Yesterday Philip Hammond gave a speech at the IBM Start conference on sustainable transport. He discussed the High Speed Rail network as one of the department’s plans.
But he also talked about a new and innovative portfolio responsibility for “non-travel”.
He said Norman Baker (MP for Lewes) is working with a number of people “to look at reducing the demand for travel, particularly for business”.
What does this mean for High Speed Rail, and HS2 in particular?
HS2’s case for the proposed new railway is based on a massive growth in demand for rail travel. HS2 say that in 2008 the number of passengers from between London and Birmingham was 5,700, but that in 2033 it will be 13,300. They say that in 2008, the number of passengers between London and Manchester was 5,300, but in 2033, HS2 say there will be 14,200 – nearly three times as many people travelling.
However businesses like Arup are already encouraging their staff to use video conferencing. And during the recent recession, in the drive to reduce costs, all major companies have successfully reduced travel: the growth forecasts used by HS2 are already over-estimating future demand.
So this new DfT campaign will reinforce a trend which is already happening. And with reduced demand for travel, the business case for a completely new railway like the HS2 proposal becomes unsustainable.
PS Norman Baker’s address is
Mr Norman Baker, MP
Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street