High speed alternatives insufficient for demand – MPs
Alternatives to HS2 would not solve capacity problems on the rail network, a parliamentary inquiry has concluded, after considering evidence from both those for and against the new line.
The first phase of HS2, fromLondontoBirmingham, was approved by Government in January, despite significant opposition from environmental campaigners. These groups have argued that predictions for future demand are overestimates and that alternative service improvements would provide the necessary capacity.
Following a four month inquiry, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for High Speed Rail has published a report which finds the current network “close to being full”, with growth on the railways at over 5%, despite the recession. The continuation of this growth depends on several factors, including population size, economic growth, changes in living patterns, higher quality services and a modal shift from road.
Critics of HS2 suggest that estimates for future demand are unreliable. The Rail Package 2 and Optimised Alternative propose meeting capacity through running more, longer trains, and converting certain first class carriages to standard.
Considering submissions from 60 stakeholders both within and outside the rail industry, the group stated that alternatives would do little to help local services or freight and could not cope with demand for peak services.
The report reads: “While RP2 and 51m’s proposals provide significant boosts in capacity, it is not clear that they can meet peak demand, or that this demand could effectively be spread.”
Furthermore, the risks of under-providing capacity are significantly higher than those of over-providing, they said. The report concludes that only HS2 supports a greater rebalancing of the economy, regeneration of the north and the move to more sustainable forms of transport.
Graham Stringer, co-chairman of the parliamentary group, said: “All of the available evidence makes clear that the very running of our railways is under threat as we fast approach total saturation on some of the major trunk lines.
“HS2 remains the only proper and practicable solution to creating sufficient long-term capacity forBritain's railways.”
However, Penny Gaines, chairwoman of campaign group Stop HS2, said: “The writers of the report appear to have looked at the issue through... a very narrow set of filters, and compared a very limited number of alternatives.”
To view the report, visit: www.appghsr.co.uk/upload/APPG%20for%20High-Speed%20Rail%20Inquiry%20Report.pdf
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