Even with HS2, why isn’t UK’s transport policy joined up?


2:57 pm - April 17th 2012

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contribution by Rob Downes

During a recent edition of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Sir Peter Rigby, owner of Coventry Airport, was asked for his views on the construction of a third runway at Heathrow. His answer was unsurprising: a third runway will probably be built regardless of public opinion.

Rigby joins a growing number within the aviation industry who see successive governments as insensible to arguments in favour of development of regional airports.

The Heathrow saga should be viewed in the broader context of UK’s dire short-termist transport policy.

Airports in the South East run at capacity, as does much of the rail network. Fuel prices are higher than they have ever been, and the average car costs more than £3000 to run annually.

Coupling these concerns with our ever-increasing environmental awareness, the argument for integrated (public) transport has never been more compelling. Of course, actually improving provision is a hard task:

1. Transport is expensive, and demonstrating economic benefit is difficult.
2. Transport needs long-term development, well above party politics.
3. Transport construction is often deeply unpopular with sections of the public.

Despite all the concerns around High Speed Rail for example, the case for HS2 is strong. The extra capacity will free up space for more local services, currently limited on lines around London and Birmingham, and freight transit should also increase. Alongside investment in existing assets, HS2 could do much to modernise a dated railway network.

Then comes the problem: HS2 is a chunky infrastructure project producing a bunch of jobs, but where is the bigger view? HS2 will stop at Birmingham International Airport, which will be 40 minutes away from London with the new connection.

Expanding this airport would provide much needed investment outside the M25, help to alleviate capacity issues in the South East, and provide better regional access to air travel. Was this considered in the HS2 plans? No.

HS2 proposes to go as far as Leeds. Will this include a link to Leeds-Bradford International Airport? What about the nearby East Midlands International Airport?

That the first thing on the minds of those proposing HS2 was not “can we link to road/rail/air transport hubs” indicates that, while governments like the look of big infrastructure projects, the bigger needs of the UK are being ignored.

Big infrastructure projects are divisive: as with HS2, the economic outcomes are far from clear and the environmental concerns are very real. However, whether because of the cost, party politics or a lack of foresight, the quality of this debate needs to be improved.

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Development of the area around Birmingham Airport and the NEC has been considered as one of the projects likely to be driven forward by HS2. A runway extension at the Airport has just been approved and this, too, will drive growth as it will facilitate being able to accommodate the longest haul flights.

I did a post on this recently, which considered the misinformation on the development being put about by – guess who – Andrew Gilligan:

http://zelo.tv/GOEa6H

As regards Leeds Bradford Airport, this is the highest located airport in the UK. It is all too often subject to weather events and has never been a credible candidate for a rail link because this would entail very severe gradients or a terminus deep underground. Also it could be vulnerable to development of Finningley (now called Robin Hood Airport).

East Midlands isn’t such a big Airport, but does already have a nearby Parkway station on the Midland mainline.

2. David Ellis

There should be a mass mobilisation to halt the disgusting HS2 project.

@1 A runway extension isnt exactly a new runway.

@1

What project around Birmingham airport & the NEC etc (apart from the runway extension) will be ‘driven forward’ by HS2?

East Midlands has slightly more traffic than Leeds Bradford (about 1/4 of B’ham)

http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/80/airport_data/201201/Table_02_2_Summary_Of_Activity_at_UK_Airports.pdf

@OP, Rob Downes: “During a recent edition of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Sir Peter Rigby, owner of Coventry Airport, was asked for his views on the construction of a third runway at Heathrow. His answer was unsurprising: a third runway will probably be built regardless of public opinion.

Rigby joins a growing number within the aviation industry who see successive governments as insensible to arguments in favour of development of regional airports.”

This post misses the fact that a lot of people want to fly to and from “London” — airports with quick transport links to central London and hence to the rest of the UK. Access to “London” by air is a separate problem from intra-UK transport.

None of London’s major airports is within cycling distance of Whitehall for the average person. But if Luton can brand itself as a “London” airport, that option will be available to Birmingham. Or maybe not, depending on how air to rail transfers are charged.

I can’t get snotty about this post. There is so much ground to cover and 500 words won’t do it. 500 words will give scarce chance to describe the technological and political challenges of the first phase of HS2. Could we have a dribble of focused transport stories please, Sunny?

anyone like to suggest when UK transport policy was ever joined up? wasn’t that what Transport 2000 were unsuccessfully campaigning for? The miles of railway lines abandoned by Beeching, whose vision did not extend beyond removing the tracks.

You are right to highlight the difficulties faced with putting a coherent policy together. It has do be built around a vision for future travel needs that give due regard to the social, environmental and economic requirements.

