HS1 chief joins list of HS2 critics

In a surprise move, Rob Holden, the chairman of HS1 has hit out at the justifications for HS2 in an interview with Rail Magazine. Hitting out at some of the flimsy arguments used by supporters of HS2, Holden said “We need to have a good argument for building HS2 in the first place. It shouldn’t necessarily follow that we have to have high speed rail because other countries do. The distance between London and Birmingham is not that great.”

Holden was highly critical of what he sees as an engineering-led project, which is simply being driven by the engineers wanting to ‘catch up’ and supporters who insist it needed to be done now, otherwise the opportunity may be missed. Describing HS1 as an ‘extension of TGV Nord; he said “This is a French Railway. It works. And a lot of British Engineers are horrified by that. What do we really need? What works? What’s proven to work? That reduces your costs. Someone needs to get a grip of HS2 and manage the engineers.”

Holden is also highly critical of the 400kph (250mph) design speed of HS2 which seems to have been plucked out of the air by the engineers with no justification. He rightly observed that because of the speed HS2 in inflexible and, unlike HS1, this precludes the idea that HS2 could follow existing transport corridors, and that this will have a knock-on effect, increasing the cost of noise mitigation. He said; “Is 300kph sufficient (this is the speed -186mph- which HS1 runs at)? Is there a real need for a 400kph railway? We need to examine why we need a 400kph railway. In my view the UK doesn’t need it.”

The article can be viewed in full via this link.

Stop HS2 Campaign Coordinator Joe Rukin said;

“We’ve already seen with the West Coast franchise farce that the very figures the whole case for HS2 is based on can’t be trusted, and when the person who is running HS1 can’t see the point of HS2, it really is well past time for the Government to think again. The whole problem with HS2 is it came from a starting point of ‘we need to do this’ without having any strategic thinking besides ‘it sounds like a good idea’ to arrive at the conclusion. As a result, all the arguments which are used to support the idea have had to be retrofitted after the decision to proceed, which is why none of them fit.” 

“We have never been able to figure out or have any satisfactory explanation of why 250mph (400kph) was chosen as the design speed for HS2. It seems to have been plucked out of the air, maybe it was chosen because the EU definition of ‘high-speed’ is 250kph and someone said, ‘no we’ll do it in miles’, or having dealt with the sheer incompetency of HS2 Ltd for almost three years, I could honestly believe that they simply got miles and kilometres mixed up. So many of the problems with HS2 are due to the design speed. Because it goes so fast, it has to go pretty straight, meaning you hit far more residential and ecological sites than you otherwise would and options for mitigation are severely limited. It will also mean HS2 will cost far more to operate, both in maintaining a higher specification track and the cost of energy. To get a train to 250mph takes around three times the energy as 125mph, because the laws of physics properly kick back when you go past 190mph, which is one of the reasons Eurostar tops out at 186mph. This leads to another unanswered question, with an energy crisis forecast for the next decade, where exactly is all this electricity going to come from? This issue has been completely ignored so far because energy requirements are no in the remit of the Department for Transport.” 

“This idea some proponents of HS2 have that we have to catch up with other countries is ill-informed and wrong. In terms of the density of high speed track against geographical area, the UK has more high speed track than any other country, we just don’t call it high-speed. We already have shorter journey times between the capital and the next five biggest cities than our European competitiors, because we have a smaller country to start off with. Arguing that we need high-speed rail because other countries do is like arguing that we need motorways with ten lanes either side because other countries do, it completely ignores the fact that they are different countries with different needs and issues.”

One comment to “HS1 chief joins list of HS2 critics”
  1. A better alignment from a new 4 track rail route from the South to the North is along the East of London connecting into an extending HS1 for both freight and passengers.

    There are 3 potential routes each with a Y sweep into the West Midlands but clear of Buckinghamshire. The highest speed and the shortest distance between London and Birmingham limited the options and their value. HS2 fails to enable any locations and areas between London and Birmingham.

    The Sir Howard Davies Commission will discover they have too many objectives to manage and this is possibly beyond their capacity and capabilities. Linking airports to each other is not a critical requirement but improving connectivity is helpful but not as important as meeting primary travel needs. Rob Holden may also be considering the expectations investors in HS1 have for further demand for that infrastructure.

    Try and work with Rob Holden to shape a solution to the future needs for the north south and some cross regional rail route development.

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