Letter to new Shadow Transport Secretary

Letter sent to Mary Creagh, the new Shadow Transport Secretary

Dear Ms Creagh,

Congratulations on your appointment as Shadow Transport Secretary.

I am writing to you as Chair of Stop HS2, the national grassroots campaign group against HS2.

Through the Stop HS2 website and mailing lists we are in regular contact with tens of thousands of supporters.  This year Stop HS2 held a national convention in Staffordshire, we had a stand at the Labour Party Conference for the third year running, we are frequently quoted in the media, and Stop HS2 posters often form the backdrop to news items. In 2011 we took a petition with 108,000 signatures to Downing Street. We work with a range of organisations, including the European Forum against Unnecessary Imposed Mega Projects, the Civil Society Commission,  councils, HS2AA, Agahst and local action groups and numerous others.

As new Shadow Transport Secretary, you will be looking closely at what the country needs from a new north-south railway line in the 21st century, and if you will ask serious questions as to whether HS2 is the right proposal to meet those needs, you will find it is not.

HS2 is a long-distance, London-centric railway, with few stations, that will consume much of the transport infrastructure budget for many decades while doing nothing to relieve existing problems until the first phase opens in 2026.  Meanwhile, the business case relies on reductions of about £7.7billion to the existing rail network, reducing rail services to many of the large towns and cities that HS2 bypasses.

As well as today’s report from the Treasury Select Committee, the Public Accounts Committee said in September that the Dft had not “presented a convincing strategic case for High Speed 2” and was making decisions based “on fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions which do not reflect real life.”  We have noticed over the last few years that the rationale for HS2 by it’s supporters changes on a regular basis, as we demolish the arguments they use.

Patrick McLoughlin has recently said that the speed of HS2 is “almost irrelevant”.  However most of the environmental problems, and the poor connectivity with the existing railway, arise because of the design speed of HS2.  The Department for Transport also say that a conventional speed railway would cost around 10% less than HS2.  At £50 billion for HS2, this means that around £5 billion is being budgeted on something that its proponents say is unnecessary.

The High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill gives the Department for Transport a blank cheque for spending specifically on a high speed railway: if the need is for more capacity on the railway, this Bill diverts attention and money away from the real needs.

Although there is growth in rail journeys, this is in local and regional journeys: HS2 only adds long distance capacity.   Long distance travel across all modes is falling, and the growth in digital technologies such as videoconferencing will accelerate this, as well as being more environmentally sustainable.

Stop HS2 is also concerned that Simon Burns, formerly minister with responsibility for HS2, is standing for Deputy Speaker.  One of the responsibilities of the Deputy Speaker is to decide who is allowed to petition on bills.  We are concerned that if Burns is elected to this role, he will subvert the democratic process of hybrid bills, by restricting the ability of people affected by HS2 to petition.  It is the duty of the opposition to stick up for people affected by decisions made by the Government of the Day, and we hope you will monitor this situation carefully and take action if necessary.

I have attached a copy of the leaflet we wrote for the Labour Party Conference.

Stop HS2 would be delighted to have a meeting with you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely

Penny Gaines

Chair, Stop HS2

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19 comments to “Letter to new Shadow Transport Secretary”
  1. I sincerely hope that Mike Turner has sent copies of his comments to those in Government who support HS2. How can they defend this stupid project using their usual bland rhetoric when confronted by such reasoned factual argument?

  2. the shift in commuter residence for people working in cities has created radial displacement loading the inner and outer to 50 mile needs for daily travel. hs2 does not address this for the 5 cities.

  3. With energy prices going up this as got to increase the cost of building the hs2 project so can we now say labour is about to call a stop to this project now?

