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Looking at the Prime Minister’s answer – Part 2

Last week, we analysed part of an answer to a question on HS2 asked at Prime Minister’s Question time. Now we are looking at a different part of his answer.

David Cameron said

“…The rest of the world is getting on board the high-speed rail revolution and it is right that we should too.”

However this is misleading. The real fact is we’ve already got railways that meet the international definitions of high speed rail – but also other countries are dropping their plans to build more railways.

Had David Cameron read a Stop HS2 article from last month – STOP HS2 | The pack of cards begins to fall as the UK still scrambles to save HS2 – he would have been reminded of these.

We said

  • As far as the EU is concerned, the UK already has an extensive HSR network. The EU counts trains travelling at over 200 kph on existing  tracks as HSR so the west and east lines up to Scotland, as well as the line to Bristol and HS1 all already count as HSR. See map on page 2 on this link:   http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/12/st08/st08047-ad07.en12.pdf

And we said

  • Across Europe, governments are pulling back from the mad dash for HSR. So, stopping to think about a rational and NATIONAL (Miliband please note!) transport plan with massive rail investment right across the existing network as part of that, would put us in the top class, not ‘behind’ Europe.

What’s more, a recent report on European rail trends by Amadeus,  showed that out of 20 countries,  the United Kingdom has the second highest number of people using long distance trains, with 169 million long distance rail journeys in 2011.  Only France had more.

But last month’s article is not the only time we’ve covered the international scene.

At Prime Minister’s Questions:

Q14. [146204] Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): The widely disputed economic benefits of HS2 may or may not be realised in 20 years’ time. However, the blight, fear and anxiety the project generates hit my constituency on 28 January with the announcement of the extended route. I now have constituents who cannot sell their houses, businesses uncertain about their future and the potential loss of a £500 million private sector investment set to generate 7,000 jobs in 2016. Can my right hon. Friend ensure that representatives of HS2 visit my constituency to address the real concerns of my constituents about this project?

The Prime Minister: I am very happy to make sure that what my hon. Friend asks for happens. I quite understand that the launch of a project such as HS2 causes a lot of local concern and unease. That is why we are putting in place such a large national consultation and will put in place a very generous compensation scheme. If we are to win in the global race economically, we must ensure that we invest in new infrastructure, whether roads and bypasses, bridges, tunnels or, indeed, railways including high-speed rail. The rest of the world is getting on board the high-speed rail revolution and it is right that we should too.

8 comments to “Looking at the Prime Minister’s answer – Part 2”
  1. You keep mentioning this notion that 125 mph is high speed because that is what is written in some directive but we all know that when cameron says high speed he means 155 mph plus as in the Gerrman intercity trains,the french tgv the spanish agv etc etc etc. so if we accept this definition then no we dont have any high speed lines except hs1. and in any case the main reason for hs2 is to provide capacity capacity capacity above all

    • It is European Union Directive 96/48/EC.

      But you are right, whether we call it 124 mph or 155 mph is largely a question of semantics. What matters more than the actual speed is the journey time — and journey times between the major cities in England are without doubt quicker already than the journey times between major cities in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, China, USA etc etc etc.

      As for capacity just look back at those official stats that say that peak times trains from Euston are only 52 % full ( the same can’t be said for Paddington ). That seems right. Whenever I’m going on business from Birningham or Coventry to or from Euston the only question is whether I have an empty seat next to me or not.

      • European Union Directive 96/48/EC
        ANNEX I
        THE TRANS-EUROPEAN HIGH-SPEED RAIL SYSTEM
        1. THE INFRASTRUCTURE
        … The high-speed lines shall comprise:
        – specially built high-speed lines equipped for speeds generally equal to or greater than 250 km/h,
        – specially upgraded high-speed lines equipped for speeds of the order of 200 km/h,
        – specially upgraded high-speed lines which have special features as a result of topographical, relief or town-planning constraints, on which the speed must be adapted to each case.
        This infrastructure includes traffic management, tracking and navigation systems: technical installations for data processing and telecommunications intended for passenger services on these lines in order to guarantee the safe and harmonious operation of the network and efficient traffic management.

        2. THE ROLLING STOCK
        The rolling stock referred to in this Directive shall comprise trains designed to operate:
        – either at speeds of at least 250 km/h on lines specially built for high speeds, while enabling operation at speeds exceeding 300 km/h in appropriate circumstances,
        – or at speeds of the order of 200 km/h on the lines of section 1, where compatible with the performance levels of these lines.

        Exactly what the words mean is another matter! Note the phrase ‘of the order of 200 km/h’ and the final sentence in the infrastructure section: most UK lines will struggle to tick this box without ERTMS up and running.

  2. If business and council leaders are so keen on hs2 why do they keep having meetings and conferences about it?

    • Headline ” Leaders from Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds were united at property conference MIPIM as they banged the drum in support of the second phase of the high speed rail project.”

      Well to quote Christine Keeler “they would say that”……. they have little else to bang a drum about. Even with HS2 they will not be suburbs of Greater London/SE (served by HS1) which are also scheduled to grow (and will need to attract business in competition with those served by HS2).
      The S/E growth is statistically likely (on past record) to continue whatever the government tries in terms of meddling and strategic ‘balancing of Nth and Sth”
      Such interventions have failed in the past and are likely to fail again. It is fighting against the natural ‘organic’ pattern.
      As a international friend said “HS2- going fast to nowhere” “Britain (and Europe) is dying, like the American Dream the European Dream has come to an end”

      The headline relates to the MIPIM jamboree held at Cannes 12-15th March.
      MIPIM (Le marché international des professionnels de l’immobilier) is an international property event hosted in Cannes, France each March. It is hosted by Reed MIDEM and advertised as one of the largest real estate shows,
      I expect the good councilors are looking for “development partners” etc. This is of course the real reason for their excitement about HS2.

