HS2: Who cares about an old pear tree standing in its way?

cubbington pearIt was announced on the BBC Countryfile programme on Sunday evening that a 250-year old pear tree in Cubbington, Warwickshire had been voted as England’s Tree of the Year 2015 in a public vote organised by the Woodland Trust. The ancient tree will have to be destroyed in order to build the HS2 line between London and Birmingham.

Who cares, supporters of HS2 may cry? Isn’t it the ultimate bit of nimbyism to raise a fuss about an old tree standing in the way of progress?

The reason why the planned destruction of the Cubbington pear tree is important is that it exemplifies everything that is wrong about the way in which HS2 has been designed and is being rolled out. The design speed of 400 kph, which is quite unnecessary for a small crowded island such as ours, has determined a route which allows minimal deviation from a straight line, either horizontally or vertically. Just like the Roman roads two millennia ago, HS2 has to go straight through things rather than round them.

What is true for the Cubbington pear tree is equally true for the village of Burton Green, a little further north in Warwickshire, which falls within the county division I represent as a Lib Dem councillor. HS2 will go straight through the heart of the village, originally planned to be in a cutting but now to be in a short “cut and cover” tunnel. But this form of tunnel building will still cause massive disruption to the village during the years of its construction.

As is reported in the Guardian today, saving the Cubbington pear tree by putting HS2 in a deep bore tunnel would cost £46 million. The price for saving the village of Burton Green using a deep bore tunnel would be lower, between £ 28 -32 million. And yet the HS2 Select Committee has rejected both options, saying they would not represent “value for money”.

And so the HS2 juggernaut lumbers on, seemingly unstoppable. At some point in 2016, after the interminable proceedings in the House of Commons have been exhausted, the HS2 Hybrid Bill will transfer to the Lords, and it is to be hoped that our strong team of Lib Dem peers will subject it to much more critical appraisal than it received from MPs in the last Parliament.

What particularly frustrates old hands like me, who have been living with the realities of HS2 for 5½ years already, is that better options exist for a high speed network which have been studiously ignored by successive governments – for example the High Speed UK scheme, which is now being promoted by the Rethink HS2 group. Is there still time for sanity to prevail? I’m afraid I’m not holding my breath!

* John Whitehouse represents Kenilworth Abbey division on Warwickshire County Council

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  • Nigel Sarbutts 9th Nov '15 - 5:27pm

    The party’s support for this scheme is baffling. Every substantial, independent review of the case for it has torn it to pieces as being based on flimsy, outdated or even non-existent evidence, while the evidence from other high speed rail networks has shown that the arguments for re-balancing the economy are laughable. It is the classic case of “It’s the policy because it’s the policy.”

    It has no support to speak of outside the Commons and I can only hope that the party’s confidence in taking a stand against the Government will be applied here.

  • Richard Underhill 9th Nov '15 - 5:51pm

    The supporters of HS2 have backtracked by saying that the main objective is capacity, not speed.
    One Tory MP left the cabinet because she objected on constituency grounds.
    London to Birmingham is only about 110 miles, which does not offer much time saving compared with airlines, except that airports want passengers to shop for two hours before departure. There was a fringe meeting at federal conference in 2010 including interested parties from the railway industries, who were unenthusiastic about Aberdeen, Swansea, Liverpool or Belfast.
    i asked transport Minister Norman Baker about a fast rail service from Heathrow to Gatwick, which must have been considered because he knew exactly how long the journey would take. Getting passengers off the crowded M25 would also help the noxious air quality and avoid the noise pollution which happened with the previous helicopter service.
    Cynics will look forward to the Tories announcing new ideas, such reducing enviromental destruction and meeting passengers; objectives.

  • Capacity was always at least as important as speed. Nobody has “backtracked”…

  • HS2 is the transport equivalent of Trident – too expensive and a totem pole to Tory nonsense at a time when the gap between rich and poor gets wider.

  • Tony Dawson 9th Nov '15 - 7:40pm

    400 kph appears to be a pretty minimal/moderate planning sped for an HST network these days. Capacity ans speed appear to be pretty interdependent and equally-important.

  • HS2 is a vanity project. The financial case was proved to be garbage years ago but when did costs matter in a vanity project?

  • put up a bat box then no one can move it

  • Simon McGrath 9th Nov '15 - 7:55pm

    There is a case against HS2 – saving one tree is not it.

