Looking at… HS2 Consultation Question 4

From the HS2 Consultation documents:

The questions on which the Government is seeking views are set out below. In each case, the Government is interested in whether or not you agree with its proposals and why, as well
as any additional evidence that you feel it should consider in reaching its final decisions.

iv: This question is about the specification for the line between London and the West Midlands (Chapter 4):
Do you agree with the principles and specification used by HS2 Ltd to underpin its proposals for new high speed rail lines and the route selection process HS2 Ltd undertook?

p74 Consultation document.

Maintaining high speed would reduce journey times. The proposed route has generally been designed for speeds up to 250 miles per hour – similar to routes currently being designed elsewhere in Europe.

International experts agree that for really high speed trains to be worth building, the distances between stations should be at least 150km apart.

Britain is a small island compared to other European countries, and its major cities are closer together. By the time the proposed route has got out of London to an area where trains can run at maximum speed, the distance is a lot less then 150kph.

So the speed chosen by the DfT and HS2 Ltd is not suitable for Britain.

Stop HS2’s answer to this question is “no”.

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34 comments to “Looking at… HS2 Consultation Question 4”
    • Thats a decent report – it highlights the freight issues which as far as I can see, stopHS2 seem unaware of. Just to add to that, Southampton ( which is a deepwater port ) recently gained W10 gauge through Southampton tunnel. I have no doubt whatsoever that there is a serious demand for freight capacity up and down the network.

  1. Old Oak Common, I can`t decide if its a below ground station or a surface one. The Engineers report has a couple of weird diagrams. And the text rambles on about different levels. So strange for an Engineer to be so confusing.

  2. Nell – part time student I hasten to add…..I still work full time.

    To give you a flavour of my understanding of the issue – Im looking at the total overall picture rather than what you guys are looking at ( which is in effect the fact that HS2 runs through virgin territory in the Chilterns ) 11% of Heathrows air traffic ( in terms of aircraft ) is domestic. These tend to be slightly smaller aircraft than the average……landing fees have been allegedly raised disproportionate to larger aircraft, which is the reason why Flybe withdrew the Leeds service to Gatwick. The reality is that its in the airlines interest overall to reduce domestic flights to free up slots for longer haul services – lets not forget that runway 3 project got cancelled at Heathrow.

    Numbers of passengers using Manchester to Heathrow flights are declining – as you are aware , we have a VHF rail link to London. All available evidence shows that rail is very competitive to air where the journey is around 31/2 hours or less centre to centre…..there are no flights between Paris and Brussels nowadays.

      • Yes there is an element of that Penny…..but of course you still have to get to an airport in the first place……and of course there are no flights between Birmingham and London as was pointed out by someone on here!!! So anyone wanting to drive from Birmingham to Heathrow should have a decent alternative.

  3. Gary, you ask a lot of questions that you expect others to research for you.I sugest as you seem to have time on your hands ,that you do the research and share the answers with us.If you think that Nelly P has written something you disagree with, you, need to give alternative data that you, believe is correct and your source of information.

  4. Penny

    Your logic only works if HS2 (and High Speed Rail [HSR] in general) is viewed as an exclusively domestic project – but of course HSR is NOT an exclusively domestic project?

    Underpinning the entire environmental case (in fact it falls apart without it) is the prospect of significant modal shift from short haul intra-European airborne travel on to its HSR rival – in reality that means a meaningful percentage of the millions who currently fill the seats of the thousands of short haul flights emanating from Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, East Midlands, Doncaster (Robin Hood), Leeds/Bradford, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow aiports to myriad mainland European destinations, switching to HSR over the coming decades.

    The distances involved here (Birmingham to Barcelona, Manchester to Munich, Leeds to Lyon) do mean that speed is a pivotal factor in persuading future passengers to make the desired modal shift.

    Of course you know this already but it suits the arguments of anti-HS2 protestors to airbrush this reality out of the debate and deflect public gaze on to a wholly false “Britain is a small country” model

    Is this honest – not really but then when the arguments get tough, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that facts are the first casualty?

