HS2’s carbon emissions

There’s  a question that people interested in green issues should ask themselves before they decide about HS2, the proposed new high speed railway.

“Will HS2 definitely help us reduce carbon emissions?”

HS2 Ltd have looked into this.   They say “the impact of HS2 on carbon emissions is both complex and highly uncertain.”    (P178 of their main report.)

They say that there will be some negative effects on transport emissions from running HS2.

They say that the overall effect of running HS2 could be increased carbon emissions.

They say that at most HS2 might produce a reduction of 0.3% of transport emissions in the UK.

HS2 Ltd’s own conclusion (p180) is that ” HS2 would not be a major factor in managing carbon in the transport sector.”

HS2 cannot be part of a strategy to reduce carbon emissions: the promoters of the scheme tell you that.  If carbon emissions matter to you, decide carefully about HS2.

9 comments to “HS2’s carbon emissions”
  1. my worry is that if we dont have hs2 giving extra capacity and travel demand does increase that the roads will be overwhelmed and pollution levels will increase. lets remember that combustion engined vehicles cause other pollutants then co2 which are more immediately dangerous to humans. and electric cars and trucks, like electric trains need to have their electricity generated somehow. i agree with renewable resources but there is a question that they can totally replace fossil fuels, but might make them last a bit longer. i just read that china’s energy demands have now overtaken the usa – must be all those high speed trains ha ha !!!! nuclear scares the you know what out of me unless the fusion reactor can be made to work as it supposedly produces very few radioactive byproducts.

  2. Nick certainly has an enjoyable style. I certainly relished the idea of the supporters of HS Rail in California, Spain, France, Japan, China etc. hating their countries so much they have built, or plan to build, High Speed Rail networks. I think I’m right in saying they are all bigger countries with lower population density than UK, other than Japan. Japan was the first into HSR and their economic performance in the last two decades has been described as an ‘economic basket case’. Not very convincing evidence of the economic benefits of HSR. Size and population density are critical to the economic case for HSR. Even in the USA they are very cautious about investing. Also see their definition of HSR, I can assure you it is not 400 kph! (See Cato Institute view).
    The key issue is ‘are we making the right choice?’. We have, by definition, limited resources. Would we get ‘more bang for our buck’ by investing, for instance, in a fibre network providing High Speed Broadband for everyone. Where is this debate happening? I fear we are rushing to build a ‘Vicorian’ solution for a digital age. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be making investment in the rail network. Just don’t bet the farm! 15 years ago few businesses had email. Now everybody is complaining their ‘in boxes’ are full. What will society be like in 2026? Very different from now to be sure. Would you spend your own money on this project? Oh, of course, as a taxpayer you will be!

    • i think we have to remember that hs2 is really more hc2 – high capacity then just about speed.

      our roads and railways are very congested with current levels of usage. broadband and working from home etc may well reduce these levels of congestion but we dont have any proof by how much we can only speculate. also this does not mean that people may not still want to travel – how do we ration this ?

      it may be that people will not go abroad for holidays as much and take them in the uk instead. that would be good for the economy but increase domestic travel. as far as the planet is concerned some flights would therefore be replaced. but if the hopefully by then mostly electric railway is full then people will drive on holiday as they do now. in my opinion the railway fares also need to be cheaper and the railway also has to stop closing all the lines at the busiest holiday periods for works !

      there is also the question of how much the population may grow by.

      • If you are concerned with getting holiday makers round Britain by public transport, then a rail link between London and Birmingham (or even London and Manchester/Leeds) seems an odd solution. You would want increased capacity to tourist areas – like Wales or the south-west. In addition you would need plenty of local transport when the holiday-makers reach their destination, otherwise they’ll need to take their car just to get from where they are staying to local tourist spots.

  3. Pingback: STOP HS2 | Who talks to who, in the Department for Transport?


    • i love this country very much and I am not in the pay of hs2. i didnt know the Spanish were ruing the amount they have spent onn high speed rails it has certainly reduced more polluting air travel there. i was also not aware that the chinese were closing their just completed lines in favour of old buses.

      so I guess the people building and promoting high speed lines in california, spain, france, japan, germany, italy, brazil and yes china too are all wrong and they all hate their countries too according to your argument !

  5. One of the problems with HS2 is the speed intended (up to 250 mph) is exceptionally fuel hungry due to drag. It makes the trains less carbon efficient than slower trains which would in turn allow a route to be less environmentally damaging. The fuel uptake leaps up over 185 mph making it as environmentally damaging as air travel.

    We have a massive energy deficit in this country and HS2 will add to this. It is impossible by the time of construction for it to be fuelled by renewables based on current projections. Indeed there are two waste incinerators being planned next the the line in Oxfordshire where the operators have admitted HS2 may use their electricity.

    The passenger numbers CAN NOT materialise – they are based on exponential growth – that is simply ridiculous; it assumes growth will continue climbing for ever at this rate. That is utter nonsense and even Alison Munroe from HS2 Ltd admitted at the TSC when scrutinised that the sensitivity analysis was a concern.

    Trains can be green but not at this speed and destroying green field land. You also persist in reviewing the carbon uptake of running the trains ignoring the carbon which would be used to construct the thing. You can not address capital projects without addressing life cycle costs it is simply foolish to do so and frankly incompetent.

    The power required to overcome the aerodynamic drag is given by:

    Note that the power needed to push an object through a fluid increases as the cube of the velocity. A car cruising on a highway at 50 mph (80 km/h) may require only 10 horsepower (7.5 kW) to overcome air drag, but that same car at 100 mph (160 km/h) requires 80 hp (60 kW). With a doubling of speed the drag (force) quadruples per the formula. Exerting four times the force over a fixed distance produces four times as much work. At twice the speed the work (resulting in displacement over a fixed distance) is done twice as fast. Since power is the rate of doing work, four times the work done in half the time requires eight times the power.”

  6. penny – the report also says that even in the worst case scenario carbon emissions could rise by 0.3%. it also says that carbon intensity is likely to fall further if the UK is to achieve its targets on climate change and also says that in the electricity supplied for hs2 could in theory be supplied ENTIRELY from renewable resources.

    so it is probably highly unlikely that the worst case scenario would occur. in any case as stop hs2 believes that the projected passenger numbers will never materialize, then neither can the worst case co2 scenario, so you are saved from this cataclysmic environmental disaster !

    perhaps on your masthead you should just cross out the STOP and all the NO’s ! so it would read HS2 – business case, environmental case and the money to pay for it !!!! because the business case includes all the regenerative benefits of hs2.

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