the fares for the conventional speed alternatives have been increasing more than most other fares to try and make HS1 more attractive. HS1 currently carries 9 million passengers per year instead of the 25 million forecast for now: unexpected competition from low cost airlines and ferry operators is blamed for this. The National Audit Office reported that HS1 will cost the taxpayer £10bn more than expected because of this shortfall.

The HS2 business case assumes that fares will be the same as on conventional speed trains and Patrick McLoughlin warned recently that some passengers will have to pay “a lot of money” to use HS2. With higher energy and maintenance costs than a normal railway, the only way to keep HS2 fares in line with current services would be a massive increase in taxpayer subsidy for HS2.

As Philip Hammond told the Transport Select Committee in 2011

The assumptions underlying the pattern of use of HS2 assume similar pricing to the West Coast Main Line, which, as I have said before, ranges from eyewateringly expensive to really quite reasonable if you dig around,” but that a factory worker in Manchester might never use it.

Speed-based pricing is already evident on London-Birmingham routes as demonstrated by the price comparisons between Virgin, London Midland and Chiltern, with slower trains being correspondingly cheaper. It is clear that excluding premium pricing in the HS2 model has only been adopted to make the passenger numbers work.

4.2 What’s happening in other countries?

The rhetoric that ‘one can get a high speed train from London to Lille but not Leeds’ is the one of the most blatant deceptions in the case for HS2. According to international definitions, which defines high speed trains as 200kph or more, we have had high speed trains for 40 years. The West Coast Main Line, the East Coast Mainline, and the Great Western Mainline all meet the international definition of high speed rail, in addition to HS1 in Kent.

 What is more, high speed rail projects are being scaled back across the world on financial grounds. Portugal, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium have all cancelled planned or existing high speed rail projects. In June, France cancelled all new TGV railways not already under construction, with the president of SNCF admitting the focus on the TGV had starved conventional speed railways of funding.

4.3 HS2 – A link to Europe?

Many people in the Midlands and the North of England expect to be able to use HS2 to get to Europe, but the 18 trains per hour planned for HS2 (not possible with current technology) are purely for domestic services to London.

HS2 will not link well to HS1. The current proposal is to use the North London Line, but this line is already heavily used, both by freight and local stopping traffic. At most there is space for 3 HS2 trains an hour. What’s more telling is that when HS1 was being planned, the expectation was Eurostar trains would be able to use the North London Line to access the West Coast Main Line: but that proved impossible due to engineering constraints. The North London Line would need to be completely re-engineered, with all the bridges being replaced to allow the use of the European loading gauge trains HS2 would use.

4.4 HS2 and the South-east airport

Originally a High Speed Rail Line was suggested by the Conservative Party as an alternative to expansion at Heathrow, but the original design of HS2 did not include a link to Heathrow. This was subsequently added as a spur line, but has now been ‘paused’. The on/off Heathrow link is a result of the unclear and incomplete objectives for HS2, leading to uncertainty for potentially affected businesses and homes.

HS2 will not reduce demand for air travel. Not only has the clamour for expanded airport capacity got louder since the election – including from proponents of high speed rail like like Andrew Adonis and David Begg – but HS2 Ltd’s own modal shift figures have collapsed away. In the 2010 case, HS2 Ltd said 8% of HS2 passengers would have shifted from air, but by the 2013 economic case, HS2 Ltd’s own figures say that 1% of passengers would otherwise have gone by air. Any claims that HS2 might replace air are unfounded.

With the Davies Commission on air capacity in the south-east not due to report until 2015, decisions about the route of a new north-south railway are being made prematurely. If there is a new airport, it will need transport links, including rail: deciding the route of a £50bn railway project before the commission reports on options for airport capacity is short-sighted, and will not lead to the optimum solutions for connectivity.

The Government are hoping that the HS2 hybrid bill will go through committee stage during this period. The route of the new north-south railway will have been discussed at length by MPs in committee, and possibly have passed into law, before the Davies Commission reports. It will be too late for the new railway to include a station at the airport option recommended, whether it is expansion of an existing airport, or creation of a wholly new one.

At the oral evidence sessions for the 2011 inquiry by the TSC, air industry professionals criticised the design of HS2 and its connections.