    • Dont hold your breath Mr. D; these inflated figures are mainly the result of the Treasury imposing a new formula for assessing the contingency element for the long term project. The effects of inflation over the next two decades can only be a matter of speculation at this time… (remember when the prospect of a ten bob gallon of petrol seemed pretty scarey when trying to keep a family on less than1500 p.a.gross)

  4. Where should the SEA phase have been. What alternatives should have been in the SEA phase. What relationships should these have been to the regional and local plans please. The plan making process is part of SEA protocols. When do you believe the policy became a plan. The project without a SEA has other shortcomings compared with the East Coast alternative. What results do you expect the SEA to produce to change from
    Phase 1 Route 3 as currently aligned and where.

  5. I have just been sent a copy of The IEA Current Controversies Paper no 46. The High Speed Gravy Train By Richard Wellings Aug 2013
    I have only had time to skim through it but it shows that HS2 will be a white elephant but is just what he calls a Pork Barrel
    Politicians will also have very strong incentives to direct government spending to their own local areas in order to maximise their individual electoral benefits from vote buying.
    Surely they should be aware that those areas affected will not vote for those in favour of it and many others around the country who treasure
    it will not either.The Torys generally have not done themselves any favours as the HS2 have time and time again, been shown to make stupid errors.

  6. Can you do us all a favour and instead of moaning incessantly and making up anti arguments up go back in time and prevent Ernest Marples becoming Transport Minister in 1958, the railways wouldn’t have been butchered and would have the capacity for today and tomorrow. HS2 is the consequence of bad transport planning byt previous generations, get over it.

    • Perhaps “HS2 is the consequence of bad transport planning by previous generations”, but that does not mean that people should not voice their concerns and argue against it does it?

      You seem to be suggesting that people holding anti-HS2 views should just accept further bad planning as acceptable?

      Perhaps if previous generations had argued their case against rail closures more vociferously we would not have lost our rail capacity?

      • Yes, we are reaping what others sowed- or rather neglected, dug up and left fallow.

        When I first moved to this area ,I was confronted with the stripped corpse of the former Great Central main line running north and south of Brackley. It had been closed and dismantled just three years previously and the scars were still fresh.

        ( For the sake of new readers, it’s the same line as is still in daily use by the inhabitants of Aylesbury, Wendover, the Missendens etc., a former trunk route built to carry a wide variety of goods, coal and fish to London, mail and newspapers to the East Midlands and passengers to and from Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester and with connections to seaports on both East and West coasts…
        It had connections at Banbury to access routes to the south and west, and with what we now know as the Chiltern Mainline, a route which almost went the same way to extinction even more recently, but which is now seen as essential as it continues to develop and improve)

        Network Rail have enough problems maintaining the existing WCML -extended periods of total closure are forecast for parts of the southern section towards London- just to maintain and renew the existing track. With a variety of traffic, freight and passenger, all vying for track space and with increasing container traffic on trunk routes, they are having to turn down applications for new through passenger services. More track space and train paths are needed- and without further disrupting what is already overloaded.

        If ,as is is so often stated ,the present Hs2 plan is unacceptable, then are you going to petition and campaign with equal zeal for a re examination of reinstating more of the G.C. route, most of which could still be recovered as a modern electrified route, ‘High Speed-‘ but less extreme- and with the possibility of one or more intermediate stations?

        Such a reconstructed route could run at least as far as the Rugby area ,where it could be connected to the Trent Valley and West Midland lines,or perhaps continue towards Lutterworth, like the M.1/M.6 “Parkway ‘station proposed by Chiltern, or even on to Leicester itself,connecting with the Midland. .

        It would have bypassed the congested West Coast section south of Northampton and Milton Keynes, and , if extended to Leicester, also bypass the busy St. Pancras- Bedford section of the Midland main line,- besides creating an excellent diversionary route for any times of disruption elsewhere on the network..

        • Yes John what you say is true regarding the old GC main line route.
          My point is that now that HS2 is all about capacity not speed and that the majority of the GC line could be “refurbished” to provide extra capacity.
          It is annoying that the government and its team are sticking to the proposed route despite the damage that it will cause. It is also annoying that dog legs to avoid certain constituencies can be made.