This should mean more high speed rail links, improvements to commuter lines, and a proper commitment to cycling and walking for getting about town. There will also need to be some road schemes, but these will need to be calculated not to increase car flow overall. Freight transport solutions needed too.

Whilst there may be a need to develop some Air infrastructure, it cannot be in the Thames estuary nor at Heathrow – this being the “European Hub” is all very well, but it means it is our environment that gets shafted.

The key question is how can a policy be put together that won’t lead to someone griping about it.

7. douglas clark

I suggest HS2 is started at Truro, Anglesey and Wick, rather than feeding the frenzy for making Birmingham a suburb of London. Which is all this all is about. There is no strategic planning going on in this country whatsoever. We could kill almost all internal flights in the UK by linking our major cities by HS2. What happens? Something completely different. A fast extension of the Northern Line to Birmingham.

Anyone like to tell me how many air passengers there are between Birmingham and London or vice versa?

Douglas:

HS2 *is* designed to replace mainland domestic flights. That’s why it’ll eventually reach all major domestic flight centres.

However, it’ll take a fair old while to build, hence it needs to be started somewhere. And guess what? – starting with the line that connects the UK’s two biggest cities is by far the one that’ll provide the most people with the most benefit.

If they’d instead decided to build the first phase from Ynys Mon to Chester (about the same distance), that would have been chocolate-teapot levels of use to anyone.

HS2 simply does not make either economic or transport sense.

let’s deal with a few of the arguments.

On replacing air transport to Birmingham, this has already happened. The existing high speed rail link killed London to Birmingham air traffic, with the exception of transfer traffic: people flying in to London and getting straight on a Brimingham flight. This traffic will continue, as it simply does not make sense to transfer to rail in this case.

On the link itself, a lot of the arguments seem to be based on “Well Germany/France/Japan has them so we need them”. But the cases are differentGermany and France are much bigger countries than the UK (France has roughly the same population but twice the area). So, distance between population centres are greater. Further, none of the countries with High Speed links have the same population imbalance as the UK, with the extreme concentration of population in the South and Midlands—there are more people in London than Scotland.

The speed of a train service is determined by three factors: the top speed, the acceleration rate and the distance between stops. Regardless of the top speed, if the acceleration rate and number of stops means it rarely reaches that speed the servive will not materially decrease overall jouney times. So, this means non-stop London to Birmingham (with perhaps a token Heathrow stop). This means that Milton Keynes, Rugby, Coventry, Wolverhampton et al will lose their existing fast service as, to increase capacity on the existing lines speed will be adjusted so that all service travel at pretty much the same speed—this is the only way to increase capacity without increased infrastucture. Has this negative impact been costed into the cost-benefit analysis? I think not. Will people who currently pick up fast trains at those stops travel to London or Birmingham (by rail or car) do so. Again, I think not: the evidence from past service closures—and this is what this amounts to—is that if people get into their cars for any significant time, they stay in them.

The economics but forward by HS2, to me, look like those for the Milleniium Dome—working backwards from the cost to a figure for income that justifies it. I cannot see any way it will be economic, and see major disbenefits as outlined above.

Again, will people travel to Birmingham to be dumped in the suburbs, miles from the centre—a factor largely ignored in the gush about savings in time

I predict there will only be one beneficiary: Chiltern Rail. With it’s alternative route to Birmingham and a unified service, it could easily accelerate service speed—not to the levels of HS2, but sufficient to be a low-cost alternative.

10. Planeshift

“If they’d instead decided to build the first phase from Ynys Mon to Chester (about the same distance), that would have been chocolate-teapot levels of use to anyone”

Stop it – you’ll give the welsh business class ideas. In the south the cardiff business partnership is heavilly promoting the idea of a ‘cardiff metro’ system for the valleys, and arguing that to pay for it we should drop all the regeneration activity in the valleys as the people there can simply commute to cardiff on the new system for jobs. No doubt they’ll be arguing for the Ynys Mon-Chester line to be high speed as it will solve poverty in Rhyl.

I’m interested in the economic effects of developing transport as I think the benefits are completely exaggerated. What does the literature tend to say?

11. MarkAustin

@10. Planeshift

One example I know of. The motorway link to Hull was proposed with claims about increased employment (Hull at the time was linked by a rail branch line and very poor roads). The result. Job losses as firms closed local warehousing (necessary because of poor transport links) in favour of more regular deliveries direct to shops etc.

MarkAustin: I’m going to be polite here, because you seem to be on the level but misguided.

