HS2 and national rail demand
HS2 is needed because the number of rail passenger journeys has doubled since the last day of British Rail, when 800 million travelled (claimed Nigel Harris of ‘Rail’ magazine, in a BBC Inside Out West Midlands interview).
This is a curious argument. If 800 million extra annual journeys have been accommodated without building a new line, who is to say another 800 million couldn’t be accommodated without building a new line?
It turns out that Network Rail are forecasting a lot more than 800 million extra passengers in the future on the existing railway, and this is “more than the current infrastructure was ever designed for”. But did George Stephenson or Isambard Kingdom Brunel “design for” a particular number of passengers?
“Passenger numbers have doubled in the last 20 years – this is more than the current infrastructure was ever designed for.
That number’s set to double again in the next 25 years.”
HS2 is “designed for” future intercity demand between Birmingham and London, Manchester and London, and Leeds and London. But intercity is a small proportion of rail travel, and all the indications are that existing lines would be able to meet its future demand.
Together, annual rail volume between London and the three provincial HS2 cities is less than 10 million journeys (on the figures used by Mr Harris, about 0.6 per cent of the national total).