Archive for October 2011
Today’s London Evening Standard features more Heathrow ballyhoo, this time from Mark Bostock, of Arup.
One of the architects of the Channel Tunnel link today called on the Government to abandon current plans for a high-speed railway line.
Mark Bostock, the former project manager of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link – now known as High Speed 1 – has criticised plans for the 250mph line because it does not include a connection to Heathrow Airport.
Mr Bostock wants to use tunnels under London to link the capital to Birmingham via a major transport hub at Heathrow. He said: “The plan is to integrate Heathrow into the developing high-speed rail network. It’s giving people from Wales and the South-West, as well as the North, access to Heathrow.”
I was surprised to read that the Labour party has only just abandoned its policy favouring a third runway at London Heathrow Airport. Anyway, the announcement was posted on the party’s website today:
Time to forge a cross-party consensus on aviation and high speed rail for the long term – Maria Eagle
31 October 2011
Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, in a speech to the Airport Operators Association, will today:
- Urge the Government to establish a cross-party commission to set a long term policy for aviation as part of a strategy for jobs and growth;
- Argue that the Government’s call for airports to be ‘better not bigger’ is a slogan, not a policy, and a blanket ban on growth and new capacity in the South East make no sense;
- Accept that the third runway at Heathrow is now off the agenda because of the local environmental impact and urge the industry to move on and look at other solutions to the need for new capacity;
- Call for the Committee on Climate Change to advise on a tougher CO2 emissions target for the aviation industry;
- While pledging to do nothing to put at risk or delay the vital high speed rail line between London, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, back the inclusion of Heathrow on the route which would also enable the greater use of existing transport corridors.
Maria Eagle MP, setting out Labour’s offer to the Government, said:
“A successful, thriving aviation sector is crucial for our economic competitiveness. The Government’s failure to set out a strategy for aviation, and the lack of any plan to do so until late in this parliament, is now putting jobs and growth at risk. I am therefore offering to put aside political differences and work on a cross-party basis to establish a credible aviation strategy for the long term. As part of that, Labour will accept the Government’s decision to cancel the third runway at Heathrow, but Ministers must accept that their opposition to any other aviation growth in the South East makes no sense. If they agree to our proposal for an independent cross-party commission on aviation, it should be able to look at all options while prioritising making the best use of existing runways and airports.
“I am also today calling on the Committee on Climate Change to advise the Government and industry on a tougher emissions target for aviation. It’s time to bring the industry closer to the wider goal in the Climate Change Act to cut emissions by at least 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels, and reflect this in future Carbon Budgets. Labour is clear that any growth in aviation must be sustainable and meet the challenge of climate change.
“Labour’s cross-party support for the high speed rail line that we proposed in Government is clear. It is the only credible way to tackle capacity issues on the existing main lines. However, following the cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow, it is vital that we take the opportunity that this new line offers to provide greater connectivity to our major hub airport. If the Government was to take the line via Heathrow it would remove the need to build an expensive spur later while opening up the prospect of private sector funding, potentially saving the taxpayer billions. It could lead to a new route that makes better use of existing transport corridors and avoids an area of outstanding natural beauty where residents were wrongly insulted as ‘NIMBYs’ by Tory Ministers. If this were to happen it would also open up the opportunity to connect to the Great Western mainline, bringing the benefits of the high speed line to the South West.
“The Government has so far shown that it is out of touch with the calls from business for a credible aviation policy. I urge the new Transport Secretary to accept our offer to work across the political divide on a long term strategy for both aviation and high speed rail as part of the plan for jobs and growth that the country needs.”
At the same Airport Operators Association conference, Gatwick Airport (and former HS2 Ltd) chairman David Rowlands said that the aviation industry is stuck in a “dialogue of the deaf” with the environmental lobby, and is failing to set out a roadmap for tackling climate change:
Sir David Rowlands said the sector invested too much effort in relaying facts – such as its contribution to global warming – rather than setting out how it will make meaningful contributions to carbon dioxide reduction. Criticising the industry’s obsession with flaunting its green credentials via announcements about biofuel flights, Rowlands warned that airlines and airports are failing to engage with environmental groups.