          Before “you know who” replies with the usual leafy Chilterns Nimbies remarks, yes I do live near the proposed route but I live close to the GC also and would be affected by any increase in traffic there also.
          So my concerns are based upon the damage that this will be caused to AONB when the opportunity to recycle an old route is available.

          • Reopening the GC Mainline north of Aylesbury to Rugby has been looked at and rejected here’s why – it actually provides no increase in capacity between the west midlands and London whatsoever. West of Rugby and in particular west of Coventry the existing line is saturated with long distance, regional,local and freight trains fighting down a twin track railway – it psychically cant take anymore trains diverting at Rugby down the old great central does nothing for the Coventry to Wolverhampton route. South of Aylesbury the old four track formation has been replaced by two tracks with a more intensive commuter service than yesteryear and the station car parks have been built on the old formation. You’d have to close it for a year and then destroy all the commuter car parks to upgrade it to mainline capacity.

            Likewise with the old GWR route to Birmingham, the four tracks from Lapworth to Tysley have gone and been replaced by commuter car parks. Again the Aylesbury to Rugby proposal provides no capacity north of Rugby for the North or East midlands. the GC is built over in the Leicester and Nottingham areas and theirs a heritage railway between the two on the formation. All this has been argued and accepted years ago hence why a new line has been put forward.

            • The removal of a few commuter car parks, built blocking the old alignment is a simpler and far less contentious job than blasting a totally new railway through virgin countryside. The delivery of TV4 parallels this concept and lessons learned from this can be transferred. TV4 worked…

              Capacity Rugby-Coventry – well a few options – TV to Nuneaton and then via Coleshill – restore Rugby-Leamington etc.

              I’ve a picture of a modern house with fantastic views that disappeared when the A9 got straightened and developments that had to go to reopen Airdrie-Bathgate. Having the core route still intact makes the job much quicker – especially as main GC routes have Parliamentary powers for 4-tracks. Remember it was Dick Beeching who set us up for this crisis by deliberately closing down parallel capacity.in 1966 – following from the 1963 closures of branch lines.

            • Thankyou Dusty for your response.

              But there are some points with which I’d take issue.I don’t think the original Met/GC line from Aylesbury south through Wendover and the Missendens was ever four track. That surely began nearer to London and remains so today with Met and Chiltern trains plus tube lines and Met branches using multiple tracks.

              In the rather unlikely event of the route being upgraded for long distance traffic north beyond Calvert, then it would be necessary to do what the GC and GWR did a century ago- that is to bypass the Aylesbury line by rebuilding the Grendon-Ashenden link to the then new ‘New North’ line, now the Chiltern mainline.

              This ‘joint ‘ line has ,as you know, been restored from near dereliction and threat of closure as a through route, and now carries far more traffic; more trains and far, far more passengers than for decades past and with the promise of yet more to come.

              Although currently (restored to) double track throughout,It was originally built with four tracks through the principal stations and although some platforms have been enlarged, there still remains space for at least one restored ‘through’ track in several locations, as has already been done at Princes Risborough and South Ruislip,for trains that do not need to stop, and allow for overtaking so as to make maximum use of available paths.

              If not required for HS2, then the former GW link from South Ruislip to Old Oak Common and the main line towards Paddington ,could be restored to its former double tracked status and capacity, while Paddington , relieved of its shorter distance Thames Valley terminating services, because of Crossrail ,could relieve the pressure on Marylebone.

              Your point about congestion into Birmingham is well made. Double tracking through Kenilworth and a restored station will ease one bottleneck but may add to the problem as it meets the WCML. One irony is that the now threatened ‘Greenway’ ,a former bypass railway to avoid Coventry, was abandoned in the 1960s.

              Perhaps, if restoring longer sections of the Leamington-Moor Street-Snow Hill line to four tracks is not practical, then again, a few more station loops, with or without platforms, would allow faster services to overtake stopping trains and maximise capacity….(How high can a multi storey car park be built, by the way?)

