Who talks to who, in the Department for Transport?

It’s quite common, when talking to the general public, to find that they make assumptions about HS2’s green credentials.

However, you would expect employees of the Department for Transport to be more informed.  You would expect that when they issue a white paper, they would have checked their assumptions and ensured that the document reflects what the department is doing.

The title of the white paper issued yesterday – Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon: Making Sustainable Local Transport Happen – means you don’t have to read it to find out what the Government’s priorities for the local transport sector is.

But I was astounded when I read the executive summary (p8);

We also need to reduce the carbon impact of longer journeys – and here
we see that rail, particularly high speed rail between some of our largest
cities, has a critical role to play. By prioritising spending on key rail projects
such as high speed rail and Crossrail, we will be providing commuters and
intercity travellers with attractive new options instead of the car.

This view may be laudable, but, as we reported last week, it is sharp contrast with what HS2 Ltd said in their main report:  “Perhaps the most important point to note is that this is equivalent to a range of -0.3% to +0.3% of UK transport emissions. So HS2 would not be a major factor in managing carbon in the transport sector. “

It is clear whoever first wrote the paragraph in the white paper, whoever edited it, whoever signed it off, they should all be arguing inside the Department for Transport that going ahead with HS2 is not a good way of managing carbon emissions.

If HS2 really is a priority for the government, they should acknowledge that they aren’t that serious about cutting carbon emissions.

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21 comments to “Who talks to who, in the Department for Transport?”
  1. Here are some thoughts on HS2 to accompany those above. I was asked to repost them after initially leaving them under another story

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    It would be quite wrong for the day [the HS2 convention, Feb 19] to pass off without some input from people who (unlike, I suspect, Mr Wolmar) who actually use the West Coast Main Line most weeks and suffered through the appallingly misguided £10bn upgrade.

    Perhaps we could look at how the mobile phone/Internet revolution that occurred in the 1990s did such an incredible job of damping demand for rail travel on the London – Northwest corridor between 1995 and 2010…1 London – Birmingham/Manchester inter-city train per hour off peak in 1995, three per hour today. Heaven forfend, I might even suggest that we might need more rail freight capacity at key junctions such as Nuneaton to cope with massive port expansion in the southeast and a consequent knock-on effect for distribution of containers across the UK by rail.

    I might lioke to chip in with a short explanation of ERTMS Level 3 — that’s the ‘advanced signalling solution’ that HS2 doomsayers claim will extract extra capacity from the existing railway, yet no signalling specialist in the world is currently developing. Then there is the £17bn figure emblazoned all over this website…but no mention of the 66% ‘optimism bias’ attached to all major rail projects that makes this figure a gross exaggeration based on the the most febrile nightmares of the flat-earthers….or a ‘worse case scenario’, anyway.

    But of course, the business case is ‘dodgy’ because…well, HS2 Ltd were jolly kind in putting all those pages and pages of data out there to be deconstructed by all and sundry.

    Oh and I should add that I was born in Manchester, so I daren’t even comment on the notion of urban regeneration…

  2. i use cap lock to MAKE IT EASIER FOR ME .BUT I ACTUALLY FEEL LIKE SHOUTING .IT MAKES ME FEEL AS BAD, HAVING THIS DEATH OF THE COUNTRYSIDE AS I DID THE 5 YEARS WHEN MY HUSBAND WAS DYING OF CANCER.NO I AM NOT OFF MY HEAD.JUST PASSIONATE.I HAVE READ BOTH SIDES OF THE ARGUMENTS AND I DO NOT FEEL THE SACREFICE OO SO MANY FOR SO FEW IS NOT RIGHT WE ARE NOT AT WAR.HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF YOUR DOG WALK WAS BLOCKED BY HS2. IF ITS OK YOU COULD PURCHASE ONE OF THE CHEAP HOUSES THAT ARE GOING TO BE AVAILABLE IF IT GOES AHEAD NICK
    REGARDS ELAINE

    • elaine i live near the east coast main line and also very close to the a1m which i cross on a bridge most days when i am walking the dog. the noise from the motorway is far greater then the railway which i hardly notice at all. granted it has been there for some years.

      can i just say that when you talk about your husband any discussion here pales somewhat in significance. I look after my mother who had a stroke two years ago as that is the most important thing anyone can do in my opinion.