    • Your ‘not an exclusively domestic project’ argument is pretty thin when examined:

      Firstly you try to give the impression that there are vast hordes of people constantly going back and forth to Europe – but in reality while there are quite a few this number is tiny compared to domestic journeys. The success or failure of HS2 is a domestic issue, with onward travel to wider European destinations being at best a fringe benefit.

      Even though irrelevant in the scheme of things we can still look and see if there is any truth in your concept of European travel: To gain your modal shift you need to achieve a better combination of speed/price/convenience than going via air. For the oft quoted London to Paris/Brussels this is easy – the distance is relatively short and the trains are direct. For any of your other examples HS2 will make absolutely no difference: 20 minutes saved on the first leg of your journey is no compensation for changing trains multiple times, and as the journey gets longer the ‘check-in overhead’ of air becomes proportionately less. Throw in the fact that people fly to and from a very wide range of places many of which high-speed rail will never serve and the situation becomes clear: high speed rail will not itself generate a significant modal shift.

      There are of course ways to get some more people to Europe on the trains – personally I hope that DB start running a direct service to Frankfurt! But HS2 will make a negligible difference to the number of people that would take that service: once again, the ‘european argument’ is zero justification for HS2.

      P.S. Glad to hear you appreciate the environmental argument for HS2 is bogus.

      • I also find it difficult to see how HSR will compete with budget airlines for journeys much over 300 miles.

        Barcelona, Lyon, Munich, Warsaw, Rome, Riga are long haul rail journeys but short haul flights, and other places like the Canary Islands, Crete, Turkey and Egypt would also require a boat trip.

        What’s more, a Boeing 737 seats about 180 people. A lot of services are seasonal and don’t necessarily run every day. Busy routes can run several times a day giving passengers flexibility on departure times. Budget airlines achieve load factors that train operators dream about. If a route becomes non-viable it can be dropped. They don’t require tunnels, cuttings, embankments, viaducts, tons of concrete and miles of steel to run on. They don’t require a subsidy; their fares are lower even with air passenger tax; they make a profit and actually contribute revenue to the exchequer.

      • Sorry @Andrew Gibbs but I disagree fundamentally with your analysis

        It might not be vast hordes but it is certainly enough demand to keep the likes of RyanAir, EasyJet, Jet2.com and FlyBe operating these routes – I wasn’t aware that these companies operated on a charitable basis so there must be a commercially viable demand for these services.

        Generally speaking I appreciate the bogus nature of much of the anti-HS2 rhetoric, which your narrative seems to perpetuate – you hope that DB starts the London>Frankfurt service yet it seems you are dead against extending it to Birmingham – why, do you have something against people outside London/SE England – are we second class citizens?

        I want to see the rest of the UK linked into the burgeoning pan-European High Speed Rail network, nothing less and nothing more. HS2 is simply the first piece in a wider jigsaw facilitating that outcome. Time to get on a start building HS2, we’re already a couple of decades behind so we’re only playing catch up.

        • Hi Peter,
          There is of course a demand for travel to Europe and this sufficient to keep the airlines buzzing back and forth quite nicely. And as long as they manage their route selection and loadings correctly they will make a profit (and as finmere has already reminded us they have the flexibility to change anything on their service to match changing demand). What has this to do with justifying HS2? On its own absolutely nothing. All it means there is a pool of people that travel from various UK cities to various European cities. As I said in my original post you will need to get a better combination of speed/price/convenience to get any of them onto a train, let alone ever dream of making a profit.

          The UK is already linked into a pan-european rail network. If someone wanted to travel from Aberdeen to Alicante by train they could right now, although clearly this is not a popular alternative to the plane. Adding HS2 to shave off the odd 20 minutes on one stage of a long journey is not going to generate any difference to any European destination, even if travelling from Birmingham. Running a direct train from London to Frankfurt could make a significant difference for some people, but only on that specific journey, and this does not require HS2 for its success or failure. For me personally it would be even better if such a train went to Birmingham as it would save me the trouble of changing in London – but I would not be so selfish to suggest that someone should implement such a thing for the convenience of me and a relatively small group of other people.

