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Committee report says good case exists for high-speed rail

The Commons Transport Committee said today that a good case exists for a high-speed rail network linking London and cities in the Midlands, the north and Scotland.

Launching high-speed rail — the report of the inquiry into high-speed rail, including the government’s proposal for HS2 — committee chair Louise Ellman said: ‘A high-speed rail network, beginning with a line between London and the West Midlands, would provide a step change in the capacity, quality, reliability and frequency of rail services between our major cities.’

A second phase would see onward legs to Manchester and Leeds (the Y network) with connections to points further north via the existing East and West Coast main lines.

‘A high-speed line offers potential economic and strategic benefits which a conventional line does not, including a dramatic improvement in connectivity between our major cities, Heathrow and other airports, and the rest of Europe,’ she said.

She went on to claim that high-speed rail may be a catalyst for economic growth, stating it could help to ‘rebalance the economy and bridge the north-south divide’.

‘But the government must do more to promote local and regional growth strategies to ensure we get maximum economic benefit from high-speed rail,’ she said.

In its report, the committee said construction of a high-speed rail network should start with the line between London and the West Midlands but noted that under current plans high-speed rail lines won’t reach Manchester and Leeds for more than 20 years.

‘The government should also look at options to build southwards from the north and link to other lines such as the Midland Main Line,’ said Ellman.

Recommendations from the Transport Committee include government committing to the Y network before seeking parliamentary approval for HS2, and prioritisation for a full assessment of the case for building from north to south.

HS2 would cost approximately £2bn a year over 17 years and, on completion, would operate 18 trains per hour at 225mph.

The committee identified this as a risk factor for which more technical information should be published.

Chris Richards, transport policy advisor at the IET, said: ‘Some fundamental issues such as the track design speed have a knock-on effect in terms of noise and environmental mitigation, as well as route options.

‘In addition, the Transport Select Committee has accepted our view that the environmental case has not been proven, and recommends that HS2 should not be promoted as a carbon-reduction scheme.’

Readers' comments (4)

  • I have examined in details the economic cost and benefits of the HS2 project. I find very poor and no justification. I am a former finance director for a major multinational with many years experience of evaluating large projects.

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  • The only impressive aspect of this scheme is the short-term jobs and profits it will provide the construction industry at disproportionate cost to the country as a whole. It is a permanent commitment to high energy consumption to beyond the time we will be able to afford it, the solution to which can only be eternal subsidy. It is monumentally poor value for money at 3 or 4 times what other countries pay per Km. A £1m house could be built every 10metres along the route for the same price! The biggest folly however is that it will, on average, increase door to door journey times relative to current classic rail, never mind improved classic rail. The criminal damage to countryside and communities is not even being costed in the business case. The country is being duped by rail-lobby avarice on a scale that will, when we have the benefit of hindsight, put it's protagonists in the same category as, and not far behind the bankers.

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  • I wonder what documenets those in government and the transport committe have read and how they can possibly have come to the conclusion that it makes sound economic sense and is value for money. I have truly tried to see the basis of the argument but have failed completely to do so. The bottom line is that, ignoring the actual route, the proposals for HS2 make no sound financial sense. In 10 years we will be wondering why such a decision was ever taken and by then all the those involved will have quietly sloped away.

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  • To the anonymous finance director;
    So not only do you expect us to take you seriously with the financial mess in the world at the moment but I seem to remember people saying exactly the same thing about the iPad. I wonder how many of your ‘large projects’ actually work.

    To the rest of us engineers;
    The problem is that the UK is decades behind the rest of Europe (if we consider ourselves part of it). The French started in the 80’s and you can now travel is comfort and safety (I don’t believe the TGV has every had an accident – correction maybe needed) between all the major cities in mainland Europe. Here is a story about the difference in attitudes on either side of ‘The Sleve’ – when the line between London and Paris was being planned there were demonstrations in towns in the SE of the UK and the NE of France. I can’t remember the UK city, I think it was Maidstone, but I remember seeing the huge number of people with placards proclaiming their opposition to the route passing through their city on the news. What was never shown on the UK news was a very similar sized demonstration in Lille, France. The very telling difference was that they were demonstrating because the planned route was NOT going though their city and the wanted it!

    Unless we start seriously investing the some new transport infrastructure in the UK we will be dead in the water within 10 years. As it is people are so fed up with the car park which is the south east of the UK they actually consider living in another county to beat the queues – how sad it that. We have nothing we can hold up to the rest of Europe where transport is concerned (and I include airports – I go via Paris or Frankfort whenever possible) and until someone has the balls to commission some solution in the face of all the ‘naysayers’.

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