      I am sorry if i upset you in any way it certainly wasnt intentional

  3. I keep hearing about how good French railways are. I’m planning a trip to Montpellier in July. The rail fare for two people from St Pancras is £390 and the journey time is about 7 hours. The air fare for two people on Easy Jet from Luton is £150 and the journey time is about 2 hours. I’m sorry Nick, but I won’t be going by train.

    • but what is the cost to the environment ? according to eurostar your cheap flight will cause much more pollution then would the train. are you sure the air fares are quite as cheap as that what about all the extras such as luggage, fuel, pilot, wings etc !! It certainly wouldnt be as cheap if the airlines didnt escape paying any fuel duty at all or much in the way of carbon/pollution taxes.

      some people would say you shouldnt travel at all ! or maybe that you should spend your money and holiday in the uk. it would cause less pollution and be better for the economy of the country ! i am playing devils advocate here, but should we be considering these options or is it unrealistic to think anyone will make these sacrifices.

      • I’ve heard these arguments before, but do they stand up to scrutiny? I know there are those who would say we shouldn’t travel at all, but as we don’t live in a totalitarian state run by environmental extremists I will disregard this point.

        It has been said before that load factors have a lot to do with energy efficiency and emissions. EasyJet are very good at this with average load factors of over 85%. Easy Jet passengers produce 95.7g of CO2 per kilometre: this is less than the average family car (around 160g CO2 per kilometre), less than Virgin’s Voyager trains (112g of CO2 per passenger kilometre) and less than the Toyota Prius (104g of CO2 per kilometre).

        Plenty of propaganda has brainwashed us into feeling guilty about using our cars or going on a flight. This has let the government ‘green roller’ us into accepting a huge tax burden on petrol and flights. Air passenger duty currently nets about £2.4bn for the taxman. 16% of the cost of my ‘cheap flight’ is tax. Compare this with train fares which do not even cover the true economic cost of a ticket but are actually subsidised by taxpayers.

        The facts do not support the assertions. Trains are not economically viable as a mode of transport. If passengers had to pay the economic cost for a ticket to travel on HS2 no one would use it.

        • first i agree that i dont see how we can stop people travelling as long as they want to.

          easy jet may have 85% capacity but is that typical of the industry. also what usage levels are the voyagers emissions that you quote. and they are diesels of course not electric.

          if all modes of transport were treated equally with transparent costs then you might have a point about railways. aviation for example does not pay fuel tax, does not pay to use the sky and most airports were funded in some way or another by the taxpayer who also paid for the roads. most of the existing railway network was built privately before nationalisation which was in some part due to the war !.

          the reason the railways are subsidised is so that they can be treated on a level playing field with the more polluting modes of transport for the reasons outlined above. if full fares were charged the effect on the economy and environment through increased pollution and congestion would large and some people would not be able to afford to go to work ! road users gain benefit from rail and public transport as without thses the roads may well be impassable at times.

          unfortunately the air and roads lobby has tended to be far more vocal and effective then that of the railways.

          Even if you dont believe in global warming or climate change you have to recognize that we cannot keep using this planet as a huge dustbin. with the growth in population and the chinese and indian economies the oil will not last forever and we need to use alternatives. sadly the only way to alter most peoples behavious and actions is to charge more via taxes for those activities that are seen to be less desirable .

          • I agree that we need alternatives to fossil fuels but that’s another subject.
            The main point is this. A train that travels at 250 mph uses 4 times more energy than one that travels at 125 mph. This means that HS2 trains will use more energy per passenger kilometre than a car or a plane. Add in the environmental damage from the infrastructure construction and you must conclude that the proposed HS2 is the more polluting mode of transport and therefore undesirable for both economic and environmental reasons.

