This is a guest post by Peter Delow. It’s part of an article originally published in earlier this year: read the whole article here.
As a member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (MIET) I was interested to see that my institution, jointly with the Royal Academy of Engineering, has submitted a response to the public consultation on HS2 (under the banner Engineering the Future). …
It is quite clear that the IET and RAEng are not entirely happy with the “evidence” that has been provided by the Government to inform the public consultation, nor of some of the methodology that has been employed in the analysis. The response criticises a number of features of the economic and business case, including: considering HS2 in isolation from other parts of the rail network, lack of clarity on plans to bridge the north/south divide through transport, questionable money values attributed to time savings and failure to include details of the planned cost of fares in the analysis. (Editor:- Very similar to the criticisms of HS2 from the Transport Select Committee)…
…Secondly, that the “high-speed line could lead to an increase, not a reduction in CO2 emissions”.
On a personal note, I am grateful to IET and RAEng for clearing up a problem that I had with figure 1.2 on page of 14 the Consultation document. This figure is reproduced below:
The histogram originally appeared as figure 2.2 in the High Speed Rail Command Paper, Cm 7827 (which may be downloaded here). In neither document in which it appears is the derivation of the emission levels given in the histogram adequately explained.
What I find troubling about this figure is the two bars at the extreme right hand end. These appear to show that the high speed Eurostar generates only about a third of the CO2 emissions of the conventional speed inter-city. So have we been wrong in the opposition camp in claiming that HS2 will lead to higher emission levels?
The IET and RAEng consultation response offers a reason for this apparent contradiction:
One can surmise that this is because the Eurostar is assumed to be fed with French “nuclear” energy while intercity rail is assumed to be fed by the current UK electricity energy mix …
The carbon emissions resulting from the generation of electricity in France are indeed lower than in the UK. The former derives over three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear power stations, whereas in the UK the proportion of electricity supplied by nuclear power is less than one quarter. Whilst electricity generation by nuclear power is not entirely carbon free, the carbon emissions are considerably less than the hydrocarbon based generation upon which the UK predominately relies.
So what does the IET and RAEng document think about the comparison that HS2 Ltd has made between conventional and high speed rail?
It says that the use of two different electricity generation regimes is
“a distinction which is inappropriate if the purpose of the document is to represent alternatives for the UK in the 2030s”.
The consultation response by the New Economics Foundation confirms the “surmise” by the IET and RAEng, and gives further information. The Eurostar CO2 figure uses an average grid carbon intensity figure for UK, Belgium and France and the inter-city figure includes emissions from diesel trains operating on the inter-city routes. Also the Eurostar calculation assumes around 70% occupancy, whereas the occupancy of inter-city varies from 28-45%.
As I said in the title to this blog: “That’s a bit sneaky”.