    “Just like the Roman roads two millennia ago, HS2 has to go straight through things rather than round them.”
    Those are the Roman roads that stayed in use for a couple of thousand years ?

  • Tony Greaves 9th Nov '15 - 9:26pm

    The cost of HS2 is no more than the cost of a handful of local schemes in London which will only increase the dominance of London in the economy of this country. Crossrail, Crossrail 2, Thameslínk and some underground extensions. But they are all in London. The Mayor even suggested a new ring rail round London at a mere £40 billion and no-one blinked at the cost.

    But of course trees are sacred!

    Tony Greaves

  • paul barker 9th Nov '15 - 9:39pm

    I was puzzled by the HS2 team assertion that the tree was hollow. are they just digging up irrelevencies or is the Tree going to be near the track rather than actually in its path ? This is a genuine question as I havent been following the details of all this.
    On HS2 generally, wasnt the whole point of it to increase capacity ? The point about speed is simply that if we have to build it anyway we might as well make it up to date. Britains size is about the same as Japan isnt it ? They have trains which already go faster than this is proposed to.

  • A Social Liberal 9th Nov '15 - 10:08pm

    We have the finances, we have the technology to just move the pear tree. Gentlemen we can rebuild it, we can create the worlds first transported old pear tree!

  • I don’t give a damn about the pear tree. Yeh I said it.

  • DomHeroEllis 9th Nov '15 - 11:02pm

    It’s just a bloody tree. The amount of gridlock in the transport system HS2 will clear up will not only make the new line fast, but will make every line which has a connection between or to London and Birmingham faster. Which is a lot.

  • Toby Fenwick 9th Nov '15 - 11:10pm

    The southern West coast mainline is full; it needs an additional pair of tracks. As this can’t be built on either side if the existing route at anything like a sensible cost, you build a new route. When building a new route, you decide the line speed (design speed) and the incremental cost versus the benefits of 140 mph vs 250mph weighs heavily in favour of the higher speed. Not only do you get the faster, you reduce the number of trains required for a given level of service and capacity increases.

    HS2 should’ve been built to Scotland under Darling. We’re doing it now and once it is opened we’ll never understand how we lived without it within a couple of years.

  • nigel hunter 9th Nov '15 - 11:39pm

    The tree should be moved, preserved. Whilst a modern railway is needed, God knows how slow we are to catch up with the modern world. Nature should be respected, it has been around longer than the human race has been,

  • No HS2 was and has always been a political vanity project – the supporters of HS2 are simply those who believed the hype about the emperor’s new clothes, hence the 45 minute journey time was always important. The capacity dimension (and there is a capacity issue on the existing infrastructure that can be resolved by spending significantly less on the existing infrastructure than on HS2) is just something tacked on to try and beef up the non-existent economic or business case for HS2.

    The real reason why the tree is standing in the way of the proposed route of HS2, is down to the stupid way we do planning for infrastructure projects, namely we have to place the new infrastructure (road/railway etc.) as far away from people as possible, because that reduces it’s ‘impact’, hence they always go straight-through places we’ve avoided building on for various reasons: such as them being SSSI’s, hill’s (remember Twyford Down, now a void) ancient woodland etc. Yet when it comes to the suburbs great efforts are gone to totally compromise the route so that 250mph trains get restricted to 30mph… So if HS2 can justify cutting down a tree and ripping apart Burton Green, they can also justify the cutting a real high-speed through north London and making other sensible alterations to the route.

  • John Wheelhouse – looking at the map for High Speed UK I can see that the Midlands to Manchester arm will have to pass through right through the middle of the Peak District National Park and the Newcastle to Edinburgh arm through the Northumbria National Park. So straight away I can see a couple of flaws in the argument.

    Richard Underhill said ‘London to Birmingham is only about 110 miles, which does not offer much time saving compared with airlines, except that airports want passengers to shop for two hours before departure.’ and Roland said ‘the supporters of HS2 are simply those who believed the hype about the emperor’s new clothes, hence the 45 minute journey time was always important.’