            • things move on. high speed trains like airplanes and cars are more efficient then previously. i could be wrong but surely a plane is always going to need more energy then any land transport from the mere fact that it has to be accelerated into the sky and basically held at 30000 feet from the propulsion of its engines. Obviously ground transport has to overcome friction and gravity also

              the russians have a sort of boat plane called i think an ecranoplan which flies but only at a height of a few hundred feet. by this way it saves the friction effects and the energy consumption of higher altitudes. it usually flies over water for obvious reasons.

              Eurostar claims that their 185mph trains create around 10% of the equivalent emissions of a plane,so it is very unlikely that your easy jet trip will produce less emissions ! This is due to most of the electricity being powered by nuclear of course. There are many sources of renewable power as well as nuclear that supply electricity that trains can run on. however it is hard to power planes by electricity especially jets ! battery planes have flown but only over short distances.

              You complained about the length of time the train would take on your planned french leave ! by your arguments about energy consumption versus speed, i guess you would not mind if your jet was replaced by a turboprop.
              and of course if the trains were slowed down and the planes were not then the trains could not be as competitive with air. this is the point of the speed of hs2. and i assume that you only drive at 50mph on the motorway !

              The construction of runways and roads causes pollution also in a similar war that the construction of aircraft and cars causes pollution. anything that is built or that moves causes pollution and uses scarce resources.

  4. 40 years of scientific study prove the link between power lines and childhood cancers. Whilst you champion ‘electrification’ how safe is HS1 and HS2 for our children born and unborn?

    And whilst you are there how convinced are any of us that the so called carbon reduction benefits claimed by HS2 Ltd from reduced flights are a joke! I spoke to senior man at British airways and get this – they are already planning new routes to replace lost internal slots? Do we really think airlines will sit back whilst HS2 steals market share? Nope. They will fighit like hell to be more competitive just like ferry companies did after tunnel was built.

    Nonesense and spin. Shame on this government!

    • there have been studies done to see if there is any correlation between serious illnesses and the proximity of very high voltage power lines of the type which connect the national grid. the results were not conclusive and no evidence of any correlation was found.

      however i have never heard of any such claims being made for overhead railway electrification at all – can you provide any evidence?

      as far as airlines are concerned at Heathrow some of the most popular European destinations can be reached by rail and these will be quicker and more convenient when the new direct services to places such as amsterdam commence within the next year or two. and since you cannot argue that planes cause less pollution then electric trains it would be beneficial. i believe that at least short haul flights should have to pay fuel tax duty like every other mode of transport as this gives air an unfair advantage and does not encourage greener travel.

      it is possible that long haul flights may take the slots of short haul and the airlines will try to compete with high speed rail. i would encourage people to take their holidays in this country or europe where possible and travel by train rather then by plane. I am sure one area where we can agree is that the third runway was canned !

      I must admit i do find some of the claims of stop hs2 a little excessive. i have now read that electric trains give people serious illnesses, that we shoudnt build hs2 as it will become a target for terrorists, and seen old graphs used to prove that hs2 will not meet its predicted usage . For example the full hs1 link wasnt open in 2006. that would certainly account for the lack of passengers ! joking aside, the eurostar service only really became viable with the completion of all of hs1 into st pancras.

      i have also read that the proposed birmingham terminus is miles from the city centre when it isnt and a minimizing of the time advantages of hs2 – saying it is a few minutes savings when it is more like 40 minutes. and it is then said that there wont be enough passengers for hs2 which may or may not be true but again there is the question of proving it ! but then hs2 is criticised at the same time because it will increase co2 because of all the passengers it will carry ! Is your position that it wont have the projected usage or that it will? I mean the passenger numbers can be debated but how can you question the journey time or move curzon street miles away from its actual location ?

    • Susan,

      You spoke to ‘a senior man at British Airways’ did you? How reassuring. They’d know all about stimulating demand for travel from the UK provinces after they, er, sold their entire operation from non-London airports to ensure that every flight they run either starts or ends in London, normally LHR? BA has actually remodelled its business to encourage greater amounts of inter-lining in London, adding to the number of take offs and landings there. Hardly the green option.

