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Parliament to probe High Speed Two scheme

The Government’s controversial High Speed Two (HS2) high-speed rail scheme, which will initially run from London to Birmingham, is to be the subject of a Parliamentary committee inquiry, it has been announced.

The House of Commons Transport Committee will look into the strategic case for high-speed rail (HSR).

Among the things that the committee will look at are the business case for HS2 with work scheduled to start in 2015.

MPs will wants answers on the “robustness” of the assumptions of economic benefit of HS2, which will run through beauty spots in the Chilterns and could be extended north of Birmingham at a total cost of around £32bn.

The MPs will also question whether the proposed stations on the route are in the best place, which cities should be served by HSR north of Birmingham, the environmental impact of the route and just who will benefit from it.

A number of members of the committee, including chairman Louise Ellman (Labour Liverpool Riverside) represent North West England constituencies.

One question the committee will be posing is: “What evidence is there that HSR will promote economic regeneration and help bridge the north-south economic divide?”

Some Tory MPs are opposed to HS2, while others against the plan include residents’ groups and some local councils.

HS2 is at the heart of the Government’s transport policy and is supported by big businesses and the rail industry.

But opponents, accused by some of Nimbyism, say the economic case for the line is unproven and that it is a waste of money during austere times.

Readers' comments (3)

  • As a country we need to see the future of high speed rai. It is the only real compettion to internal flights, which have huge detrimental environmental impacts, and is more environemntally friendlyin the long run than motroways. It should also be remembered that local passenger services will also benefit from greater space and increased availbliltiy of timetable paths on the existing lines, as well as abvailiability of freight. Rail travel is obvioulsy on the increase, look at most trains heading into city centres and they are at capacity already, and that is with greater number of services - who wants to stand from Brimingham to London having paid a small fortune for a ticket - but what is the alternative - driving/flying are both less favoured. It will also make the channel tunnel and the continent much more accisible. At present it has a huge impact on the South East corner of the UK. By extending high speeds lines further north, with easy links/direct services to HS1 and beyond, the continent is closer than ever. Minimise the impacts of HS2 by careful planning YES (shared transport corridors? with M40? M6?), but don't put High Speed on the back burner.

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  • High speed rail is a good idea for longer distances BUT it must have good connections otherwise all the benefit will be lost in transfers between terminals. Heathrow comes and goes as a station but if you spend an hour or so changing trains, walking or catching tubes from the HS terminal station it will not appeal over other modes. HS1 and HS2 need a direct connection and some through trains to maintain the benefit to a passenger
    Brian Edwards

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  • The design speed for high speed rail, 400 kph, just happens to be the speed above which the specific fuel consumption of high speed rail (KWh/seat-Km) becomes more than common aircraft so claiming green credentials or "modal shift" is spurious at best. Hardly anyone flies between Birmingham and London and few between Manchester and London so what is all this argument about. In terms of carbon footprint and environmental damage we would be better promoting flying as flying does not need continuing public subsidy. When an aeroplane fails to make a profit you just park it without having incurred the loss of agricultural land, amenity damage and the localised economic paralysis. High speed rail as currently envisaged will be the fastest railway in the world but for what purpose. It just demonstrates that its promoters have failed to ask the fundamental question: what combination of speed and station frequency best serves the population distribution of this country? It answers the question of how to maximise the short to medium term profitability and job prospects of the rail industry very nicely. High speed rail is a total mismatch with low carbon electricity supplies. We should not even be contemplating it until this problem has been solved. Given the massive investment into low carbon electricity why simultaneously invest in something that can't use it.
    Bryn Bird

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