Do we need the extra capacity of the HS2 railway?

 

             The Secretary of State for Transport asked for my views on the capacity argument for HS2.  I thought I would share them with you.

              To establish that HS2 is needed on capacity grounds the government has to be able to demonstrate three main points. Firstly, that the current WCML is full or nearly full. Secondly that there are no easier or cheaper ways of adding significant capacity to the WCML or providing an alternative  to tackle any future capacity problems. Thirdly, that the high forecasts of likely passenger growth and  use of HS2 are realistic. I remain to be persuaded on each of these three matters.

 

                The government has been coy about current usage of the WCML. Reported figures say that in the evening peak out of Euston the loadings are around 50%, but this does not take into account the move to 11 carriage trains from 9 carriage trains which probably takes it down to 45%.  As the idea behind HS2 is to encourage morning outbound to the north from Euston and inbound to London in the evenings – otherwise it is just strengthening London’s business and leisure pull – the current usage rates are clearly well below half. My own use of the outbound trains in the morning tell me loadings on some of these trains  are around 25% or less, though I accept these are spot checks, not properly calculated averages . I would be happy to publish the exact figures if the railway would supply them.  To win  the argument the government needs to show higher current usage. It is also the case that some  other train lines are considerably more crowded than the WCML, with the Paddington-west country lines probably the worst crowded operating at near full capacity already for periods of the day with severe congestion problems at peaks.

 

                   Should the WCML become more used, then there are easier ways of creating more capacity. Trains to the main destinations could be lengthened. One or more of the  first class carriages could be switched to standard class, as first class seems particularly underused. The purchase of lighter trains with better brakes and better signals could lead to more trains an hour being run on the existing line. These would be much cheaper fixes than building a new line. A report leaked this morning says that increasing capacity on the existing lines would mean disruptive works each week-end. Some of the ideas in this paragraph require different specifications of train,  which would not disrupt the track. Track works can be done at week-ends and overnight to avoid interrupting busy schedules.

 

                   The forecasts for use of HS2 services are very optimistic. HS1 forecasts were far too high, leading to a 30% overstatement of future demand. The idea that once in full operation the railway will be able to fill 18 large trains a hour seems unlikely. The forecasts assume a large proportion of the passengers on HS2 will be switchers from current WCML services. There are simply not nearly enough current passengers to do this, so the forecast relies on an assumed surge in travel on this particular route. It is not clear why.

              The architects of the project also concede that these forecasts will be very dependent on fares policy and the competitive response of the existing mainline operators and the other transport challengers – coaches, planes etc. The only way I could see that the HS2 operators could fill some of their many trains would be through heavy fare discounting, which would undermine the economics of the project even more.We should expect a strong competitive response from some challengers, leading to less fare revenue than forecast.

 

                 Commuters to Milton Keynes and Watford may well increase substantially and may need more capacity. HS2 would be a very   expensive  way of trying to do that. For the rest I remain to be convinced there is enough demand to have a viable current WCML, let alone pay for an expensive HS2 as well.

 

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117 Comments

  1. Mark B
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    Mr. J. Redwood MP said;
    “The purchase of lighter trains with better brakes and better signals could lead to more trains an hour being run on the existing line.”

    That is the kind of thinking that I like – Out of the Box !

    But it important to remember, that our railways were first built with private investment. If HS2 is considered by Government to be such a good thing, then we should leave it to the private sector to build, maintain and operate it. If private investors turn away, then it cannot be considered commercially viable. Government needs to give private industry the green light to build such a thing but nothing else.

    Also, why do we need this extra capacity if the North of England is going down the pan economically ? Who benefits from such an expensive capital project such as this ? More questions need to be asked and answered I think.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      you cannot leave it to private investment when the main competition will come from a state subsidised west coast main line. private investors tend not to want to compete with heavily state subsidised undertakings.

      • Mick Anderson
        Posted October 28, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

        So, we can test whether HS2 is viable by removing the subsidy for WCML….?

      • Robert cb Miller
        Posted October 29, 2013 at 1:33 am | Permalink

        Then stop subsidising the WCML!

  2. lifelogic
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Indeed there are also the huge negatives of all the properties blighted or demolished lives disrupted, the damage is already being done. Also the huge lost opportunity cost of what could have been done with the £80 billion or so it will certainly end up costing.

    Widening a few motorways, roads and letting some private coach companies expand would be far more sensible. Coaches are far more flexible than trains they can go from Bracknell to Birmingham via Oxford or from Guildford to Manchester via Birmingham and Warrington.
    They are cheaper, more efficient and more flexible as they can change their routes according to demand. The wider roads would also benefit cars, vans, existing coaches users and trucks too. It will also not need any huge ongoing subsidy (as HS2 clearly will). Indeed with road tax and fuel tax it would generate more revenue for government more than enough for the maintenance.

    Far cheaper, far more use, far more flexible and benefits far more people.

    If they really want a high speed train it should run round the M25 from Heathrow to Gatwick and back in about a 15 mins shuttle, with a new runway at each airport. This as people do not fly with their cars (so train work well for them) and we clearly need a proper five+ runway hub airport.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      Let us hope Labour rescue Cameron by killing this daft socialist HS2, shiny new train scheme, as they did over his warmongering.

    • Hope
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Do not forget the hidden parts of the reports that talked about job losses, businesses and homes affected by HS2 that the government do not want us to know about as it was too sensitive. Stuck on the M25 yesterday on one of the many overcrowded roads I fail to understand how anyone could think HS2 has any merit, then again, the EU has so many other vanity projects to waste our taxes on that I do not agree with. Heathrow overcrowded and more taxes heaped on air travel by this government and you are left wondering is there any plan to address the economic mess? Three years in and just tinkering. All aspects of government should be headed in one direction not the star burst to catch the attention etc ed

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 28, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        Indeed most travel by road, as it is so much more flexible, cheaper and you can carry things/people with you. Divert when needed if plans change and pick up/drop of the children, wife or shopping on route. Wider roads and a level tax/subsidy playing field between trains, cars & vans are what is clearly needed. Not the absurd fiscal/subsidy bias to trains. They are not more energy efficient just because they and the BBC say so just look at the real figures

        We do not need absurd Cameron vanity projects. In the UK the short distances are generally car/van/ coach distances not train distance. Longer journeys are best done by air usually anyway.The existing track needs some better management, simpler fairs and a few minor tweaks only. But politicians only want grand projects – to overcome their personal inadequacies one assumes.