      You might also want to check exactly how strong the airline competiton on the routes covered by HS2 is. Certainly there are no flights from Liverpool or Birmingham and the Manchester route has 80:20 share in favour of rail, but (as I explain elsewhere) there is no further room for rail capacity growth without another £Xbn being wated on a marginally effective upgrade of the existing railway.

      Glasgow – London could be brought within touching distance of a 3 hr journey time (assuming tilting high speed rolling stock is somehow sourced — not easy) with HS2, which will have a positive benefit in terms of modal shift on that route. But I am happy to argue that the reduction in domestic flying is marginal to the case for HS2 — it is simply a sine qua non if we want to have a functioning, effective rail service between London, Manchester, Birmingham, Wolverjhampton, Chester, Preston, Liverpool, Lancaster, Carlisle, Leeds and Sheffield in 20 years’ time.

  5. and i am not an unfeeling person in any way at all and i totally resent the suggestion. please stop being insulting to me just because i don’t agree with your opinion.

  6. YOUR DISC HAS OBVIOSLY GOT STUCK NICK, YOU HAVEN’T GIVEN ANY ANSWERS,. JUST THE SAME
    RAMBLE THAT YOU SEEM BRAINWASHED INTO GIVING.I THINK YOU NEED TO GET INTO THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LEARN WHAT IT IS TO LOVE YOUR COUNTRY.

    • The only rambling I do is every single day in our beautiful country with my gorgeous little dog. I am not in anyones pay nor am I the type of person whom gets brainwashed as you put it. I just state my opinions with thought as politely as possible with no repetitive use of caps lock !

      Regards

      nick

  7. THE MERE FACT THAT THERE WILL BE FEW STATIONS MEAN MORE JOURNEYS TO CONNECT WITH HS2.
    LOCAL STATIONS ARE FAR BETTER OTHERWISE YOU CREATE A BOTTLENECK .ALL ROADS LEAD TO BRUM.FAR BETTER TO IMPROVE COUNTRYWIDE SO THAT ALL BENEFIT NO JUST THE FEW RICH BUSINESS MEN IF MORE MONEY WAS PUT INTO BUILDING INDUSTRIES IN THE PROVENCES IT WOULD TAKE AWAY THE NEED FOR SO MANY HAVING TO TRAVEL TO WORK .THAT IS TO OBVIOUS FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO SET IN MOTION .AS YOU MISQUOTED ME NICK I STILL BELIEVE YOU ARE BEING PAID BY SOMEONE .WOULD YOU REALLY NOT BE BOTHERED IF THIS AFFECTED YOUR HOME, BUSINESS.
    YOUR RECREATION AREA OR ARE YOU AS UNFEELING AS YOU APPEAR ,IN WHICH CASE I FEEL SORRY FOR YOU.

  8. but if hs2 does succeed in not only reducing further uk and european short haul flights (via the hs1 link) but also gets people out of cars then it will reduce overall emissions.

    the cost of fuel is increasing and there will likely be some kind of road management pricing system by the time hs2 is built so i dont see why this scenario would not be the case.

    if we had a high speed rail network linked with tram systems in most major towns and cities fed by electric buses and indeed electric cars why would that not induce people to use public transport more.

    high speed trains cause higher emissions then do slower trains but they are still lower then road or air transport. but you need the high speed to help encourage people out of cars and planes.

    so if we have economic policies to discourage the use of any unneccessary travel but to encourage modal shift for necessary or wanted journeys from cars and motorways to rail then hs2 will be more environmentally acceptable and indeed beneficial in reducing overall emissions. we can already see this trend in that rail use has increased despite higher and higher fares yet car journeys are decreasing along with some flights. reducing the proportion of the contribution taxpayers make towards rail fares is not helpful in my opinion. nor do i see why at least short haul flights should pay fuel tax the way all other transport modes do.

    whilst the high speed rail report believes that the effect on co2 will be negligible even their figures show that by the very worst scenario the increase would be slight.

    we have to remember that the above report made assumptions about the price of fuel, did not account for future policies to discourage car use and encourage non-car travel (and indeed non-travel!), nor made any assumption that the mix of power generation will shift slowly from that based on fossil fuels.

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