Countryfile, HS2 & Questions?

Hopefully you saw Countryfile on Sunday when our Chairman Lizzy Williams spoke with John Craven about High Speed 2.  We have looked at some of the comments made in support of HS2, in particular by the independent transport consultant Julie Mills of Greenguage21.

Julie was very careful with her words and referred mainly to High Speed Rail rather than High Speed 2.  STOP HS2 is not anti high speed rail (HSR) or anti train. We believe this particular proposal has been poorly thought out and is inappropriate for this country on economic, environmental and investment priority grounds. There is simply too much at stake for a mistake of this scale to be allowed to continue to fruition.

Will Journey times be cut?

From station to station the trip should be faster than on existing lines due to the increased high speed (up to 250mph/402kph) and the more direct route. However, 396,000 people a day are expected to want to use the line. How that will be dealt with logistically at either end is not clear and concerns many professionals in this area (this number of people is nearly double the number Heathrow deals with a day).

The terminal in Birmingham is several miles out of the centre which perplexes Rail groups.

STOP HS2 is concerned about transfer times and the sensitivity to disruption the line will have.

Does time really matter so much we are willing to spend £35 billion and destroy our greatest asset – our countryside – to save a few minutes? The M6 Toll was built to decrease journey times and is hardly used as people would rather take longer than pay more for speed. We also do not consider time on a train is dead time as most people can work while they travel via their phones and or laptops.

The cuts in local transport investment and lack of stations on the line will mean additional travel is most likely to be made by car to get to them and could actually increase congestion.

Will HS2 bridge the North South Divide?

Classing everyone who opposes HS2 as “NIMBYS” does nothing to breach the North South Divide it exacerbates it!

There is a lack of evidence to support this claim but there is plenty of evidence to suggest London will be the main benefactor drawing away investment and skilled workers from the regions. It will also suck away vital local transport infrastructure investment from the regions monopolising budgets.

Please see  High speed rail, the national interest and the North-South divide.

Is HS2 an effective way to release capacity on other lines?

Yes it is but is HS2 the best way? It is certainly not the most sustainable, economic and least environmentally damaging option. It is not sustainable growth.

Is HSR sustainable?

High Speed Rail can be very sustainable but High Speed 2 is not. There are two key factors here 1) The speed intended is not carbon efficient 2) The speed dictates a route which does not follow an existing transport corridor which would be less environmentally damaging.

High Speed Rail is defined as anything over 155mph/250kmph.

Will HS2 bring economic benefits worth twice the cost?

The costs quoted of £34 billion are capital costs only. There has been no assessment of how the line will damage the economies along the line and beyond its reach i.e.; where it is not accessible. Mr Hammond has made it very clear there will be no economic benefits along the line.

Until we know the real details…..

We do know the real details. The plan on the table is the one the Government is pushing forward to consultation. There are no alternatives being made available. We need to demand other options to choose between and proof of demand.

Is the Government listening to local concerns?

Those who have spoken out have been directly accused of being NIMBYs by Mr Hammond. They are not listening.

Does it have to go through sensitive areas?

If the speed was reduced it would be possible to mitigate more effectively, include more stations which will benefit more people and avoid sensitive areas.

Does it have to be straight?

High Speed Rail does not need to be as straight as this route is to be High Speed. The carbon inefficient speed of HS2 is dictating the route.

Look in detail and have your say

Please all of us need to do this but make sure you Listen to the arguments, Look at the facts and then make your decision an informed one.



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8 comments to “Countryfile, HS2 & Questions?”
  1. In response to some of the points raised by ‘nick’:
    The situation with the Birmingham terminus is that it is not at or close to the existing main stations, so while you would be correct to say that it is ‘not miles away’ the point being made is that for real people making real journeys much of the nominal time saving disappears by having to make yet another change or just walking. I would be very surprised if door to door journey times improve by more than a few minutes – over the Birmingham-London distance the biggest effects are made not by speeding up the express train but by improvements to local transport and service frequency.

    The green case for high-speed rail depends upon modal shift from aeroplanes. So various schemes in Europe have made big gains here – but these are for longer journeys where people were previously travelling predominately by plane and now travel predominantly by rail. For HS2 this is not the case for London to B’ham (no flights), and not the case either for Manchester and Leeds (plane is a small percentage of current journeys). In fact the main modal shift will be of passengers shifting from classic rail to HS2 – which of course is an increase in emissions not a reduction. Similarly for cars the benefits are overstated: rail is already a huge percentage of journeys to central London, so if the forecast increases in numbers occur these will be new journeys – increasing things like long distance commuting is not a modal shift but an ecological disaster.

