Speed isn’t Green

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The following has been produced using an audio file of Joe Rukin’s presentation to the Parliamentary Lobby Day on 25th October and his slides: it is not a word-for-word transcription, but captures the spirit and some details of his presentation.

Ever since my geography A level project I’ve supported railways.  Back then I was looking at the need for a station locally in my home town of Kenilworth – the majority of people’s journeys are local, and investments in local infrastructure can reap the most – in terms of benefit, in terms of carbon reduction and in terms of congestion relief. With HS2 we find that, despite the statements made by politicians, it is not a low carbon solution, it will have no significant downward impact on aviation, it will not ease congestion in any significant manner, it is intended to promote more travel, there are less polluting alternatives and it will leave an unnecessary scar on some of our most unspoilt countryside.

The Coalition Agreement states “We will establish a high speed rail network as part of our programme to fulfil our joint ambitions for creating a low carbon economy.”

However, along with a lot of things about High Speed 2, when you hear it for the first time, it sounds like it must be right, but when you look into it, you find it is completely false. Energy use rises approximately with the square of speed; so trains operating at 250mph will use approximately three times the energy that trains operating at 125mph will use.

There is also the question of how they will be powered.  We heard the announcement last week about nuclear power stations, and at Calvert an incinerator is going to be built right next to the line. But don’t just take my word for it. A 2007 report commissioned  by the Government stated (Booz Allen Hamilton “Estimated Carbon Impact of New North-South Line” );

“There is no potential carbon benefit in building a new line on the London to Manchester route over the 60-year appraisal period. In essence, the additional carbon emitted by building and operating a new rail route is larger than the entire quantity of carbon emitted by the air services,”

To repeat that, the entire carbon emitted by the air services is less then the carbon impact of building HS2.  There is no carbon benefit in building this.

HS2 will have no significant impact on aviation.

HS2 anticipate a 178% increase in domestic aviation by 2033, but demand has been falling.  HS2 will have very little effect on many routes.  A lot of domestic aviation is cross country – Newcastle to Exeter for instance. From London to Birmingham, there are no flights.   And if domestic flights are cut in the long term, what will happen to those flight slots?  Will airport chief executives of those airports going to say we aren’t flying Manchester to Heathrow, we’ll just not use that air slot?  Of course they won’t!  Those flight slots will be filled with international flights with bigger planes, flying greater distances and creating more of a carbon impact..

The elephant in the room is that the Secretary of State asked for options to go to Heathrow.  We already know it’s going to Birmingham International.  The station between Nottingham and Derby looks very much like East Midlands Airport, and again with the South Yorkshire station, it’s not in Sheffield, it’s a little bit near Sheffield, but quite near Robin Hood Airport.  When you look at the original plans for the Y-shaped network going up to Newcastle, just south of Newcastle there was a Teeside interchange, very close to the airport.  That’s a question to ask – is HS2 intended as an airport transfer service?  The third runway at Heathrow hasn’t happened and a lot of people who may be disappointed about that.

HS2 will not affect congestion in any significant manner.   As Chris said, fewer then 2% of those driving on motorways are expected to switch to HS2, and that’s if the 267% passenger forecast can be trusted.

Here we have the quote from the Cato industry, again serious research: “High-speed rail proposals are high cost, high-risk megaprojects that promise little or no congestion relief, energy savings, or other environmental benefits.”

Again HS2 is intended to promote new travel.  27% of the passenger forecast for HS2 is coming from new journeys, people who will not travel at all until High Speed 2 is built.  That equates to almost 40,000 people.  And how exactly are they going to get to HS2 in the first place?  HS2 is a railway line almost without stations.  Many of the stations will be outside town.  Birmingham Interchange, which is about a mile and a half, almost two miles from Birmingham International, because the NEC is in the way, the M42 is in the way, it’s not the other side of the motorway, it will have a long monorail.  Birmingham Interchange will have 40,000 parking spaces.

Of course, there are less polluting alternatives.  Rail Package 2 is one, but the obvious thing looking at Norman Baker’s remit which he’s just been given, is not travelling at all.  If Arup, the very firm which has been drafting the plans for HS2 is telling it’s employees not to travel to meetings, but to use video conferencing then surely that is the way things are going to go in the future.  And just to underline that, the canal builders did not know that the railways were coming, the railway builders did not know that the internal combustion engine was coming.  With HS2, the future is already here.  Fifteen years ago, no-one had heard of email outside the academic community.  Now people can not do without it.  In fifteen years time, where exactly are we going to be?  We have already seen that the alternative is here and it is already happening, but the Government are paying absolutely no attention to it whatsoever.  The impact of videoconferencing is not being taken into account.

HS2 will leave an unnecessary scar on our unspoilt countryside,and to paraphase Mark Twain, “don’t destroy land, they’re not making it any more.”  Once its gone, it’s gone forever.

The other point is a lot of people think they know what a railway is.  You’ve stood on railway platforms, you can see how big it is, that’s what you are expecting but that’s not what HS2 represents.  The engineers at the technical seminars last week admitted it’s only going to be 22m fence to fence, as opposed to 25 original .  Now 22m is the same as 6 lanes of road.  Six lanes.  They wouldn’t be pressed on the no vegetation zones, umming and erring about whether they’re going to happen and how big they are going to be, but the technical appendix states that you are looking at 25m of no vegetation zone on either side, because at 250mph trains create a massive wind vortex behind them.  You suck up all the leaves and all the branches and drag them behind so you can’t have that close by.

You are looking at turning from green into grey a 72m wide strip.  Potentionally up to18 lanes of motorway if you want to put it into context, The pitch at Wembley is 69m, less then the 72m.

The best way of describing it is that this is a runway not a railway.  The only difference being is that a runway might be less environmentally damaging.

Click here to hear the presentation in full

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