HS2 not necessary to meet future rail capacity demand

11th October 2011 – With the planned High Speed Rail link between London and Birmingham (HS2) being debated in the House of Commons on Thursday this week (13th October 2011) opponents to the £32 billion scheme are calling for a proper examination of the capacity available from the rail alternatives, and their ability to fully meet DfT’s forecast demand, including peak periods.

If projections are correct and the UK needs to more than double its rail capacity by 2043, and if the West Coast Man line (WCML) were to be full before HS2 could be built, then the arguments for investing in alternatives to HS2 are clear:
  1. Overcrowding – HS2 offers no solution to current overcrowding for journeys to Birmingham for 15 years and Leeds and Manchester for 22 years
  2. Incremental – Investments in alternatives are incremental  so there is no wasted investment if the significant demand growth forecasted by HS2 does not materialise
  3. Quickly – Improvements can be introduced much more quickly than HS2 which offers no respite to train passengers until 2026 at the earliest
  4. Low risk – Unlike HS2 the alternative approaches are low risk and can be commercially justified.  WCML capacity can be trebled with targeted investment of the order of £2bn
  5. Resilience – Upgrades to existing infrastructure will provide a resilience allowing services to continue if a locomotive breaks down, unlike HS2 that is relying on as yet unavailable technology and a single track
  6. 18 Trains/hr – HS2 will not be able to deliver the additional capacity claimed as this relies on running 18 trains per hour which can not technically be done.  HS2 Ltd continues to refuse to release its evidence to justify the claim that 18 trains per hour is possible.
  7. Disruption – HS2 will create eight years of significant disruption as Euston is rebuilt.  Significant passenger dispersal problems will be created in London as Kings Cross passengers are diverted from Euston.  The alternative requires none of this work to be carried out.
Commenting on the alternative to meeting capacity demands, Jerry Marshal, Chairman, AGHAST, says:
“Lord Adonis has said that capacity is the ‘killer argument’ for HS2. But there are alternatives available that are better value, more commercially viable, less disruptive and can be done more quickly to meet capacity growth. I think all tax payers would expect the government to take its finances seriously and not to spend £32bn on a brand new railway before exhaustively investigating the alternative options.
“It is time that the Government looked at HS2 objectively rather than politically and dropped this unaffordable white elephant.” he adds.
Detailed figures
Detailed capacity calculations can be found in the ‘arithmetic of alternatives’. This document shows not only the DfT solution (that was itself better than HS2), but the much better optimised alternative developed by 51m (a consortium of Local Authorities). Both more than meet the doubling in forecast demand. Details can be found at www.betterthanhs2.org.