 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmtran/1185/11090601.htm

q 377 Niall Duffy (Flybe): A specific example is when the Eurostar terminal transferred from Waterloo to King’s Cross St Pancras. We noticed that passengers south of the river were not prepared to add that extra 20, 25 or 30 minutes’ journey time going to Europe. We noticed our Southampton services to Paris and to Amsterdam going up, because they had done that calculation. I do not know the answer to your question, but the passenger will work it out pretty quickly. It seems to me a big gamble to spend that money on the chance that they might go from Birmingham through to Paris, because there are plenty of examples to show that they will work out the quickest way themselves.

Steven Costello (Heathrow Hub Ltd): May I add something which I hope is helpful? It is very difficult, in the way that HS2 Ltd has currently approached the proposal, to be definitive. In a way, it reflects the fact that HS2 Ltd had no aviation representative on the strategic challenge panel or any of the other challenge groups, so it is very much approached from a rail perspective. Certainly, from aviation’s point of view, it is the worst of all possible worlds at the moment, simply because a line from Birmingham, bypassing Heathrow, through central London to HS1 and Europe would be, in aviation terms, a thin route. There would not be enough traffic from point to point to sustain services at a frequency that is going to generate modal shift. “

 5.0 There are much better alternatives

Spending £50 bn on HS2 has a huge opportunity cost.

Alternatives to HS2 would not cost as much as HS2 and are much better value for money, would benefit far more people, better balanced in meeting needs across the whole country. These alternatives could be implemented much sooner than HS2.

For example, the independent think tank the New Economics Foundation has proposed a £33 bn package of investment including major upgrades to the East Coast and West Coast main lines; regional rail enhancements; investment in urban mass transit and bus networks; and improvements to cycling and walking infrastructure. These investments would still leave funds to extend the roll-out of super-fast broadband.

A package of this kind would not only meet rail capacity needs but would be much more effective than HS2 in catalysing growth and job creation and contributing to a low carbon future.

5.1 Voters do not favour HS2

Opposition to HS2 has been growing.

http://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/10/30/long-term-disruption-preferred-hs2/

According to the latest yougov poll, 53% of voters are against HS2, with just 27% in favour. Every sector of society in the Yougov poll has more opposition to HS2 than support for it.

But not only are voters opposed to HS2, they prefer alternatives. Yougov says

By 40% to 27%, the public prefer increasing existing capacity ‘even if this requires long term disruption to weekend train services’ to building HS2, the more expensive option. Additionally, another 19% would prefer if train capacity were not upgraded at all, meaning a combined 59% would prefer an alternative to HS2. 14% don’t know which option they prefer.”

5.2 Speed “almost irrelevant” but dictates everything

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said recently that for a new north-south railway, the speed was “almost irrelevant” but that as HS2 will only cost around 9% more than a conventional speed railway, we might as well spend the extra taxpayer’s money to make it ultra-high speed. However the unjustified design speed of 250mph (400kph) reduces both connectivity and capacity, and removes the possibility to run heavy freight on the new line.

The design speed affects every decision about the railway. There are a handful of stations on the entire HS2 line (none between London and Birmingham), because they slow the railway down too much. HS2 blasts through sensitive wildlife sites and communities, because the speed means the tracks need to be as straight as possible. Possible connections between HS2 and other railways, such as the East West Railway, have been ignored. Poor connectivity between new HS2 stations and the existing rail network, will result in time lost on onward journeys. The DfT say a new high speed line would have higher environmental costs than a conventional speed line.

The economic case for HS2 is reliant on the assumption that time on trains is wasted. Proponents of HS2 say every option that would reduce its speed “won’t have the same benefits”. In essence the DfT are saying we have to build a high speed railway, which costs £4bn extra, because a conventional speed railway isn’t high speed, even though they also say the speed is irrelevant.

However a conventional speed railway would mean lower cost to build and run, greater connectivity, more freight paths, greater versatility, lower energy requirements and therefore a lower carbon footprint, and would be less damaging to communities and the local environment.

Rethinking the new north-south railway without the constraint of ultra-high speed would have allowed a number of early design decisions to be re-visited. These could enable the railway to be designed with the Kent principles, with their emphasis on the environment and mitigation. They could radically rethink station options, with an intersection on the East-West railway to connect to the ‘electric spine’ and giving another option for commuting from places like Milton Keynes, Aylesbury, Bedford and Oxford.

If a new north-south railway is needed, a more radical rethink might route a new railway from Milton Keynes direct to Stratford International, giving a direct link to HS1, and opening up a route from the north to East London. A new railway could be designed with commuter capacity as the main criteria. It could incorporate the recommendations of the Davies commission when it reports, with good links to the new airport, or expanded existing airport.