        • Bazman
          Posted October 29, 2013 at 6:53 am | Permalink

          Yet to explain how it is possible to commute long distances? by coach? Something you will never have to do, but everyone else should. Better roads around London and easy trains to the airports for yourself too I presume. The rest as usual can ram it as they are just serfs huh? You’re usual (silly ed) argument. Why not have special roads and drivers for the rich? Ironically this may be the case with HS2 and if you needed this would be all for it. For sure as a high speed rail link within London you are all for. etc

          • Edward2
            Posted October 29, 2013 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

            There are already first and second class areas on trains, planes and coaches so why not on the roads too Baz?

          • alan jutson
            Posted October 30, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

            Baz

            “….Roads for the rich…”

            be careful, road tolls are not off the agenda yet !!!

          • Bazman
            Posted October 30, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

            Because Edward like the A14 project is gong to do many will just aviod the tolls and drive through unsuitable roads like past you house say. Or cause massive problems for many other roads. Why are not for the abolish of helicopter laws and house sharing.

          • Edward2
            Posted October 31, 2013 at 12:23 am | Permalink

            They would soon realise that spending a few pounds saves them more in time and fuel and so go back to the A14 fast safe new toll road.
            PS I don’t mind helicopters and house sharing is a good thing to encourage with people looking for cheaper accommodation everywhere.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 1, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

            The reality is out on that edward, but it only takes a small incident on the A14 to make driving impossible in my village. many will avoid tolls as they no choice. They just cannot and/or will not pay. The Ritz argument you so love.

          • Edward2
            Posted November 1, 2013 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

            Just a bit of choice for us all.
            Makes life less dull Baz.
            Save an hour of your life for the price of a pint
            People say they can’t afford these things but choose to drink and smoke and spend loads on Sky TV every month.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 2, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

            Nobody is poor because they drink smoke and watch SKY the oldest and most stupid argument in the book. Plus they have a car and do not live in the third world or the fifteenth century. Maybe they should be paid less because of this and the money saved to expand business and the economy? Retarded. Ram it.

  3. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    A few issues are being confused :-

    capacity… which can be divided into demographical necessity
    efficiency… the ability to get us neatly and quickly on time to where we are going.
    effectiveness….. whether this would improve standards for all.
    logistics…whether there would be any impact on this.
    debt.. whether going deliberately into debt would improve our power status as citizens and employers / vulnerability.
    assumptions…whether this would create wealth.. realistically.. not speculation

    remember not much real money around…IT IS ALL BORROWED. and that gives a collective position of yes sir, no sir , 3 bags full sir.

  4. alan jutson
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    I would have thought that a proper and very detailed investigation of present usage of the existing system would have been one of the very first tasks to have been undertaken, before even a route had been proposed for a new line, let alone even costed.

    But then I suppose if usage was not one of the criteria judged to be thought neccessary by those in power at the time, then it would be no surprise, but equally they should not be surprised, if when built, they find out it is not used.

    Was a proper audit of passenger travel ever completed, if so by whom ?

    The more I hear of this project, the less I like it.
    The arguments and reasons for its construction seem to vary from day-day which is always a worry on any project planned.

    The so called advantage of train travel surely is that you transport as many people from A to B as efficiently as possible, with minimum delay, which means regular stops at stations at sensible intervals to collect passengers who pay revenue.
    The more stops it makes the slower it will be, but the more regular commuter traffic/passengers it will collect.

    The less it stops, the quicker the journey, but the fewer poeple it will pick up on the way.
    Thus the two extreme points of start and finish then become critical as loading points.
    Just how much traffic demand is there from London to Birmingham, and will 10 mins make any difference, bearing in mind an onward local journey would be required in addition at both ends, because at the moment immediate beam me up Scotty type time travel to local stations from home or office is not possible..

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      Alan – bullseye (again!)

      Why this is part of a Great European Plan from DG MOVE. Therefore it has not been thought through properly and it is only now that it has been agreed that people, like you and our host, are beginning to ask the correct questions.

      Which once again proves two things: 1. the State is remote (but not as remote as Europe) and therefore makes broad plans which often do not work in practice. 2. Governments are pretty rubbish organisers because there is no risk. Why has no independent, free company come forward to claim the rewards for an ECML for instance? (Along the old Great Central).

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

      Indeed and if you make fewer stops you make people travel further to get on (often initially in the wrong direction thus lengthening the journey hugely & perhaps with a double there and back taxi or car link) just to get to the few pick up point in use.

      Coaches are far more flexible, cheaper and more versatile.

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 28, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

        Trains and HS trains are also more vulnerable to unions blackmail, weather disruption (as we see today), vandalism and terrorism. Often run (like so much of the state sector) for the benefit of staff, thus they often do not run or very limited at times inconvenient for staff – Christmas New Years and Easter etc.

        • Anonymous
          Posted October 28, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

          Lifelogic – Railways do operate New Year and Easter. Christmas Day and Boxing Day are used for engineering work.

          • lifelogic
            Posted October 28, 2013 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

            Not with a decent full reliable service in my direct experience (I admit it was some years back) – probably best avoided.

          • lifelogic
            Posted October 29, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink

            Not many even run at night either so not much use then either.

          • Anonymous
            Posted October 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

            Lifelogic – There is (believe it or not) reduced demand on bank holidays (nothing like commuter traffic.) so weekend timetables are operated instead of full ones.

