There have been a number of responses to our research note on the impact of HS2 on capacity. Chris Stokes has looked at the purported rebuttals and find that none of them credibly challenge our findings.
Theresa Villiers promised a Parliamentary debate yesterday that no services would be cut as a result of the development of HS2. But that's not what their own consultation documents say. Those documents report that “we have also assumed an adjusted service pattern on the WCML,with the withdrawal and adjustment of some long distance services… In addition we can reasonably assume that there would be a reduction in long distance services on the Midland and East Coast Main Lines as the new high speed services were introduced”. Significant savings in operating costs as a result of these service reductions are included in the overall business case for the full network, at a total Net Present Value of £3.1 billion. So have Ministers just committed to not making any service cuts? If so, the Benefit Cost Ratio for the scheme is heading even further down the drain.
I'm told I've got the capacity to Manchester wrong. But again, this came from HS2's own documentation (The Economic case for HS2, Page 59 ), which sets out that Manchester will have three trains an hour, no more capacity than now, but carrying about three times as many people. A modern version of feeding the five thousand?. So we must assume their own consultation material is "flawed" and "spurious"?
It's true that HS2 potentially delivers more capacity for commuters from Milton Keynes and Northampton, who are travelling in grossly overcrowded trains now. But the 90% increase in capacity Hammond promises for Milton Keynes won't happen until 2026 at the earliest. Buried in the HS2 documentation on potential alternatives, DfT have costed a flyover south of Milton Keynes at £243m which would enable the peak service to be doubled (i.e. an 100% increase) in just five years time. That means commuters won't be waiting on steadily more overcrowded trains for fifteen years and offers much better value for money than the £750m earmarked in the spending review just to develop the plans for HS2.
None of the claims made today are incompatible with our report. But as we pointed out building HS2 instead of getting better use out of existing lines will mean more overcrowding and waits of years or decades for new capacity that some routes need now. It will mean less capacity on the key routes that we highlighted in our original note.
On another issue, Philip Hammond was challenged by the Guardian on modal shift from air to HS2. His answer was "we're not just going to Birmingham. We're going to Manchester and Leeds". But rail already has 85% of the Manchester - London air/rail market, and there are no flights from Leeds to London. In fact, Manchester is the only city served by HS2 with a London air service. So how will the link take traffic out of the air?