High Speed Two frequently asked questions
|Publisher:||Department for Transport|
|Published date:||28 February 2011|
|Mode/topic:||Rail, High Speed Rail|
- What is the Government proposing?
- Why do we need a high speed rail network?
- Wouldn't it be better just to upgrade the existing lines? I've heard people say that 'Rail Package 2' offers an alternative to high speed rail.
- What's the business case for building a high speed rail network?
- But won't the environmental damage be too great?
- Why does the line go though the Chilterns? Can't you go another way?
- Why can't the line just follow an existing transport route like a motorway?
- What about fares, won't they have to be very high?
- Why are you proposing to spend so much on a new high speed line when commuter trains are so over-crowded?
- I've heard you're only proposing a line that goes as far as Birmingham, is that right?
- But what about the CO2 levels? I've heard that High Speed Two will only be 'carbon neutral'.
- I've heard that that the business case is based on the idea that all the time passengers spend on trains is wasted. Isn't that stupid?
- Will HS2 only create 40,000 jobs? If so surely you could spend £32bn more effectively to create jobs?
What is the Government proposing?
The Government is consulting on proposals for a 'Y-shaped' high speed rail network that would reduce journey times from London to Birmingham to 49 minutes; and from London to Manchester and Leeds to around 80 minutes.
Connections onto existing rail lines would also be included, allowing new direct high speed services to our major towns and cities. The capacity released on existing lines by transferring long distance journeys to high speed rail would allow an expansion of commuter, regional and freight services. Links to Heathrow, other airports and to the Channel Tunnel would also be built, providing a further alternative to short-haul aviation.
Why do we need a high speed rail network?
The Government believes that a national high speed rail network offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we travel in Britain.
Britain's railways are struggling to cope with the huge increases in passenger numbers we've seen in recent years. In 1994 rail passengers travelled fewer than 18 billion miles, in 2009 this rose to almost 32 billion miles. Increasingly passengers are finding that it’s standing room only at peak times and Network Rail have said that by 2024, the southern end of the West Coast Mainline will be effectively full.
The Government believes a new rail line is needed simply to address these capacity issues. However, by making this a high speed network, we also could grasp a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-shape Britain's economic geography and ensure that every part of the country contributes to, and benefits from, future growth and prosperity.
Wouldn't it be better just to upgrade the existing lines? I've heard people say that 'Rail Package 2' offers an alternative to high speed rail.
The last major upgrade of the West Coast Main Line a few years ago caused serious disruption to passengers and 10 years worth of delays. We don’t think it would be reasonable to subject travellers to more of the same just to deliver comparatively small improvements – particularly as the West Coast Main Line is carrying around twice as many people as four years ago.
In addition, Rail Package 2 doesn’t provide anything close to the level of transport benefits of high speed rail, for example, it doesn’t create any released capacity (assuming all new capacity goes to long distance services). Nor would it offer the same impact in terms of economic growth, regeneration and employment.
Lastly, Rail Package 2 is not an alternative to a high speed network but to a London-Birmingham line so wouldn’t provide the foundation for a wider national network.
What's the business case for building a high speed rail network?
There's a strong business case for a high speed network. The Government is proposing to build a 'Y-shaped' network from London to Birmingham and then on to Manchester and Leeds. A network of this kind would create around £44 billion in benefits for the UK – well over £2 of benefits for every £1 spent. The first stage alone (London to the West Midlands) would deliver around 40,000 jobs as well as providing the foundation for the more significant benefits provided by the wider network.
But won't the environmental damage be too great?
The Government is committed to doing all it can to lessen the impacts of any new line on the landscape and on local people. The proposed line has been designed sensitively and carefully and includes mitigation measures wherever possible which would do a huge amount to reduce its local effects. Use would be made of trees and 'green tunnels' (where the line is built in a deep cutting, and covered with a 'roof' which is planted with grass) to disguise the line and make it blend in with the local environment, while noise barriers or earth bunding would be used to block noise.
It is also important to note that:
- Over 10% of the line would be in tunnel
- The line would be no more than 22 metres wide in any place, about one third the width of a motorway.
- Train technology is improving, the latest high speed trains are already significantly quieter than their counterparts from recent decades, and line-side noise mitigation technology is now greatly improved.
It is also important to consider the environmental impact of the alternatives – new or wider motorways would require very significant land take, not to mention the noise and air quality effects. Upgrading the existing rail network, as well as being an ineffective solution to the problem, would have a large impact on those living along those routes.
Why does the line go though the Chilterns? Can't you go another way?
High speed rail lines have to be quite straight to maintain their speed. There are no viable routes for a high speed rail line between London and the West Midlands that do not cross the Chilterns at some point. However, the proposed route through the Chilterns makes full use of tunnels, cuttings and existing transport corridors to minimise its impacts on the landscape
Why can't the line just follow an existing transport route like a motorway?
Wherever possible we have followed existing transport routes such as main roads and railways. However, high speed rail lines need to be quite straight to maintain their speed and as most existing roads and railways have more curves, it would be impossible to follow them for the whole route.
What about fares, won't they have to be very high?
Not at all. Our proposals assume a fares structure in line with that of the existing railway - demonstrating that a new high speed line could operate effectively, generating sufficient demand and revenues, without needing to charge premium fares.
Why are you proposing to spend so much on a new high speed line when commuter trains are so over-crowded?
High speed rail isn’t something we’re proposing to do instead of improving commuter services but in addition. The Government is already spending billions over the coming years to improve commuter services by buying extra carriages and building new infrastructure. Moreover, in the long-run high speed rail would be the best way of relieving pressure on key commuter routes connecting potential growth areas with the capital.
I've heard you're only proposing a line that goes as far as Birmingham, is that right?
No. The Government has been clear that London to Birmingham would only be the first stage. The Government is proposing a 'Y-shaped' network running on to Leeds and Manchester with connections onto existing rail lines also included, which would allow new direct high speed services to other cities off the new line.
But what about the CO2 levels? I've heard that High Speed Two will only be 'carbon neutral'.
A high speed rail line would allow a huge increase in travel and would generate massive economic benefits and would do all that while being broadly carbon neutral.
I've heard that that the business case is based on the idea that all the time passengers spend on trains is wasted. Isn't that stupid?
We agree that travelling by train gives people the opportunity to work - indeed one of the big advantages of high speed rail is that it can attract passengers from other forms of transport to the railways, where they can use their time more productively.
However, our reserach shows that , even when factoring in productive time on trains, the benefit: cost ratio of high speed does not significantly alter. Lower benefits are produced from some travellers who would otherwise still travel by train, but increased benefits are produced from people switching from other transport to high speed rail and from the reduced crowding the high speed rail will bring.
Morever, the evidence clearly suggests that business passengers do value quicker journeys. For example, business travellers choose to fly between Glasgow and London, even though they could work more productively and for longer on the train.
Will HS2 only create 40,000 jobs? If so surely you could spend £32bn more effectively to create jobs?
No, 40,000 is simply the number of jobs HS2 would support immediately around the new stations and in railway operations and construction – and even then only for the first phase of the line, from London to the West Midlands.
In addition to these jobs, a high speed rail network would also transform our economic geography, bring our key cities closer together, enable businesses to operate more productively and support much wider employment growth and regeneration.