            Network Rail is responsible for closure over Christmas Day and Boxing Day according to the Daily Mail yesterday. They do this for engineering purposes but are likely to try running services this year to see what happens.

            Rail staff on many TOCs get far less time off than most other workers over these periods and that which is given is ‘paid’ for from annual leave entitlements.

            We are no longer a Christian country and so Christmas holidays ought to be stopped altogether in my view. With the amount of workers now demanded to work this period by people who want to eat out, drink and keep shopping during the festivities then there seems little point to it.

            Do you think the people who ‘volunteer’ to work Christmas for double minimum wage really have a choice about it ?

        • Bazman
          Posted October 29, 2013 at 6:56 am | Permalink

          No blackmail from the private sector? Energy companies? Chunter chunter.

          • Bazman
            Posted October 29, 2013 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

            Government lawyers whisper that four big private contractors could be prosecuted for fiddling the public sector, So the next time you are claiming that the private sector’s more efficient than the public sector you must mean better at ripping off taxpayers. You will predictably tell us that the government should be more careful. Like little old ladies should when buying stair-lifts or roofing systems without their sons advice too? We should employ an army of bureaucrats, lawyers and experts to supervise any purchase from the private sector. It’s not socialist housing benefits to privare landlords here we are talking about. Ram it.

          • Edward2
            Posted October 29, 2013 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

            Sack the public sector idiots who buy from overpriced companies and sign useless contracts Baz.
            They would get the sack if they worked as buyers in a private sector company.
            Trouble is they are not bothered because its OPM and its easy come and easy go.
            (OPM=other peoples money)

          • alan jutson
            Posted October 30, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

            Baz

            You are correct that it would appear that some private Companies may be making extraordinary profits from Government contracts, PFI in particular.

            But we are informed that they still cost less than if they were run by our politicians.
            If so, what does that say about the size of the waste that is happening in government run departments.

            Which is worse ?

  5. Andyvan
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    HS2 is yet another ridiculous vanity project that will benefit big business and their friends in Parliament to the massive detriment of the UK tax slaves. How has such an absurd scheme been allowed to even get discussed let alone started? I have yet to hear anybody in favour of it except those on the high speed gravy train themselves. The whole thing highlights exactly how democracy really works in Britain.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      As you say:- I have yet to hear anybody in favour of it except those on the high speed gravy train themselves. The whole thing highlights exactly how democracy really works in Britain.

      Indeed and ditto for the EU, the Millennium Dome, the Olympics and the “fake green” quack energy/global warming exaggerations, the expensive tram systems in Manchester/Edinbrough etc., the hugely expensive Scottish and other parliament building, the Millenium Bug, the empty bus lanes, the road blocking red lights ………..

      • Hope
        Posted October 28, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        It is part of an EU infrastructure project to link all main cities in Europe, it was never about cost or usuage. Please stop insulting our intelligence. It has been decided in the EU and the government is doing its best to come up with reasons to justify it without mentioning Europe in case of placing the EU in a poor light. Like the energy policy, its main failings lie in the EU, implemented by Labour and gold plated by the Tory led coalition.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      Andy–HS2 panders to people who live in London who want to go quickly to (a Parkway outside) Birmingham. Few if any stops. How many such people can there be? It would be crazy even without the ghastly effect on well populated beautiful countryside. And I can scarcely believe that neither John nor any of his commenters thus far today has mentioned the Great Central possibility which is largely already there, Continental loading gauge and all. Freight certainly does not need High Speed. All that said, the Labour Party’s prevarication on this subject and others has been despicable.

  6. Robert K
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    HS2 is a wasteful vanity project whose economics only work when calculated by a politically-motivated spreadsheet jockey. JR’s analysis shows there is no capacity problem. In any event, look at the way capacity has been enhanced on the Tube in recent years thanks to better signalling and automated controls. Trains on the Central Line now run every 90 seconds during the peak period, rather than every 3-5 minutes only a few years ago.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      No only that but if they charged the true (unsubsidised) cost for the train tickets there would be even more free capacity as most customers would go by the cheaper car, bus or coach.

      • Bazman
        Posted October 29, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        How is it possible to commute long distances in a car or on a coach? If you cannot answer this then you should not write any more about getting rid of trains.

        • Edward2
          Posted October 29, 2013 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

          Its quite possible to drive in a comfy car from London to Edinburgh in a day or from the Midlands to Aberdeen in a day, especially if you have two drivers.
          So where is the problem Baz.
          Car for me any time.
          Trains are to expensive and too unreliable and slow.

          • Bazman
            Posted October 30, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

            Every day is not practical or realistic. for large numbers of people over long distances with parking too As for sharing you can also share your house too. If you each had a bedroom cost could be cut by a great deal. If bedrooms where shared then living costs would plummet. Are you against this idea for solving the housing shortage?

          • Edward2
            Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

            I don’t think many people travel London to Scotland every day by train either Baz so thats a pointless argument.
            I agree with maximising spare bedroom space thats why the changes to benefit rules are good.
            Taking in a lodger can be financially beneficial and socially responsible.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 2, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

            any lodgers in your house edward? Have you ever lived in shared accommodation with anyone other than your family. No? Then do not recommend it for others.

        • alan jutson
          Posted October 30, 2013 at 7:58 am | Permalink

          Bazman

          Remember to add on the journey time to and from the stations at each end when making comparisons.

          On very lengthy journies I would agree with you, but in the UK, how many people go from London to Scotland.

          London – Birmingham is hardly a long journey is it.

          • Bazman
            Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

            Not every day five or six days a week for large numbers of people. Manchester to London or Journeys through a number of a roads is tiresome. Why is the perbrough to London line so full every day? Are they all bone idle. Not real this is not a one off journey to visit friends. Due to the physical nature my work about 3/4 of an hour is the max journey time every day each way. A hour for most is the max. Every day every week over years. Many do more this is true what a nightmare for them. Weather, roadworks, accidents. Many would struggle to any driving like this and any other of the schemes for living that do not ally to themselves and for thsi reason politics is personal and I will hack the legs of any players saying these things.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Up to Milton Keynes there are four lines running parallel on the existing WCML. That makes for plenty of capacity and the running of local trains with express services.