    While on the subject of green-ness there is this impression given that electricity is (or at least will be) totally carbon neutral – computer generated trains silently swooshing past computer generated wind turbines. In reality future electricity is a big problem and the subject of much wider discussion than any train! Wind/solar/hydro are going to increase for sure, but they cannot ever supply even a significant fraction of current needs, and other technologies to reduce CO2 emissions boil down to nuclear and/or burning coal with carbon capture. Note these latter two are not ‘no carbon’ but ‘low carbon’ (you are looking at emissions around 15-20% of a current coal power station) and have the obvious additional risks (Chernobyl incidents and nuclear waste, CO2 containment/leakage). The only truly green solution to travel is not to do it, and certainly building something that is specifically planned to increase travel is not green, especially if you bother to factor in the CO2 of building it. But don’t get confused, electricity is of course much greener than diesel – which is why we should be spending money electrifying the existing lines.

    Getting back to the original points made, the first of which should therefore read “HS2 speed will ALWAYS be more carbon intensive than lower speed rail”. Even using current technology the purported relative carbon figures for HSR/car/air is open to debate – the key factor is loading. I’m certain that taking my family on their annual UK beach holiday (4 in my average diesel car) is less CO2 than going by high speed rail, and a full plane will be less than a 2/3 empty train – so “HSR is often but not always less carbon intensive than air or car”. And things change, especially over the long lead times and lifetimes of this project – it is not so far away that a new car will be driving itself down the electrified M1.

    For the benefits to those without a HSR station I first needed to stop laughing, and then would make the general comment: taking trains off the WCML will of course increase capacity, but that has no value to anyone unless it is used. So yes you might get a few more freight trains – but that has been promised before (HS1) and not significantly materialised. The problem remains that freight does not just go from A to B but also from C to D, E to Z, Y to D and all other combinations, so in most cases it is more trouble to use the train. On a related concept the number of rail journeys generally is small compared to car journeys, so even if you do succeed in shifting some people from road to rail it will make no difference to problems like motorway congestion – the only way to address issues with roads is to implement road policies (e.g. road pricing).

    Lastly for the fair city of Coventry (and others up and down the land in similar circumstances) you can offer up any amount of concepts like ‘less crowding’, ‘more reliable’, ‘more frequent’ and these are all as hopelessly optimistic nonsense as some of the other fluff that gets trotted out such as ‘HS2’s reasonably priced fares’. While I disagree with many of the forecasts in the HS2Ltd report the one tucked in the back that says Coventry’s 3/hour service would be cut to 1/hour and take longer rings true with what I see standing at the platform – we benefit from the Birmingham-London traffic, and the people who travel from B’ham to Cov, and those that travel from Cov to London will not justify on their own a similar service to what we have now. Still, Coventry could have a more frequent service and we all could have cheap HS2 fares – but in both cases only if someone else is paying the difference!

    I’m nothing to do with StopHS2 so I don’t mind answering your question on what changes it would take to make me agree with HS2 – and the simple answer is ‘anything that makes the scheme one of the best value for money investments for the country as a whole’. The loss of land (including AONB, ancient woodland, SSSI, farming, etc), the loss of homes (plus blight, etc), and even the dis-benefits to places like Coventry are not in themselves a reason to not build a line – they are a cost and should be factored in, but really they should make much difference to the overall picture. The fact that the country is broke should not matter – borrowing to invest for ones future is not wrong (as future students will know all about). If the line was built it would clearly be an engineering triumph and bring real benefits to many real people. The big problem I see is that the costs are huge, and the real world benefits will not make that a sensible investment let alone one of the better investments (I note that an analysis on HS1 seemed to come up with a net cost/benefit ratio of about 1, and even that required rather curious boundaries to be placed on where the costs and benefits were being measured.) So – 30 years and 30 billion pounds from now will we be looking at all the vast wealth that has come from HS2, or just another bit of railway that cost a fortune to build and continues to cost a fortune to subsidise? Or should we spend money on other projects which bring more benefits, in shorter times, and (most importantly) more guaranteed to succeed?