          In summary: HS2 will make effectively no difference to rail travel to European destinations – it is a domestic project. If you don’t believe me then perhaps ask yourself why this is not listed as a significant factor in the HS2 business case? I guess if you are into conspiracy theories then as the whole European angle will always be much more of a benefit to London than anywhere else maybe this is being suppressed because it does not sound good on the whole North/South transformation ‘story’? Or maybe it’s because the benefits are just not there to make any dent in a £17bn line from London to Birmingham

    • If you are looking at journeys into Europe, air travel is faster then high speed rail for distances of more then 800km.

      So people considering journeys like Birmingham to Barcelona, aren’t worried about getting there as fast as possible, meaning that the design speed for new high speed lines in the UK should suit the British geography.

      • Think this argument is going somewhat off track ( pardon the pun !! ) – HS2 is not designed solely for the purpose of reducing short haul flights, though that is one of the benefits. Budget airlines have created demand of their own accord simply because of the business model they employ – a model which often uses secondary airports!! Lets not forget the real issue is the problem of our rail network reaching capacity if nothing was done to alleviate that situation. Rail travel per se is increasing for a variety of reasons, and if we are serious about our environmental issues, then we have to accept that rail is the most environmentally friendly way of getting from A to B ( you guys already accept that ).

        Doing nothing is not an option – we are already undertaking a number of projects ( Crossrail and Thameslink for example ) , some have already been completed ( North London and Airdrie.Bathgate ) and some are still on the drawing board ( HS2 and Northern Hub ).

        HS2 will have a link into Crossrail and Northern Hub – its a project which has knock on benefits including increasing capacity for freight which in turn removes HGVs from our motorways. If removing thousands of truck journeys isnt a major benefit, then what is??!!

        • When Adonis first announced his vision for high speed rail it was to provide an alternative to short-haul flights. This has a great deal of public appeal because the general perception is that trains are green and planes are not. But high speed rail is not green, it has been rejected by the Green Party. And to date no environmental impact assessment has been done for the actual construction of the line. I’m all for keeping the discussion on track which is no business case, no environmental case and an unaffordable price tag.

  5. Indeed Penny – the consensus of opinion is that the distance should be minimum 150km. The current distance between Euston and Birmingham New Street is 115 miles – which converts to 185 km!!

    Distance between Paris and Le Mans which already has High Speed Rail ( TGV Atlantique ) is 181 km.

    And lets not forget that Manchester, Leeds , Glasgow and Edinburgh are also included in the overall HS2 package which are a bit further away than Birmingham from London.

    So if the principles/specification is a minimum of 150km which you dont agree with, yet you point out that international experts are saying this……by saying ” no ” , you are actually contradicting the experts. Does that mean you actually know more than these experts then ??

    • Gary – re your comment ” The current distance between Euston and Birmingham New Street is 115 miles – which converts to 185 km!!”

      If you read Penny’s post again you will see that it says “By the time the proposed route has got out of London to an area where trains can run at maximum speed, the distance is a lot less then 150km.

      I think the whole speed thing is interesting in terms of what is actually quoted vs the reality of what else needs to be taken into account i.e. slow down in tunnels etc. if there are more tunnels as a result of reducing the noise impact of ultra high speed – will this mean slower trains?

      On Peter’s point, about speed being important to make a shift from air to rail, HS2 Action Alliance say the following :

      “To generate sufficient shift from air (8% of HS2 journeys) HS2 Ltd assume a 178% increase
      in domestic air travel by 2033 and a third runway at Heathrow.
      In reality demand for domestic air travel in the UK has been declining since before the
      recession, so opportunities for HS2 to displace air travel are reducing, not increasing. With
      no third runway for Heathrow the chances of major increases in domestic air are even
      slighter. Rail already has 80% Manchester market, and the NW and Scottish Lowlands air
      market has been shrinking since 2005.
      Reductions in domestic air services may be replaced by more polluting long haul services.
      Experts agree air wins against rail for trips over 3½ hrs: HS2 Ltd say 4hrs for some markets.

      I have a close friend who lets just say is very senior in the air services industry who would confirm the shrinking domestic demand forecasts which pretty much backs this up.

      So Peter – what do you make of this? I am not sure that speed is always the pivotal factor in making the change. In the US for example – 3 states have rejected HSR as they just love their cars! In some places its cultural. In Holland we are hearing about lack of demand. I am wondering if the UK citizens would prefer reliability and low cost rather than ultra high speed. (we already have high speed as you know). I think your speed arguement is not as black and white as you make out.

