HS2 Questions

Examining the issues around the proposed High Speed 2 route

Norman Baker: out of touch with the facts

with one comment

Response to speech made by Norman Baker at Liberal Democrats’ Autumn Conference – 17.10, 19th September 2011


1.      Future capacity demands

We can meet all growth in capacity demand needed to 2043, and beyond, by train lengthening, and very limited infrastructure works.


We need extra peak time capacity in Milton Keynes andNorthamptonnow – not in 2026.


There are no real issues with 12-car trains. 12-car commuter trains run on WCML fast lines in the south, 15-car sleepers run toScotland, and WCML long distance trains (Pendolinos and Voyagers) have selective door opening – so can cope with short platforms if necessary.


The HS2 trains that use the classic infrastructure simply won’t have enough capacity for their projected demand.  They would have less capacity than the trains that they would replace.


2.      Economic growth

HS2’s economic benefits have been massively over-estimated as they assume all time on trains currently is wasted and uses a no-change to 2043 comparator, instead of a realistic one.


There is no evidence of benefits from regional redistribution – the evidence is it would helpLondonnotMidlandsand North.


HS2 Ltd’s own advisor, Prof Vickermann, thinks there is no evidence to support the government claims and said as much to the Transport Select Committee.  There is no credible support for government claims that HS2 will benefit theMidlandsand North.


3.      Emissions

Even the DfT say HS2 is only carbon neutral at best.  This calculation does not allow for the extra car journeys to stations; assumes any freed-up runway slots are not reused and that electricity emissions are based on average not marginal (dirtier) emissions.


On the Government’s figures HS2 induces much more new travel (22% of HS2 journeys) than it achieves modal shift (7% from cars and 6% from air, giving only 13%).


High speed rail simply isn’t green.


4.      Disruption with up rating the existing railway

Lengthening trains and re-allocating a carriage to standard class is not disruptive.  Completely re-building Euston for HS2 while you are trying to use it at full capacity would be extremely disruptive.   If HS2 is finally built it will lengthen the journey times on all the Great Western trains.




Written by hs2questions

September 20, 2011 at 8:54 am

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  1. Capacity

    You say “We can meet all growth in capacity demand needed to 2043, and beyond, by train lengthening, and very limited infrastructure works.” Can you indeed? You make your sexy headline claims only by making some absurd assumptions. Your capacity claims are based on:

    1) Taking the most pessimistic possible forecast of pure background growth, and ignoring the fact that for a decade or more actual growth has been three times that rate and shows no sign of slowing;
    2) Assessing capacity as an average across the day, ignoring the fact that demand goes in peaks and troughs, as a consequence of people naturally wanting to travel most at the beginning and end of a working day;
    3) Not just pretending that First Class doesn’t exist, but reducing it without making any corresponding adjustment to your capacity assessment
    4) Praying in aid capacity schemes which are already committed and even in hand, and so cannot contribute to your business case.

    Taken together, your schemes add only 82% to peak hour capacity compared with 2008, that is, less than even the basic background growth forecast. Compared with 2013, that is, the comparison with the committed situation that must be the basis of your business case, the extra peak hour capacity you provide is only 24%. Your sexy headline claims for capacity rely mainly on trundling fresh air around the Cumbrian fells at midday, hence the low load factors you claim, which simply mean that your extra capacity is not being used.

    As for Northampton, yes we do need more capacity now, but to provide this you have to assume a whole new fleet of a completely new type of suburban train as well as a new flyover. But Network Rail reckon that with those new trains, they could run one more suburban train per hour anyway, so the output of the flyover is only one further train, which is hardly likely to make a business case. I even think that for one more train per peak hour to take the sting out of things before HS2 opens, we could do it using Voyagers displaced by electrification, so no new stock needed at all. As for the Stafford bypass at a mere £1.2 billion, all it delivers is one more peak train per hour, again hardly the stuff of which business cases are made!

    Current actual growth rates will double demand in 12 years, not 35 years. That’s certainly going to be difficult to accommodate on the existing railway, but is hardly an argument for scrapping the only proper solution – HS2.

    Economic growth

    The OXERA report to the Transport Select Committee identified studies showing that time on trains is about 20% productive compared with time in an office or at home. But if you insist against all common experience that time on trains is 100% productive, you also have to accept that reducing crowding and transferring people from car to train enables them to become productive – make that assumption and the business case for HS2 actually improves.

    As for assumed growth to 2043, current actual growth rates would put demand at your 2043 level by 2024.


    Euston station, particularly the LUL area, is a hell-hole now, and high on the list for a major rebuild whether HS2 goes ahead or not. Shall we do it now before demand doubles, or wait until it’s obvious even to you that it can’t be put off any longer?

    Your so-called optimised alternative will only make things worse at Euston, as such extra passengers as you can accommodate will all be pushed through Euston, and most of them onto the Underground, whereas HS2 offers the opportunity to change to Crossrail at Old Oak Common, not only relieving pressure on Euston but making a genuine improvement for journeys to Docklands, the City and West End.

    As for extending GW journey times, I presume that you haven’t read the London and South East Route Utilisation Strategy, which proposes combining Crossrail and Heathrow Express trains on the Relief lines out of Paddington. Without Heathrow Express stopping at Old Oak on the Main lines, GW trains are not forced to stop there for operational reasons, but if the balance of advantage in terms of the extra opportunities offered to their passengers outweighs the extension to journey times, they can do.

    William Barter

    September 20, 2011 at 10:50 am

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