First up, you’re forgetting the fact that HS2 is part 1 of a network that then goes on to bits of the UK where flying is currently necessary, and obviously needs to exist before you can build HSR to them. Relatedly, you’re forgetting the fact that it replaces flights from Birmingham to Paris and Brussels.

Second up, I’m very confused by this paragraph:

this means non-stop London to Birmingham (with perhaps a token Heathrow stop). This means that Milton Keynes, Rugby, Coventry, Wolverhampton et al will lose their existing fast service as, to increase capacity on the existing lines speed will be adjusted so that all service travel at pretty much the same speed

The post-HS2 service plan is to have a quite-fast service (ie a Pendolino, with regen braking so energy isn’t wasted in starting and stopping) that does all the major WCML stops, with a higher frequency than today and a consistent stopping pattern on the fast lines (because if all trains on a line have the same stopping patterns, capacity is increased, because physics).

The headline Lon-Brum time on the WCML takes a few minutes’ hit because they now stop at all the major stations (which, HS2 opponents point out, doesn’t matter the other way round), but folks in Watford, Milton Keynes, Coventry &c will discover their frequency increases – both because trains are no longer being run through to save time for Londoners, and because more trains are running on the line full stop. There aren’t actually gonna be any places whose average time to Lon or Brum rises (because Brum and Int are both on HS2, and Watford’s current Virgin service is very limited).

the evidence from past service closures—and this is what this amounts to—is that if people get into their cars for any significant time, they stay in them.

Which is true, but irrelevant. Everywhere currently served from Euston will either be served by HS2, or just as well served by the WCML (at worst, slightly slower but more frequent trains) after stopping patterns change for HS2.

I’m interested in the economic effects of developing transport as I think the benefits are completely exaggerated.

Mind. Blown. You vote, right?

You know the way we now have something that resembles an economy, rather than fields with the occasional 20-mile trek to a market town to trade surplus animals, plus the occasional itinerant tinker? THAT’S THE ECONOMIC EFFECTS OF DEVELOPING TRANSPORT. It’s the most important… almost the only important… economic thing.

No bloody wonder this democracy shit gets a bad press.

Garr. Hate that Sunny abolished the comment-edit function. “The post-HS2″ to “is very limited)” should all be unitalicised.

14. Margin4error

OK – ignoring the people who don’t want HS2 for a minute…

The UK is quite bad at joined up thinking on infrastructure – but the National Infrastructure Plan is at least a starting point. More a shopping list than a plan, it set out a lot of projects that government is prioritising – including 40 major projects to be pushed through by a cabinet committee.

This doesn’t create joined up thinking – but it can drive sensible response.

If you look at Ashford – its local authority has taken it upon itself to fix the UK’s housing problem. It has a high speed rail station that makes commuting into London a practical option – and so it is building tens of thousands of homes to generate growth in its surrounding areas and for its town centre.

If you look at Stratford – the development of Westfield and a series of other projects there are nothing to do with the Olympics or CrossRail – but are a good set of local policies designed to maximise the value of things being done to the area (the Olympics, Crossrail) for the area.

With Birmingham Airport – one might assume that while government hasn’t started directing its response, its owners can presumably see a very real opportunity to capitalise on HS2.

But that won’t happen until HS2 kicks off. The government has been as firm as it can be that HS2 will happen. It is backed by several studies, including the transport select committee – and that should foster sensible decision making at the airport.

15. MarkAustin

Johnb said: MarkAustin: I’m going to be polite here, because you seem to be on the level but misguided.

My reply: perhaps I am, but I’m in good company Christian Woolmar:

http://www.chilternvoice.co.uk/2010/11/16/rail-expert%E2%80%99s-13-reasons-why-hs2-is-not-a-good-idea/

in it he is quoted as saying “Wolmar questioned the basis of the very high HS2 forecasts of passenger demand and argued that the business case methodology was weak.”

Johnb said: First up, you’re forgetting the fact that HS2 is part 1 of a network that then goes on to bits of the UK where flying is currently necessary, and obviously needs to exist before you can build HSR to them. Relatedly, you’re forgetting the fact that it replaces flights from Birmingham to Paris and Brussels.

My reply: No I’m not. Given that I don’t think there’s a financial case for London Birmingham, I don’t think there’s a snowballs chance in hell of making one any further North. What I think will happen is that if the line is built, it will immediately start making a loss, and the rest of the plan will be ditched.