“What it does not mean is lone voices shouting ‘hey – look at us we have just flown one of our aircraft on chip fat!’ That is not a dialogue. Unless what you want is a dialogue of the deaf. Just look at the reaction from environmental commentators to what has been happening recently with biofuels.”
Rowlands, former permanent secretary at the Department for Transport, has emerged alongside International Airlines Group’s Willie Walsh as the industry’s most vocal critic of government aviation policy. This year he dismissed as “total nonsense” the government’s argument that a high-speed rail link can mitigate the ban on a third runway at Heathrow.
Ms Eagle’s statement more or less completes the HS2 policy swap between the Labour and Conservative parties. Last year, the Conservatives adopted Labour’s Y-network, and now Labour has abandoned Adonis/Steer in favour of something indistinguishable from the Bow Group airport-centric ‘not-so-high-speed’ rail.
Westbourne Communications’ Dan Large responded to Labour’s new new high-speed route, on behalf of David Begg’s Campaign for High Speed Rail:
October 31, 2011
Today Maria Eagle, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, will announce Labour’s support for a new route for the proposed high-speed line.
Prior to the official announcement, an article was written in yesterday’s Sunday Times that you can read online here [subscription required].
In response to these developments, Dan Large, a spokesman for the Campaign for High Speed Rail, said:
“We are pleased that Labour are maintaining their support for a new high-speed line.
“However, this newly proposed route raises some fundamental questions.
“What is the additional cost of tunneling out of central London and under the Chilterns? By how much time with this lengthen the construction process? What will the combined cost of this be to the business case, which will presumably be weakened?
“The new route is not as straight as the old route, which will have an impact on the line speed. How much will this reduce the speed of the line? What impact will this have for return on investment in expensive rolling stock? How many services an hour will be lost as a result of the curvature of the new route?
“The new route still cuts across a lot of countryside – it does not simply follow the M40. What impact will this new route have on this newly threatened countryside? Which historic buildings will be affected? Which areas of natural beauty wil be cut across? How many properties will be affected? Local opposition will still be faced – what assessment has been made of this?
“Heathrow connected to HS2 on the existing route, and the proposed Heathrow hub makes an assumption about the future of British aviation policy. Is Labour sure that a South East-focussed hub model is the future of British air transport? What impact will this have on regional airports, most notably Birmingham? Does this model fit the future of aviation manufacture, with aircraft such as the new Boeing Dreamliner eschewing the hub model? What impact would this change in approach to Heathrow’s connectivity have on the Heathrow Express and Crossrail?
“It is essential that these practicalities are thought through, and that their impact upon the finances, business case and timescale of the project are properly assessed.
“We look forward to hearing a lot more detail about Maria Eagle’s proposal in due course.”
The Right Lines charter signatories now include Railfuture, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and the Ramblers. The charter website states that its position on HS2 is ‘proceed with caution‘, but its signatories made their own separate responses to the government consultation. In the opinion of RightLinesHSR writer Karen Gardham,
There is no doubt in my mind that more capacity is needed. A new direct service line would free up capacity on other lines for more frequent services along those lines, new services at closed stations, east-west services and more freight. But this is not going to happen by itself, no matter what the free-marketers think – it needs a national transport strategy and funding identified to deliver it.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England seems to have been the dominant organisation in the Right Lines charter. Its July 2011 response to the government consultation states that its ‘Getting Back on Track‘ (February 2011) document provides evidence to back up its views.
- ‘HS2 should be built, but not run at 350 km/h’;
- ‘300 km/h is probably acceptable in emissions terms’;
- ‘300 km/h allows the line to follow the M1 motorway, which protects the countryside.’
A 300 km/h railway could not be retrofitted alongside an existing British motorway over an extended distance, without creating large tracts of no-mans-land between them. The existing motorway is not going to be straight enough even for a ‘lower speed’ 300 km/h line to follow. In such cases, the fenced width of the high speed line itself becomes even less relevant than it is with the current HS2 standalone route.
According an article by Karl West in the Sunday Times
Tim O’Toole, chief executive of First Group, the quoted bus and train operator, believes the government’s push for a second high-speed line is driven more by the need to add railway capacity than the desire to shave 35 minutes off the journey between London and Birmingham.
