Minutes of the Justine Greening HS2 meeting with MPs

The transcript from Justine Greening’s meeting with MPs about HS2 is now available on the Department for Transport’s website.  Download it here.

This was a session for the MPs to put their views on HS2 to the Secretary of State: she said she was unable to respond to any substantive points, because the 55,000 consultation responses were still being analysed.

A range of views was expressed by MPs from around the country, both against HS2 and in favour of high speed rail.

A number of MPs raised concerns about the economic case, including John Redwood, and Tony Lloyd from Manchester Central.

John Redwood (Wokingham) said:

“The business case set forward for HS2 does not make good reading. The rate of return is disappointing, even allowing for the very high value placed on time, which people think can be used on the train suitably by those travelling. Clearly, the railway will be heavily loss-making, which would add to the burden on railway financing, were the project to be completed, and the taxpayer would have to stand behind it.”

Chris Pincher (Tamworth) asked why the DfT were using the “Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook 4.1, which has a rather short-term elastic model of demand that even Sir Rod Eddington says is questionable”, when the later 5.0 version is now available, with a different and “more reasonable” change in demand on the WCML.

There were concerns that money would be spent on building the London-Birmingham part of the route, but that the second phase from Birmingham to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds would be delayed, possibly even by decades, or not get built at all.

Several MPs suggested – like the Transport Select Committee earlier – that there should be clarity on the whole Y route before the government made their decision. This included the proposed link to Heathrow.

There were also suggestions if the reason for building HS2 was to improve the economy in the north, it might be better to spend it on projects to improve connectivity between northern cities for instance between Manchester and Newcastle. The possibility of starting in Manchester or Leeds and building south was raised. There was also the issue – brought up by Brian Donohoe, (Central Ayrshire) as to how the plans related to Scotland.

Several MPs pointed out that the HS2 proposal was not the only way of designing a high speed railway.

Jeremy Wright, Kenilworth and Southam

“The first is my constituents will require clear proof that if we are proceeding with high-speed rail that we have also picked the very best way of delivering high-speed rail. There are a number of alternative ways of delivering high-speed rail, which, if the Government is going to dismiss, it needs to explain clearly why it has done so.”

These concerns about the design parameters included the choice of speed: Michael Fabricant pointed out that other countries have found that ultra high speed railways, of the type proposed by HS2, have more wear and tear, meaning more downtime for maintainance.

In addition there were specific concerns: such as the difference between the HS2 documentation which said the number of trains from Coventry would be reduced from 3 trains to London per hour to only one per hour, whereas Philip Hammond had said Coventry services would improve.

Noise mitigation was brought up by several MPs: Christopher Pincher said he and Dan Byles had gone to Kent to listen to HS1 and found it was demonstrably louder than the sound projections at the HS2 road-shows.  In addition the projections at the road shows did not include examples of some of the more problematic areas for sound mitigation, such as in Dominic Grieve’s constituency, where the HS2 design included a viaduct over still water.

Property blight and compensation was brought up by several MPs, including supporters of HS2 from off the route. There were several different factors here. The existing Exceptional Hardship Scheme was described as “random” where compensation was given to some people who are unable to sell their house but not to others with homes closer to the proposed route. There was also criticism of it as unacceptable way of compensation for the longterm, as it was restricted to a limited number of reasons for moving home. In the longer term, the Land compensation Act was described as “not fit for purpose” for a scheme like HS2 which has “no benefit to people living along the route of HS2”.

There were also concerns that the property blight had not been included in the business case. For instance the business case did not include the loss of stamp duty tax revenue, which would be received the Exchequer from the sale of houses which had lost value due to HS2.

Stop HS2 will be looking in more detail about the issues raised at the meeting.

15 comments to “Minutes of the Justine Greening HS2 meeting with MPs”
  1. I agree with you (nameless) there are many that will make money if it goes ahead that don’t give a damn about what and who is affacted they just take the money and move on leaving behind broken lives and countryside.The song really tells how it is with the emotion clear.Those who want to build this are determined to think of those affected as nobodys that should be happy to sacrifice their way of life for something that it is clear will not cure the transport problems and will not make money unless it has cut price fares.Why are the trains overcrowded when the prices go to a cheaper band?why do people struggle on the packed motorway instead of using the toll road? It shows that the class divide has stayed with us.The first class carriages should be removed at peak times.We are not at war we should not be expected to make the sacrifice of our countryside.

  2. I am amazed that none of the issues concerning this HS2 lunacy mention the potential on-board safety aspects of high speed rail travel. Considering the horrendous crash in Escherde Germany a few years ago, it
    is more that possible that incidents similar to that would happen here. Travel at such high speeds obviously need first class maintenance, which considering UK rail firms previous records cast doubt as to whether
    such a complex could be maintained. If one delves into the on-going problems with the Chinese HS system, the overall costs are enormous and coupled with the amount of disruption being quoted in their press at
    this time, it seems that for the UK to go the HS route will be a disaster waiting to happen. In conclusion i would also mention that because of the relatively small size of our country, the distances between stops
    en-route are insufficient for proper high speeds to be achieved on a daily basis.

    • The Eschede train crash in 1998, while it involved a high speed ICE train (maximum speed 280 km/h, 174 mph), occurred on a conventional line at a speed of 200 km/h, 125 mph. Dozens of trains in Great Britain already operate at these speeds every day. If you look at accident records for Western Europe it is clear that most accidents are at lower speeds, usually at junctions and complex station approaches. There is no evidence to show that a higher speed operation (e.g. France, HS1) is unsafe if the risks are properly managed and controlled: the record to date suggests that this is being achieved. In conclusion – a red herring.