    • “andrew” my name is actually nick i am not “nick”.

      also when hs2 is built I am saying that the extra capacity should mean that there will be more capacity on the classic lines so services can be more reliable and people can get a seat.

      and i am sure that a diesel car with 5 people will cause less pollution then a bus with 3 people or a train or a plane with say 50 people ! however i am sure that on hs2 trains will not run with only say 25% capacity – the schedule would be adapted. eurostar say that there co2 is 1/10 of the corresponding planes and yes i know that is a lot to do with french nuclear power.

      also of course most car journeys have an occupant size of just one ! and dont you think that with the promise of a seat and a much faster journey time that we might not be able to reduce the amount of car traffic on the motorways ? and why are you so sure that only a few more freight trains will run on the wcml – why not considerably more ?
      also some trains will run direct to euope from our northern cities.

      you say i am hopelessly optimisitic – i say that you are hopelessly pessimistic. if we always thought the worst of everything nothing would ever be done ! the main point of hs2 is to release capacity on the existing network so what would be the point of then running less trains. if some rail users switch from the classic lines to hs2, why dont you think that some car users will switch to not only hs2 but also the classic lines ?

      and since the first leg of hs2 is to run from the centre of london to the centre of birmingham at almost exactly twice the speed why would you only save a few minutes ? we are talking about halving the journey time effectively !

      and of course electric cars will also need electricity. and yes we should travel less but is that ever going to happen !
      a lot of people still dont even bother recycling and use the car for very short journeys. Now i am being pessimistic !!

      the main sticking point for critics seems to centre on the top speed of hs2 – would you be more supportive of hs2 if it were lowered even if that might reduce the financial viability of hs2 ?

      • Hi nick, Sorry if I caused you offense by putting your short name in quotes – is this some sort of internet faux pas?

        The key point I am trying to make is that should HS2 be built the finished article will definitely look very nice and bring real benefits to some people, but that behind this shiny thing that politicians are captivated by is an enormous cost – and the benefits are not going to be worth the cost. I don’t see myself as an optimist or a pessimist, as the reality of the thing would neither be as bad as painted by some nor as fantastic as painted by others. But for me we should be starting from a list of problems and coming up with solutions, rather than starting with the desire for a train and trying to justify it with random promises. Bottom line, it’s not that HS2 is such a terrible thing but that it is simply not a good thing – we should be spending our money on other projects that will deliver bigger benefits, in less time, and with more certainty.

        For your other points I’ll repeat some of my earlier comments:

        Capacity is worthless unless it is used. It will only be used if there is someone/something to justify the cost of using it, or someone else footing the bill for all the empty trains.

        Loadings factors are perhaps the biggest variable to affect the net CO2 per passenger km of air/rail/car/bus. Schemes to increase loadings (pre-booking, removing non-peak trains) can only go so far without directly achieving the opposite by driving people away from trains. No form of electricity is carbon neutral. Whatever technology increases the efficiency of a new train compared to an old train a new train will use less energy if it does not go so fast. Aeroplanes use a lot of energy to get into the air, but cruise at high altitude where the air resistance is low – short haul trips are bad.

        The terrible beauty of cars is that unlike trains they take you directly from home to destination and you set off when you like, hence are more convenient and flexible. This is why most journeys (and miles) in the UK are made by car, and why however good you make the rail network most journeys will continue to be made by car – the car journey has to be terrible before people will look at alternatives. I say it again – if you want to address car usage you would have to implement policies aimed at car usage. Sometimes I think there is a London-centric view of rail (70% of all rail journeys in the UK are into or out of London) which distorts the perception of its importance. All of the above also applies to freight, but via cost rather than convenience (although inconvenience has a cost).

        If the average speed of something increases by a factor of two then the journey time would decrease by a factor of two (simple maths). Problem is that to increase a average speed by two normally needs the peak speed to be much larger – you have start up and slow down times, fixed waits, etc which are proportionately more significant the shorter the journey time. Any change in travel time need to be put into the context of the entire journey not just station to station. And this includes ‘overhead’ – the biggest improvement from the last WCML improvement was not the few minutes saved on the journey time, but that the train frequency increased meaning there was less time spent waiting for the next train.

        Electric cars use electricity – not sure of your point? Travelling less HAS to happen, and will happen – it will just take time for policies, costs, and attitudes to change.

        I would be more supportive of HS2 if it would achieve any of its claims of being a great green regenerative investment success! Unfortunately it is not green, not a good investment, and won’t really pave the streets of the north with gold. Fiddling slightly with the maximum speed will not change this significantly either way.

