There have been a variety of alternatives put forward to the HS2 project, some of them well meaning, but most of little credibility or utility. Meanwhile, even the deeply subversive Guardian is letting one of its regulars rubbish the project, but he doesn’t have any credible alternative either, although the maths could give him an entree to the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA).
High Speed Rail is out there somewhere ...
The TPA’s alternative was to use Atkins Rail Package 2 (RP2) as the basis for their argument that HS2 was unnecessary. Sadly, RP2 is not a practical proposition, and there is a difference between theoretical route capacity and what can practically be achieved. And the TPA ignored rail freight, as has Gareth David, in a Comment Is Free piece today.
David asserts that routing West Midlands services into London’s Paddington terminus is the answer, along with restoring two tracks from Old Oak Common to Ruislip and reinstating the through lines at locations such as High Wycombe and Beaconsfield. Sadly, the Chiltern Line is already running at or close to capacity for much of its length, as is the approach to Birmingham from Banbury.
So what of the Guardian pundit who is not keen on HS2? Step forward Nils Pratley, who has recently asserted “Back in 2010, it was envisaged that every £1 spent on the first stage of the line between London and Birmingham would yield £2.60 of benefits. Since then the figure has fallen to £1.40 – and that was using the old projected costs”. And there is his entree to the TPA.
The Benefit/Cost Ratio (BCR) of 2.6 is for the “Y” Network – the first phase, to Birmingham, never showed such a high number – and is then compared with a BCR for that first phase. In his most recent attempt, Pratley has at least conceded that something needs to be done about network capacity. But even he has missed the elephant in the room: no mention is made of rail freight.
So let me put Nils Pratley, Gareth David and the rest straight on the rail freight problem: here, the Rail Freight Forecasts To 2030 presentation, on behalf of the Rail Freight Group and Freight Transport Association (see it HERE [.pdf]) presents the numbers with graphical accompaniment. The first slide reproduced shows the amount of freight traffic on the network in 2007.
The second slide shows the estimated excess of demand for train paths in 2030 over supply, assuming the number of passenger train paths is as today. That mainly red line running from London to the North West is the West Coast Main Line (its continuation into Scotland, and the southern part of the East Coast Main Line, are also showing significant excess of demand over supply).
That, HS2 opponents, is what you are all ignoring. But it is not going away.