      • Hardly a”red herring” Isleof Lewis,to raise the serious issue of safety,which should be paramount.It may be true that most accidents occur at slower speeds,but a derailment at a place such as here, where properties are so close to the embankment,with no crash barriers,or access for the emergency services,and capacity for up to a thousand passengers(as has been quoted) every two minutes both ways at peak times, would be catastrophic.HS2 Ltd have provided no assurances on this when asked.If they ever achieved such frequencies,would there not be considerable wear and tear on the rails,and when would the maintenance be carried out?Between midnight and 7 a.m?

      • We might be OK as long as the Chinese aren’t running it.

        But seriously just imagine how bad a derailment might be at 235 mph — might be caused by a cow on the line, concrete blocks dropped from a bridge, terrorist attack or indeed a common or garden maintenance failure. Don’t be naive enough to say it couldn’t happen.

        • So what you are saying @MartinH, is don’t build a High Speed Line because it’s High Speed and so much more “dangerous” because it’s High Speed. If you take that warped logic to a logical conclusion, it’s a wonder you even get out of bed each morning – after all, just stepping out of your own doorstep exposes you to untold extra danger – maybe the risk isn’t worth it?

          Accidents happen – they are a fact of life. However if you take the TGV dedicated High Speed line network as a template, you can see that with proper planning such risks can be virtually eliminated but of course there is always the potential for some freak, completely unforseeable event?

          See this link summarising accident events involving TGV trains
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TGV_accidents
          You’ll note that virtually all of the accidents described occured on classic lines which allow greater access to the line area, ie. in the form of level crossings.

          Much has been made of the massive concrete strip threatened by the construction of HS2 – in fact this is a gross over exaggeration because the land take for a High Speed line is much less than that of a motorway. However, a direct consequence of the new line’s design is the fact that it will incorporate features deliberately designed to frustrate ingress on to the line, so in that respect it could be argued that High Speed Lines are actually safer than classic lines.

          Of course there is always the potential for lunatic action, such as terrorist threat or some idiot dropping a concrete block on to a passing train but that threat already exists – are you suggesting that people should stop travelling because of this perceived threat – if so please feel free to broadcast your advice to the wider world because it will bring a whirlwind response from the public?

    • The German incident was as a result of a wheel set breaking up and the train hitting points at 125mph. then impacting a bridge. On true HS lines the risks are lessened because of the straight nature of the line and the lack of point work on the truly high speed stretches. In France TGVs have derailed at flu speed and stayed upright with no injuries, there was even a terrorist bomb on one and the injuries were all caused by blast, not the derailment. HS trains on a per passenger/km basis are in fact the safest passenger trains.

  3. Why are we still getting new information from the Telegraph

    We are sick of being treated like mushrooms and Justine Greening should be announcing the timetable including publication of the consultation results.and we should all lobby our MP’s to ask her to do so

    • @John: “Why are we still getting new information from the Telegraph”

      Because that’s what investigative journalists do – they’re paid to dig up a story. Seems as though this time they are right on the button. It makes sense of course for the Minister to look at the total projected costs of the scheme, see where alterations can be made to reduce the overall environmental impact and improve its acceptability to specific communities who are adversely impacted under the current proposals.

      It’s equally tempting to draw cynical conclusions about the rationale driving this change. Seems to me that the people of Amersham should be feeling better tonight because the new line has been removed out their immediate line of sight?

      This announcement goes a long way to explaining why Cheryl Gillian was able to publicly pour cold water on the notion that she would resign over HS2 (see story in local press) – this was probably part of the private discussions held during the recent meeting between interested MPs and the Secretary of State for Transport – the bit that didn’t appear in the published minutes?

        • @John: “What we must be told now is where the £500 million pounds is coming from”

          That’s in the announcement (unless I’ve misinterpreted it). The Minister has asked the engineers designing the route to look at potential savings in other parts of the route in order that this funding can be reallocated to incorporate a tunnel linking two existing tunnels within the current proposals (so making one much longer tunnel under Amersham, thereby removing the new line completely from sight in and around Amersham). Of course there should be some scrutiny to ensure that this reallocation has not resulted in significantly reduced mitigation measures elsewhere but my understanding is that the total headline projected budget remains the same?

          The minor delay (approx 30 days) is to presumably to allow this proposed change to be worked through properly before the final announcement (which was always going to be to proceed with HS2 more or less along the ROUTE3 option) is made, mid-Jan 2012 rather than mid-Dec 2011?

      • Reads like a deliberate leak to me. Also gbp500m looks high for 1.5 miles, particularly when its an extension of a an exisiting tunnel so the there should be a saving on set up costs that are usually high for bored tunnels. I seem to remember the rejected wendover tunnel was c 2 miles and required set up costs and came to gbp300m or so.

  4. “There are a number of alternative ways of delivering high-speed rail, which, if the Government is going to dismiss, it needs to explain clearly why it has done so.” – Testify!

    There are loads of options – this one is the dumbest.

    • I’m not sure if this comment actually advances the debate, Nameless.
      Obviously you have analysed and compared many of these alternatives so as to be able to reach this conclusion.

      Andrea Leadsom suggested that, to overcome the congestion on the WCML it might be necessary to build a new railway between Milton Keynes and London.

      Have you included this proposal amongst the others and could say which of the various options you yourself would propose as the best, or least worst, amongst those you have compared.

      • It certainly does not but given as most of the debtate cant even distinguish fact from belief then I feel at a loss as how to engage with it.

        Ignorance is no barrier to belief formation and often counpled with huge amounts of fallacy and bias.

        I sat and watched 6 experts rip this idea to shreds in every area and the panel just blanked them because of their own self-interest.

        After that I realised there is little point in arguing with people who have no idea how their own belief systems work.

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