HS2 Questions

Examining the issues around the proposed High Speed 2 route

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Open letter to Justine Greening

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12 January 2012


Rt Hon Justine Greening MP

House of Commons




Dear Secretary of State

You said you would look at HS2 rationally. And yet you ignore your own department’s evidence that our alternative generates over £6 return for every £1 invested compared with under £2 return on HS2. Furthermore, half the stated benefits from HS2 are from the erroneous assumption that time is unproductive on trains, which your predecessor recognised was not the case.

Network rail also agree that our alternative meets HS2 Ltd demand forecasts and had to produce a new forecast to make the case.

Not so long ago you said with reference to Heathrow Runway 3:

We have had a consultation, to which residents have responded overwhelmingly by saying that they do not want the plan to go ahead. Despite all those points, Ministers still seek to override people’s will. That is deeply worrying.”

Yet now as a minister you have completely ignored and buried the consultation response on HS2, which was massively against HS2 on every question.

In particular, on compensation, your predecessor promised that householders affected by a national strategic project would be fairly compensated. The consultation offered three options and response was overwhelmingly in favour of the property purchase bond. Yet you have offered the worst possible scheme, an extended hardship scheme that will leave thousands trapped in their homes until 2027.

You and your Government have engaged in the very worst of the “weasel words”, fiddling the figures and reneging on promises that have brought politicians into such contempt. This must be deeply disappointing for those MPs who are men and women of integrity and who seek to make rational decisions for the good of the country.

As country after country in Europe and Asia discover the folly of inappropriate, politically driven High Speed Rail projects, we will continue to work hard to inform the public, the media and your colleagues of this damaging and wasteful decision.

Yours sincerely


Jerry Marshall

Chairman, AGAHST Federation


Written by hs2questions

January 12, 2012 at 1:22 pm

HS2 definitely not a “History Defining Moment”

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On Monday (9 Jan), the pro-HS2 campaign will continue by attempting to call a decision in favour a ‘History Defining Moment’.

This is of course nonsense. It is not history to build one more high speed rail line when we already have more than most of our competitors. The EU designates the West Coast, East Coast and Great Western lines as high speed and they could be faster still. They are artificially limited to 125mph because of old fashioned signalling. In 2009, we were only behind Japan and France in miles of HSR.

The only thing that is new is an over specified speed, entirely inappropriate to our closely packed together main cities.

The IEA has already raised concerned that HSR will be a Great Government Disaster.

A few years ago the IEA published an excellent report Government foul ups going back to the R101. Many relate to transport and HS2 carried all the same hallmark of disaster.

HS2 suffers from over optimistic forecasts, focusing on prestige rather than practicality and ignoring the business case. There are strong similarities with Concorde: a sleek and sexy way for a few mainly rich people to get from A to B faster at massive cost to the taxpayer and environment.


Written by hs2questions

January 8, 2012 at 8:28 am

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HS2 now a major vote loser – YouGov poll shows 2/3rds against

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Nearly two thirds of population opposed to money being spent on HS2

20th December 2011 – A YouGov public opinion poll has found that nearly two thirds of the public oppose money being spent on the planned £32 billion high speed rail link between London and Birmingham (HS2).

64 per cent of those surveyed in the poll (commissioned by groups opposed to HS2) believe that it is wrong to spend money on the proposed line at this time. In June this year 48 per cent of respondents to a YouGov poll for the Tax Payers’ Alliance were opposed to plans to fund what will be, per mile, the world’s most expensive railway.

Voter opposition

The latest poll found that 66 per cent of Labour’s general election voters are opposed to HS2, which was originally proposed by a Labour Government. 68 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters are against the line along with the majority of Conservative voters, 59 per cent.

North South Divide

While supporters of HS2 believe that it will help close the North-South divide both regions are already united in their opposition to it. 62 per cent of Northern respondents; 64 per cent of those surveyed in London and 66 per cent of respondents in the South think that it is wrong to spend money on it at the current time.

Despite the Scottish Government’s enthusiasm for the line, 70 per cent of Scottish respondents are opposed to HS2, which will cost UK taxpayers £773 million in planning and consultants in the current Parliament alone. Perhaps most interestingly, respondents from the Midlands and Wales, the region that takes in Birmingham where the phase of the line will terminate, came out 64 per cent in favour of shelving spending on the project.


The news does not get any better for proponents of the line when opposition is split by gender, with 71 per cent of women against the environmentally damaging project.

Commenting on the survey results, Jerry Marshall, Chairman, AGAHST, said;

“The tide has turned, and HS2 is now opposed by voters across all party lines. It is clearly the wrong priority in the eyes of the majority of the public, with only a quarter of the population still supporting it. It is time for the Government to think again and tackle our country’s real transport priorities.”

Written by hs2questions

December 20, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Peak time trains from Euston only half full – so why do we need HS2?