    The issue of remedying the North-South divide is an emotive one much loved by the BBC. The fact is that there is a divide between London and every other region (apart from the South East) – not just the North. Poverty can be worse in the West in fact – where house prices have held up but earnings have gone down. At least housing has become more affordable in the North.

    The sort of money that HS2 is going to cost could improve the wider transport network to far greater effect for EVERY region – and still generate work and wealth in Keynesian style as we are promised of HS2. Better still it could be used to bridge gaps in our dangerously under resourced power grid.

    Alas – our leading politicians seem to love domes, Olympic ceremonies, putting money towards dubious foreign aid and futuristic looking train sets. All of them vanity projects.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      I do wonder if this project is FOR the BBC. I read something recently about one of their presenters who commutes from London to Manchester every day to read the news on the breakfast program.

      It is clearly important that her journey time be reduced without regard to cost.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted October 29, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      Anon–Better yet and by far is not to spend the money at all

  8. Bert Young
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I am sure George Osborne did not propose to the Chinese recently that HS2 was an interesting and worthwhile investment ; equally I am sure the Chinese , on their own initiative , ruled it out . So far I have not heard of any argument in favour of this project ( economic or otherwise ) and I certainly have not heard of any financial institution that is willing to back it . Other methods of transport are more competitive and versatile and are able to attract outside investment ; there the argument should rest .

  9. stred
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Longer trains could be even longer if 2 trains left 2 platforms and automatically coupled soon afterwards, then they could split after the main part of journey to go to different destinations. Also, cpacity could be increased by upgrading existing or building new lines dedicated to freight nad local traffic. This would be much more energy efficient. HS2 is just big euro business with commissioners and civil servants acting as agents.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      I wonder if it would beyond the wit of man to do as you suggest and, at stations, pull in to let passengers leave or enter the front 8 carriages and then move the train forwards to let the rear 8 carriages do the same.

      The only problem occurs at the end of the line. Surely it would be easier to double the length of the platforms at the stations that are at the end of a line.

      • alan jutson
        Posted October 28, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        Mike

        No need to move the train forward at all.

        Just let it pull up with a couple of carraiges forward of the platform, let people get on, they turn left or right and they walk through the interconnecting carraiges to empty seats.

        Thus no train time wasted at stations

        As you say problems at each end, but I guess not impossible to resolve.

      • stred
        Posted October 28, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

        There is not enough space to double the length of platforms at the stations in London. What I am suggesting is a train for Manchester could start from platform 1 and another for Leeds from platform 2. The first train starts off slowly and waits for the other to follow a minute later and couple up behind it say a mile up the track, then whizz off at 120mph together to a spltting point, where the train behind decouples and turns up another track.

        If the combined length of the train is 1/4 of a mile, runnning at 2 miles/minute it would only take 7.5 seconds to pass. It would be essential to avoid a link between trains, otherwise passengers could find themselves going to the wrong destination.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      Are you suggesting a return of the “slip coach”? Ah steam, they knew how to do in them days!

      • stred
        Posted October 28, 2013 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

        Sort of. But with a lot of coaches and electric engines with automatic coupling. A second diver would be necessary.

  10. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    JR: “We should expect a strong competitive response from some challengers, leading to less fare revenue than forecast.”
    Unless the government load additional taxes and charges on the competitors, as they have done in the energy market to drive up prices in order to make their expensive projects appear less so!
    Please dispatch this inordinately expensive vanity project to the waste bin where it belongs. I should add that I live in the North West of England and will not be directly affected by the construction.

  11. Atlas
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    HS2 seems to be a vanity project – a project we can ill afford.

  12. cosmic
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    It’s obvious there’s no clear and convincing reason for the huge expense on HS2, otherwise the justification would have been more consistent.

    It’s quite ridiculous to spend £40 billion plus on a project which fulfils no clear need, using hand waving arguments about developing the transport infrastructure, especially when the finances of the country are in such a state.

    Something I wonder about is the susceptibility of a 200mph prestige train as a target for terrorism. Protecting it from such a threat could certainly be done, but at the cost of the same sort of security measures applied to passengers that we have at airports plus the added cost of monitoring the line, thus further diluting the case for it.

    It really does look like the most ridiculous white elephant.

  13. Richard1
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    The more the arguments are exposed to public scrutiny the weaker they are revealed to be. The Govt is floundering from one justification to the next. The case illustrates nicely what a bad investor any government is – it decides investment programmes on political criteria without any real regard for actual demand from the market, or at least no more than a bureaucrat’s or politician’s hunch, and then commits huge public expenditure. Finally it back-solves into the investment calculation in order to show it ‘pays’ by using ludicrous invented metrics such as value of time on a train and likelihood of encouraging more North-South business in the 2030s because train travel is a bit quicker!

    The Conservatives should find a way out of this white elephant before Ed Balls ‘spends’ the £50bn on some other bungs to potential Labour voters.

  14. formula57
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Alternative ways of spending c. £80 billion must be myriad, even restricted to transport infrastructure and futher restricted to doing a worthwhile amount of good for the people. You show cogently that the case for HS2 is not made: let us hope the Transport Secretary is working for us all and can agree.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      ‘Alternative ways of spending c. £80 billion must be myriad’ … Yes, it ought to buy you 6 new Hinkley type nuclear power stations. (There must be economies of scale by buying 6 instead of 5 (5 x 16 billion)).

      Which with the one already signed up for, would give us half our capacity in one easy movement.

