COMMUTERS FACE WORSENING CRUSH HOUR CONDITIONS AS LONGER TRAINS SACRIFICED TO PAY FOR HS2 WHITE ELEPHANT
Commuters across the UK rail network face years of worsening ‘crush hour’ conditions as longer trains promised by the last Government are sacrificed to pay for HS2.
A report from the Public Accounts Committee said the DfTs planned rise in train places would significantly fall short of the number needed to address overcrowding. By 2014, morning peak trains in London would have 15% too few places, with places on services to other large cities being 33% short.
In 2007, a Government White Paper promised station upgrades and 1300 new carriages worth £10bn. This plan was due to double capacity on the network by 2030. 650 carriages have been ordered, but the next stage of the order has been put on hold as a result of the spending review, yet HS2 which will only have eight stations, and a latest estimated cost of £34bn, is still due to go ahead. Back in 2007, current Transport Minister Theresa Villiers said that overcrowded trains were packed so tight “it would be a criminal offence to transport animals in the same conditions”.
Responding to the Public Accounts Committee report, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said: “We currently have one of the most expensive railways in the world, which is unfair on both farepayers and taxpayers, reflecting poor incentives to control costs across the whole industry. As the committee rightly says, this situation is not sustainable. We have to reduce the costs of our railways, so that both taxpayers and farepayers get a better deal.”
The problem with this statement is that with an estimated cost of £160m/mile for the first stage of HS2 connecting London to Birmingham, HS2 will be the most expensive railway in the world.
Stop HS2 Convenor Joe Rukin said; “HS2 as planned will only have eight stations, so will do nothing to improve capacity over most of the network, and won’t touch routes like First Great Western, the most overcrowded service on the network. HS2 plans to put an extra 101,000 people per day onto the London transport network. How is the Underground supposed to cope with this?”
“The bottom line is that instead of saving up money for a shiny new train which will only suck more commuters into London in fifteen years time, the government should be spending this money, the money which was promised by the last Government, in making upgrades to the current network. The solutions to our current problems are there. Rail Package 2 would deliver a massive increase in capacity for just £2bn, the 1300 new carriages were supposed to double rail capacity on their own, and simple signalling work which would allow trains to go faster would increase capacity too. The Government is ignoring all of these possibilities and putting all of its eggs into one basket. HS2 will only benefit the construction industry and while we wait for this new line, which will need another massive subsidy to operate once it is built, everyone who uses trains across the country will continue to suffer ‘crush hour’ conditions, with the vast majority continuing to suffer after it is built.”
- STOP HS2 is the national group campaigning on behalf of anti-HS2 action groups up and down the proposed route. See http://www.stophs2.org.
- For more details from Stop HS2 contact Joe Rukin on 07811 371880, Lizzy Williams on 07842 164880 or Penny Gaines on 01296 655613