    Except Phase 1is not just running to Birmingham is it? That’s always the great con, saying its just about Birmingham. Opponents also usually forget to say the £50bn price tag includes Phase 2. Phase 1 is running between London and a connection with the WCML just north of Lichfield and will cost £22bn. (All the rumours and David Higgins recommendations are saying that Phase 1 should/will be extend to Crewe). So straight away you already speed up services between London and Manchester, Liverpool, Preston, Glasgow, Edinburgh etc. Not to mention there will be also be HS2/Crossrail interchange station at Old Oak Common providing a 20min service to Heathrow and better connections to the west of London. So you’ve speed up services there just by building an extra station. This is all before Phase 2 is built, extending the HS lines to Manchester and Leeds, (which also has the potential to speed up slow Cross Country services) and the Scottish Governments (‘Phase 3’) Y-shaped HS line between Glasgow, Edinburgh and the south. (I won’t digress into the cost of Crossrail (£17bn) compared to the cost of HS2)

  • Richard Underhill also said ‘The supporters of HS2 have backtracked by saying that the main objective is capacity, not speed’

    They are connected and interchangeable. If you increase speed on a railway line you automatically reduce capacity. We could vastly increase capacity on the WCML overnight, but that would involve slowing everything down to 30mph. As new plane services between Scottish and northern cities and London are opening every year there is clearly a demand for fast services to London. HS2 Phase 1 will help to reduce some of this demand and the more sections that are built the more efficient the HS network will become at reducing internal flights in the UK, and providing fast services between the regions, and not just London.

  • The problem is that it’s one of those totemic schemes like the Saunders Roe Princess based on flawed logic and an optimistic price tag the main aim of which seems to be PR.

  • @ Simon Shaw

    It is a shame that you will not accept the word of one of our highly respected Warwickshire County Councillors that HS2 was originally justified on the grounds of speed. There is probably a clue in the government’s choice of a name for the project.

    Would you regard Gordon Brown as a more reliable witness? He said “Britain’s future prosperity depends upon investing in technologies that drive economic growth. High speed rail has a crucial role to play… . Not only France’s TGV and the pioneering Japanese Shinkansen but new high speed networks across Europe and Asia are increasing capacity, slashing travel times, transforming the connections between cities, and offering the most comfortable and convenient travelling experience in history. Where high speed rail connects cities in less than about three and a half hours, traffic moves en masse from the plane to the train. It is striking that countries which have built a first high speed rail line have gone on to build more …Britain’s High Speed One line, from St Pancras to the Channel Tunnel, shows what can be achieved… High Speed One has cut journey times from London to Paris and Brussels to around two hours and seen rail’s share of the travel market to these cities grow to over 70 per cent. The introduction of Javelin high speed domestic services last December has radically reduced journey times to London from towns across Kent, opening up major growth and regeneration opportunities… . This Command Paper sets out the Government’s proposed strategy for High Speed Rail. As a first stage it proposes the development of a core high speed rail network linking London to Manchester and Leeds via Birmingham, with high speed services connecting directly to other cities in Northern England and Scotland from the outset… . High speed rail has a transformational role to play at the heart of Britain’s twentyfirst century transport infrastructure”.

    You can look it up here:


  • ‘Not only France’s TGV and the pioneering Japanese Shinkansen but new high speed networks across Europe and Asia are [B]increasing capacity[\B], slashing travel times, transforming the connections between cities, and offering the most comfortable and convenient travelling experience in history. ‘

  • Sadly that didn’t highlight. But you get the point. As I said earlier capacity and speed are two sides of the same coin. Change one and it impacts the other. Just because the media and anti-HS2 groups initially decided to focus on speed doesn’t mean capacity hasn’t always been a major part of the business case behind HS2.

  • Nigel Sarbutts 10th Nov '15 - 11:02am

    The business case hangs on the monetised value of time saved, not on capacity gained. The latest iteration of the business case simply reversed the ratio of business to leisure passengers in order to keep the business cost ratio positive. If you want see the Secretary of State fail to answer why this was done, search YouTube for Patrick McLoughlin’s interview with Emily Maitlis. Calling it a car crash is being kind.

    What supporters of HS2 overlook when advancing the capacity argument is that in order to maximise speed the line by-passes major city centres such as Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby in favour of parkway stations (see also Manchester Airport, Birmingham interchange and a field somewhere South of Crewe), which by their nature also bring transfer time penalties and produce many extra car journeys, undermining the environmental case still further.

    It is true that capacity is mentioned in the original business case but the design taken forward is all the proof you need that speed is the principal objective.