              But if none of these suggestions can be seen to work- then it seems that we come back to- a new line, one obviously constructed to a modern specification and built for the demands of the next century.

        • I would *love* to see GC resurrection. As someone who lives near Aylesbury, the prospect of a line that goes North is a brilliant thing, just as the east-west project is.

          There are already plans (or at least proposals) for a renewed London to MK via Aylesbury which will also ease a lot of traffic on the WCML Southern section, whilst also easing some load of Euston.

          Get these things done, which will be relatively cheap, and let’s then see what we can do about services from the South coast & South West to London, which really are in a mess.

      • Given that many who oppose HS2 dont publicly state their real reasons for opposition to it but jump on the bandwagon shouting in many case untruths which are easily seen through its all to easy for those in Government to see their agendas and dismiss them as there arguments were lost years ago.

        Lets see whose opposing HS2
        The extreme free marketers (of the made up £80 million cost fame) and the all tax spending by Government is bad lobby who oppose solely on the grounds its spending taxpayers money – even Thatcher didn’t go there with this lot!
        The vestiges of the road lobby who desperately want more road capacity built to reverse the recent decline in car usage.
        The air lobby who want runway capacity ( Heathrow runway 3 will do far more damage to homes, businesses and green belt than HS2) and domestic aviation reborn.
        All the above would also oppose the money being spend elsewhere on the rail network.

        Then theirs those that want the current hegemony of spending all capital transport infrastructure predominantly in London and the South East to remain- the up yours Midlands and North brigade.
        The personal gainers like Lord Mandelson hoping the compensation boundary’s expand so he can pocket cash on his London flat.
        or the do nothing brigade such as Alaster Darling remember his stunning 4 years as Transport Secretary from 2002 to 2006 and his achievements? or his stupendous stint as Chancellor 2008-2011? A man with no credibility outside his Lothian Labour close circle.

        Are these people helping the anti cause or hindering it?

        • Dear Dusty The Cat,
          High Speed 2

          You assert that many of us are “whinging” about HS2 without anything to put in its place, I wonder if more information regarding high speed railways and their limitations in use may be of help. I personally feel that UFT systems are unsuitable for UK conditions and note that, regrettably, the government and HS2 Ltd do not tell the entire truth, when putting their case. If you doubt anything with-in this letter, I ask that you confirm it, but I would not approach the government or HS2 Ltd.

          Initially I should explain the terminology I shall use to avoid confusion. I will split passenger transport into two systems, High Speed Transport (HST) and Ultra Fast Transport (UFT), present descriptions used by the government can only cause confusion due to the prior description used to define express passenger travel, the “Inter-City 125” High Speed Train.
          High Speed Transport
          HST – the present system seen in the UK.
          Operational maximum capability of 100-140mph, such as could be provided by the WCML with a signalling upgrade.
          This a robust system which can sustain considerable wear and tear before safety is compromised.
          It can be used to move express trains, local services and freight transport.
          Ultra Fast Transport
          UFT – The system proposed by the government. Operational maximum capability of 180-300+mph.
          This could be described as a more delicate system and requires considerable maintenance to ensure that trains may operate safely at very high speeds.
          Used to move express passenger trains or 140mph local services if speed were compromised, but not suitable for freight.

