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Letters: High speed 2 must address its impact and competition

The main point:

High Speed 2

Sir David Rowlands should be congratulated on his conclusion thathigh speed rail should be part of a “wider integrated transport policy” (NCE 22 April).

Of course “the focus of the debate had to be on the new network’s ability to boost vital rail capacity across the UK’s transport network”. But surely this integrated view should also encompass an intermodal transport system, via the capacity and connectivity of national road, air or rail networks − as the European Commission’s Transport White Paper recommends.

This U-turn in Rowland’s thinking is too little too late; HS2’s silo thinking has resulted in a blinkered approach to high speed rail, considering only a narrow view of a London -Birmingham corridor.

Globally, the UK is alone considering high speed rail in isolation from aviation − and dismissing the lessons of more experienced counterparts like SNCF in France and Deutsche Bundesbahn in Germany.

No other country concludes that high speed rail will have such limited impact on modal shift from road and air to rail.

HS2 even overlooked part of its remit − one of the key objectives for HS2 outlined by Lord Adonis was “modal shift from car” through “access to Heathrow from London, the West and Thames Valley, facilitated by the Heathrow interchange”.

HS2’s London-Birmingham proposals seem at odds with the current Government’s plans to double capacity at Heathrow with a third runway.

The need for joined up transport planning seems clear to all but the government. So let’s hope Lord Mawhinney’s review of the options for a transport connection at the airport concludes that only a direct high speed rail link to Heathrow will achieve the “integrated transport policy” we so desperately need.

  • Paul Blanchard, Flat 17, 21 Frognal, Hampstead, London NW3 6UJ

If the high speed trains replace current well used air routes then there is a point to building the new line to the North. But why can’t the terminal problem be met by running the high speed line into St Pancras? Failing that what about building a dedicated people mover between the two high speed terminals?

Can a junction be made between the HS1 and HS2 at Stratford? For those in Buckinghamshire who would have the railway running close to them, what has been the experience of the people in Kent? Many people said Kent and their lives would be ruined by the high speed train. Is this what in fact happened?

  • Michael Dommett,

Your article “Terminal Velocity” on HS2 (NCE 22 April), states by way of introduction that “it should be full steam ahead for high speed rail.

Regrettably, however, only once in over four pages does your report make any mention of the impact on the environment.

Even in that reference, in connection with tunnelling, the statements are misleading − in what way do you believe that HS2 ”fares well in comparison with HS1”?

The fact is that only a tiny length of the proposed line through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is proposed to be tunnelled.

If HS2, a project that is already blighting hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses, thereby destroying the financial security of the families involved, is allowed to be built, nowhere in this country will be safe from such wanton environmental destruction.

If the vast expenditure could be justified by hard evidence of future travel demand, predicted fare income, and other alleged benefits, or if those whose lives will be turned upside down could see some benefit to their local communities, then perhaps one could understand all the hype on high speed rail.

It needs to be recognised that with trains running at every 1 minute 40 seconds for 18 hours a day and at 400km/h, HS2 will be the fastest and hence noisiest train service in Europe.

Based on TGV trials, research is available that seems to suggest that due to aerodynamic factors the noise level of HS2 could be twice as loud as the 300km/h HS1, possibly akin to fighter jets flying overhead or being next to a Formula One racing circuit.

So please, in any more articles you publish about high speed rail in Britain, can you please provide a more balanced consideration of the issues.

  • Simon Griffiths, Wendover, Buckinghamshire,

Referring to the diagrammatic layout of “London Connections” in your recent article on HS2 (NCE 22 April), the layout shows a possible connection to HS1.

As a person who has made several rail trips from my Medway regional home to Inverness, changing trains and moving between London termini has always been a difficulty.

The concept of the occasional through high speed train not stopping at London and going on to stop at the cities north of London, is surely worth serious consideration.

My hope is that the possible connection from HS1 to HS2 becomes the definite connection.