6.0 Shifting Arguments

Since the inception of HS2, there have been a series of justifications used as a reason for building it. Initially, the justification was shorter journey times, but this assumed all time on trains was wasted. Then it was about replacing airplanes, but HS2 Ltd say HS2 will neither achieve modal shift, nor reduce carbon emissions. It was heralded as an environmentally friendly solution, but it is massively damaging to local environments.

The HS2 business case has been downgraded time and again. It’s been condemned by the National Audit Office, Taxpayers Alliance, Public Accounts Committee, New Economics Foundation, Treasury Select Committee and Institute of Economic Affairs. It’s been claimed HS2 will rebalance the economy and heal the north-south divide, but international evidence shows it is almost certain HS2 will suck economic activity towards London.

What’s more it now appears that HS2 was never properly assessed by the last Labour Cabinet: Peter Mandelson wrote in the Financial Times in July this year about the situation at the time

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5db4c212-e301-11e2-bd87-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz2l5QY4uZV

In 2010, when the then Labour government decided to back HS2, we did so based on the best estimates of what it would involve. But these were almost entirely speculative. The decision was also partly politically driven. In addition to the projected cost, we gave insufficient attention to the massive disruption to many people’s lives construction would bring. ….. We were focusing on the coming electoral battle, not on the detailed facts and figures of an investment that did not present us with any immediate spending choices. “

6.1 Capacity

The current rationale for HS2 is that a new railway is needed for capacity reasons. But HS2 would deliver capacity where it is needed least, whilst the majority still face crush-hour conditions. The growth in rail travel is mainly commuter and regional travel but the economic justification for HS2 is for long distance business travel to meetings, whereas in reality this is falling. HS2 won’t help the busiest routes, into Paddington and Waterloo: WCML long distance peak hour trains are just 56% full.The First Group bid document for the West Coast Mainline stated: “InterCity West Coast is unique because it has a considerable amount of unused capacity.”

HS2 documentation claims that passenger growth will carry on rising, for decades. However, the increased growth in passenger numbers has happened over 15 years, after a much longer period of static growth. What’s more is there is evidence that this growth is slowing down.

The introduction of smart ticketing might change the way fares work: which interm could better match demand for long-distance trains to seats on trains, reducing crowding for the busiest trains.

What’s more, HS2 Ltd are assuming that they will be able to run 18 trains per hour in each direction, but evidence to the earlier Transport Select Committee review of HS2 was that nowhere in the world ran 18 trains per hour on a high speed network.

HS2 is presented as the only possible solution to an urgent problem, even though improvements to the existing railway can supply the new capacity that the railway industry say we need. These could be operational long before HS2 opens, and all represent better value for money. For example, the biggest capacity issue on the West Coast Mainline are the services between London and Milton Keynes with the re-opened East-West line due to open before HS2 is built a new route from Milton Keynes to Marlebone will be available. This is ignored by HS2 Ltd

HS2 will not add any capacity until it opens in 2026, but will mean cuts to the existing rail services.

While it has been claimed that HS2 will ‘free up capacity’, it is clear that to many destinations this means ‘losing the trains you already have’. Over 30 destinations will receive fewer, slower or no services to London after HS2 under current plans, due to the cost savings from the existing network which the HS2 business case requires.

It has been said that the decision to restore direct London services from Shrewsbury shows that there is no capacity left, but this decision has been overturned, and direct services will resume in 2014. It has also been said that HS2 is needed to increase freight capacity. If freight is the need, why build a railway which will not carry freight?

7.0 Rhetoric and half truths

7.1 September 2013 KPMG Report

1.1 KPMG Report

Recently, the Government has been using the September 2013 KPMG report, commissioned by HS2 Ltd to bolster support for HS2. The report cost HS2 Ltd £242,000 and invented a brand-new untested methodology to claim HS2 would create £15bn of economic benefits per year. The methodology has been widely criticised, including by two different former advisors to HS2 Ltd. Even the KPMG report itself states on p83: “We recognise that this approach does not have a firm statistical foundation”.

Henry Overman, former advisor to HS2 Ltd, wrote in the Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/10454186/HS2-is-bad-value-and-thats-a-fact.html

For one thing, part of the calculation that has “no firm statistical foundation” (it’s made up, to put it bluntly) nearly doubles the estimated good effect from £8 billion to £15 billion. Consider also that a lot of this projected effect comes from shifting workers around Britain: that might help specific places (Birmingham, London and Manchester) but it won’t mean a positive benefit for the British economy as a whole.”

