HS2 Questions

Examining the issues around the proposed High Speed 2 route

Response to comments by Norman Baker on HS2

with one comment

Norman Baker has recently made some ill informed comments on the HS2 proposal and the broad and growing opposition to HS2.


Norman Baker said:

“We simply haven’t got enough space for the demand, we haven’t got the capacity,” he said. “It is not an option to fiddle around with the west coast main line again, nor the east coast main line for that matter.

Fact: Changes to the rolling stock, timetable and work at just four specific bottlenecks on the West Coast Mainline creates at additional 215% standard class capacity, compared with the forecast of 102% growth to 2043. Some of the current overcrowding cannot wait until 2026 when HS2 opens. See “A Better Railway for Britain” part 2, at www.betterthanhs2.org


Norman Baker said:

“You end up with the idea that you need a new line and if you are going to have a new line the cost of it is only marginally more if you have it high speed than if you have it conventional speed.

Fact: There is no need for a new line until at least the second half of this century so HS2 is the wrong priority.


Norman Baker said:

If you have high speed, you start attracting people who wouldn’t normally be attracted to the railways. Rail is having a renaissance in terms of high speed. You start reducing journey times and people start saying: ‘Hang on a minute, why am I taking the plane?’ and you start making inroads into that market”

Fact: there are no flights between Birmingham and London, and few between Manchester and London as the train already has most of the market. BAA say any domestic landing slots freed up will re-allocated to international flights. Meanwhile the energy required for HS2 trains is much higher than conventional trains. Significantly, the Green Party are opposed to HS2.


Norman Baker said:

“There are also economic development benefits.”

Fact: There may be some benefits for London. The mainstream view is clearly expressed by the Economist (3 September 2011): “‘In most developed economies high-speed railways fail to bridge regional divides and sometimes exacerbate them. Better connections strengthen the advantages of a rich city at the network’s hub: firms in wealthy regions can reach a bigger area, harming the prospects of poorer places.”


What does concern me is that people who have legitimate concerns about the route are not saying this is affecting me personally or affecting my land. I don’t mind them saying that. But what they are saying is this doesn’t make economic sense or it’s bad for carbon. They are finding spurious reasons to oppose.”

Fact: The growing range of organisations unconnected with the route that have expressed serious problems with the economic and environmental case include: The Tax Payers’ Alliance, the IEA, The New Economics Foundation, The Sustainable Development Commission, National Trust, Countryside Alliance, 13 environmental organisations under the Right Lines Charter and many publications including the Economist, The Telegraph and the Financial Times.


There are better ways of spending money to increase capacity and speed on our railways – particularly at a time when the public finances are so limited. These alternatives can meet forecast demand, aid economic growth, and benefit more people, more quickly, and at a much lower cost than HS2.


Written by hs2questions

September 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm

One Response

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  1. Jerry, you are wriong about capacity. You make your sexy headline claims such as 215% increase 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.

    William Barter

    September 23, 2011 at 5:03 pm

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