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The following findings & conclusions are pasted in from a peak time survey of Intercity trains from Euston to the Midlands and the North. We had tried to obtain official data under FOI but were refused.

  • There were no exceptional events or circumstances that we were aware of and in our opinion results will be accurate to a level of 1 (one) error in 100 (hundred) passengers counted.
  • We were surprised that the average loading across all peak trains (16.30 – 18.59) was only 56%.
  • Even more surprising were the loadings on the peak Manchester and Liverpool services, which were on average less than 45% full.
  • There was a significant difference between trains making an extra stop at Milton Keynes (average loading 107%) and other trains. Milton Keynes trains appear crowded.
  • The first trains after 19.00 (7 trains from 19.00 – 19.30) – when much cheaper off peak tickets are allowed – had higher loadings (average 67%).
  • Comment: If there is crowding in standard class this could potentially be dealt with through reconfiguring the carriage mix. (We also understand that two extra carriages will be added from 2012 which will cut the total load factors even further.)

(Customer Research Technology Ltd, 30 November 2011)

So why are those in favour of HS2 claiming there is a capacity problem we need to deal with? There are more urgent capacity issues: for example, some Reading to Paddington trains are at 200% loading. On the West Coast Mainline, we do need to deal with trains to Milton Keynes and Northants. This cannot wait until 2026 and can be solved at a cost of £243m at Ledburn junction, half the cost of the recently announced 1.5 mile tunnel in the Chilterns. We also need to deal with the ‘fare cliff’ problem of high loading on the first off peak trains after 7pm.

None of this justifies a net cost of £45bn to the taxpayer.

Written by hs2questions

December 5, 2011 at 1:07 pm

What will Justine Greening say about HS2?

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If the new Secretary of State for Transport is to be consistent in her views on major transport infrastructure projects, when she announces her decision on HS2 in December here are her possible responses.


“Much of what I have said comes down to democracy. Ministers have said that we should not vote on such matters. … Many hon. Members feel that [HS2] has such profound consequences for the day-to-day lives of their constituents that they view it as similarly important. We have had a consultation, to which residents have responded overwhelmingly by saying that they do not want the plan to go ahead. Despite all those points, Ministers still seek to override people’s will. That is deeply worrying.”



“The Government are isolated on this issue, and Ministers must ask themselves what is more important—saving face and sticking with a bad decision, or having the courage to admit that this is wrong, and change course. It is time to listen to the [55,000] people, including my constituents, who responded with their grave concerns to the consultations.”




Sadly there is no guarantee that her response will be consistent with her previous statements.. Ten years ago the former Secretary of State of Transport, Philip Hammond, thought hybrid bills were undemocratic and inappropriate for a major transport project. But then that was concerning a railway to carry freight that was to run through his constituency and he was in opposition.



Written by hs2questions

November 21, 2011 at 8:59 pm

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10 good reasons to think again on HS2 – from the TSC report

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The cross-party Transport Select Committee has found a whole host of problems with the Government’s case for HS2. From dubious assumptions underpinning the economic case, through the failure to consider the environmental impact or viable alternatives, to problems with the consultation itself, it’s clear that the Government needs to go back to the drawing board before spending billions more pounds on this controversial project.

1. The economic case is built on inflated claims about time savings. The committee concluded ‘that very high speed (250 m.p.h.) may have been given an undue emphasis’ in the economic case for HS2 (recommendation 9). They say there should be ‘a lower value attached to time savings’ (recommendation 10).

2. Carbon benefits ‘do not stand up to scrutiny’ and the environmental impact should be included in the economic case. The committee concluded that claims of substantial carbon reduction benefits ‘do not stand up to scrutiny’ (para. 77). They said it is ‘of concern that the Government intends to reach a decision on whether to proceed with Phase I before … many of the environmental impacts for both phases are clear’ (recommendation 14). They recommended ‘that the revised business plan for HS2 should take account of … natural capital’ and ‘encourage the Government to place greater emphasis on following existing transport corridors’ (recommendation 13).

3. A new economic case should be drawn up, based on capacity. As well attaching a lower value for time savings and including environmental cost, the committee recommended: ‘When HS2 Ltd provides the updated economic case to the Secretary of State for Transport later this year, it should provide a comparative assessment on the basis of reduced crowding’ (recommendation 10).

4. It may not be possible to run as many trains as the Government plans. The committee noted that ‘operating 18 trains per hour on a high-speed rail line has not been attempted elsewhere’. They called this a ‘risk factor’ and say the Government should publish ‘full details of the technical basis for its assertion that 18 trains per hour, or more, are feasible’ (recommendation 21).