  15. English Pensioner
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    We need to ask whether the demand for very expensive seats on HS2 will actually exist. Will there be all the business travellers that have been predicted? I suspect the rich businessmen are more likely to use helicopters for point to point transport, whilst people like myself will continue to prefer to use the car (“two for the price of one” for passengers). Will companies prefer to use something like video conferencing, which saves both time and travelling costs? Certainly my daughter’s American employer has done so resulting in considerably less trans-Atlantic business flights.
    We also need to ask whether we are using the latest technology. I have read about California’s proposed “train in a tube” which could go far faster. I don’t profess to understand the detail, or whether is is practical, but surely other ideas should be considered. In the past Britain was always first in the field with new ideas, but now we seem to slavishly copy others.
    Has anyone considered the cost of a helicopter shuttle service between London and Birmingham which might be far more attractive to the business travellers? It could operate from somewhere like Northolt, and the A40 could at last have the proposed improvements to provide a faster road journey and benefit local travellers as well. OK, I know the Greens would object, but so what?

    • Bazman
      Posted October 29, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Subsidised helicopters? I’m surprised we haven’t got them already. Get rid of all noise laws relating to them and allow them to land or hover on any building in London, even large twin rotor ones. Get rid of all these absurd regulations now and see the wealthy move here. Even if you have a private jet you still have to share the roads with the rest of the surfs. The money raised in taxation could then be spent on transport.

  16. Neil Craig
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    An advantage of lighter construction and thus more numerous trains is that waiting times are significantly reduced. If an important part of HS2 is that you will arrive, perhaps as little as, 15 minutes earlier, getting trains every 15 minutes rather than 30 should be valuable.

    If rail were fully automated numbers of drivers would be no constraint and single carriage units, able to break as fast a buses could leave a minute apart. This Wiki list of unmanned trains and more revealingly, of more trains whose “drivers” do not drive but only press the button to open doors, shows we don’t need drivers and they are only there to placate unions.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_driverless_trains

    • uanime5
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

      The Wiki shows that driverless trains only work when:

      1) The track is sealed off so a vehicle or person can’t get onto it.
      2) There’s only a few trains on the track at any time.
      3) It’s used over short distances (under 15km).

      So while it may work for theme parks, airports, and monorails it’s useless for trains that will travel up and down the country.

      • alan jutson
        Posted October 29, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

        Uni5

        How about the Docklands light railway.

        Been running driverless trains for years

        • Edward2
          Posted October 29, 2013 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

          Indeed Alan
          There are many other driverless trains operating all over the world which do not match Uni’s statement.

          • Bazman
            Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:55 am | Permalink

            Read what he wrote in most cases this will be right.

          • Edward2
            Posted November 1, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

            Do some research on the topic before backing your pal with further incorrect comments.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 1, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

            Indeedy! Indeed. The Docklands Railways is capable of unattended operation, but attendants are present on trains and many others of the driverless trains are in specific places and routes. Now that is not to say a universal system cannot be developed, but as with most automation to replace the human it depends on cost and dogma from the likes of Boris Johnston to replace train drivers with train captains is typical Tory think of cost reduction at any price. Doctors to be replaced by nurses and so on. Should the chef at his favourite restaurant be replaced by a cook. Then this would be a different story of the same old story. The train one would depend on how to avoid himself being killed on a train or political death. His own skin. In both cases you can be sure he would sit in the seat facing away from the direction of travel.
            Ram it.

          • Edward2
            Posted November 1, 2013 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

            And you have a go at others for “chuntering”
            What on earth is the point you are trying to make?

  17. DaveK
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    John, as you mention Paddington and the Southwest, is there also not the chance of the “unintended consequence” being the widening of the London commuter belt with it’s inherent local effects on housing and businesses etc.. This aspect never seems to be mentioned, you would think HS2 was one way (according to the pro groups).

    A recent TV investigation showed the effect in Spain with the Madrid to Seville line and apart from one business interviewed, the rest had gone to Madrid. The only one that moved in the opposite direction was being heavily subsidised to do it and the staff nearly all commuted.

  18. Chris Rose
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I agree with the points you make, John, and would add:

    The recent encouraging economic news seems to have permitted some people to forget that the Government is still running a huge fiscal deficit and that interest rates are being held artificially low. Low interest rates will not last indefinitely, and certainly not as long as the HS2 project. The Government deficit must be reduced quickly, for if it is prolonged, the debt will become an intolerable burden for the future. In these circumstances, any Government capital project should have a high rate of return, a short pay-back time and should be attractive to private investors. The HS2 project has none of these attributes.

  19. Bob
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    If only you party leadership were as nalytical and discerning as you Mr Redwood.

    On the subject of brakes, do you know if trains are using regenerative braking systems yet?

    As for HS2, it will not improve interconnections between UK towns and cities. A high speed rail line, must, in order to run at a high speed, stop at as few destinations as possible. That will surely mean everyone crammed onto the same train. It will do little other than shuttle a select few people in and out of London in a faster time for a great cost. The South East is already sucking too much business away from the rest of the UK. The idea that it will reduce overcrowding and improve the spread of employment across the country is nonsensical.

    We would be far better spending a fraction of the cost of HS2 on improving rail networks and train stations between towns and cities across the whole of the UK. Let’s invest sensibly in more trains and longer platforms, with cheaper rail fares for passengers, rather than this ludicrous vanity project.

    • peter davies
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      @Bob

      There was a hint in a previous blog post – a lack of science graduate types in Govt leadership positions – too many lawyers, history and PR types. Thats the root of the problem

  20. BobE
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I’d rather build another British Nuclear Power station than HS2. Pretty much the same cost, but then we would own the power generated.

  21. peter davies
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I find it strange now that these questions are being asked. The viability and impact assessement are part of the business case which is the first thing you do on any new project – questions which need to be answered and proven way before the go ahead is given.

    HS1 should not be used as a comparison because prior to that there was no rail link – HS2 has as you say the WCML and ECML to compete against and both are of course upgradeable.

    The govt need to admit that the driver for this (like Royal Mail privatization) is an EU directive – how many HS trains and motorways are there in Greece and Spain that hardly get used and have helped bankrupt them?

    Nothing about double decker trains then?

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      Indeed.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      Peter–Totally agree about double decker trains, lack of comment on which proves absolutely that the “capacity” guff is baloney as was the “high speed” even more guff before it.