          An anomaly: HS1 (South Coast to London) was constructed as a UFT but due to financial collapse
          and lack of customers now operates as an HST.
          May I offer the following information:-
          Our problems are freight not passenger orientated. If freight could be removed from our main passenger arteries the existing mainlines could achieve 140mph and services intensified. Present passenger trains remain relatively short when compared to the old steam operated systems (4-9 coaches compared to the 10-16 then), the idea that insufficient seating could be provided is erroneous, as much present overcrowding is the result of ticket pricing arrangements and the coach/seating arrangements provided, rather than incapacity.
          HS1: Long distance super fast trains abroad, gave the construction industry an excuse to lobby the government into thinking “we must have one of those as a prestige project”, after which High Speed 1 was constructed using dubious figures to “sell” the project. The result was a disaster. The franchisee was forced into effective liquidation in a matter of months. The government (who were announcing plans to build a far more expensive 2nd UFT line) were informed, that HS1 had been economically disastrous. London & Continental Railways (the franchisee) was said to “restructure” it’s affairs and surrender the franchise. “Restructuring” amounted to the taxpayer giving the LCR £6+billion pounds to prevent the company going into formal liquidation and embarrassing the government, while “queering the pitch” for High Speed 2. HS1 was then sold lock, stock and barrel to a Canadian pension consortium as a 30 year lease, for £2.1 billion (The city felt that £1.5billion was the best value that could be expected, due to its future prospects, which was why Mr.Hammond was so pleased with the sale). This removed the prospect of further government financial embarrassment, but it did mean that the lessor had to make ends meet by any means, even running local services (at 125-140mph) and providing freight services (75-90mph) on a 200mph+ line (UFT), while damaging the track and track-bed due to freight trains and their potential weight! (HS2s Chief Engineer Professor Andrew McNaughton confirmed to me that freight would not be allowed to run on HS2 because that type of traffic would damage the billiard table like track required to run high speed trains safely). HS1 was built at great expense to serve as a 200+ mph (UFT) line. It presently serves as an over-engineered classic express line; now used as is the WCML or would be with a signalling upgrade. This will be the fate of HS2. I quote Mr. Rob Holden (Chairman of HS1) “We need to examine why we need a 400kph railway. I my view, the UK doesn’t need it”, while recently our only other UFT service (Eurostar) has also expressed similar sentiments.
          HS2 will have to operate largely in isolation, because of its very nature. It should not be linked to the classic system except at limited access points.
          HS2 will provide a very limited number of stations for its customers, because of the limitations of high speed travel and the operational costs involved. In UK conditions, it should be a London-Manchester-Glasgow service only, while the eastern/central line should be London-Sheffield-Edinburgh. The UK is very small compared to Europe, .
          A UFT system is very expensive to operate. It consumes over twice, or more, as much energy as standard 25kv trains, most of which is used to start and obtain cruising speed, as UFT trains are only financially viable when cruising at high speed and low power consumption.
          To put this into perspective, just 100 UFT trains per day on the London/Birmingham part of the route only, will require the same annual energy input as 36,500 homes, a reasonably large town. Or more importantly the output of about 36 onshore wind turbines, a reasonably large development. A huge amount of scarce green energy. We will have to go nuclear! Would you wish to inform anyone that they are to have a nuclear power plant nearby, (say near or in your constituency) and that they wish to bury the waste underground in the North East in what seems to be an area more prone to seismic activity than most, while it is intended to seek gas by potentially large scale “fracking” (the first attempt produced an earthquake, all be it relatively minor).
          The energy consumption required is out of all reason to that which can be provided by the scarce green alternates, and UFT trains will have to run in conditions in which they are least cost effective, least energy efficient and most eco-unfriendly!
          *HS2 will cost between 3-4+ times as much as its European equivalent because of the sheer amount of existing infra-structure it must overcome, will be economically unsound, should not carry freight and whose target clientele are a decreasing number of company executives whose companies are turning to the internet!
          When finished, it will be of no use in removing heavy traffic from roads. It will be suitable for only a few travellers because of its limited stops, or hopelessly uneconomic if more and more stops are desired. Classic short distance express lines will remain,
          attempting to service the majority and increasing numbers of travellers whose destination is not HS2 linked and those who do not wish to break journeys, while rail-freight operators will be very little or no better off and still struggling for paths for their services and ensuring that the transfer of freight from road to rail is stifled.
          Francois Hollande regards the TVG network as “ extremely expensive and of disputed socio-economic efficiency”. This opinion has resulted in the next 20 year investment of €245 billion being slashed by approximately 90%. The construction costs or the destruction of country-side seem not to be the problem, more the running and maintenance cost of the present TGV(UFT) system requires continuing subsidies of more than €12 billion per annum, just to keep them going.
          Spain is also suffering, the flag-ship Barcelona-Madrid line struggles to cover its operating costs alone, with a number of the stations along the line hardly used, while the line has with no hope of covering construction costs. Why? The ordinary Spanish traveller finds the fares too expensive and travels by car, despite the large hike in fuel costs over recent years, it remains better value, ie cheaper.
          We would do well to remember that HS2 is to be, effectively, built through an urban landscape (by European standards), which is the worst possible and most expensive of all scenarios. Our costs will be 3-4+ times that of the French (above*), which was built and runs in optimal conditions and which the French now regard as too expensive and not worthwhile. UK running and maintenance costs will be far worse for HS2 as it will be forced to run in conditions in which it is “least cost effective, least energy efficient and most eco-unfriendly! I apologise for the repartition, however, we are assured that a ticket for UFT travel will be no more than our HST lines????

