Environmentally damaging and more expensive but let’s make it fast

According to the Birmingham Mail, Norman Baker, Transport Minister, told a LibDem fringe event that building tracks for fast trains is more expensive than conventional speed railways, more environmentally damaging to run, but the Government is going to build HS2 to be fast anyway.

Baker claimed

“Once you have a new line it’s marginal extra cost to make it high speed and you can get more people on it.”

and

“There is obviously a carbon cost in building the line. There is also a carbon cost in running it, because the trains run faster than traditional trains there are higher carbon emissions than there would be from a traditional train.”

Thing is, building a higher speed railway causes more environmental damage than simply the extra carbon emissions of the running the trains.

Because higher speed trains need straighter tracks and gentler curves, it means that the design of HS2 will affect far more wildlife sites than a conventional speed railway might. With 160 wildlife sites at risk from the first phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham, Baker’s claims it is “good for the environment” to make it high speed don’t stack up.

In addition, because of the design speed, HS2 Ltd argue that there can’t be any stations between London and Birmingham, because that would cause too big a time penalty for passengers on the trains. If the trains were designed to go slower, than there could be intermediate stations with the obvious benefits to many more people.

And HS2 is only expected to have 3% of it’s passengers opting to take the train instead of a plane – but 24% only traveling at all  because HS2 has been built.

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