What lies ahead for HS2?

25 September, 2020

In the final session of last week’s Transport Times UK Rail Summit, chair Professor David Begg reflected on the aim set out by the Northern Way for HS2 back in Autumn 2009 – to get Leeds as well as Manchester with a transformed connection to London in a similar timescale.

The following is Greengauge 21’s response:

The equality of timescale ambition is long lost. While North West England will benefit from Phase 1 and 2a in the first half of the 2030s, as the conference interview with HS2 CEO Mark Thurston made clear, the Eastern Arm of HS2 from the Midlands to Leeds can only come later, hopefully by the 2040s. And when it does come, the western arm

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What is the purpose of HS2’s Eastern Arm?

30 July, 2020

The Eastern Arm of HS2 is a critical part of an Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands but its role and function can be significantly strengthened says a new report by Greengauge 21.

The report from Greengauge 21 calls for clarity on the role and function of HS2’s planned eastern arm.

“Ten years ago, the aim was to get an HS2 London-Leeds journey time to match Manchester’s”, says report co-author Jim Steer. To achieve this, trains would pass through the East Midlands and South Yorkshire non-stop. This means that the key intermediate cities of Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield would need to be served by new connections to the HS2 line, to be funded outside the HS2 project.

“The original ambition is

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Cities, Coronavirus and Public Transport

16 July, 2020

In our latest short new report, Greengauge 21 examines the impact of Coronavirus on cities and public transport.

The current restrictions on public transport use – for essential journeys only – are now being  eased in a measured way. Cities depend on public transport. Their economies will not be able to recover until public transport is fully operational. and judged safe to use.

In this extract from an upcoming report for the UK2070 Commission on the transport revolution needed to ‘level up’ the national economy, we summarise the likely effects of Coronavirus on travel demand. We argue that a restored, healthy and improved public transport service is central to national economic recovery and to compliance with Government commitments on climate change.

You can read the full report here: Coronavirus Cities and Public Transport

While a lot of interest has centred on ‘work from home’ instead of commuting to offices, the report points out that journeys to work account for fewer than 1 in 5 of all journeys and office-based work accounts for a minority of jobs.

There are some practical steps for Government that will help economic recovery. The report provides evidence that government itself is a crucial city-based activity that spawns its own business infrastructure. This is an added reason why dispersal of central Government functions – as well as devolution of powers – is so crucial to regional growth. “These are suitable tactics to help regional economic recovery” says Jim Steer.

In the initial stages of re-opening the economy, Government has felt it

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International Energy Agency calls for investment in high-speed rail

18 June, 2020

In a report published today, the IEA says that the world has only 6 months to change course with the climate crisis. The stimulus packages being created this year to address the economic downturn from Covi-19 risk a sharp up-turn in emissions unless policies are well-directed.

A ‘sustainable recovery plan’ would however create 9m new green jobs each year, according to the IEA. Measures taken in the long-distance transport sector could contribute 0.65m of these new jobs annually.

As the IEA report notes:

“Some governments have started to support the aviation sector by providing financial relief packages to try to limit job losses: a co-ordinated approach would also consider investment into alternatives modes of transport such as high-speed rail (HSR).”

There are around 60 000 km of HSR in operation today, and around 32 000 km HSR lines are under construction or planned around the world.

“Accelerating plans for new HSR lines would spur new employment and could, if well prepared and executed, provide long-term economic and environmental benefits.”

Previous IEA reports have shown that around 10% of flights in Europe could be displaced by high-speed rail. This shift brings an environmental dividend. According to the new IEA report:

“An estimated 18 grammes of CO2-eq would be saved for every passenger kilometre travelled by high-speed rail rather than by air. High-speed rail, on average, is at least 12-times more energy efficient than air and road travel per passenger kilometre.”

Greengauge 21 Director Jim Steer adds:

“High-speed rail must be part of the national economic recovery plan and part of the country’s own ‘Green Deal’ given the opportunity that the IEA report emphasises to cut carbon emissions.”

You can read the report here.


We’ll take the high road

9 April, 2020

Government has published its remit for developing the integrated rail plan for the Midlands and North – which it terms High Speed North. The remit lists four key aims and the fourth is perhaps the one that risks getting least attention:

“How best to deliver rail connectivity with Scotland, in conjunction with the Scottish Government.”

It’s easy to overlook the huge air market that exists – well, did exist before Covid 19 – between Scottish and English airports. The Glasgow/Edinburgh – London daily aircraft movements in particular were huge (around 60/day each way) pre Covid 19. At the same time, rail has been

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The informed view on HS2: get it done!

6 February, 2020

After six years of design work and preparing environmental and other assessments, the Bill to proceed with HS2 was first debated in Parliament four years ago. Abandoning it now with no conceivable replacement in sight means nothing will happen for 10 years soonest.

The leaked Oakervee Review firmly recommends proceeding with HS2 and points out that suggested ‘alternatives’ would not just take longer, but also be very disruptive and bring fewer benefits. Government would be right to take Oakervee’s advice and proceed.

But the Review’s more detailed points may encourage the project’s detractors. It says that train throughput on the Phase1 railway should be planned at a maximum of 14 trains per hour (tph) rather than 18tph, retaining an option to increase this out to 16tph.

Some might assume that 4/18 (22%) of the project’s benefits would be lost. This would be wrong. In our work of 2018 ‘Beyond HS2’, we anticipated this issue. We pointed out that if it was decided to drop back from 18tph, there could be major capital costs savings (a much simpler station at Old Oak Common where it would no longer be necessary for all trains to stop) and enhanced benefits (most HS2 trains to/from Euston and Great Western trains to/from Paddington quicker by about 5 minutes). This is one of those cases where less really can be more.

Prudently, the Oakervee Review says that, to avoid delay, any changes to Phase 1 should be made within the limits and scope set by the Phase 1 Act. It wants to see better integration of the HS2 part of Euston station with existing facilities within this constraint. But it doesn’t point out that, if 18 tph is dropped, the need for a ‘second bite of the cherry’ at Euston, to provide capacity for the Phase 2b uplift in train numbers might not be needed at all – offering another capital cost saving.

We conclude that if Government accepts this part of the Oakervee Review conclusion, it should do so confident that there are ways of protecting – and indeed improving – the business case of the project.