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High Speed Rail

Campaign for Better Transport supports the principal of high speed rail as a means of providing extra capacity and freeing up space on existing lines for increased freight and local passenger services. However, we are unable at this time to support the present proposals in the High Speed Rail Bill.

What is wrong with the current HS2 proposal?

We have a number of concerns with the current proposal:

The proposals do not form part of a coherent national transport strategy. At the same time as promoting HS2 the Government is also advocating a major programme of investment in strategic roads, promoting car-based development and reducing funding for local bus services

It is still unclear how HS2 will link with the rest of the transport network and how it will benefit areas of the country not directly connected to it. In particular, future links to Scotland and Wales are unclear making it difficult to see how HS2 will compete with short-distance aviation

The Government has not yet set out its policy on HS2 fares. We already have some of the highest rail fares in Europe with regular commuters hit the hardest by annual season ticket hikes. Passengers travelling on the existing HS1 line pay a premium and if this formula is applied to HS2 our concern is many people will be excluded from using HS2 services and it will become a railway for the rich

Too many of the proposed HS2 stations are in out of town locations with only vague plans for connections to other public transport

Isn’t it good that the Government is investing this much money in a public transport scheme?

Campaign for Better Transport supports ongoing investment in public transport and we welcome the very substantial investment already committed to the rail network by the present and recent UK Governments. However, we feel the cost benefit ratio of the current HS2 proposal is notgood enough and is too vulnerable to uncertainties. It is also important that any spending on HS2 supplements, rather than detracts from spending on the existing transport network.

But won’t HS2 help the economy and address the North South divide?

HS2 could, if linked to other transport and planning policies, help spread economic activity around the country, but pursued in isolation, as it currently appears to be, it could simply reinforce the imbalance between London and the South East and the rest of the UK.

If you don’t support HS2, what’s the alternative to creating extra capacity on the rail network?

New lines could, if developed properly, help address capacity issues and enable significant further modal shift from private cars, goods vehicles and aviation. High speed rail can also, in principle, provide extra capacity but it is not clear that the current HS2 proposal will do this.

Campaign for Better Transport has a number of proposals for developing our rail and other transport networks which you can read about on our other pages.