    It is also obvious to point out that there are many other and cheaper ways to increase capacity, a problem which is chiefly a feature of the Southern end of the West Coast line. HS2 does nothing to increase capacity on some of our most overcrowded lines such as South of the Thames or for that matter will it make a jot of difference to capacity on the West Coast North of Crewe or on the East Coast North of York as classic compatible trains would occupy the paths currently used by inter cities.

    It’s hard to imagine a worse scheme for any of its stated objectives (other than being very fast) and there are plenty of better ways to spend £50bn (or whatever the cost might end up at after they undertaken a proper ground survey of the route – after all it was unexpected ground conditions on extremely well surveyed land that have caused huge cost over-runs and delays on the GWR and between Liverpool and Manchester).

  • What a load of nonsense. We need to get on with HS2, like yesterday. A pear tree indeed. I watched the Tv report on Midlands Today, it is just a sort of emotional red herring brought up by No campaigners who will seize on anything, deny anything and sound just like the anti mtorway campaigners of the 50’s, who no doubt used the motorways as much as anyone else.

  • The original case was that the travel time saved would be make more time available for work and would therefore increase productivity. This rather odd justification for spending billions was quietly dropped when it was pointed out that those intending to do work simply got on with it using laptops or reading reports and lopping a few minutes off travel time made little difference.

  • I’m fully behind HS2; we’re on the West Coast Mainline so feeling the full effects of the lack of capacity.
    I can’t believe we live in a country where there’s no spade in the ground 5 1/2 years after the Coalition Agreement committing to it, but maybe that’s a sign of how seriously the objections are being treated, and mitigation pursued where possible.

    As others have said, once it’s been built, we’ll wonder why it was ever so controversial.

  • Re: Simon Shaw 10th Nov ’15 – 10:00am
    “Anyone doubting that the HS2 case was initially about speed should go back to the original business and economic case documents from 2010 on.”
    Are you quite sure about that, John? Perhaps you could provide a link that shows that to be the case.

    Actually the initial case for HS2 was simply based on the politic’s of Britain not having high-speed rail and hence needing to catch up and ‘look’ modern – remember all the “keeping up with the Jone’s” style of comments which were basically saying that country ‘x’ has got one (ie. a High-speed network) we must have one too. So in the documents prior to circa 2010 (now difficult to access as much has been archived) the emphasis is very much on the “me too” and “new shiny”. So in official documents you get statements like:

    “The only new network we can expect to build in the twenty first century is for high speed rail. ”
    [http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110130200755/http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/highspeedrail/hs2ltd/hs2report/pdf/chapter1.pdf ]

    and an over emphasis on speed/time by listing this as the number one benefit:
    “Journey time from London to Birmingham City Centre cut by over 30mins to 49 minutes.”
    [http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/highspeedrail/lontobhm/pdf/leaflet.pdf] which once you made the journal start and end points the same, the notional time saving vanished.

    Also up to circa 2010, HS2 was really only about a London-Birmingham shuttle service with airy handwaving to future expansion and interconnect. It is only post-2010 that expansion north of Birmingham was properly considered and the interconnect with HS1. It is interesting to note the HS2 Hybrid Bill wending its way through Parliament, focuses wholly on the London-Birmingham segment, which means there is no certainty that these will actually happen in any realistic timeframe.

    It is only later (circa 2012) capacity became the major justification, although there was mention of capacity, but only peak time, but then those who bang this drum were either totally unaware of or chose to ignore a Network Rail report of the time which outlined a roadmap for the enhancement of the WCML that would enable it to satisfy projected capacity demands post-2034 [aside: apologies not got a URL to hand, only my summary of the key points made in the report with respect to capacity]…

  • Laurence Cox 10th Nov '15 - 5:03pm

    I sometimes despair about the lack of joined-up thinking amongst members of the Lib Dem party. Someone has a ‘good’ idea, like high-speed rail and then people get so committed to it that they cannot see that a particular option (current HS2) has some advantages and some disadvantages. In this case, John Whitehouse has illustrated a disadvantage in the context of one tree, but HS2 will destroy areas of irreplaceable ancient woodland along its path.

    If you realise how many homes will be lost in North London (mainly Camden) to build the line and the nearly total rebuilding of Euston station required, you might come to question whether the terminus should be at Euston at all. And after all that, if you want to travel from Birmingham to Paris or Brussels you still have to get off one high-speed train at Euston and walk or get a taxi along the Euston Road to St Pancras to get on another high-speed train.