      Indeed there are private jokes that London/SE is already a functioning republic. Certainly there is scant regard for large areas of the country (save the vociferous three (manchester leeds birmingham). M 0.5M (Gr M conurbation 2.63M) L 0.75M, B1.1( WM conurbation 2.84)
      Even with the Conurbations HS2 is a gift of 33Bn to 10% of the population. Given that the connectivity is largely London-wards most of the ‘business value’ is in the connection of the North to London and Europe.
      Much is said that HS2 will balance the country. It is unlikely to have this effect it just sounds good and may help retain marginal seats.

      Where the ‘business’ that underlies ‘growth’ will come from is not clear; recent figures this year are not good.

      Britain saw a 7% drop in inward investment in 2011, with the financial services sector seeing a 15% drop. Germany, by contrast, saw inward investment rise by 15% and was twice as successful as the UK in attracting investors from the Bric countries
      The study found that London is by far the most popular UK destination for investors, accounting for half of all projects in 2011. Other regions saw big falls in FDI, with Wales particularly hard hit.

      2012 (provisional 27/11/2012)
      Business investment in seasonally adjusted volume terms rose by £1.1 billion to £31.3 billion (3.7 per cent) when compared with the previous quarter
      Business investment increased by £1.3 billion (4.5 per cent) when compared with the third quarter of 2011
      Total manufacturing investment rose slightly to £3.2 billion (1.4 per cent) when compared with the previous quarter
      Total non-manufacturing investment rose by £1.1 billion to £28.1 billion (4.0 per cent) when compared with the previous quarter
      Compared with the third quarter of 2011, total manufacturing investment fell by £0.2 billion (-6.7 per cent); total non-manufacturing investment rose by £1.6 billion (5.9 per cent)

      It would be interesting to see these figures in US dollars given the sterling fall and level of quantative easing.
      EU transaction tax may effect future London figures.
      Still other than London it is not looking like the regions will attract sufficient business to ‘power future national growth’ (HS2 or not).
      When populations grow and there is u/e the usual capitalist response is to reduce pay. The EU minimum wage stops this process so we end up with u/e, national debt and mass population migrations. However, we do not become’ truly’ internationally competitive. Even China is losing out to countries whose wages are lower. The future is bleak. HS2 as a powerhouse for the economy is like Canute as a sea defence.

      In 20 years time ……….the projections are dire ( based on national debt, population growth,unaffordable pensions and health exacerbated by mass inward migration)

      HS2 is just a silly punt (in the dark), Too late, too constrained by its own ultra-high speed limitations, ill connected and not serving the Nation.
      Not a revolutionary strategy; it is likely to end up as a drab, reduced speed, stained, blot on the landscape overtaken by things that work, connect the whole nation and are flexible and ecologically sound. The money ( and it will be 100Bn+) could be better spent.

  3. David Cameron on radio 5 live yesterday evening described how he sent the cabinet secretary to seek assurances from the DfT regarding the West Coast Mainline franchise process. He then said that the cabinet secretary gained those assurances and passed them on to the PM.
    Then it all went wrong and probably cost the taxpayer around £50m. He stated that he was angry at the DfT for letting him down.

    At what point will the right honourable gentleman seek reassurances over the ongoing HS2 fiasco I wonder?

    • “…The U.K. already has an extensive HSR network”

      ” Surely, if 200 kph is the definative point for deciding what is a “High Speed” line, then it could be true that the UK has only one- St. Pancras to the Tunnel.
      All other fast lines have a MAXIMUM speed of 125 mph /200 kph and that only on parts of the lines where the geography and geometry of the route makes it safe and possible.

      Unlike public roads where speed limits become the average speed (and ,according to the tacho.records, nearly all roads must be duel carriageway or motorway routes ! ), drivers on the railway are scrupulous in not exceeding the line speed permitted over any given section of track.( They are also encouraged to drive in an “economical’ way ,to avoid excessive speed and braking- so they may be 5 or 10 mph below the max. allowed and still keep to schedule)

      Except in special trials, when the route is cleared and special permission is given, no regular passenger train could run faster than the line speed and no service train can travel faster than 125 mph.

      This is because this speed is the legal limit is 125mph / 200 kph running under conventional signalling control. When the attempt was made to upgrade the West Coast line so that Virgin’s tilting Pendolino electrics could operate up to their designed service speed of 140 mph, Richard Branson’s ambitions were thwarted by Network Rail’s failure to install and operate reliably the necessary new signalling system required.
      In the end , having taken years longer and the cost having multiplied fourfold, they admitted defeat and left that part of the “upgrade” undone and the trains continued to run up to but not above, 125 mph.

      Perhaps it is not all that surprising, given that with modern train speeds and safety requirements,major reconstruction and maintainance require closure to traffic often of both lines or all four tracks .The disruption to services and the frustration of would be travellers, especially on a mixed traffic route with non stop, stopping trains and freight all in competition for paths, becomes unendurable .( as you say, British trains carry more long distance passengers than any European country except France)

      No surprise, then if the engineers conclude that the only way to meet demands for frequent and reliable services is to increase track capacity; to provide extra tracks and to segregate very long distance fast trains from all the other traffic. An extra pair of tracks with appropriate signalling technology installed from the start. Possibly , because the existing lines traverse dense urban areas they have themselves helped create, it would be simpler to create a whole new route,,,hence the engineers came up with HS2.

      • Many thanks for this logical explanation of the process underpinning HS2 policy

        Sadly, logic and common sense are usually the first casualties when it comes to debating HS2

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