High Speed Rail - the jury is out
Posted: 09 March 2011 04:30 PM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  111
Joined  2010-04-27

The Government has announced details of the proposed route for HS2 between London and Birmingham and also begun to map out the route north to Leeds, and Manchester.  You can find full details of the proposals, including a detailed map here http://highspeedrail.dft.gov.uk.  This also includes details of a series of consultation events.

Civic Voice is considering how best to respond to the proposals and would welcome your views.  You may want to consider them against the principles we discussed and agreed last year which are in the briefing note on Civic Voice’s website here http://www.civicvoice.org.uk/campaigns/high-speed-rail.  The deadline for comments is 29th July.  We are particularly keen to compile a list of the local impacts which are giving rise to concern.

The Government is inviting feedback on seven strategic questions and our initial view is below:

Q1.    The context – essentially whether there is a case for investment in the rail network?

Our initial view – there is a strong case for investing in the rail network and enhancing its capacity, especially on existing lines, as a means of improving the quality of life?

Q2.    The case for High Speed Rail – is the proposed line from London to Birmingham and a Y network linking Leeds and Manchester the best value for money for rail investment?

Our initial view – the economic case seems shaky and dependent on some questionable assumptions about the benefits from small time savings and there is no comparative evidence of the alternative of investing the same money in the existing rail network.  We are unlikely, however, to get drawn into these strategic arguments which is not where we most add value to the debate

Q3.    The phased approach to roll out – starting with London / Birmingham

Our initial view – a phased approach is sensible but only if the case for investment is made.  We are supportive of the intention now to link direct to HS1 although this should not disrupt local rail services

Q4.    The approach to the proposed route – essentially whether the line is being prepared to the right specification

Our initial view – We are sceptical about the design specification and especially concerned that it seems to be being driven by a desired top speed rather than by ensuring the best fit into the landscape and townscape through which it passes.  We believe the design speed of the line should reflect the sensitivity of the frequently intimate landscapes and townscapes through which it passes, allowing for a more sensitive and curved route and design with significantly reduced energy consumption and only a minor impact on journey times.  This might be achieved by journey speeds between a conventional line and those currently being considered.  We are also concerned by the lack of a strategic approach to the design of the route which means it will be governed largely by engineering considerations and are looking for a strategic assessment of the cumulative impact of the line to inform the approach to mitigation.  We are also concerned by the likelihood of Parkway stations on greenfield sites.

Q5.    The detailed route - from London to West Midlands

Our initial view – We are concerned that there is no evidence of alternative design speeds having been considered and there are significant local impacts which have not yet been addressed (we would welcome further details of these from civic societies and other local groups).  Mitigation has been introduced only after the design of the route has been finalised

Q6.    Sustainability – this is asking whether we are comfortable with the appraisal in terms of the impact on greenhouse gas emissions, communities, natural and cultural assets and the use of resources

Our initial view – we have not yet assessed the appraisal but the evidence suggests it has not considered proper alternatives

Q7.    Compensation and blight

Our initial view – We do not anticipate being drawn into this aspect of the consultation

What do you think?  Are there any missing questions?  Is the Government going about consultation in the right way?