    So while accepting the principle that high-speed rail links between cities are a good way to reduce pollution, by reducing emissions from road vehicles and domestic flights, don’t let’s get hung up on one specific route. For example, there is a need for a high-speed link between Gatwick and Heathrow. If HS2 were to run from Birmingham Airport (as proposed) to Heathrow, then the spare capacity at Birmingham could remove the need for a third Heathrow runway. Extend it to Gatwick and it provides that fast inter-airport link. Extend it further to HS1 near Ashford and passengers from Birmingham and points north can get straight to France without having to change trains and stations at London. They can still get into Central London quickly from Heathrow by using the express rail link to Paddington.

    Now this all needs joined-up thinking, which the French are good at, but which the British deprecate in favour of muddling through. It is time that we looked at how those across the Channel manage their transport policy and learnt from them.

  • More travelling form A to B is not moving in an environmentally or socially sustainable direction. What does it matter if people can get to Birmingham a bit more quickly? People can work on trains. We need to invest more in cancer research, hospitals, schools and care for the elderly. Also, in my view, all the HS2 project will really do is bring more commuters to London, putting additional strain on its creaking infrastructure. Save the tree!

  • Stephen Hesketh 10th Nov '15 - 6:43pm

    HS2 is very likely to to simply move people to and from London more quickly, expand the size of the over-dominant London and South East region and do nothing to promote distinctive Liberal aims such as regionalism and the dispersion of wealth and power.

    I say introduce Bonsai to the capital, its power and influence rather than to the tree!

  • Geoff Abell 10th Nov '15 - 9:55pm

    Please ensure we have a modern, fast rail network on this large island. Build HS2.

  • Improve existing rail services before developing new ones – which few people can in reality afford. For example, around £90 single from Bath to London at peak times. Fares far too high on some lines.

  • I am surprised that a number of people here fail to recognise that on a rail line, properly managed,increased speed increases CAPACITY.

  • For goodness sake – Four Seasons care homes are about to implode (come on Norman Lamb – get stuck into this one) – thousands more will be using food banks next April – the junior doctors threatening to strike – NHS finances going to pot….. And the Tories want to spend billions on HS2 and Trident……..

  • David Evershed 11th Nov '15 - 2:44am

    In 2009/2010 the purpose of HS2 was both to add capacity and shorten journey time (ie speed)

    An extract below from HM Government Command Paper March 2010

    On the basis of this evidence, the Government’s assessment is:

    1. That over the next 20 to 30 years the UK will require a step-change in
    transport capacity between its largest and most productive conurbations,
    both facilitating and responding to long-term economic growth;

    2. That alongside such additional capacity, there are real benefits for the economy
    and for passengers from improving journey times and hence the connectivity
    of the UK;

    3. That new capacity and improved connectivity must be delivered sustainably:
    without unacceptable environmental impacts, and in line with the Government’s
    strategy to promote a low carbon economy, including its statutory targets for
    reducing emissions of greenhouse gases;

    4. That high speed rail is the most effective way to achieve these goals, offering
    a balance of capacity, connectivity and sustainability benefits unmatched by
    any other option;

    Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/228887/7827.pdf

  • If the UK is really in such need of this project, instead of spending £billions of tax-payer’s money, could we not just ask our Chinese friends(using their glut of cheap steel for the tracks) to ‘stump-up’ the cash, get our French friends (using their expertise in TGV fast rail) to build it, and allow them both a guaranteed ‘high-cost’ rail fare for the forseeable future?

    Just a thought?

  • My old mate John Jefkins is spot on in every post. We need to stop debating the issue and get on with building the vital extra capacity for our rail network. Any minor problem that is thrown in the way is an opportunity for delay and obfuscation. Our Victorian forebears would be totally bemused by the head in the sand view expressed by opponents of HS2, HS3 and beyond. They just got on and built railways. We should be focussing on greatly speeding up the process, not finding opportunities to delay.

