In May 2011, Greengauge 21 submitted written evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee, for its inquiry into High Speed Rail. Our conclusions were:
- Demand for rail travel continues to exhibit a trend apparent since the mid 1990s: it is out-pacing growth on the road sector. But the scope to accommodate ever more passengers through measures such as train lengthening is reaching an inevitable limit. Without the capacity uplift that HS2 provides, there can be expected to be widespread crowding on rail services, unless fares are increased substantially (perhaps doubled) to choke off demand.
- A national high-speed rail network will improve Britain’s economic productivity and international competitiveness. It will particularly strengthen the economies of the Midlands, the North, Wales and Scotland, where there is most need, and provides the potential for inner-city regeneration around the new stations.
- The costs of the project should be subject to continuing challenge, and Greengauge 21 believes there is scope for some reduction and efficiencies. But the overall costs involved are manageable and represent no more than a continuation of the current levels of capital spend on the rail network which will otherwise subside to much lower levels post 2014.
- High-speed rail has been under serious study in Britain for 10 years. The evidence points consistently towards the need for HSR and the considerable wisdom of proceeding with its development. Delaying now will jeopardise progressing HS2 through the statutory consultation and parliamentary phases with no good reason.
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On 28 June 2011, Greengauge 21 was invited to give oral evidence to the Committee. Director Jim Steer outlined the key reasons for developing high-speed rail in Britain:
“High-speed rail is needed to support a growing and more diverse economy and will do so in a more environmentally sustainable way than any other alternative.”