With just 18 days to go (as of 11th July) before the Department for Transport closes its consultation on high speed rail, Michael Fabricant has submitted his own response.
“While I recognise that there is near capacity congestion on north-south rail lines, HS2 is not the only answer to high speed travel and rail gridlock. The more analyses I read on the subject, the more sceptical I become that HS2 – originally proposed by the Labour Government – is the solution the Coalition Government should be pursuing.
“It is important that the Government investigate other ways of achieving their manifesto commitment to deliver high speed rail; ways which may be much cheaper, can be completed more quickly, and which will have a less damaging impact on the environment nationally and in my own part of Staffordshire” says Michael. “I welcome the independent inquiry by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee into this matter. They will be weighing up all the economic and technical arguments with the help of independent specialists and I look forward to reading their conclusions when they are published later this year.
“In the meantime, I urge everyone with an interest in the matter to make their views known on HS2 by either writing to
High Speed Rail Consultation
PO Box 59528
or using the website: http://highspeedrail.dft.gov.uk/ ” adds Michael Fabricant.
Michael Fabricant’s submission to the Consultation is as follows:-
This brief summary outlines my views for inclusion in the High Speed Rail Consultation. I am aware that other organisations will have submitted detailed quantitative analyses and these are not duplicated here.
1) Capacity I recognise that north-south rail routes are reaching full capacity at peak travel times and a solution needs to be found to meet rail travel demands for the future. Doing nothing is not an option.
2) Demand However, I and the Oxera report commissioned by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee are sceptical that future demand projections for rail travel suggested by HS2 are accurate. These projections are optimistic regarding future passenger demand and are used to justify the absolute need for 2 additional rail tracks to relieve congestion.
3) Benefit to Cost Ratio This too is in doubt as it grossly undervalues work undertaken by many business travellers while on train journeys.
4) High Speed Rail (HSR) The Government is committed to High Speed Rail. This can be achieved by HS2, or by an alternative new route, or by using existing tracks upgraded for use with high speed tilting trains albeit at a slightly lower speed than that provided by HS2.
5) Rail Package 2 I am conscious that RP2 would increase capacity on the West Coast Main Line and similar increases of capacity could be achieved on other north-south rail routes. A more realistic estimate of future passenger demand might be met by using existing track with RP2 upgrades. This option would have the advantage of being far cheaper and delivering more rapid completion to Manchester, Leeds, and Scotland. The environmental impact would also be less than HS2.
6) Cost Alternatives Notwithstanding the reliability or otherwise of the cost forecast for the delivery of HS2, it would be wrong for the Department of Transport not to analyse fully the cost-benefits of alternative routes better linking airports including London Heathrow, and/or better utilising existing transport corridors, and/or upgrading existing rail tracks.
7) Economic Benefit Depending on the overall cost of the project and the time taken to deliver it, there would be substantial economic benefit to the United Kingdom arising from the increased capacity of north-south rail services. However, I note that HS2 trains will not stop in Staffordshire and the direct economic benefits to the Lichfield constituency will be slight if any.
8) Environmental Impact The claim that HS2 is carbon neutral has been challenged. Moreover, the environmental impact on Staffordshire would be considerable as it passes through hitherto unspoiled countryside and centres of population. Nevertheless, it should be recorded that the impact on the Lichfield Parliamentary Constituency, while considerable, is far less now that the original plan to construct a viaduct over the eastern side of the City of Lichfield has been abandoned.
9) The Economy While it is recognised that major expenditure on HS2 will not commence until 2017, HM Treasury forecasts still project public sector net national debt to be 67.4% of GDP in the period 2015-16 and is unlikely to have improved much by 2017. If there is any doubt concerning future rail demand forecasts and the ability for less expensive solutions to relieve north-south rail future congestion, these must be explored before the Government commits itself to HS2.
10) HSR Consultation I note the format of the Consultation and its questions. I believe them to be leading and not designed to elicit an unbiased response.
11) Independent Inquiry I welcome the decision of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee to investigate independently ‘The Case for High Speed Rail’ and note that its conclusions are likely to be published in October 2011. I shall have considerable regard for their findings.