          This project is of little or no value to the long term financial future of the UK. It matters not one jot if they flatten North London, The Chilterns, Birmingham and Manchester; this is not a system that is suitable for the UK. We would be far better off reviewing North/South/East/West routes which were abandoned by Messrs Marples and Beeching and reinstating them as far as is possible as continentally gauged 100mph freight and alternate routes. Consider the old GCR London to Sheffield/Leeds route and the GWR Paddington/Birmingham/Wolverhampton/Crewe. The latter would also link to the “Heathrow Express”, and provide that direct line (via the GWR Old Oak express link to Birmingham ) to the North for Heathrow, which was one of the main excuses for building HS2 and forcing it through North London.

          In the 1990s Virgin offered a 60 minute service to Euston on then existing track and vehicles, both of which have now been upgraded for faster operations. The problem existing is overcrowding by slower traffic, remove the slow heavy traffic (freight) and passenger services can be faster and more intensive, track wear will decrease and all existing towns and cities would experience better services, rather than the limited stops offered by HS2.
          Does the PM really believe what he says, or is he at the beck and call of the construction industry? Consider this;
          The Heathrow problem, it is argued that:-
          London and its infrastructure are near or at breaking point.
          Failing a considerable overhaul of Heathrow, a further major airport to the east of London will be required.
          We must have HS2 to move passengers around the UK and link airports so that executives from the North may have quick access to a major international airport, international trade and foreign investors.
          The North needs considerable investment to stop the “North/South” divide and encourage further trade and expansion of the northern economy.

          If we accept that the figures being used to promote government projects are at all accurate, that the governments desire to end the “North/South Divide” is real, while their intent really is to promote the business aspirations of northern businesses and businessmen and not just political lip service, the answer becomes more and more obvious. The second major international airport (to the scale of Heathrow, ie capable of servicing the largest aircraft now existing and those yet on the drawing-board) should be built in the North to promote industry and international trade and ensure that there is an alternative to Heathrow and the south-east and moving both passengers and freight up the length of the UK. It will provide a long-term choice! Remember, many air passengers to Heathrow merely change aircraft, need they do it at Heathrow?

          I make no pretence to being Einstein but it appears that all the proposals seem to be specifically designed to make the South East’s problems far worse, rather than improve matters! Surely, we should plan to alleviate those problems and promote business in areas which desperately need a boost to their economy and not promoting long-distance commuting.

          We must accept that, in the future, travel may become more limited as costs and scarce energy reduce the national appetite to move around unnecessarily, both from a private and business point of view. Also long distance heavy freight is the main problem blocking our main roads. How much rail space will be required when fuel costs really start to bite the transport industry? Where will our local express trains or commuter services go when the predicted 40% increase in rail freight occurs in the next 2-3 decades (An estimate which I believe may be lacking).

          Is HS2 the real answer, or is it just another drain southward for the best and the brightest? Are we to construct a real “millstone” around the neck of the UK, as operational limitations and costs make UFT systems of dubious benefit?
          I do hope that this may clarify matters for you despite Mr Cameron’s’ seemingly desperate propaganda.
          Yours truly,
          Mike Turner

          A copy of an article which is destined for the internet.

