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Friday 26 November 2010

Alliance Of No Action – 2

Since looking over the “report” from the HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) yesterday (available HERE [.pdf]), I’ve been putting together some detail to support my assertion that HS2AA have been putting forward misleading figures in support of their proposition.

Specifically, I concluded that the HS2AA comparison of journeys between five European capital cities and each capital’s five next largest neighbours was flawed simply because, for all the examples on the mainland, the distances travelled were so much further than for the UK. So the UK emerged from the comparison as “top of the class”, when it was not.

We need look no further than France to get an idea of the scale of HS2AA’s deception. Between London and the five UK cities in the HS2AA report (Page 25), the average distance is just 213 miles [Note that I’ve been through the mileages and even increased the figure for Bradford to cover the longer distance into the city’s Forster Square station].

Accepting the HS2AA figures for fastest journey times then gives a highly credible average speed of 88 mph. But when this is set against the French figures, that doesn’t look so good.

For starters, the average distance between Paris and its five next largest satellites is a whopping 418 miles, and yes, I used the distance to Lyon via the Ligne À Grande Vitesse, which is a lot shorter than the original route via Dijon. Again, taking the HS2AA figures for fastest journey times, the average speed is over 113 mph, and that includes Paris to Toulouse, most of which is not over the high speed network.

So France comes out rather better than the UK when actual speed is considered. And the misleading use of journey time is not the only HS2AA assertion that doesn’t stand serious analysis: they repeat the questionable assertion that rail travel only wins over air when journey times are less than three hours (Page 24).

However, Guillaume Pepy, who is CEO of French Operator SNCF, has revealed that increased airport security and often unreliable airline timekeeping has pushed the figure nearer to four hours. Indeed, he notes that the TGV offers a journey time of five hours from Paris to Perpignan, yet rail now has a 50% market share. Time on board is also potentially more productive than when flying.

Moreover, in a presentation he gave on March 17 this year, M Pepy restated the viability of the four hour rail journey when compared with air travel, and observed “UK is shaped for HSR”. Not much needed to translate that one, methinks.

1 comment:

Andrew Gibbs said...

You seem to be repeating the same confusion as in your first attempt at this topic - one could just look at the response given to that, but I guess it is worth saying again. So, the point being made in the HS2AA paper is simply that our cities already have comparatively short connection times via the existing rail network - the fact that other countries may require faster trains to achieve similar times does not negate this point in the slightest.

Your other comment on the threshold time for switching between air and rail is much more valid, but here both parties are (to my view) skating over the concept of overall journey time and other factors. For air you typically have getting to the airport, check-in, security, waiting around, flying, getting to the gate, getting baggage, and then getting to your final destination - as everyone would admit the ca. 1hr flight time is the least of your worries. But for train you still have the problem of gettingd to and from the stations - if you somehow live in the middle of London and want to go to the middle of Edinburgh then even at the current rail 4.5 hours then the train is the obvious choice. Conversely if one of your start/destination points is significantly closer to an airport or even just 'out of town' them maybe the balance swings back. I guess the HS2AA figure comes from a minimum 'air overhead' of about 2 hours on top of the 1hr flying time (which is a concept I would agree with) - but journey in/out of town can easily add 45 minutes each way which then leads to the 4 or even 5 hour threshold for many (not all) complete journeys - in some cases this extra works against the train and makes the plane even more convenient. (Personally I prefer the train, but sometimes it really does not work for the journeys I need to make!) Other factors such as flexibility are also important - not everyone has the luxury of knowing what time their work will end, and in these cases the medium that offers the ability
to leave at a time of your choosing can become very important - a slower journey that leaves every hour is better than a faster one that you have to book in the evening to be sure you will not miss it.