The HS2 Ltd economic case is absolutely not based on capacity. It’s based on speed.
Take out the environmentally unsustainable maximum speed, and the so-called HS2 benefit cost ratio (BCR) goes headlong down a mountain:
It’s fairly obvious that the economic assessment of HS2 was rigged to produce ‘evidence’ to support a 350 km/h railway with very few stops. However, if one accepts the HS2 Ltd analysis, some unfortunate (and no doubt unintended) conclusions follow:
- On the HS2 Ltd reasoning, most (if not all) of the high speed lines in France, Germany, and Spain would **not** have been built.
- The graph of speed and benefits is approximately linear, **suggesting that even faster speeds would produce a higher BCR**. Which would suggest building a 500 km/h maglev system, not HS2.
Obviously maglev is just as barmy as HS2, and the Transrapid variant has been rejected even in its country of origin. But the speed-based economic case used to prop up HS2 seems to point towards building maglev, rather than wheel on rail.
Earlier this month, Biz4HS2 honcho David Begg had the following briefing sent to MPs, prior to the Parliamentary debate on HS2.
Campaign briefing for MPs in advance of HS2 Commons debate
October 13, 2011
On Tuesday, we sent a letter out to all MPs making the case for HS2 in advance of the Common’s [sic] debate later today. The letter is pasted in full below or can be downloaded as a PDF online here.
House of Commons
11th October 2011
High Speed 2 (HS2) is the only long-term solution for Britain’s railways
On Thursday 13th October 2011 there will be a general debate on HS2 in the Chamber.
There are three main reasons why you should support HS2 in this debate all of which are not about speed, but capacity:
1. Britain’s rail network is increasingly close to being full
2. Proposed alternatives to HS2 do not release enough capacity
3. HS2 is the only viable solution that will release enough capacity in the long-term
So far, the debate has been hugely polarised. The construction of any large-scale infrastructure project inevitably generates opposition from those who are likely to be affected. With HS2, opposition groups from along the proposed route have worked relentlessly to create as much negative publicity as possible.
Whilst they are still continuing to fight HS2 on environmental grounds, opponents have shifted their focus to fighting the project on the basis of its business case. This begs the question as to why they did not voice similar opposition to transport projects such as Crossrail and the Jubilee Line Extension, whose business cases had a far lower rate of financial return.
On the other hand, because increased connectivity has a positive impact on economic growth, businesses across the UK stand in support of HS2. So too does the leadership of each of the three main parties, all of whom reiterated their commitment to the project at this year’s party conferences.
**Prime Minister’s conference speech:** “When in modern business you’re either quick or you’re dead, it’s hopeless that our transport infrastructure lags so far behind Europe’s. That’s why we need to build high speed rail.”
**Shadow Minister for Transport’s conference speech:** “Let’s set out a long term strategy for investing in our rail infrastructure. No more talk of classic rail, but a network transformed with a programme to complete electrification and introduce a new generation of high speed inter-city trains. And, yes, let’s also tackle capacity problems between north and south. And in the only credible way it can be done. That’s why it was Labour that set out plans for a new high speed line.”
**Deputy Prime Minister’s conference speech:** “Ultimately, it comes down to a short-term ‘make-do-and-mend’ approach against a long-term vision for transport in this country. This is why businesses up and down the country support HS2. They understand that a sustainable transport model requires a long-term solution, in order that our infrastructure remains efficient and their businesses can continue to succeed in a competitive global market.”
The main reasons why we should support HS2 are not due to increased speed, but due to the need for long-term capacity solutions.
1. Britain’s rail network is increasingly close to being full
Rail travel as a whole has been growing at 5% a year and more than doubled between 1994/1995 and 2009/2010. Sections of the East Coast Main Line are blocked, and the West Coast Main Line (WCML) is predicted to be full by 2024. In fact, the number of passenger journeys on the West Coast Main Line is twice as high now as it was in 2004.
The Government’s business case for HS2 predicts an average growth forecast of 2% per year. Yet the actual growth on Virgin Trains between 2008 and 2011 was around 10%. As such, the demand level forecast for 2021 has already been reached.
