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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:

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]

Image c. Alvey & Towers


Bcooper   07/06/2012 at 07:41

For goodness sake when this government get the message. The majority of the people in this country do not want this White elephant. Carving through some of the most beautiful parts of our small island to put in a railway line that will be out of date before it's finished is totally unforgivable. The government have said from day one that they want to know what the taxpayers want don't take any notice when we tell them. Longer trains and platforms are at this moment what is needed. It's the people that are travelling today that want seats . The first stage of HS2 won't even be finished until 2026!!!! Years of distress for people living on the route and for what. A suited brief case carrying businessman is NOT going to improve the north south divide which is anyway a figment of David Cameron's imagination. The people in the north want to live and work in the north and the people in the south want to do the same. The answer for this government is to invest in industry and business where people live not try to make them travel distances to work. The whole issue makes my blood boil.Someone somewhere is pulling David Cameron's strings!! Why does he want to destroy our countryside and the peace and quiet of the people who live there. A suggestion..... How about repairing our roads Mr Cameron we don't have potholes we have craters!

South-Heath.Co.Uk   07/06/2012 at 08:36

Throughout the process, it has been a case of why shouldn't HS2 be built, rather than why should it be built. The first point should be: is it the most rational project on which to spend such an astonishing amount of money? The future passenger numbers are largely guesswork and government has a history of overestimating these on other projects. Technology is rapidly reducing the need for moving so many people around, using teleconferencing, collaboration software and file-sharing to a far greater degree. The true cost of HS2 will be that of failing to use these tens, of billions of pounds elsewhere, on more worthy projects, that would benefit a greater number of people. I have long felt that to stop this train, would require more than logic. Put simply, I believe that only were it to become more embarrassing for the government to go ahead with it, than to let down the developers that stand to benefit from it, will it be stopped. That will be a hard fight to win!

Chris MLY   25/10/2013 at 03:27

We tried the upgrade option before - it cost £10billion in today's prices, only increased the speed line by 15mph and left most of the busiest section South of Rugby untouched. And it wrecked weekend travel on the WCML for five years. If HS2 is cancelled we have that to look forward to forevermore. Note how many days the WCML will shut next year for work to take place at Watford. Note that there is no room for extra services from Shrewsbury and Blackpool. Anyone with any notion of how difficult and expensive it is to upgrade a railway while trying to keep trains running on it would dismiss the idea of throwing more money at the WCML. A new railway built to 21st Century standards is the only credible answer. The only other alternative is to price people off the trains and damage the future prosperity of the UK.

Jb   05/04/2014 at 12:45

Rather than proceed with this wholly unpopular and so far as I can see unjustified HS2, I feel it would be far better to re-establish the ex MR and ex-GC routes to Sheffield and Manchester, thus returning the traffic transferred to the WCML and reducing congestion south of Crewe. Our express trains are fast enough anyway and the saving of a few extra minutes on main lines is far outweighed by the need to replace other missing links closed in the late 1960s which would bring great benefits to people who no longer have a railway station at all to access the system, viz: the City of Ripon! The short stretch from Skipton to Colne is another example of a through route being thwarted at present. These and other examples would realise much needed benefits to the travelling public far sooner than HS2 which will plunge us into far greater debt at a time when we see civil budgets being cut all around us and we are told that austerity is the order of the day!

Pedr Jarvis   25/07/2014 at 16:36

I live much of the time in Bletchley. If you go to our local station and wait ten minutes, you could easily see ten trains go through. Four Pendolini in rapid sucession (often on double yellows) in each direction, the freight (which mostly goes by night), the LM services to and from London to Northampton or Brum, not counting the occasional railcar to Bedford. When the Oxford line is restored (high time!) there will be more. There is a restricted service northwards because there is not time for trains to stop. The curves put in by Robert Stephenson in the 1830s between Wolverton and Rugby restrict the traffic and something better is long overdue. Let us hope the new line is built to Continental loading gauge so that we may have direct services to Europe and that Continental goods stock can reach the centre of England.But it should be a concerted campaign to build south from the north as well, just as Joseph Locke did in the 1830s. Lastly, experience shows it is cheaper to do the work quickly - in the 1830s it took seven years from Liverpool and Manchester to London, so with all our modern machinery, why are we dallying for twenty?

Jb   02/06/2015 at 12:26

I understand from the TV that by the Govt's own figures the WCML is running at an average of only 46% capactity. Longer trains instead of these 4/5 car Voyagers must be one answer and conversion of many 1st class to standard class yet another. Forget HS2, save a bundle of money and lets really re-invest in re-opening some of the many lines which we regret were closed in the 1960s. Railways should reach as many destinations as possible for everybody not just a limited number for a handful for business people.

Graham Smith   22/08/2017 at 21:21

The problem is that "High Speed" is charismatic. We do not need to cut a few minutes off intercity travel times. Commuter and freight thus take a back seat. We all agree that extra capacity is needed but projects like reusing the Great Central lines up to Leicester mainly for freight are thus doomed to failure. In the sixties pressure from the road haulage and bus lobbies allowed Beaching to butcher the railways where as a pruning was all that should have been approved. Network Rail have had a lot of bad publicity but if they over estimate a project it unlikely to get approval as being too expensive. Thus we get cost and time and cost over runs. Yes the government is spending money on improvements but lots is wasted on things that are not the best overall solution.

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