  22. oldtimer
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    The fact that, at this very late stage of the proposed HS2 project, you have to query issues like the current capacity usage of the WCML indicates that HS2 has not been thought through as a commercial enterprise. It is, first and foremost, a political project. It seems to have a “Made in the EU” feel about it – a grand plan to unify the continent without much regard to local circumstances or the economics of the case. We cannot afford such self indulgences.

  23. ian wragg
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Off topic. I see the Chinese are being encouraged to invest in Eggbororough power station and turn it into wood chip. Is there no end to the insanity of politicians. We are to rely on ships bringing thousands of tonnes of wood from the States. Just imagine if we have another serious conflict and the ships or ports get blockaded. Worked well in WW2 didn’t it. Why are the stations not being upgraded to burn coal which is cheap and bountiful? The mass stupidity of the inhabitants of the HoC never fails to amaze.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      Given that if we switch our power plants from burning wood to burning coal we will most likely be using imported coal it won’t make the UK any more secure if our ports are blocked.

  24. Robert Taggart
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    NO2 HS2.
    The goalposts have been changed since this vanity project was first mooted by Liebore Transport Minister Lord ‘Anorak'(to his credit !) Adonis.
    First – it was all about saving travel time.
    Second – it is all about creating capacity.
    Either way, the simpler solution be less ‘sexy’ and more boring…
    Lundun Paddington – Birmingham Snow Hill. Quadruple where necessary, Iron-out sinuous sections where necessary, Electrify throughout.
    This Anorak from ‘LMS’ territory would gladly surrender to ‘GWR’ territory – in order to save our green and pleasant land !

  25. oldtimer
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Off topic but relevant to publicly inspired projects – this one from Germany.

    “…the building has become a symbol of waste and inadequate control” says Spiegel of the new ECB building now under construction in Frankfurt. Originally budgeted at 600 million euros, it is now estimated to cost at least 1,100 million euros and could reach 1,3oo million euros. It is running three years late. The Spiegel story is here (read it and weep):
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/cost-overruns-and-delays-plague-ecb-skyscraper-project-in-frankfurt-a-930352.html

  26. Alan Wheatley
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    When I looked on the DfT website for details of how they were doing the future passenger forecast I was far from convinced that the figures are to be relied upon. The method was weak and insufficient account was taken as to changes in society that could affect numbers.

    Even accepting the forecast, we should still ask is this a trend we would wish to see for our country. For instance, passenger numbers are related to population, and it would be foolish to plan transport capacity to meet a demand based on a increased population size we do not want.

    Further, we need to evaluate the carbon impact of HS2. I believe the case has been made that HS2 would have a lower impact than alternatives, but it would, of course, increase carbon output compared with the journeys not being made! The government need to explain how infrastructure projects, such as HS2, are carbon costed in relation to the carbon objects for which they have committed us.

    We should also consider whether HS2 is the highest priority use for the Chilterns. There are many of us who live nowhere near the route who rather like the Chilterns as they are, but such voices do not seem to be included in consideration of the HS2 case.

    And the case for spending billions of our money on a railway project can not simply be judged as being the best use of the money within railway options, but best use of our money across the piece. For instance, would the money be better spend on something quite different, such a the raid deployment of fibre-optic broadband to every premises current with a telephone: the benefits would be spread thought the whole of the UK, and the need to travel would be significantly reduced.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      Trains are powered by electricity, so if the electricity is mainly generated from low carbon sources then any extra train journeys will produce little extra CO2. There may even be a reduction if people use a train instead of a car.

      • Bob
        Posted October 28, 2013 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

        @uanime5
        Maybe we should invest in wind powered trains ?

        • Alan Wheatley
          Posted November 1, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

          Nice one Bob! Although this is probably not what you had in mind, remember Brunel did try this on the Great Western.

      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted October 29, 2013 at 10:11 am | Permalink

        All uses of electricity will produce little extra CO2 if generated from low carbon sources. The faster you go the more energy it will take. And we must not overlook the big “if”.

        But this does not alter my basic point, that using energy has cost implications. There is no inherent “good” in a railway journey. Some journeys are necessary. Some journeys can be for pleasure. But it does not follow that more journeys are an advantageous advance simply because there are more.

  27. a-tracy
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I watched a program once where two designers were tasked with designing regularly used items in new ways, they created a seat for an aeroplane that was light weight and unique, its a shame the train companies can’t use some far sighted visions like this to create an economy carriage that can carry people that have no baggage, no requirement for a table or storage and just need a seat with seat belt in rows for busy commuter lines, it’s got to be better than standing for commuters, I’m not sure if the balance could cope with the extra weight of passenger numbers which is why the seats would have to be very light weight, hard wearing with a maximum passenger weight limit.

  28. Alan Wheatley
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Today’s spin is that piecemeal improvement of existing infrastructure will cause line closures for fourteen years to enable the work to take place.

    But building HS2 will also cause line closures while work is done. And it will also have an impact on the roads in places where road and rail cross, as I was interested to read in a very informative article in a railway magazine.

    The article also made clear that it will not be “high speed” all the way, because as the line has to snake around natural and man-mad obstacles some curves will have to be so tight as to necessitate a speed restriction.

  29. Roy Grainger
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    John,

    Have you any idea why Mr Cameron is so enthusiastically in favour of HS2 ? Such a large state-funded project with such uncertain benefits hardly seems like a Conservative policy at all. Like his support for the EU it seems a bit of a mystery. As in another case of his inexplicable enthusiasm, intervention in Syria, it seems we have to reply on the Labour party to kill HS2.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted October 29, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      I suspect one of Mr. Cameron’s difficulties is “the U-turn”. Labour are better placed because the price under their government has gone up substantially under the Conservative government, thus providing a plausible justification for their U-turn.