          Railway Traffic: The Problem: Too many trains chasing too little rail space, while fast expresses are slowed by freight traffic.

          Modern express trains can now travel at much higher speeds than their freight counterparts (125-140mph & 60-90mph).
          A slow train will delay any following faster trains (note plural).
          The old axiom that any line of vehicles can only travel at the speed of the slowest is very relevant.
          In the 1960s Messrs Marples and Beeching did away with a large number of alternate and freight routes, thereby forcing freight onto our present mainlines.
          While freight and expresses trains could be run at vaguely similar speeds this was not a problem, but express speeds are now increasing, while freight has remained largely static. Therefore freight now impedes the speed and intensification of passenger services.
          Recent events have resulted in rail freight traffic becoming one of the fastest growing sectors in our economy, and given the drive towards a cleaner and pollution free environment, lorries will be under increasing pressure as a poor alternative, while the drive toward long-distance rail freight will only exacerbate the present capacity/speed problems. Schenker (EWS) has proposed a train link to China.
          This governments proposals to charge/tax European lorries using UK roads can only propel far more lorries onto the railway system much quicker than current estimates of growth of 33-40+% increase in rail-freight traffic over the next 3 decades. Where will we be if this charge reduces the time period to 1 decade?
          Our main express routes are now drowning under growing welter of slower traffic and the problem is set to get far worse.

          The government seems to have identified the problem, which effectively has two fairly obvious solutions:
          Remove the expresses from the main express routes
          Remove the freight from the express routes.

          The governments choice is the former, which owes more to pressure of vested interest than common sense.

          It is proposed to remove some of express services from the “classic” railway (HST) and place them on to an “Ultra Fast Transport” (UFT) system. On the face of it this is a wonderful idea. However there is, as usual, a fly in the ointment, or in this case several flies. The major fly being that, in the UK, a UFT service is not suitable to build or run cost effectively.
          Even when constructed and run in optimal conditions, a UFT system is very expensive and is only cost effective within very small parameters.
          Construction costs are huge and require that the line be constructed through wide open spaces with few obstructions to ensure costs are to kept to a reasonable level.
          A worst case scenario for construction of such a railway would be through an urban landscape. Unfortunately, compared to its’ European counterparts most of England is an urban landscape.
          UFT locomotives consume huge amounts of energy to reach cruising speed and require long distances (120 –150 miles or more) between stops to be cost effective. Starting and stopping at regular intervals produces very high running costs. In the UK the distances between our major towns and cities is far too small to allow UFT systems to operate cost effectively, while if the trains do travel sufficient economic distances passenger loadings would be poor.
          UK conditions require a system which is flexible and allows as many convenient departure points as is reasonably possible for passengers to alight or access the services available. A UK UFT system would avoid town centres because of the cost of construction, or if thought essential, tunnel, a costly option.

          If a UFT system is adopted, what would happen to our present express systems?
          A number of express services would be cancelled or “moved”, if you will, to the UFT system with its limited access points. This is the euphemism known as “freeing up the WCML” and presumably the ECML as well.
          Their place will be taken by increasing amounts of slower freight traffic, which will make the remaining standard or “classic” express services even slower than now and increase journey times for the majority of passengers (those who wish to reach most of the cities and towns on the present system, even if they use the UFT and change train to reach the destination they require). This is a scenario which even the freight operators themselves have confirmed