Add to this the soaring demand for rail freight. Container freight on the North-South axis has grown by 56% in the last eight years and there is pressing demand for extra space, particularly from the retail sector that recognise the reliability, low cost and carbon benefits of putting freight on railways.
The WCML is the main trunk route for freight, and already carries 50 to 75 freight trains per day on its southern section. The Rail Freight Group estimates that, by 2030, with traffic from the London Gateway and other developments taken into consideration, freight will need six paths per hour in each direction just to keep up with demand.
Remember, if the extra demand for freight is not accommodated by the railways, it will add more traffic to our congested road network. With these demand estimates, we would see around 200 extra lorries per hour.
2. Proposed alternatives to HS2 do not release enough capacity
Those opposing HS2 have been forced to admit the pressing need for extra capacity on Britain’s railways. However, their proposed solutions do not provide sufficient capacity for the long-term and, as such, have been referred to by Lord Adonis as a ‘classic British patch and mend’ solution.
These groups claim that their alternatives would increase capacity on the railways by 215%. However, only 68.9% of this capacity would be released at peak time and even this claim is made on the basis of 2008 capacity figures. As such, it fails to take into consideration the fact that the Government have now committed to capacity-upgrade schemes such as lengthening many Pendolinos to 11 cars. Once this is taken into consideration, the extra capacity that their alternatives would provide at peak time drops to only 38.2%. Such a limited increase in capacity means that we would be revisiting projects like high-speed rail in ten years’ time.
What is more, their solutions rely on upgrading ‘live’ lines. Their proposals, which include four-tracking sections of the line and lengthening the Pendolino fleet to 12-cars, would require substantial infrastructure works. The WCML is the busiest mixed-use rail line in Europe, and such upgrades would create unprecedented disruption for commuters. The previous upgrade of the WCML took ten years to complete.
3. HS2 is the only viable solution that will release enough capacity in the long-term
HS2 will have 400m-long, European-sized trains, with up to 1100 seats on each vehicle. Initially, the infrastructure will allow up to 14 trains to run each hour, although this is expected ultimately to rise to 18 trains.
This does not include the space that will be freed on the existing lines as long-distance journeys transfer across to a dedicated line. This space will be used to run extra local commuter services in and out of congested cities, as well as running freight on rail. The railways therefore have the potential to ease the severe levels of congestion that we have on some of Britain’s road network.
In the words of Network Rail, after 2024, the WCML “is effectively full and any interventions will be disproportionately expensive compared with the benefits gained”.
The UK is currently relying on a Victorian rail network that is unable to cope with a 21st century demand for travel. If you believe in the future sustainability of the railways for the next hundred and fifty years, then it is critical that you give your support to HS2.
For your information, find below links to our campaign ‘myth busting’ document, as well as a more extensive deconstruction of the opposition’s ‘proposed alternatives’. If you require any further information prior to Thursday’s debate, please don’t hesitate to contact the campaign.
Professor David Begg
Director, Campaign for High Speed Rail
07758 019 351
Additional campaign resources:
1. ‘10 Myths: bringing balance to the debate about high-speed rail’.
2. ‘A better alternative to HS2: why the alternative to HS2 doesn’t stack up’.
The briefing shows how dependent Biz4HS2 is on emotion and weirdwonk (as seen previously in the “lawns and jobs” flyers, and “HS2 will underpin the delivery of 1 million jobs“, etc). For Mr Begg, “Britain’s rail network is increasingly close to being full”. I imagine that when the Chiltern railway through Solihull was reduced from four to two tracks, that line became “increasingly close to being full”.
For Andrew Adonis, upgrading the West Coast or Chiltern lines is “patch and mend”, but upgrading the Great Western Main Line to Bristol is “faster, quieter and more efficient trains“.
And Shadow transport minister Maria Eagle wants no more talk of “classic rail”. Er, it’s a term used – often by pro-HS2 people like Andrew McNaughton – simply to distinguish existing railways, from new-build-high-speed. Does Ms Eagle (or her speechwriter) not know that?
Expecting the Government to Abandon HS2 is Unrealistic, wrote Paul Maynard MP in an article that appeared on HuffPo. Here’s some extracts.