  30. behindthefrogs
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Almost all trains between Paddington and Penzance are overcrowded for part of their journey. Those which are relatively lowly occupied in the middle of the day in the Reading area become or have been commuter trains in the Plymouth area and carry many standing passengers. There needs to be a serious review of the capacity and frequency of trains in the south west

  31. Trevor Butler
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink
    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      Trevor–Who how or why could possibly argue? Even if they cost the same, which of course they very much do not, reviving the Great Central route is obviously the WTG.

  32. Iain Gill
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Routes like Taunton to Bristol are much more squeezed presently, almost always standing room only even in the middle of the day.

    It funny in the aftermath of this storm that Grand Central has their diesel trains running up and down the East Coast main line fine while the electric trains of East Coast are not doing much travelling, once again the vulnerability of overhead electric wires to storms and vandalism shows up.

    If I had the billions to spend to improve the countries transport I wouldn’t have HS2 very high up the list. I would start by improving routes like Taunton to Bristol and Sunderland link to East Coast mainline.

    A new London to midlands link could be done much more cheaply, just cut the overhead wire needs and do it with diesel trains for one. There you go another big saving from moving away from the green religion.

  33. Iain Gill
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    The other thing we need to do is find a use for the old eurostar station at waterloo, its a stupid waste of resources at the moment. i heard a rumour they were going to use it for the london terminus for all sleeper trains, ie both sleeper trains to scotland and penzance… is this true? i understand there will soon be capacity problems at euston for trains the length of the scotland sleepers. probably makes sense as extra journey time from waterloo up through to a route to scotland would hardly be noticed on a journey where the whole point is to sleep while travelling anyways.
    We could also free up the overnight railway to more commerical sleeper services, with new cheaper self powered rollingstock sleepers could be run of any length and therefore potentially viable to places like Chester, and from the South Coast to Scotland up the East Coast etc.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      Iain–And of course do not forget Motorail which some genius decided to axe, certainly to Scotland, some years back now. This was a big shock to me. The service was so manifestly effective -wake up the next morning and drive off–that to my mind it would have borne even a steep increase in its price, which never struck me as high. Think of saving hotel bill plus fuel and mileage on the car not to mention wear and tear on the driver.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted October 28, 2013 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

        Postscript–Not to mention, also, the two extra days in the Highlands and BTW my memory is that the Motorail was hard to get on to, presumably meaning it was full–certainly it seemed that way. Using the rails at night, when they would otherwise be largely idle, you might have thought would be just what the Doctor ordered as well (unless you were Doctor Beeching).

        • alan jutson
          Posted October 29, 2013 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

          Leslie

          Many years ago used the motorail sleeper from the South of France to Calais on a couple of occassions.
          Meant we could have a couple of more days in the sun, and the cost then equaled fuel, tolls, and an overnight stop for 4 people and driver was then fresh to continue the journey by road.

          Understand from reports that service is now considered poor, as is the condition of the rolling stock, but prices are high.

          Shame, it was a good service a few years ago..

      • Iain Gill
        Posted October 28, 2013 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

        I don’t understand how the sleeper trains to Scotland loose money, the prices are high and they are pretty full, I would like to know more about how the accountancy works. Yea I wouldnt have scrapped motorail either.

      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted October 29, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

        I had lunch with a chap the other day who said the Motorail stock that was built and paid for to be used with the channel tunnel was never used and is abandoned, rotting away.

        It always stuck me a good arrangement to put your car on the train of an evening in the North and get off next morning for breakfast in the middle of France.

        Could it be such a service, that avoids London, was squashed because it does avoid London?

        • Iain Gill
          Posted October 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

          Yes and the brand new sleeper trains which were built to run from the North of the country down through the channel tunnel to the continent, ordered and paid for in the last days of British Rail, were sold at a big loss to Canada. Like the Harrier jump jets, which we gave to the Americans for a nominal sum, this country sure knows how to waste money.

  34. forthurst
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Mr Ratcliffe of Ineos, owner Grangemouth refinery said that “Britain lacked USPs – unique selling points – for manufacturing investment. He said Britain, as an island, was already disadvantaged on transport costs, but to this could be added “energy, pensions, government attitude, unions, infrastructure quality, skills and tax”. DT

    By infrastructure quality, did he mean a lack of HS2? As someone who makes stuff, is he concerned about the speed with which people can move between London and Birmingham? When Birmingham was the workshop of the world, was it because of the relative speed with which people could travel between London and Birmingham or was it because Birmingham then possessed those attributes which according to Mr Ratcliffe, the UK now particularly lacks?

    As HS2 has no possibility of being cash generative, it will be a tax burden throughout its life. The more that government taxes and wastes, the less people have to spend on themselves, the less that businesses have to invest and the greater the incentive for businesses to seek the easy route of lobbying vain, greedy and gullible politicians, especially in Brussels, to waste our money rather than giving us convincing reasons for spending it ourselves. PFI hospitals and schools, aircraft carriers, carbon quotas and non-viable energy generation, all disgraceful ripoffs to be paid for by the taxpayer; do we want to add HS2 to that list?

  35. Antisthenes
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    I believe that by the time that HS2 is built it will be at a time that trains are becoming obsolete very much like the canals became with the coming of the railways. Technological advances such as road vehicles without drivers(increasing the capacity of existing roads far greater than they currently are and safer) and other modes of transport now in advanced development will be the new way. Trains and train lines are expensive to run and maintain and are certain to always need subsidizing by the taxpayer(why should the non commuter pay for the commuter who wishes to live in a more idyllic spot far away from their place of work). It does not make economic sense to not go for cheaper alternatives especially as they are already on the drawing board or no doubt soonwill be.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Road vehicles without drivers are unlikely to reduce congestion on the roads, mainly because this congestion is cause by too many people being on the same road at the same time.

      • Chris S
        Posted October 28, 2013 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

        Wrong, yet again, uanimeg.

        The technology already exists to operate driverless coaches running at 2m spacing at 60-80mph. They could operate very efficiently on a pair of dedicated motorway lanes either side of the centre reservation. They can be powered by electricity using induction charging cables under the road with a modest sized diesel engine for low speed work off the motorway.