      • Nelly – it is being pointed out to us by Pennys post that the MINIMUM DISTANCE BETWEEN STATIONS AS ADVOCATED BY EXPERTS IS 150KM. Its there in black and white so you cant possibly argue against the fact that the distance between London and Birmingham is 185km, which is comfortably within the experts criteria.

        Of course max speed isnt hit straight away – and neither is it on the Shinkansen or TGV. The feature of the rolling stock is that it accelerates very quickly. The feature of HS2 line is that it is being built as a dedicated high speed only line – which means no suburban or freight trains – which is the same as Shinkansen. So High Speed trains can reach their max design speed with no impediments. Can Penny quote at which part of the line this would be on a journey from Euston ?

        It appears that you guys simply dont understand what High Speed Rail is ……

        Nelly – you say that according to your sources , domestic air travel is shrinking. Can you supply some facts to back that up, eg figures over the last 10 years. And also over the same timescale, can you also publish the facts about demand for rail travel , taking particular care to demonstrate if the numbers of services have increased or decreased over routes that mirror domestic air services.

        Can you also find out how many domestic services land at Heathrow on a daily basis, and also if the airlines actually make a profit out of these on their own ?

        Can you also find out why Flybe have announced the withdrawal of their Leeds/Gatwick service?

        Can you also find out what are the unique selling features of Boeings latest long haul airliner ( known as Dreamliner ) frorm an environmental point of view. ?

        Can you also find out whats the latest news on Virgin Atlanticss trial of using bio fuel in their jet engines?

      • @NellyP: “So Peter – what do you make of this?”

        What I’d make of it is that you just ignored the thrust of my remarks – your comments specifically relate to the domestic market – where demand may have fallen, specifically because reliability and journey times between key locations, eg. Birmingham / Manchester to London, have improved, which only goes to demonstrate that when a credible alternative is offered, rail wins out over short haul air every time.

        My remarks specifically alluded to the same market between places like Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Birmingham, etc. and mainland European destinations

        You chose to ignore that vital part of my dialogue and distort my remarks by references to the domestic market, which you also conveniently conflate into one mass to make your point – care to elaborate by splitting out Glasgow/Edingburgh to London and making comparisons between Air and Rail on those routes

        • I’m planning a trip to Montpellier in July. The rail fare for two people from St Pancras is £269 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 won’t be going by train.

          • Finmere – you shouldnt be going at all if you cared about the environment. Unless you cycle there of course !!

          • how are you getting to luton or do you live nearby ? if you are going by car you will be generating pollution and costs for fuel etc and then presumably pay parking fees. or i suppose coach from mk ?

            and remember the airlines dont pay any fuel tax that would level the cost somewhat. are some of the commentators on stop hs2 have said that we dont need to travel anymore because of technology and in in any case apparently long distance travel is a luxury. So you could just sit in your house in a deck chair with a bottle of french wine and look at montpellier online !!! that would be much cheaper.

            so by staying at home you would save all those expenses and not generate as much pollution. or you could spend the money you were going to spend in france on local products instead. but dont go to birmingham or manchester on the train otherwise you might be helping to further the cause of hs2

            • Hello Nick. I nearly missed your comment amongst all the others. It’s actually easier and quicker for me to get to Luton than to St Pancras. Even with a week’s airport parking, for two people it’s cheaper to drive to Luton than go by train to London. And we’d have to get a taxi to the station.

              I’m just an ordinary guy going on holiday the same as millions of others. I’m not an environmental evangelist. For me the price is an important factor when making choices. My trip illustrates the point that the flight is cheaper even though the fare contains taxes and charges, and the rail fare is more expensive even though it is subsidised.

    • Gary – I rather wonder whether your questions are for your dissertation?

      I am currently researching the European HSR area – so any information I find out I’ll gladly share – but only if you do the same? You indicate in other posts that you are a student in manchester studying a transport related dgree. I am struggling to do this whilst looking after 2 small children so often my posts are a bit rushed and my research takes a lot longer than yours would.

      Peter – for what its worth – I am interested in a debate and finding out and sharing information so that I can better understand the arguements for and against HSR. It would be more helpful and add more value to the debate if your posts could be less aggressive and accusative “You chose to ignore that vital part of my dialogue and distort my remarks by references to the domestic market”.