          My choice, which is to me the only logical choice: we must take freight away from express services.
          We need in part to reverse the political decision of the 1960s and re-expand into some of the old lines (if it is still possible) which provided alternate routes for rerouted express trains and freight services. Railwaymen pleaded for the GCR line from London to Sheffield to be retained as a freight only route. They were ignored. However, much of that route still exists and could be reopened or new sections “grafted in” if required. The GWR line from Paddington to Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Crewe and North has been severed in Birmingham and while not closed was reduced to an effective branch line. This line should be opened throughout to provide (according to the government) a direct link from the North to the “Heathrow Express” airport services at Paddington or Old Oak Common and remove some of the strain on the WCML. I would recommend that all such “new” or reopened lines be reconstructed or altered to accommodate the larger European freight wagons.
          The removal of freight from the WCML would mean that passenger services could be faster and more intensive, while increasing train lengths to 10, 12 or 16 cars would vastly increase capacity. It seems to have been forgotten that prior to the considerable increases in freight traffic now seen, Virgin Trains operated a 60 minute schedule from Birmingham to Euston in the 1990s, then using equipment which has since been greatly surpassed. There is no reason why, if slow traffic were removed, that time could be reduced to 45-50mins now.

          We do need a considerable increase in capacity, it is the only way forward, but what form should that huge increase in capacity take?
          Do we build a hugely expensive separate system for Ultra Fast Passenger Trains with limited potential?
          Do we hugely expand the “old” system to give freight a separate “play” ground, where it cannot affect increasingly fast and intensive passenger services, which link to all or towns and cities.
          Do we provide industry with a modern and effective way of moving goods right across Europe at speed, thereby increasing their ability to trade their product?
          Do we provide something which will remove lorries from our roads, while cutting pollution and road maintenance costs?

          The answer to me is so obvious that I have to call the governments stance into question and wonder what else may be behind
          their illogical insistence that UFT is the only way to cure our problems?

          • Mike,

            I merely questioned whether some of the opposition to HS2 hinders rather than helps the cause. Take Christian Wolmar the self proclaimed leading transport journalist, his ambition to be a Labour candidate for Mayor of London and his opposition to HS2 have been hand in hand most in the rail industry take it that Christian wants to spend HS2 money in London itself and therefore he falls within the status quo faction of keeping transport spending in and around London only. My old MP Lembit Opik lost his seat in Mid Wales as he became a standing joke to his electorate, he’s written in his column in our local paper against HS2 and was replied to in the letters column and accused of being a little Londoner only wanting money spent in London where he still/ once harboured ambitions of being Mayor.

            On the WCML moving freight off it will not create many new 125 mph paths, as the slow lines also have all the commuter traffic on it. A stopping train takes up much more capacity than a non stop express, you’d have to flight services meaning the number and frequency of commuter trains would have to be reduced. Again I will point out that organisations like Greenguage 21 looked into these scenarios at great depth years ago the alternatives put forward from desktops have already been looked into.

            • Well Durst or Dusty or whatever your name is , I question the motivations of some of the people who have the loudest voices for HS2.

              Companies and their lobbyists in the construction and rail industry who hope to make a killing from the largest single piece of government spending in years.

              Local businessmen and councillors who hope to leverage some marginal advantage at the expense of other areas.

              Politicians who started out wanting to make a name for themselves , with money to be paid by future governments after they have gone , and have now put themselves into a position from which they can’t back down from even if they wanted to .

              Meanwhile our National Debt continues to rise, despite the austerity measures which we have now been told will go on for another 7 years.

  7. A while ago I wrote to the then Shadow Transport Secretary passing on information on various flaws in HS2 Ltd’s work. I did not get any response from her, not even an acknowledgement of my letter. I doubt if it got “lost in the post” as I sent copies of the letter to Opposition Leader Ed Milliband and the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls who you would have thought would be only to happy to have information which they could use against the government.

    If Mary Creagh does get round to speaking to you, could you point out to her it is a good idea to respond to people’s letters, not just out of politeness but also because it looks like the Labour Party are too confused to actually come up with an firm position on HS2.

    I would aslo like to add that I think you should have kept the first sentence of your fourth paragraph simply to say “As new Shadow Transport Secretary, you will be looking closely at what the country needs.” I think you have fallen for HS2 Ltd’s line that we are in desperate need of a new north-south link. It is bad enough people jumping to conclusions but HS2 Ltd makes things worse by jumping to assumptions.

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