        Small stations can be built alongside out of town motorway junctions where passengers can switch to local buses, be picked up, or hire a small car (possibly electric ) by credit card, token or mobile phone.

        This kind of system could be used all over the country, not just on the HS2 route, and would be far more flexible – of use to far more people than the 5% of the population predicted to find HS2 useful.

      • Edward2
        Posted October 29, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

        Given that congestion is mainly caused by collisions and the resulting road closures or lane closures, then autonomous vehicles which remove the element of driver error will have less collisions and so reduce congestion.

  36. Martin Ryder
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    The HS2 project should be stopped immediately.

    The money saved should not be used for anything else other than lowering the amount of money that we are borrowing.

  37. rick hamilton
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    How very depressing. Everybody against HS2 ! I suppose those in favour do not feel passionate enough to blog about it.

    As a result of political paralysis we are already decades behind more forward-looking countries where maglev lines are being built now. HS2 as planned is already out of date.

    I am no socialist but considering the rail bed, viaducts, tunnels etc will still be there in 100 years time this should surely be regarded as a long-term national project which no private investor could contemplate based on simple return on capital.
    Who knows what kind of trains will be running on this route in 2113 ?

    Considering the massive waste of taxpayers money on all the badly managed schemes that we hear of regularly, a truly advanced high speed rail project sounds like a valuable tangible asset – like the motorways in the 1960s. It would energise our construction and engineering capability and bring real benefits – not much for Birmingham but significant for those of us much further from London.

    • formula57
      Posted October 29, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      If accepting all your points, would it not be better to connect various northern cities and Birmingham by high speed rail routes rather than linking to London?

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted October 29, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      HS2 has all the makings of another “badly managed scheme” – surfeit of fact, excess of spin.

      I suggest a far better candidate for tax payer’s money to be spent on a truly advanced infrastructure project from which we will still be benefitting in 100 years time is fibre-optic broadband. And this will benefit the WHOLE country, not just the chosen few.

  38. John
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    HS2 is already a dead duck; Labour’s recent thinly veiled unwillingness to support it has done that already.

    So here we are with the various vested interests, devoid of a business case that adds up, now thrashing around in shallow water trying to come up with something – anything – to continue to justify expenditure of tens of billions of scarce money on thier pet project

    That they are now resorting to threatening everyone with ‘it will be a calamity if you don’t build it’ is frankly laughable, and in my view strong evidence of how close to the end this wasteful idea is. With an election looming and many Tory MP’s in shire counties sitting on the planned route, this will get dropped as soon as Conservative Central Office can find someone to blame the whole thing onto.

  39. The PrangWizard
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    There are many countries which have gone ahead with high speed trains. Many may remember that we, I think, were ahead in some of these developments with the ’tilting’ trains many years ago. We gave up on this because it got tricky and there were protests that ‘it’s too expensive’, ‘white elephant’ and so on. There is a long list of similar projects which we gave up on too soon and which were developed by others who had a more enlightened view of the future. We have fallen way back and I regret we will continue to do so until we get a new breed of leaders. The French are now building or may already have built trains which travel at going on 300 or 400mph. The French have a space programme which they started on the remnants of ours – we gave up – they stuck with nuclear power – we gave up. There are many other examples. We are falling down the lists because of incompetent and arrogant leaders who think that somehow we are too good, too superior, to the rest of the world to get our hands dirty. We no longer have leaders with vision. Just bean counters and the small minded who would take us back to the dark ages.

  40. Martin
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if HS2’s traffic figures assume that passengers are going to be happy to detour via Birmingham. From Eastern Scotland and North East England this adds an hour to the trip that would negate the time gain provided by HS2.

    I also hope that any East Coast franchise winner will not be blocked from upgrading the ECML in conjunction with Network Rail.

  41. Robert cb Miller
    Posted October 29, 2013 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    If it is such a good idea why don’t the politicos supporting it put say 5per cent of their pensions into it?

  42. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted October 29, 2013 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    The growth in rail travel has taken place against a backdrop of living standards that have scarcely changed since 2003 and a determination not to build additional highway capacity. When (if) living standards start rising again, more cars will be bought and demands for additional highway capacity will increase. Several of our motorways are congested enough for daytime maintenance to be impractical. It’s worth maintaining speeds on our highway network. Slow moving, stop / start cars and trucks really do burn up fuel. And let’s not forget that tolling is a workable solution to expenditure on motorway widening.

    The Government (well, Network Rail) commissioned report by WS Aktins postulates that there would be 14 years of possessions and disruption on the WCML if that line’s capacity were to be improved instead of providing HS2. Does that assume night time working? Possibly freight trains prevent that but couldn’t these be squeezed into the daytime schedule? Incidentally, increasing capacity on the ECML is easier.

    To take up Mr Redwood’s point, I know of one London line on which lengthening of platforms has / is taking place. As you leave Clapham Junction to go south, you pass Balham, Streatham Common, Norbury etc. Some of these stations are having their platforms lengthened so as to accommodate longer trains.

    But to return to HS2, I have yet to see an answer to my question: If you treat the vast infrastructure and rolling cost expenditure as a sunk cost, i.e. write it off, will the train operations make a profit on a day-to-day basis? That is the lowest possible hurdle to clear.

  43. David Williams
    Posted October 29, 2013 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    HS2 will be the biggest white elephant since the Humber Bridge.

    Meanwhile, more capacity is needed on South West trains. It’s standing room only from Guildford and at Woking passengers struggle to get on the train at all.

    By the way, how much is Brussels offering to chip in for HS2?

  44. Narrow shoulders
    Posted October 29, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    The answer to the question you pose is yes. We do need more capacity but not necessarily on that route. The money should be used to bring in double decker trains on all busy routes and then reduce the operator subsidies to account for greater income from greater passenger numbers.

    No vanity schemes just workable solutions that delivrry payback in a transparent way.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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