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Carbon Concerns and HS2

STOP HS2 supporters are going to tomorrow’s climate change march: read on to find out why HS2 is a high carbon project.

Talking to the BBC, during the Conservative Party Conference, David Cameron said “Actually getting people off the roads and onto fast railways is good for our environment.”

This desire was previously highlighted in the Coaltion Agreement

“We will establish a high speed rail network as part of our programme to fulfil our joint ambitions for creating a low carbon economy”.

However according to EU standards, we already have a high speed rail network in this country, on both the West Coast Main Line and the East Coast Main Line.

The proposed HS2 is a stand alone railway line, with no intermediate stations which will actually encourage more car journeys in order for people to get on it.

Cathryn Symons, member of the Camden Green Party, thinks

Once the line is fully up and running to Glasgow, the Department for Transport (DfT) estimate that the vast majority of passengers will come from existing train services, or new journeys which would not otherwise have been made. Only 8% will come from cars and 8% from planes, and then only after 2033 when the line goes all the way to Scotland. When they do switch, and the number of flights from Glasgow to Heathrow drops, the landing slots will be filled with international flights. It is very unlikely that flights will decrease at all.

“The report is vague on carbon costs, giving a range of -25 to +26 million tonnes during the first 60 years of operation, and no estimate at all for construction, a serious flaw. Construction will create emissions early in the life of the project, perhaps before any significant improvements in construction technology allow them to be reduced. A report commissioned by the DfT in 2007 gave a very rough estimate of 10 million tonnes for construction of a London–Glasgow high speed rail line.3. If it does save some emissions, it will be because the electricity grid has been decarbonised, but does not include the huge investment needed to provide the extra low-carbon electricity needed. We’ll be struggling to provide low-carbon electricity to convert existing trains from diesel without this huge extra load.

“High Speed Rail will not help reduce carbon by 80% by 2050, and may make matters worse.

“The number of journeys on the West Coast Main Line is expected to double by 2033, and the business case for the project depends on this. As with building new roads, or runways, growth is assumed to be inevitable and good. Where is the call from government to reduce journeys, encourage local employment rather than long-distance commuting, or use new communications technology to replace meetings?

“The Green Party should not support any scheme which encourages people to make more journeys.”

STOPHS2 couldn’t say it better. Perhaps David Cameron should rethink HS2 and his statement

“Some of the green lobby and a lot of the media tend to look at the environment and climate change as, look you’ve got a binary choice, you can either have economic growth or you can have a sustainable environment, and the truth is we’ve got to have both. We’ve got to have green growth.”

He’s also said

“The most powerful regional policy is transport and the most powerful form of transport is High Speed Rail”

Exactly. That says it all – it uses more power per passenger at this speed than any other form of transport.

HS2 is NOT Green! There is no environmental case for HS2. Maybe the Coaltion will revise its position after the Environmental Impact Assessment has been carried out?

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3 comments to “Carbon Concerns and HS2”
  1. Thank you Lizzy

    I’ve been searching for facts and figures to back this up. What I have discovered is that energy use rises approximately with the square of speed. So a train travelling at 300 kph will use more than twice as much energy as one travelling at 200 kph (2.25 to be precise). HS2 has proposed speeds of 400 kph so would use 4 times the energy and create 4 times the emissions of a conventional high speed train.

    But how does this compare with other modes of transport? The normal yardstick for such comparisons is energy use per passenger kilometre, taking account of average load factors.

    Car (Honda Civic, 1.6 passengers) = 1.25 MJ/passenger-km

    Plane (B737-400, domestic UK, 65% occupancy) = 2.5 MJ/passenger-km

    Train (Conventional intercity train @ 200 kph, 70% occupancy) = 0.7 MJ/passenger-km

    HS2 (@300 kph, 2 times conventional train) = 1.4 MJ/passenger-km

    HS2 (@400 kph, 4 times conventional train) = 2.8 MJ/passenger-km

    Also, I have found a very useful website which calculates CO2 emissions. http://www.compenco2.be/content.aspx?l=001&lang=EN&group=1

    You can enter different journeys and it gives you results in Kg CO2 for different methods of transport.

    E.g. for a journey from London to Manchester, for a single passenger, the Kg CO2 used by car = 90, plane = 80, and train = 20. But HS2 travelling at 400 kph would produce 4 times the emissions of a conventional train, i.e. 80, the same as travelling by plane!

    Quite frankly, I am astounded! This has been like a road to Damascus experience for me.

    When Adonis first announced his vision for high speed rail it was to provide an alternative to short-haul flights. This of course supports the assumption that planes are ‘bad’ and trains are ‘good’. But if these trains are going to travel so fast that they use the same amount of energy and create the same level of emissions as plane travel, where’s the sense in that?

    I believe this is a pivotal point, and if properly publicised could bring the whole thing down.

  2. Hi, at the speed this route is intended to run at, it is indeed more carbon hungry. You are absolutely right in syaing people are unaware of this. Trains can be green but ramp up the speed to this level and the drag makes them inefficient. Lizzy

  3. Is it true that high speed trains use more energy per passenger mile than any other form of transport?

    Because if it is, not many people know it. The common assumption is that trains are greener than cars and planes.

    If that assumption was shown to be incorrect and people were made aware of it, there would be a shift in public opinion as to the strategic validity of the HS2 project, and political pressure to invest the available resources in other transport infrastructure.

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