Johnb said: Second up, I’m very confused by this paragraph:

“this means non-stop London to Birmingham (with perhaps a token Heathrow stop). This means that Milton Keynes, Rugby, Coventry, Wolverhampton et al will lose their existing fast service as, to increase capacity on the existing lines speed will be adjusted so that all service travel at pretty much the same speed”

The post-HS2 service plan is to have a quite-fast service (ie a Pendolino, with regen braking so energy isn’t wasted in starting and stopping) that does all the major WCML stops, with a higher frequency than today and a consistent stopping pattern on the fast lines (because if all trains on a line have the same stopping patterns, capacity is increased, because physics).

My reply. Exactly my point. In order to maximise capacity, everything has to travel at the same speed, and make the same stops. It doesn’t matter how fast a Pendilino goes if if only spends a tiny part of the journey time at that speed. To take the worst case—a train accelerates to its maximum speed and then immediately has to slow down for the next station, the average speed will be a bit less than half the maximum: allowing for dwell time at stations and slowing acceleration with increasing speed. In practice it will be a bit better than that, but still a drastic decrease on the fast service today.

Johnb said: The headline Lon-Brum time on the WCML takes a few minutes’ hit because they now stop at all the major stations (which, HS2 opponents point out, doesn’t matter the other way round), but folks in Watford, Milton Keynes, Coventry &c will discover their frequency increases – both because trains are no longer being run through to save time for Londoners, and because more trains are running on the line full stop. There aren’t actually gonna be any places whose average time to Lon or Brum rises (because Brum and Int are both on HS2, and Watford’s current Virgin service is very limited).

My reply: see above, same argument. It will be a better service for some, but the current stopping points—the major poulation centres will take a serious hit.

the evidence from past service closures—and this is what this amounts to—is that if people get into their cars for any significant time, they stay in them.

Which is true, but irrelevant. Everywhere currently served from Euston will either be served by HS2, or just as well served by the WCML (at worst, slightly slower but more frequent trains) after stopping patterns change for HS2.

My reply: we will just have to hope that individuals will not consider the cost/benefit analysis has not shifted in favour of road. I think it will, it seems you don’t.

I’m interested in the economic effects of developing transport as I think the benefits are completely exaggerated.

Mind. Blown. You vote, right?

You know the way we now have something that resembles an economy, rather than fields with the occasional 20-mile trek to a market town to trade surplus animals, plus the occasional itinerant tinker? THAT’S THE ECONOMIC EFFECTS OF DEVELOPING TRANSPORT. It’s the most important… almost the only important… economic thing.

No bloody wonder this democracy shit gets a bad press.

My reply: The above wasn’t in my post, but from all the anysis I’ve seen over the years, improved transport links tend to benefit the stronger (or more developed) end of the link. There is a danger that this will cause multi-location operations to feel they can concentrate their operations in London.

Mark: first up, apologies that my post conflated my reply to you and to Planeshift, obviously the second bit wasn’t aimed at you.

1) Woolmar is a great historical writer on transport but a lousy analyst of current transport economics.

2) You’re completely ignoring the network effect. The first dude with a phone is useless; the second phone line is a curiousity; the thousandth is important. Similarly, once you’ve got a 250km/h line from London to Birmingham, the things that have a high benefit/cost ratio that you can do with it are important. The government are simplying the process to approve the first stage of the network by making the b/c analysis self-contained (ie “the phone line from me to my assistant in Birmingham is worth having even ignoring the potential to run it elsewhere”). This is legally wise, but PR-daft because it makes people say this sort of thing.

3) You’re imagining that the trains on the WCML run like North American freight trains. They don’t. That’s the great thing about the mid-speed high-power trains that run on the two UK electric mainlines – a class 390 Pendolino takes 3 mins from standstill to its 125mph maximum speed. For journeys between Brum and London, it won’t be a ‘drastic’ decrease at all – they’ll still be far quicker than those on the Chiltern lines.

4) The benefit/cost analysis will utterly not have shifted in favour of road for anyone who gets a train on the WCML. As above, *everyone’s average journey time from everywhere to everywhere will fall*, because there’ll be more trains to everywhere.

17. Planeshift

@ John – expressed poorly on my part. What I meant was the economic benefits of say – electrification of a train line to shave 10% off journey times, or turning a single track A road into a dual carriageway. i.e improvements to existing infrastructure. Often, to get planning permission or a project financed out of limited government resources, supporters of such schemes tend to claim large economic benefits – my view is that such benefits are exaggerated.

PS17: ok, that’s more sensible, but I’d still tend to disagree. Outside of the kind of rural-branch-line shenanigans that Dr Beeching axed, I’m struggling to see how you could build a new road/rail line, and it be busy, and that not be reflective of there being an increase in People Engaging In Economic Activity.

19. MarkAustin

John b

I’m not ignoring network effects. I just don’t think they’ll be very big.

