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Misinformation abounds in The Guardian’s coverage of HS2

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As previously mentioned, the Guardian has this week ‘attempted to capture the key issues’ about High Speed Two in an error-prone series of articles, called ‘HS2: who’s right?‘.

In this blogpost, the focus is on some claims from Patrick Barkham’s article of 2 February, and the Editorial of 5 February.

1. Patrick Barkham article (2 February)

Mr Barkham wrote that ‘the European average for high speed rail modal shift is 15% from cars and 30% from planes’,  and ‘HS2’s forecasts do not include carbon-saving from increased use of local passenger rail’.

[Will HS2 really help cut the UK’s carbon footprint?, Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, 2 Feb 2020]
[…]
In practice, the European average for high speed rail modal shift is 15% from cars and 30% from planes. Furthermore, HS2’s forecasts do not include carbon-saving from increased use of local passenger rail, with HS2 freeing up lines such as the west coast mainline to provide better local services.[…]

No source was given by Mr Barkham for the ‘European average modal shift’ figures. As for his statement that ‘HS2’s forecasts do not include carbon-saving from increased use of local passenger rail’, the phase one information paper E10 contradicts this, stating HS2 Ltd’s forecasts ‘include carbon mitigation from released capacity on the classic network’.

[HIGH SPEED TWO PHASE ONE INFORMATION PAPER E10: CARBON, HS2 Ltd]
[…]
When the operational and construction carbon footprints of the Proposed Scheme are combined to form a total carbon footprint over the 60 year assessment period (plus the 10 years of construction), the residual carbon ranges between 2,595,000 tCO2e and 3,155,000 tCO2e. This includes all emissions associated with construction, operation and maintenance of the Proposed Scheme, as well as modal shift, carbon mitigation from tree planting and freight benefits from released capacity on the classic network. If the same assumptions for the first 60 years of assessment are extended for another 60 years to align with the 120 year design life of the Proposed Scheme, the footprint ranges from 305,000 tCO2e to 815,000 tCO2e.

The Beleben blog asked Mr Barkham about the provenance of his “HS2’s forecasts do not include carbon-saving from increased use of local passenger rail” statement. There was no response.

2. The Guardian Editorial (5 February)

gcifhs2-05feb2020

The Editorial stated that “By segregating the high-speed operator on to its own railway, more services can run on lines that currently have to deal with a complex – and inevitably sluggish – mixture of slow and fast trains”.

[The Guardian view on HS2: let the train take the strain | Editorial, Opiniom, The Guardian, 5 Feb 2020]
[…]
The mistake is to see HS2 solely as a high-speed service to and from London. In fact the new railway’s hidden worth is that it frees up capacity on lines that are almost full and run into cities like Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. By segregating the high-speed operator on to its own railway, more services can run on lines that currently have to deal with a complex – and inevitably sluggish – mixture of slow and fast trains. That is why city leaders back HS2 even though its first phase does not reach them.[…]

Actually, the ‘mistake’ is to see HS2 as an enabler of more services running on existing lines into cities like Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds, without any supporting evidence. Because there doesn’t appear to be any.

In the case of the southern section of the West Coast Main Line, fast and slow trains already have their own pairs of tracks. The Department for Transport has stated that it ‘does not hold any detailed capacity study’ of the classic train service assumed in its (HS2) ‘Planet Forecasting Model 7.1’, but the total number of of passenger trains operating on WCML South in the with-HS2 scenario is ‘fewer than at present’.

dft-confirmation-of-fewer-not-more-trains-on-wcml-south-in-hs2-scenarios

“Fewer”, not “more”.

Written by beleben

February 6, 2020 at 9:13 pm

Posted in HS2

One Response

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  1. A useful question is: what happened with HS1? As far as I know, services were cancelled but never replaced. Which I expect to be the case with HS2.

    Mike

    February 9, 2020 at 11:06 pm


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