5. Alternative options have not been considered properly, and ought to be. The committee said: ‘If the Government decides to proceed with HS2, it must explain in detail not just why it favours a particular scheme but why that scheme is better than alternative solutions, including those put forward by the Government’s own advisers’. It was very clear that ‘there must be a greater degree of consensus on these issues—many of which are technical—before Parliament is asked to consider a hybrid bill (recommendation 19).

6. It would be wrong to charge ahead with the plans before the full ‘Y’ route has been appraised. The committee found that ‘the case for investing in a high-speed line between London and the West Midlands depends largely on the assumption that the full Y network will be completed’ and said: ‘We believe that there should be an urgent strategic appraisal of phase II before a final decision on phase I is taken’ (recommendation 8).

7. The Government needs to prove that other rail projects won’t suffer. The committee were concerned that HS2 could divert money from more pressing rail improvements. They said that ‘if the Government decides to go ahead with HS2, it shouldpublish a summary of the financial case including the assumptions which persuade Ministers that the scheme will be affordable alongside sustained investment in the classic network’ (recommendation 4).

8. It’s not clear that HS2 will help to reduce the North/South divide. The committee concluded that ‘it is obvious that the economic impacts of high-speed rail can vary and are not easily predicted’; they said the Government should accompany its plans with ‘regional and local strategies for transport, housing, skills and employment’ (recommendation 7). They even urged it to consider building any high-speed line in the North rather than the South East, saying it was ‘disappointing that … a full assessment of the case for building north to south has not been undertaken. This work should be carried out as a priority’ (recommendation 8).

9. The case for connecting to Heathrow needs to be considered. At the moment, HS2 will not be connected to the nation’s main airport. The committee recommended ‘that the Government set out more clearly for comparison the costs and benefits of routing HS2 via Heathrow … so that there can be a better understanding of the pros and cons of different options’ (recommendation 18).

10. The Government hasn’t shown how HS2 fits into an overall transport strategy. The committee strongly recommended ‘that if the Government decides to proceed with HS2 it should … set out in more detail than is available in the DfT’s business plan not only why HS2 is desirable but also how it fits within an overall transport strategy’ (recommendation 2) and ‘make clear how HS2 fits into its wider aviation strategy’ (recommendation 11).

Written by hs2questions

November 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm

What does the Transport Select Committee really say about HS2?

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There is a discrepancy between the TSC press release headline and the body of the report, which asks for information that well destroy the case for HS2 and sends the DfT back to the drawing board.

Here’s an analysis from HS2AA.

Transport Select Committee report on High Speed Rail – 8 November

Although the Transport Select Committee supports a high speed rail network and believes HS2 could be part of it, they have about as many misgivings as we do.  And when followed through these misgivings are fatal to the case for HS2.

They find a host of problems with the economic case, its environmental impact, treatment of alternatives, technical issues, even problems with consultation itself – all which adds up to scheme that needs to go back to the drawing board.


  • Calls for a revised business case using a lower value of time, as what has been used is not a sound basis for justifying HS2 (para 69) – and say the revised basis should also apply in assessing the alternatives to a new railway
  • Questions the case for very high speed: by excessively valuing speed the decision to go for 250 mph ‘prematurely ruled out other route options’ that follow existing transport corridors (para 68)
  • Observes that the alternatives have not been properly examined
  • Doesn’t believe the case has been made that aviation will reduce (para 76) – even with the full Y. And not surprisingly they also say that the claims of substantial carbon reduction benefits ‘don’t stand scrutiny’ (para 77).
  • Advises Government to place greater emphasis on following existing transport corridors – to reduce its local environmental impact and effect on the Chilterns AONB (para 83). The revised business case should place a value on natural capital
  • Considers the case for the best way of serving Heathrow needs clarifying (para 104)
  • Say insufficient attention has been given to the economic case for the London terminus arrangements
  • Is dissatisfied that basic information on the Y network was not provided for the public consultation, nor a proper assessment of the impact on rebalancing the economy, given the reliance placed on these (para 63).  TSC recommend no decision is taken on Phase 1 until such Phase 2 information is produced, appraised and consulted on (para 87)
  • Agree that 18 trains per hour at 225km/hr is a risk factor, ‘not attempted elsewhere’, – despite government claims, and calls on them to publish the full details (para 116)
  • Recommend that Government expressly show that investment in classic rail will not suffer as a result of HS2 (conclusion para 4) – hard to see Government achieving this given Villiers’ recent statement about the Northern Hub not being affordable!

Finally, they confirm our figure work on the arithmetic of what capacity the alternatives produce (annex 2).  And they concede it ‘might meet the background passenger growth forecast to 2043 at peak times’ (para 39). 

But they then move the goal posts and appeal to the recent unprecedented period of rail growth continuing indefinitely into the future. But this ignores DfT’s own forecast and is highly implausible given other trends in domestic travel.

Written by hs2questions

November 8, 2011 at 8:44 pm

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