      Actually – I had no such intention.

      I liked Andrew’s post and I will endeavor to research some more around the demand projections from Air to HSR in a european context.

    • You might have a point, Gary, if there weren’t stations between those two – Old Oak Common and the Birmingham International Interchange station. Those are less then 150km apart.

      • Indeed Penny , and of course Old Oak Common ( which may well be the starting point of HS2 as per Lord Mawhinney ) is a proposed station for Crossrail ( with link to Heathrow thrown in ) and is still 170 km from Birmingham International ( which has link to both airport and NEC ).

        • That’s not what the the engineering diagrams for HS2 show. They show the Old Oak Common station 8km from the start, and the Interchange station at 156km from the start. So 148km apart.

          • I ve googled it Penny…….so shall we agree that Birmingam to London is suitable for High Speed rail as they are 2 big areas of population – there just happens to be a couple of points just outside either which makes the overall benefit a lot more viable. And of course trains can operate on a limited stop basis, so not all trains may call anyway if Euston was the designated starting point. In fact on that basis, a station in the Chilterns might not be a bad idea……

            • Perhaps you ought to read the material HS2 Ltd have made available then. There is plenty of it. And you can agree with me if you want: that the distances in the UK are too short for the speeds that HS2 Ltd are suggesting to be viable.

            • Penny – the international definition of High Speed Rail is existing lines that are capable of up to 125mph, and new lines with a speed of at least 155mph. so we already have high speed rail in the UK anyway.

              You have already agreed that our rail network is going to suffer from a lack of capacity North to South,,,,,there are engineering limits to what can be achieved with the current classic lines which you seem to be totally oblivious to.

              The reality is that we need a new line – it needs to be built pretty much as the crow flies so that future designs of traction are able to reach the design speed.
              By taking out the long distance journeys on the current lines and using that capacity created for increased local services and freight, we kill 3 birds with 1 stone…ie faster links between our major conurbations, more frequent local services for smaller areas, and the potential to remove thousands of HGV journeys from our congested roads.

              You simply aint seeing the bigger picture…….

            • Every problem has a range of solutions. The public Accounts Committee issued a report about overcrowding on trains last year – we wrote about it here. They said that the DfT should review the railway industry, and one of the aims of this review should be “restraining the tendency to seek solutions through growth”.

              Now the DfT and the railway industry have not done that: instead they have decided they are going to build a new railway line which dulplicates existing lines. And having decided that they must build a new line – which is not necessarily the best solution for whatever capacity problem the railways have – they are going to design it for speeds that work well in large countries, like India and China, rather then thinking about what is suitable for Britain.

      • The hs2 principal advantage is that it provides extra capacity. the existing trains are overcrowded so there is obviously a demand for much more capacity. and not all trains will stop at old oak. but the ones that do will be stopping to pick up passengers though which is the aim of the game !!!.

        and remember that hs2 will only take just over half the time that the journey takes now for all but one wcml virgin train. before you dispute that the majority ie almost all trains currently take eighty minutes and the journey time on hs2 including one stop is 49 minutes so non stop journeys will save 35 minutes on what is now normally an 😯 minute journey. so how is that not worthwhile over a 12O mile journey ?

        and if the airline industry is experiencing less growth at the moment, why were they planning an extra runway at Heathrow to carry thousands and thousands more people ?

        all forms of electrified rail have much lower emission of pollutants then does short haul air or driving. so unless people like finmere for example are willing to either forgo their travelling then rail is the best way of carrying people and goods over short to medium distances. and airlines dont pay fuel tax nor is there a charge for using the sky unless you count landing fees..

        Also london manchester is 2OO miles or so and of course trains will run over hs2 to points further north. and since hs2 is effectively an extension of hs1 which is effectively an extension of the european network the eventual length of the line from manchester to marseille and in the near future barcelona is certainly well over the minimum required !!!

        rail is also less affected by rising fuel prices then other modes of transport. therefore with continuing high fuel prices for both plane and car remaining high we will see more of a trend to travel by train but we need the extra infrastructure that hs2 will provide to make this possible.

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