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HS2 and intermodality

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Intermodality for the UK, it’s coming sometime, maybe. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Integrated Transport Strategy has published a report asking ‘How do we better link up the UK’? The answer, apparently, is to redesign the HS2 railway in accordance with the wishes of Conserve the Chilterns, and Heathrow Hub Ltd.

In other words,

  • HS2 should not go through the Chilterns,
  • Heathrow should be on the through high speed route, serving land owned by certain people,
  • and there should be a ‘full-capacity’ link between HS2 and HS1.

[‘HS2 and Intermodality for the UK’, Jan 2014]

The Group was formed in response to increasing concern at the lack of joined up thinking in the UK’s transport strategy. This is highlighted most clearly in the disconnect between HS2 and airports policy, where Government deposited a Hybrid Bill for phase 1 of a new railway between London and the West Midlands just a few weeks before publication of the Government ‘s Airports Commission interim report on the UK’s future hub airport capacity. HS2 is also excluded from the draft National Networks Policy Statement, issued for consultation in December 2013.
This contrasts with the integrated approach to the strategic planning of air and rail infrastructure in many other countries, and which has proved so successful in meeting a wide range of economic and environmental objectives.
This paper, the first of what we envisage to be a number of studies, considers air/rail integration, and whether HS2 as currently designed represents international best practice.

Executive summary

The APPG is calling for:

* Decisions on Heathrow and HS2 to be made together in the national interest, rather than in isolation;

* A fully functional rail link between HS1 and HS2;

* A ‘fresh look’ at transport planning in the UK – based on integration, across all modes of transport.

The UK has a unique opportunity to consider an integrated approach to its air and rail strategies. This is particularly important in view of the UK’s peripheral offshore location in Europe, and the country’s dependence on global access for its future competitiveness in an increasingly connected world.

By coming relatively late to such decisions, the UK has the opportunity to learn from the success – and failure – of transport strategies elsewhere in Europe. These lessons are reflected in European legislation, which requires an intermodal approach to transport planning.

UK Governments have however consistently failed to consider an integrated approach, or to draw on European experience. HS2 and the UK’s hub airport strategy are being developed in isolation, resulting in HS2, the UK’s biggest ever peacetime investment of public monies in a single project, bypassing, by just a few miles, Heathrow, the UK’s only hub and world’s busiest international airport, directly contributing around 1% of GDP.

Despite capacity constraints, Heathrow retains the highest business connectivity score amongst major European hubs, and is at the end of seven of the top 10 business routes in the world. Some see the airport as being as important to the UK economy as the competitive advantage afforded by the English language, legal system and time zone.

HS2 was designed on the specific assumption that Heathrow would not be expanded. As the Airports Commission have now concluded that only Heathrow or Gatwick are candidates for new runway capacity, there is a clear need to revisit the assumptions that were fundamental in HS2’s development.

Importantly in these economically challenging times, HS2 Ltd’s own estimates confirm an alternative HS2 route via Heathrow would be less expensive. The only disbenefit of a route via Heathrow would be slightly longer journey times – by just three or four minutes. This seems insignificant, particularly as Government have now confirmed that HS2’s early focus on speed alone was wrong, and that connectivity is instead more important.

An alternative route could also follow the principles established by the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, now HS1 – for example, adopting a design speed to allow the line to follow motorway corridors, tunneling through urban areas below existing railways and tunneling too through the narrowest part of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This would significantly reduce the environmental impacts that have contributed to such widespread opposition to HS2.

European experience is clear. Major airports should be directly served by rail lines, carrying a mix of local, regional, long distance and high speed services via airport interchanges located on through lines, not branches or loops. This enables trains to carry both airport and non-airport passengers, allowing increased frequencies and a wider range of destinations at commercially sustainable loadings.

Integrating air and rail in this way has numerous benefits including modal shift from road to rail, potential air/rail substitution of short haul flights to release scarce airport capacity, wider airport catchments and customer choice, easier regional access to global markets, and a transformation of inward investment perceptions of the attractiveness of regional economies.

In addition to Heathrow, the Airports Commission has shortlisted Gatwick for additional runway development. Although Gatwick, unlike Heathrow, is already located on a main line railway, its peripheral location, on the far side of London from the majority of the UK’s regions and principal markets, makes it more difficult to envisage the step change in surface access that would be essential to support a potential doubling of traffic.

There is therefore a unique opportunity to develop an integrated approach to the UK’s air and rail strategies before the Airports Commission issues its final report in Summer 2015.

Whilst the HS2 Hybrid Bill has now been placed before Parliament, it is not too late for Government to consider amending the scheme, as the Secretary of State has already indicated may be necessary, to provide proper intermodal integration and secure the UK’s future connectivity and competitiveness.

However, there is increasing urgency, as over £0.3bn of public money has already been spent on HS2 from a budget, in this Parliament before May 2015, of more than £1bn.

If, as this paper proposes, HS2 needs to be adapted to reflect the Airports Commission’s recommendations, this should be considered as soon as possible to minimise the abortive costs to the public purse and enable the Commission to bring forward the best possible option for the UK’s future hub airport.

The report’s contributors included David Stewart, Head of Airport Development at the International Air Transport Association, and Jacques Gounon, Chairman and Chief Executive of Eurotunnel. Whether IATA or Eurotunnel have financial interests in Conserve the Chilterns and Countryside or Heathrow Hub, is not known. What is known, is that PR company Cavendish Communications “has been paid to act as APPGITS’s secretariat by its clients Heathrow Hub Ltd and Conserve the Chilterns and Countryside”.

The report scores plenty of direct hits on the coalition’s HS2 project, which of course is as easy as shooting fish in a proverbial barrel. However, a lot of the material is surprisingly unhelpful to Heathrow Hub’s own case, which was presumably not the intention.

Even “where new high speed rail services have eroded air market share, airlines have continued to operate on routes in direct competition with high speed rail, albeit at reduced frequencies – for example Paris-Lyons and Paris-Amsterdam”. And “only 2.8% of Heathrow passengers come from the major conurbations of Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff and Bristol combined” (unaccountably seen as a problem by the APPG).

The report also noted that Deutsche Bahn had reduced services to Frankfurt Flughafen — which is probably just a reflection of the reality that airports tend not to be particularly important destinations for long distance rail traffic.

Like coalition_HS2, the APPGITS_HS2 proposal is needlessly environmentally damaging, poor value for public money, and shaped by the demands of special interests.


Written by beleben

January 30, 2014 at 9:58 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

One Response

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    On Sunday 26 January 2014 Andrew Neil interviewed Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

    Of the misleading responses made by McLoughlin, and repeated parrot-fashion, the most blatant were his comments “record levels of investment in our railways” and “over the next five years, Network Rail will invest over £38bn into the railway structure”.
    In “Final Determination of Network Rail’s outputs and funding for 2014-19” the final Periodic Review 2013 was published by the independent regulator, the ORR, on 31st October. The document is available on their website:
    Page 30 – Table 3 shows a breakdown of the £38.293bn which Network Rail will spend over the period 2014-19.
    Chapter 9 relates to Enhancements of about £12bn.


    January 30, 2014 at 12:50 pm

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