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HS2 and the average car journey

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The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee ‘may well have overlooked arguments that the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd had significantly underestimated the likely transfer of motorists and airline passengers to rail travel after HS2 is completed — an important consideration, since the average car journey results in three times more carbon dioxide per kilometre travelled than the equivalent train journey, and a short-haul air passenger produces even more CO2‘, according to Railnews (Alan Marshall).

Encouraging travellers to switch from cars and airlines to inter-city trains brings no benefits for the environment, Lancaster University research concluded (Daily Telegraph, 21 June 2004)

“Encouraging travellers to switch from cars and airlines to inter-city trains brings no benefits for the environment, Lancaster University research concluded” (Daily Telegraph, 21 June 2004)

Whether or not the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd has significantly underestimated the likely transfer of motorists and airline passengers to rail travel from HS2, is not knowable. But in terms of the life cycle, the effects of doubling or tripling modal shift from road or air are unlikely to make much difference to its carbon accounting.

HS2 could never be a substitute for the “average car journey“, because around ~95% of trips (by all modes) in Great Britain are less than 40 km (DfT, 2010). The ‘average car journey’ is likely to happen within a single urban area and be less than 15 km long. (Load factor and secondary carbon are significant factors for urban rail systems too; a trip on the London Underground is unlikely to have a smaller carbon impact than the equivalent car journey).

Contrary to the impression given by Mr Marshall, the Pendolino tilting train does not appear to be significantly heavier on a per-seat basis than other trains from the same period.

Sample train type Weight,
kg
Seats Weight
per
seat (kg)
Fiat (Alstom) Pendolino 390/1  567,000 589 962
GEC-Alsthom Coradia 180 5-car  279,400 272 1027
GEC-Alsthom TGV-R  383,000 377 1015
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Written by beleben

April 20, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Posted in HS1, HS2

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