First and foremost, we have to recognise that £32 billion is a lot of money, but that it ‘only’ amounts to £1-2 billion per year between now and 2032. That is not to diminish the scale of the spending, but I do feel that bandying about a sum that will be spent over the length of twenty years creates a slightly misleading impression. Equally, no-one wants to create white elephants either – and the task of politicians is to ensure that the right line is built if it is determined that a new line is needed. We must also recognise this country’s 60-year infrastructure lag that has to be overcome somehow.
For that, I think, is the crux of the matter. What disappointed me was that the those both strongly for and strongly against still struggle to find any common ground, or any recognition that there needs to be a consensus. Merely expecting the Government to abandon HS2 is unrealistic, and does nothing to solve the wider strategic problems. Equally, arguing that it should be full steam ahead anyone with concerns is not paying attention, is equally unhelpful.
The strategic problems resolve principally around capacity. I admire all those who manage to find empty trains on the West Coast Main Line. As a regular traveller, I must always be picking the busiest ones. Both Rail Package 2 and RP2+, which anti-HS2 groups are promoting, do increase peak-time capacity by some 70 per cent. RP2 is occurring whatever the decision on HS2, as I understand it, though RP2+ would require additional work again. We need to realise how traumatic the last upgrade of the West Coast Main Line was, and factor that disruption into our assessments. Additionally, the peak-hour increases, whilst welcome, are only a sticking plaster. It is unavoidably the case that a HS2 line, under the Government’s proposals, would increase capacity by some 150 per cent. This is an order of magnitude that I believe cannot be ignored.
Yes, if there’s not enough trains, or trains aren’t long enough, there’ll be crowding. But is that caused by (a) lack of track, or (b) some other factors?
[The answer’s ‘(b)’].
Mr Maynard has seen through some of the ‘transformative’ smoke, so I’m surprised that he hasn’t queried why
- the WCML fast lines only manage 11 – 12 hourly departures out of Euston
- the Chiltern Line is so little used
- London Midland only manages to operate a handful of twelve-car trains in the peak hours (etc).
Our trip to Europe as a Select Committee was enlightening in that it demonstrated we already have a superior high-speed network in this country which we perhaps fail to appreciate. Travelling from Paris to Frankfurt saw us speed along – initially – at 300 kph. Then we hit the end of the high-speed line and trundled the remainder of the way at a speed less than I experience at times on my morning commute on the Kingston Loop.
The visit also demonstrated how the politicisation of decisions about the networks was considered normal in Europe, and nothing to be ashamed of. France had stations in proverbial ‘turnip’ fields to gain local support. Even the Frankfurt-Cologne line had intermediate stops at Montabaur and Limburg Sued inserted at the time by Helmut Kohl to satisfy his local CDU colleagues.
It is worth noting also that Lord Mawhinney’s report into whether Heathrow should be on the high-speed network only found against the idea when assessing it on the basis of it ceasing at Birmingham: “… a direct high speed link to Heathrow fully funded from public expenditure, in the context of a high speed rail network extending only to the Midlands, is not likely to provide a good return on the public expenditure entailed.”
Yet most major European airports are connected directly to their high-speed networks. Indeed, Schiphol is the major rail hub for all the Netherlands, rather than Amsterdam Centraal. And the Dutch experience also demonstrates that high-speed rail doesn’t work well ‘only’ in geographically large countries.
There’s nothing wrong with having rail links to airports. Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham (etc) have had rail access for years. But designing a high speed rail system around linking airports is ridiculous. The economics of the Heathrow HS2 link, with or without the Y network, scream “Do not do this”, but because it’s in the Conservative party ideas cupboard, it’s in the project.
HS2 is too weird and environmentally impactful to be a consensus project, but I don’t think many people would oppose additional London Midland rolling stock, or electrification of the Midland and Chiltern Main Lines. These would provide cost-effective capacity amelioration, well before 2026. Decoupling high speed rail from a political timescale would allow assessment of whether demand increases for long distance rail would survive large fare increases, such as those recently announced (etc). Furthermore, the benefit-cost ratio of HS2 supposedly improves, if it’s delayed.