Today’s Guardian reports – Coalition energy policy ‘threatens to destroy environmental case for HS2’:
On the eve of what is expected to be an energy policy debate in parliament, the former Tory minister Tim Yeo told the Guardian that the billions to be sunk into the north-south high-speed rail project would not lead to lower emissions if the UK went on using fossil fuels to generate electricity.
Yeo, who is now chair of the energy and climate select committee, said: “This strategy will only work if the extra electricity [for HS2] is generated by low-carbon technologies. If parliament fails to set the electricity system on a low carbon pathway by 2030, we could end up with a grid excessively dependent on gas – and the anticipated carbon benefits of electric cars and HS2 would evaporate.”
Fresh concern about the highly controversial HS2 project comes as the coalition’s energy bill receives its third reading on Monday, amid tensions within the coalition over the increasingly hostility to green policies emerging from within Tory ranks.
The thing is, even HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport acknowledge that HS2 itself is carbon neutral. Operating HS2 will do nothing to reduce carbon emissions. This is because the majority of HS2 passengers will transfer from conventional speed trains, which need less energy to make the same journey. And decarbonising the electricity grid would reduce the carbon emissions of conventional speed electric trains.
The Guardian article goes on to quote from Stephen Joseph of the Campaign for Better Transport
Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, echoed Yeo’s warning over high-speed rail. “Our research shows HS2 can cut carbon emissions but this partly depends on decarbonised electricity generation.”
We’ve looked at the Greengauge 21 report that Stephen Joseph is using. And even pro-High Speed Rail Greengauge 21 found that it’s not HS2 as proposed that will cut carbon emissions. It’s a whole raft of other measures that do not rely at all on HS2: decarbonising electricity generation, road pricing etc.
The only way the HS2 on its own could reduce carbon, says Greengauge 21, is if you reduce the speed of the trains. But reducing the speed of the trains will massively reduce the supposed economic benefits and the further reduce the credibility of the HS2 business case.
For what it’s worth, the Coalition Programme for Goverment said “We will establish a high speed rail network as part of our programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for creating a low carbon economy”.
All in all, there is no environmental case for HS2.