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Modal shift matters – and HS2 delivers it

Our latest report Modal Shift Matter – and HS2 delivers it – constructively challenges some of the HS2 modelling results that suggest only a small modal shift from car to rail travel, and brings forward evidence from completed projects elsewhere to show that people do switch to high speed rail as a more attractive alternative to both car use and domestic flights.

The report, produced for the High Speed Rail Group, was covered exclusively in the Independent with the article stating that “taking an hour off the journey and cutting it to around three hours would see people change to rail for 75 per cent of journeys” as well as using the examples of success in international high speed rail services to show significant modal shift.

The article also points out that the government’s newly published IRP was widely criticised for cutting back on plans for east-west rail linking the north and midlands – but left most of HS2’s new west coast high speed rail route intact. A DfT spokesperson is then featured speaking on the IRP stating that “our Integrated Rail Plan outlines a historic £96bn investment in our railway – delivering high speed rail, faster upgrades and greener, more efficient services across the whole of the UK. We’ve also invited the Scottish Government to help bolster the vital transport links between our nations and are considering recommendations to upgrade the West Coast Main Line north of Crewe, following last year’s Union Connectivity Review

The report highlights the role that HS2 has to play in decarbonising freight, taking pressure off the country’s busiest freight corridor, the West Coast Main Line, and so allowing more freight trains to be run. It is estimated that 40% of today’s HGV road mileage could switch to a better rail alternative.

Modal shift matters – portrait version

Modal shift matters – landscape version

Jim Steer, Director, Greengauge 21 and author of the report said: “The undeniable contribution that HS2 services can make in reducing carbon emissions is substantial and has been under-reported across the years…Modal shift will happen with HS2, much like it has across the world where high speed rail services have already been provided and integrated with other forms of transport. In this report, we have shown that high speed rail has the unique capability to achieve the modal shift that will be required to reach net zero.”

Mark Southwell, chief of civil infrastructure at infrastructure planners, AECOM, who contributed to the report said: “We need to shift to low carbon forms of mobility to limit global warming. As this report demonstrates, the evidence to support a sustainable, low carbon, high speed rail network is compelling.”