MPs Debate HS2 and Heathrow

Originally published on the 51M website: reproduced with permission.

Before the summer break MPs debated HS2 and the link with Heathrow. The existing plan is for a spur to run to Heathrow from Old Oak Common. To read the proceedings of the debate (starting from column 223WH) that took place in Westminster Hall on 17 July click here.

It is revealing that in one of her responses during the debate Transport Secreatry Theresa VillIiers said with regard to the modal shift effect of HS2, “Providing an attractive alternative to those (internal) flights could release vital capacity, which could provide opportunities for developing new routes to emerging markets and other key long-haul destinations…”

Given the original central ‘green’ claim for HS2 reducing carbon emissions, this comment demonstrates that even this objective has been abandoned. As 51m put forward in its submission to the Department for Transport last year, the possibility of short-haul slots being taking by long-haul routes undermined the ability of HS2 to even be carbon neutral. In the light of Theresa Villiers comments, it is now clear that the contribution of HS2 to the nation’s carbon reduction targets must be questioned as such replacements appears to have become Government policy.

The STOP HS2 campaign is currently running an urgent funding appeal.

To pay direct into our bank account or preferably set up a standing order to help ensure we have regular funding, the details are; Lloyds-TSB, Sort Code 30-94-93, Account no, 34934760. Anyone wishing to donate to Stop HS2 should send a cheque made payable to “Stop HS2″ to Stop HS2, c/o Roger Waller, Treasurer, The Outlook, Dunsmore, Wendover, Bucks. HP22 6QJ.

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8 comments to “MPs Debate HS2 and Heathrow”
  1. I see Virgin have announced that they’re going to start flights between Manchester and Heathrow. Apparently, two-thirds of the one million or so passengers between Manchester and Heathrow are connecting with other flights. One commentator has already said that an infrequent rail service to Heathrow via Old Oak Common would not provide a viable alternative for most of these passengers. And, if there’s a price war with BA, it might tempt other passengers from trains to planes. Wasn’t HS2 supposed to offer an alternative to short haul flights? Looks like they’re going the wrong way about it. No surprises there. So much for modal shift.

    • errrrr…………@Finmere

      HS2 can’t offer any form of modal shift right now because unless you hadn’t noticed, the new line hasn’t been built! Phase 1 won’t begin operating until 2026. Virgin have obviously thrown their toys out of the pram due to loss of the WCML franchise – their publicity stunt won’t make that much difference in the short term but longer term it might begin to have an impact as WCML based service reliability falls over the next few years – the current Virgin train service was amongst the worst performers on that score and much of the problem lay with infrastructure constraints.

      I have no doubts about HS2’s long term modal shift potential, particularly as an alternative to short haul intra-European routes but for that to happen we need to have the new infrastructure in-situ

      • Come off it Peter, do you really think that large businesses such as Virgin Atlantic make important investment decisions on the basis of fits of pique or publicity stunts? Even if Sir Richard Branson felt so inclined, I doubt very much that the shareholders, particularly Singapore Airlines, would go along with it.
        Virgin appears to see the air feeder routes as a business opportunity and a potential boost for its long-haul business. As you say there are many years, probably more than twenty, before HS2 would be able to make a contribution to this market and this gives Virgin plenty of time to exploit it. WCML, of course, does not serve Heathrow and is not a factor in the air feeder market.

      • The current Virgin service is amongst the worst performers , eh ? So bad that 130,000 people have signed the epetition to reconsider the award to First Group ! Shows what you know.

        I travel regularly on both Virgin and First and know who I think is better ( it isn’t First ).

        As for modal shift, depends what you mean by that. I agree that some travellers from Manchester and Birmingham would take a through train to Paris and Brussels instead of fly. If you mean there will be a noticeable drop in air traffic to destinations further south eg Marseille, Milan and Madrid then of course not. Do you still expect Manchester businessmen to be queuing up to take a 6 hour journey to Frankfurt ? Don’t be daft !

      • @Martin H / @Peter Delow

        I know it suits the (STOPHS2) party line to keep banging on about business execs (in the forlorn hope that the general public will buy into a myth that High Speed Rail passengers are exclusively drawn from be-suited expense account fuelled individuals) but you both know that HS2 passengers are predominantly forecast to come from the non-business sector so can we drop the pretence now?

        I can just as easily counter with the fact that businesses such as Eurostar and Deutsche Bahn are investing billions (collectively) in new trainsets to service what they perceive (and it would be fair to assume that they don’t base such important judgements on pure hunches – they do detailed research into future demand patterns and their influencing factors; political, legal, economic, social and technological) as buoyant long-term markets. In just a few years time (long before HS2 comes into play), direct services from London St. Pancras will be available (in addition to Brussels and Paris) to (my guess at the list of city destinations); Marseille, Lyon, Geneva, Liege, Cologne, Frankfurt, Rotterdam and Amsterdam and ten years from now Bordeaux, Barcelona, Turin, Milan, Munich and Berlin will join them, all of this made possible through London’s direct connection to an emerging pan-European HSR network, courtesy of HS1 – paid for by all UK taxpayers.

        So Eurostar and Deutsche Bahn (and we can add SNCF, SNCB, NS Hi-Speed, Renfe, Italo and Trenitalia, all investing many hundreds of millions individually and billions collectively, to that growing list) certainly don’t share your vision of a market restricted by an arbitrary three/four hour travel window and neither do they view their target market as exclusively business orientated?

        • You’re trying to confuse me again Peter. When did I comment about the make up of the passenger profile for HS2 being exclusively business executives? I think that you must be mixing me up with that other geyser who said that the railways were “a rich man’s toy”.

    • The point is that without a proper service to Heathrow, passengers connecting with other flights will not choose the train but take short haul flights instead. Given the number of passenger journeys and that one of the selling points of HS2 is to reduce internal flights, this looks like a big planning failure. Right from the start, with all this modal shift potential being ignored, one might conclude that modal shift is not very high up on the HS2 agenda. The Heathrow connection is a big problem for HS2. I remember Philip Hammond saying something about a Sales Director from Manchester using HS2 to get to his flight from Heathrow. But without a proper service he won’t be able to and will get a connecting flight instead.

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