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HS2: no environmental case

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.

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4 comments to “HS2: no environmental case”
  1. It is time to work together i suggest we reopen disused railway lines in the UK And not build HS2 And i belive local railway lines are the future and communtry railways i say have railway lines where people wont them not where MPS Wont them let the people in the UK decide where they wont the railway lines and scrap department of transport and the local area in the uk takeover

  2. I now read in today’s paper that the Japan is going to unveil its new fast train which runs on magnets just as our old style train set is about to be finished .another 50billion down the drain because we are trying to build some thing on the cheap with no money to do the job propley with no thought for the future of this country people and land they should be spending on new homes roads nhs and our other services and when they can afford to do the job right then look at this project again and not just keep spending on this outdated train set

  3. Lest anybody still be in any doubt the view of the Green Party , who should know what consitutes an environmental case , was :

    “HS2 is environmentally and economically unsound “.

  4. The normal way to consider eis eia and es work is to partition the scope by project implementations not a rely on an output image. Also it is normal to define the iterations of design and rely on site investigation projections. There has not been intrusive site investigations todate. Hence the draft es is premature. Also there are alternatives in some sections not being compared. This set of picture maps is not an es of say the viaduct, cutting or embankment or tunnel. It is lacking explanations of why it is acceptable to remove some current facilities and amenities.

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