  • LW Riches (M), Rainham, Gillingham,


Hole lot of trouble

“I read the news today, 50,000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire…” I am sure that these would be the lyrics which John Lennon would be writing if he were alive today.

The original lyric was written after Lennon saw an article about the number of potholes in Blackburn in a local newspaper. The fact that Blackburn had over 10,000 potholes seemed to be newsworthy.

I am appalled by the state of much of our infrastructure. Our urban roads have vast numbers of potholes. Our motorway nearside lanes have such deep ruts that if they deepen any further we will have reinvented the guided bus system for free.

I suspect that attention will be paid to these problems when we have a spate of accidents as a result of poor maintenance and government has a knee jerk reaction.

Government needs to react sooner. We should not be rushing to build new infrastructure until we can manage and maintain that which already exists. We need to get the balance right.

The time is right. After the election we can bombard our newly elected MPs and see if we can galvanise them into action.

  • Ron Warner (M), 4 Little Wold Lane, South Cave, Brough, East Yorkshire, HU15 2AZ

Number crunching

I read the article “Use less water warns ICE Report” (NCE 22 March) with interest but I have some doubts about the claims for amount of water used.

For example, is 15,500l of water really needed in the production of 1kg of beef? The other figures quoted are equally astonishing and I would like to read the source of the figures. Is the report available online?

  • Denis Geeson (M),

Editor’s note: A copy of the report is available from the ICE at Professor Beddington’s Perfect Storm report, which was also mentioned in the article is available at

No rewards for quality

Turner & Townsend has apparently not highlighted the critical marketing, engineering and construction elements of an efficient value for money project development and tender assessment system (News last week). This, I believe is a critical omission.

The core problem is that, too often, there are no payments to consultants and contractors for excellence. Only payments based on competitive rates and margins, and with no declared and structured means of estimating the prospective real value of any tender proposal.

Even on major schemes there are, too often, suicidal cost leadership tender battles for consultants and contractors and as a result everyone suffers, including the clients. Clients and their advisers get fixated on rates, prices and not value.

On major schemes, consultants should, where practical, be able to compete in design competitions based on clients’ performance specifications. This could encourage smaller and possibly more innovative consultants to compete and this in itself would add value and reduce costs.

Contractors should also be able to tender on a true design and build basis. Consultants and contractors providing the best project schemes in time, total capital and operational cost, and quality would then be the ones who prosper by getting tenders accepted with increased margins which, by a fully structured and open basis, can be demonstrated as providing the best benefit to the client.

  • Peter Wilson (M), consultant,

Blowing hot and cold

From an engineering point of view it is most encouraging to read of giant projects such as the Desertec plan to provide 15% of Europe’s total energy needs from concentrated solar power in the Sahara (NCE 22 April).

However, one is slightly uneasy about the possible climatic implications of diverting so much energy north by about 20° latitude.

A major city such as London might consume about 0.05 terawatts, which induces a local “heat island” perhaps 4°C hotter than the surrounding countryside and generates its own micro-climate. In rough figures, the European energy consumption is over 3 terawatts, 15% of which is about 0.5 terawatts, ie 10 times as great as London’s.

As Desertec plans to extract that from the Sahara’s incoming solar radiation, could that create a “cool island” in the desert with knock-on climatic implications for North Africa, the Mediterranean and possibly even further afield?

  • Bruce Denness, Cinxia Cottage, Ashknowle Lane, Whitwell, Isle of Wight, PO38 2PP



In the letter published last week from Jonathan Bridge entitled “Help needed” we printed an incorrect email address. Readers wishing to help with his highway visibility project should respond to jonathan.bridge@mouchel. com.


Your views & opinion

NCE welcomes letters from readers. We attempt to print as many as possible,which means letterslonger than 200 words are likely to be condensed.

The Editor, NCE,
1st Floor, Greater
London House,
Hampstead Road,
London NW1 7EJ

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