There are a number of other problems with the report. For example, it used the August 2012 economic case, which included a link to Heathrow: this link had been ‘paused’ months before KPMG began work, but it was still included it in their analysis.

The published KPMG report only tells part of the story in their data. It took a FOI request to get the details of places which KPMG had calculated would suffer economic loss if HS2 goes ahead. This included counties and cities far from the line, such as Cardiff, Cornwall, East Anglia and Aberdeen. However even cities like Liverpool, Lancaster and Glasgow could lose out even though they get HS2 ‘classic compatible’ trains to their stations.

7.2 October 2013 Network Rail Report

In October a Network Rail report was another attempt to boost the case for HS2. This warned that cancelling HS2 would mean 14 years of weekend closures on the rail network, due to alternative rail improvements. This is twice as long as the WCML upgrade. It glossed over the planned closures on the WCML starting next year and routine maintenance work that will happen whether HS2 is built or not. What’s more, the figure was a guesstimate based on the cost of the work, divided by the cost per day of work.

Building HS2 will cause disruption to the rail network, estimated at 7.5 years of weekend closure (using the above methodology).

HS2 will cause years of constant road works along the proposed 351 mile route, including moving the M1 in two places, and causing years of traffic chaos near Birmingham Airport where HS2 Ltd would have to build a station and cross two motorways and two dual carriageways in less than two miles, and that constructing HS2 would cause disruption to the rail network at; Euston, Camden, Old Oak Common, Streethay, Crewe, Manchester Piccadilly, Church Fenton, Meadowhall, Golborne, Carstairs, and Preston.

Despite the attempts from Government to demonise the alternatives, a recent YouGov poll showed that the public would prefer upgrading the existing network to investing in HS2. This has left the Government and advocates with vested interests in HS2 going ahead with no choice than to pump up the rhetoric.

In spite of the publicity from this report, a YouGov poll which asked for the public’s preference showed more people wanted rail improvements, even if they took 14 years, than HS2.

7.3 Inverting the internet argument

In a blatant over simplification, HS2 Ltd are now trying to imply that the growth in the internet is causing the growth in rail passengers. This ignores studies by other government departments that say encouraging internet use and faster broadband will reduce the amount of business travel. It also ignores the changes in the internet itself: videoconferencing has gone from needing specialised equipment to using TVs and ordinary computers in the last 5 years.

(See also section 3.3.)

8.0 An alternative vision for a modern Britain

With the collapse of the economic case and the environmental case, all that is left to support the building of HS2 are claims that to decide to not build HS2 is giving up on Britain. But the claim is not compelling, because enough people see HS2 it for what it is: a politicians’ vanity project.

New options for travel are coming into widespread use. People are choosing to buy electric cars, which will need a whole new infrastructure to support their use. Driverless cars – which will be trialed in Milton Keynes in 2017 – could be coupled together in carriages they could transforming public travel. Britain could be at the forefront of the electric car revolution.

But it’s not just 21st century transport which is changing.

The advent of digital technologies and the interconnected world have radically changed the way we work and communicate. Digital technologies mean that physical face-to-face meetings are no longer so necessary, 3-D printers allow us to remotely reproduce objects, and remote sensing means we can find out what is going on somewhere else without going there. A British citizen invented the World Wide Web, so we should ensure that Britain continues to be a world leader in this new digital world.

If we spend £50bn on HS2, future generations will ask why we spent so much money on a 19th century solution in 21st century Britain. They will ask why we built a long-distance railway destroying sensitive wildlife sites at a time when long-distance travel is falling, and they will ask why we integrated it so badly with the existing transport network. They will ask why we spent money on a railway rather than on the infrastructure needed for electric cars at a time when driverless cars were being trialed. They will ask why we ignored the exponential growth in digital technologies, just when it allowed instant communication anywhere across the world.

Rather than emulate the Victorian railway barons with the HS2 proposal, we should be looking ahead and building the digital and other infrastructure needed for 21st century technologies.

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3 comments on “HS2 facts and problems
  1. The end result will be a novelty ride during the initial introduction then it will die a quick death as it will be plagued with delays due to faults in the design and unreliability. The cost will be around £8million per day in interest plus running costs.
    The losses will probable be paid for from our pension funds.

  2. Can I suggest that this article is copied and emailed to as many MPs as possible by as many StopHS2 supporters as possible. Surely they will then get the message and understand it wont they?? Although, if they haven’t by now, they probably never will.

  3. this is fine but people need to present the impacts on their homes lives and localities for their impacts to be registered.

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