HS2 Questions

Examining the issues around the proposed High Speed 2 route

Key misunderstandings on HS2

with 4 comments

Some short answers to common myths and misunderstandings

Lille has benefitted from high speed trains/station
Unemployment in greater Lille has increased relative to the national average.

HS1 has provided economic benefits
HS1 is running at just a third of forecast demand, cost the taxpayer billions and has left local commuters up in arms at cut backs to other services.

There is a national consensus for high speed rail in UK
According to a recent YouGov poll, 48% are against HS2 and only 34% in favour.

HS2 benefit cost ratio 2.6
When a more realistic view is taken of the assumptions made in the business case the BCR reduces to around 0.5. Many of these issues were raised by the independent report produced by Oxera for the Transport Select Committee, who concluded the benefits were ‘uncertain’.

Environmental argument has been overcome
HS2 will increase CO2, hence opposition from the Green Party and a long list of environmental organisations (under the Right Lines Charter).

WCML will be at full capacity in 6 to 10 years
According to Network Rail (who made the statement) this presumes that demand grows at 10% annum. No one is forecasting such an increase. HS2 Ltd say it will be about 2%/a Peak time standard class capacity on the WCML can be increased 139% without major infrastructure work. Fast commuter train capacity can be doubled by completing £243m Ledburn junction grade separation. The Felixstowe – Nuneaton freight line cuts freight usage on the southern section of the WCML by half.
The Chiltern upgrade will also relieve WCML capacity.

HS2 allows network to operate at full capacity during its construction
The Euston rebuild will cause chaos and cut capacity and peak services during construction. This is in the evidence HS2 Ltd gave to The Transport select Committee.

More services on classic rail after HS2’s introduction
Only if the Government increases rail subsidies.

RP2 will improve capacity a little bit here and a little bit there
RP2 together with what’s already planned delivers 151% more capacity, which more than meets the 100% increase in forecast demand. And an optimised version of RP2 can treble capacity, more than is needed, leaving trains less crowded than on HS2.

RP2 will cause massive disruption
There is only one infrastructure bottleneck that needs to be dealt with now. The other pinch points can be dealt with in the 2030s, 2040s, or later if they are needed. The impact will be much less than the recent WCML wholesale track and signalling upgrade – or HS2.

HS2 will help the North South divide
The regeneration benefit would be marginal and mostly benefit London, which is the expected result when a dominant capital city enjoys faster connections with other cities.

We need to keep up with other countries that have HSR
We have a higher satisfaction and shorter journey times than our main European competitors. Many countries are now axing HSR lines (Spain, Portugal) or downgrading some HSR to regular speed (France, Italy).

There will be significant modal shift
There will be very limited modal shift, just 13% of journeys on HS2 are said be HS2 to be from car or domestic air.

HS2 will be high value for money
HS2 is extremely poor value for money with costs exceeding benefits.



Written by hs2questions

July 20, 2011 at 11:19 am

4 Responses

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  1. HS1 has provided economic benefits. Your challenge to this confuses Eurostar and HS1. Eurostar is running below forecasts prepared in 1994 by a bullish bidder trying to win the contract to build HS1, but in the years after each phase of HS1 opened, allowing Eurostar journey times to reduce, there is clear increase in Eurostar patronage. So HS1 is clearly doing its job.

    William Barter

    July 20, 2011 at 1:25 pm

  2. More services on classic rail after HS2′s introduction. RP2 will damage local and intermediate services, through forcing more fast through trains onto the already congested railway. Better services for local and intermediate stations are clearly necessary, and possible after HS2. But it does not follow that these extra services will need subsidy. Jonathan Tyler believes that his very extensive proposals will break even. To me, it looks as if the post-HS2 WCML franchise would be similar in nature to Cross-Country or a London outer suburban franchise – these typically pay premiums. We are not talking about the Far North Route – the classic WCML will still connect major locations and provide for traffic flows that are currently suppressed by lack of capacity on the WCML.

    William Barter

    July 20, 2011 at 1:31 pm

  3. HS1 has left local commuters up in arms at cut backs to other services? I don’t know whether they are up in arms or not, but on objective analysis they have no need to be.

    I have studied Table 207 (the South Eastern main line through Ashford and Tonbridge to Charing Cross and Cannon St) and Table 212 (the Chatham main line to Cannon St, Victoria and Blackfriars), for the critical commuter sections towards London from Ashford and Chatham respectively, in the morning peak hour.

    In no case can I find a station that has lost services, whilst several have gained:

    Increase in AM peak hour services, 2011 over 2007
    Ashford 2
    Marden 2
    Sevenoaks 1
    Chatham 1
    Rochester 4
    Meopham 1

    In the case of Table 207, the two HS1 services per hour from Ashford are completely additional to the 2007 case. In Table 212, there is a net gain of one train, as two additional HS1 domestics net off against one fewer Victoria train, which is reasonable as Victoria and St Pancras are equally good terminals to access the West End whilst the key Cannon Street services have been maintained.

    Far from trains being slower overall, in Table 207 one is slower by 2 minutes whilst three are faster by up to 4 minutes. In Table 212, there are three trains slower by 3 minutes at worst, but five faster, one by as much as 12 minutes.

    The fact that trains are in many cases now faster than in 2007 is explained by diversion of Eurostar trains away from the classic routes, removing a conflict between fast through trains and the slower trains that have to be planned to follow them. In particular, the train that has been accelerated by 12 minutes appears to do so, in the absence of Eurostars, by being able to use the direct route to Victoria via Penge rather than the secondary route via Catford.

    These are the critical routes, and a quick check of some others shows no change. So if you do want to draw parallels with Kent, you could reasonably conclude that, without fast through trains sharing the classic routes:

    • intermediate stations, which in the case of the WCML would mean Milton Keynes, have gained services;

    • trains have generally become faster.

    On the latter point, you will note that the fastest London Midland train from Milton Keynes to Euston does the journey in 41 minutes, whilst others making the same stops are between 3 and 5 minutes slower. This results purely from “pathing time” incurred following slow trains when unable to use the Fast line, or through waiting to join the Fast line so as to fit in with the fast through trains that will transfer to HS2.

    William Barter

    July 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm

  4. “…at a cost of billions of pounds… passengers in Kent have seen their service transformed into the worst they have every known” (Andrew Gilligan, Daily Telegraph)

    See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/8423638/High-speed-rail-Britains-first-link-hasnt-worked-as-planned-say-critics.html for examples of commuters up in arms!


    August 10, 2011 at 8:55 am

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