HS2 Action Alliance on the TSC findings

This is a guest post by HS2 Action Alliance, on their initial view of the Transport Select Committee’s finding.  Expect lots more about the details of the report. First published here .

The Transport Select Committee issued its report on High Speed Rail on 8 November 2011 with this announcement and recommendations. We’ve read the full report and this is our summary of the key points:

Although the Transport Select Committee (TSC) supports a high speed rail network and believes HS2 could be part of it, they have about as many misgivings as we do.  And when followed through these misgivings are fatal to the case for HS2.

They find a host of problems with the economic case, its environmental impact, treatment of alternatives, technical issues, even problems with consultation itself – all which adds up to a scheme that needs to go back to the drawing board.


  • Calls for a revised business case using a lower value of time, as what has been used is not a sound basis for justifying HS2 (para 69) – and say the revised basis should also apply in assessing the alternatives to a new railway
  • Questions the case for very high speed: by excessively valuing speed the decision to go for 250mph ‘prematurely ruled out other route options’ that follow existing transport corridors (para 68)
  • Observes that the alternatives have not been properly examined
  • Doesn’t believe the case has been made that aviation will reduce (para 76) – even with the full Y. And not surprisingly they also say that the claims of substantial carbon reduction benefits ‘don’t stand scrutiny’ (para 77).
  • Advises Government to place greater emphasis on following existing transport corridors – to reduce its local environmental impact and effect on the Chilterns AONB (para 83)
  • The revised business case should place a value on natural capital
  • Considers the case for the best way of serving Heathrow needs clarifying (para 104)
  • Say insufficient attention has been given to the economic case for the London terminus arrangements
  • Is dissatisfied that basic information on the Y network was not provided for the public consultation, nor a proper assessment of the impact on rebalancing the economy, given the reliance placed on these (para 63).  TSC recommend no decision is taken on Phase 1 until such Phase 2 information is produced, appraised and consulted on (para 87)
  • Agree that 18 trains per hour at 225km/hr is a risk factor, ‘not attempted elsewhere’, – despite government claims, and calls on them to publish the full details (para 116)
  • Recommend that Government expressly show that investment in classic rail will not suffer as a result of HS2 (conclusion para 4) – hard to see Government achieving this given Villiers’ recent statement about the Northern Hub not being affordable!

Finally, they confirm our figurework on the arithmetic of what capacity the alternatives produce (Annex 2).  And they concede it ‘might meet the background passenger growth forecast to 2043 at peak times’ (para 39).

But they then move the goal posts and appeal to the recent unprecedented period of rail growth continuing indefinitely into the future. But this ignores DfT’s own forecast and is highly implausible given other trends in domestic travel.

3 comments to “HS2 Action Alliance on the TSC findings”
    • Louise Ellman said lot’s of things. One thing she said was that if HS2 wasn’t going beyond Birmingham then it probably wouldn’t be worth building.

      2 points on this :

      1 ) Phase 1 and Phase 2 are clearly part of one single project and there should have been a single overarching consultation. The TSC and Labour agree with that. If Justine Greening still wants to go ahead then she should do that.

      2 ) I thought there was supposed to be no alternative to HS2 given the capacity question. That’s kind of undermined by Louise Ellman’s comments that she wouldn’t build it.

  1. Although the headlines in some of the media said that the Select Committee backed HS2, closer scrutinity does show major concerns and I would hope that this does result in the current proposals being dropped followed by proper thought and debate on what really is the best option in regard to transport strategy in the future bearing in mind the current economic woes. I would also hope that people’s opinion affected by any future plans are given much greater weight than they have in the current process without being labelled as Nimbys and therefore of no consequence.

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