Putting it to the test (part 2)

(… continued from Putting it to the test, part 1, posted on 20 Jun 2012).

In the second part of this three-part blog, I will continue my examination of how the HS2 proposal fairs when assessed against the CPRE’s “five tests for sustainable high speed rail”.

The second test is “tackle climate change and minimise energy needs”. The analysis presented by the CPRE in its document Getting Back on Track: Why new thinking is needed about High Speed Rail (here) is:

“It is clear that HS2 cannot claim to be low carbon and can only contribute to tackling climate change if planned within a much wider strategy. The other side of the coin is that a much wider strategy is likely to require significant additional rail capacity, which between London and the Midlands is best catered for by a new line of some sort.”

This is a somewhat ambivalent response and illustrates the dichotomy that CPRE finds itself in. It wants travellers to be carried by rail, which it sees as environmentally friendly, rather than road or air and sees a new London-West Midlands line as necessary in order to provide the capacity to carry additional travellers by rail. However, it regards HS2 as a “Ferrari” (see here).

With its characteristically more direct and robust approach to HS2, the Warwickshire branch of the CPRE, in its own response to the HS2 public consultation (here), remarks:

“The energy consumption is high. 50% more energy will be required to run HS2’s proposed 400 km/h trains than the existing Eurostar London-Paris trains use.”

After initially making extravagant claims about the contribution that HS2 might make to reducing domestic carbon emissions, the Government settled for the description “broadly carbon neutral” for the consultation. We were also told that “at best, high speed rail has the potential ultimately to deliver valuable carbon reductions”. In Getting Back on Track: Why new thinking is needed about High Speed Rail CPRE points out that the calculations that have been made by HS2 Ltd indicate that HS2 could “reduce or increase carbon emissions from the transport sector by 0.3%”.

So, good or bad, the HS2 Ferrari is not really going to make an impact, either way, on the need to “tackle climate change and minimise energy needs” and I think that we may conclude that, accordingly, it fails the CPRE’s second test.

The third test is “shift existing trips rather than generate new ones”. The CPRE comment on this in Getting Back on Track: Why new thinking is needed about High Speed Rail is:

“For longer passenger distance trips, this again would depends (sic) on wider demand management policies.”

Now, I may not be alone in finding this not particularly useful; to be frank I’m not exactly sure what it means. The Warwickshire branch consultation response seems to be rather more enlightening:

“The shifting of journeys from air to rail as a result of a new line will be small as internal air flights within England are a small proportion of all travel. Instead, HS2 would generate wholly new travel, including Birmingham-London commuting; and lead to longer journeys.”

HS2 Ltd can help here; it published estimates of what it called the “source of trips” for the consultation. These figures were revised in January 2012 and presented in Table 2 on page 23 of the document Economic Case for HS2: Updated appraisal of transport user benefits and wider economic benefits (here).

Whilst the detailed figures have been changed since the consultation, the overall picture has not appreciably altered. HS2 Ltd now estimates that only 3% of HS2 passengers will have “switched” from air travel and 8% from roads (cars). However the contribution from “new trips”, at 24%, is more than twice the number of passengers “mode shifting” from air and road combined.

This hardly qualifies as meeting the requirement to “shift existing trips rather than generate new ones”. So HS2 Ltd fails the third test also.

(To be continued …)

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