        • I think Andrew hits the nail on the head when he says “..we are starting with the desire for a train then trying to justify it…”. Where is the debate about alternatives? Ultra high speed broadband for all, investing far more in the exisitng network, slightly slower HSR following exisitng routes etc etc. It seems to me Lord Adonis has boxed us in by spending so much money on the existing proposal which the Coalition seems to have backed without question.

          I haven’t got the exact quote form George Osborne’s speech yesterday but he said we had fallen behind Europe on HSR. There it is “they have them so we must too”. The politics of envy which will cost us the earth. Does Europe have anything like the BBC with its worldwide influence? No they don’t. Do they have a world class aero engine manufacturer? No they don’t. Do we have a motor industry as successful as the Germans? No we don’t. Is our geography similar. No it isn’t. I am pro EU but we don’t and can’t all do the same things. I join those MPs asking for a proper enquiry into HS2.

  2. Nick, if the speed were lowered and more stations provided it would no longer be HS2, rendering its supposed “raison d’etre” invalid. To make such a short journey (100 miles ish) from London to Birmingham appropriate for HS2 speed it is essential that it flies like a bullet with NO stops. Otherwise it just becomes a fast train – and we have the infrastructure and trains for this already.

    Oh, and by the way its rather insulting to label those offering a different opinion to yourself as “fat cats”. I live in an ex brickworks hamlet on the line, in a brickworkers terraced three up three down – along with all the other residents here. Mr Hammond has already dismissively labelled us NIMBYs living in “hardly Constable country”. Please don’t stoop to his level.

    • lesley i am not referring to you or anyone on stop hs2 as fat cats ! i was saying that critics of hs2 always say that hs2 is for fat cats ! i was being sarcastic i think !!!

      you may have a different opinion to mine but you are entitled to yours and i would never stoop to insults as these are not worthy in any debate they only lower the tone and the effectiveness of what one is trying to say.

  3. Nick – I suspect that you might find a lot less people against a ‘normal’ high speed train, travelling at energy efficient speeds of 140 mph, on a track that follows the lie of the land and with intermediate stations so that people who live along the line of the route could actually use it.

    Remember, energy used by a train rises approximately with the square of speed. So a train travelling at 300 kph will use more than twice as much energy as one travelling at 200 kph. HS2 has proposed speeds of 400 kph. These would use 4 times the energy and create 4 times the emissions of a conventional high speed train. Taking account of average load factors etc, this is equivalent in energy used per passenger kilometer to domestic UK air travel!

    I’d always thought that trains were greener than cars or planes, and this is the common public perception. But if these trains are going to travel so fast that they use the same amount of energy and create the same level of emissions as plane travel, where’s the sense in that?

  4. according to maps, curzon street is about 1/3 mile from moor street and one mile from new street so it is hardly miles out of the city centre ! also the extended tram line will connect here. and there will be direct trains to points north avoiding a change in birmingham or passengers can change elsewhere. so please dont say it is “miles from the city centre !”

    also the savings in time is not a few minutes it is nearer 40 minutes on the first leg alone. and as has been said before hs2 is as much about capacity and economic regeneration and growth as it is about speed. the max speed was calculated as being that required to make people switch from more polluting modes. ! so please dont say “only a few minutes saving” when it clearly is more then that. and as far as working on the train is concerned, this is quite difficult if you cant get a seat ! unless you can afford first class but then you would be one of those fat cats you keep mentioning all the time !

    hs2 speed may well be more carbon intensive then lower speed rail at the current mix of power generation but is definitely less carbon intensive then air or car. communities not on hs2 will benefit as the existing lines and trains can then be more frequent and serve more communities. this will take further traffic off the roads.
    thereforwe coventry, for example, may not have a planned hs2 station but in stead will have a less crowded and more reiliable and perhaps more frequent service. also you can say that about anything that has wider benefits. for example, car drivers benefit from those who choose rail instead as there would othwerwise be even more cars on the road !

    is there room for compromise on STOP HS2 ? are you saying that if the max speed on hs2 were lowered to allow a more environmentally suitable alignment with more stations serving you area that you would not be against it ?

    we all know how much the west coast upgrade cost and how much disruption it caused. you could not make bigger stations, have more trains etc wthout causing any pollution either. and when works are ongoing, some travellers are then forced to use more polluting and dangerous forms of transport. i dont have to tell you how many people are killed and injured on the roads each year.

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