Remember, as the Eddington report (2007?) pointed out, unlike the rest of Europe, the UK already had a high speed network. Not as fast as the new High Speed links, but, as I’ve argued, taking into account the relative size and poulation sistribution of the UK, high speeds are not needed. In other European countries the introduction of HS links dramatically reduced times—generaly by a half or so. This will not be the case here:

Distance Pre – HSR Post – HSR
Tokyo – Osaka 515km 6hrs 30mins 3hrs 10mins (now 2hrs 30mins)
Madrid – Seville 472km 6hrs 30mins 2hrs 45 mins (now 2hrs 30 mins)
Paris – Lyon 431km 4hrs 1hrs 55 mins
Frankfurt – Cologne 180km 2hrs 20 mins 1hr 10 mins (1hr 2mins, Koln Deutz station)
London – Manchester 296km 2hr 08mins 1hr 13 mins proposed (from 2032)
London – Birmingham 182km 1hr 24 mins 49 mins proposed

(Hope this table is readable)

Further, Virgin reckons London-Birmingham can be reduced to 70 mins on the existing lines. This gives a “saving” of 21 mins, most of which will be swallowed up travelling into the centre.

One train already reaches Edinburgh in 4 hours, as opposed to 3-1/2 with HS2+.

A report from Model Railways illustrates the point. A US study group of railway people came over, studied UK, German and French railways. There conclusion: the UK had the best railway system.Admittedly, France and Germany had the high speed links, but the UK had (lower) high speeds everywhere, and an integrated network, unlike either France or Germany.

On speed, Pendelino maxima are not the only factor. Capacity is needed for freight and the local suburban services at either end. This will slow the existing line. Indeed, I imagine that HS2 will be quietly campaigning for such a reduction so that their premium service is not out-performed by the existing service. Although freight can be routed at night, at either end the direct services will be speed-constrained by the need to maintain the same average speed as the suburban services—where the stations are simply too close together for high speed running.

20. douglas clark

john b,

What makes you the guy to answer on HS2?

As far as I can see, the advantages of HS2 are not to the planet, not to the UK, but more to your ‘Birmingham is North London’ faction. Even your fans around here seem to have difficulties with making a ‘green’ case for London – Birmingham. You certainly haven’t.

All your shennanigans about this ridiculous proposal are, frankly being economical with the truth.. There is no political power to build rail beyond Birmingham before the sun freezes over.

You cite a serious, costed and realistic proposal to run HS2 to, say Cardiff or Newcastle, and I’ll shut up. The mere idea you’d start it in The North East or Wales is ‘chocolate tea pot’. Well, the totally insouciant lies you have told, favouring the ‘economic power houses’ of London and Birmingham at the expense of a, say sensibe, proposal to move the fuck on from the South East being worth a candle, is just ridiculous and self serving. Both these places generate air traffic to London. AFAIK Birmingham does not.

It is an utter nonsense that the rest of the UK has to exchange to even use the TGV network to Europe. The SE has a stranglehold on that too. As does Westminster and all the lunatics in it.

The latest revised estimates of the economic case for the HS2 show the project is of just marginal net benefit:

The latest figures issued by the HS2 high-speed rail scheme have revised down the economic benefits for the fourth time – suggesting the scheme will barely, if ever, break even. Originally the scheme was forecast to bring £2.40 of benefit for every pound invested. The revised benefit-cost ratio (BCR) is 1.2-1 .

The economic case for the new £33bn high-speed rail network linking London with Birmingham and cities in the north of Britain has long been challenged by protesters.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/apr/11/railways-hs2-fewer-economic-benefits


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Even with HS2, why isn't UK's transport policy joined up? http://t.co/6b57Nku7

  2. Jason Brickley

    Even with HS2, why isn’t UK’s transport policy joined up? http://t.co/kcxZyg8U

  3. TEESTRAINS CIC david

    "@libcon: Even with HS2, why isn't UK's transport policy joined up? http://t.co/EJ0qdXrp">a cynic might suggest lack of profit if joined up.

  4. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Even with HS2, why isn’t UK’s transport policy joined up? http://t.co/PDWOPUFC

  5. Even with HS2, why isn't UK's transport policy joined up? | Liberal … | Transport Tipps

    […] the article: Even with HS2, why isn't UK's transport policy joined up? | Liberal … This entry was posted in Transport, Uncategorized and tagged archives, conspiracy, facebook, […]

  6. Steph Clackworthy

    Some interesting alternative views for LHR third runway http://t.co/89bn3dCR Not sure business case for HS2 proven, but happy to listen





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