  • The UK has mixed-speed, mixed-traffic mainlines – six relatively long ones (five of them go to London: WCML, MML, ECML, GWML, GEML; plus the Cross-Country Main Line from Derby to Bristol). All of these carry a mixture of local passenger trains (which we call “commuter” trains when they’re near a city), freight trains and long-distance high-speed (LDHS) trains. Mixing different speeds and stopping patterns reduces the capacity of the line (ie you can run more trains if they all run at the same speed and all stop at the same stations – this is why London Underground can run a train every couple of minutes; they never have to overtake each other).

    Almost all of those mainlines are running at or very near capacity in terms of the number of trains that can be fitted on. If you measure seats occupied, they don’t look too bad, but that’s because the trains run all day – if they’re full at peak times, but quiet in early mornings, in the middle of the day, and in the evening, then the average can look like they’re only 40-50% full, when they’re completely full at 8:30am and 5:30pm. There’s a certain amount the train companies can do with “yield management” – raising prices for busy trains, lowering for quiet ones, but when a Manchester-London single fare ranges from £164.50 to £15 depending on the train you choose, then that technique can’t really go much further. And demand for rail travel just keeps going up.

    There’s plenty of demand for more trains – especially for longer-distance commuter services into London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds (trains from Milton Keynes or Northampton into London, from Marple or Knutsford to Manchester, to pick WCML examples). But those services are the ones that the existing mainlines are perfect for, so the best way to enable more of those services is to move something else off the main line. There’s also demand for some more LDHS services – not to the main cities (only Liverpool could really do with extra trains), but to many of the bigger towns and smaller cities, many of which have lost some or all of their LDHS service as trains have been sped up over the last couple of decades. I’m thinking of places like Stoke, Blackpool, Hull, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Bradford, Huddersfield, Milton Keynes, Northampton or Stafford.

  • So if you have too much traffic on a line, what can you do? You can widen it – but, unlike motorways, our railway lines generally have buildings right up against the tracks in urban areas, so widening tends to need a lot of demolition. Or you can build another line to carry some of the traffic away, which lets you select an alternative route and knock down many fewer people’s homes. Just over a hundred, rather than several thousand.

    For some lines, you can move the short-distance commuter services off the mainline. For GWML and GEML, this is being done by the Crossrail tunnel – but that only really helps around one city; for those lines, none of the cities other than London has so much commuter traffic as to congest the line. On WCML, there is not just the bottleneck into Euston, but also the New Street lines in Birmingham and the Stockport Viaduct into Manchester – all of which are at the point that no more trains can be run at peak times. There are also problems outside London at Leeds (ECML) and at Trent Junction (MML) between Derby and Nottingham – and even the “London” problems on ECML are much father out than those on, say GEML (Stevenage, rather than Shenfield).

    The alternative to moving the slowest trains off the line is to move the fastest trains off. And that’s what HS2 does. It moves the fastest trains – the expresses from London to Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Glasgow – off the main lines and onto HS2. That means that instead of nine or ten express trains leaving Euston every hour, there will be four or five, and all of them will stop at Watford and Milton Keynes (which means that they fit in better with slower services). It will similarly approximately halve fast services into King’s Cross – the reduction at St Pancras will be smaller because Leicester is not covered by HS2. For every fast train removed, about one-and-a-half slower trains can be added, to places like Northampton, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Bedford and Peterborough.

    That’s the capacity reason for doing HS2 – it’s attacking the same basic problem as Crossrail, but from the other end of the spectrum of trains.

  • Then there’s the speed reason. If you’re building this new line, you need to make sure people use it in preference to the old one, or you don’t solve the congestion. Making it faster has other benefits; most people will prefer a faster journey, as we all generally have something better to do with our time than sitting on a train, however nice the train may be. If you want to compete with domestic flights, then the overall journey time needs to get under three hours, and preferably under two-and-a-half. The only rail journeys between major cities on HS2 currently longer than 2:30 are London-Newcastle and Birmingham-Newcastle, plus journeys from Glasgow or Edinburgh to any English city (bar Edinburgh-Newcastle). Both London-Newcastle and Birmingham-Newcastle will drop under 2:30 with HS2 as planned, but to get (e.g.) London-Glasgow down to that time would need high-speed rail all the way. The speed chosen is such that those two key journeys would be well under 2:30 with HSR all the way from London. Now, obviously, the line isn’t currently planned to go that far, but any eventual extension through Lancashire and Cumbria to join the Edinburgh-Glasgow HS line at the Border will need that speed, or else people will carry on flying, using up precious slots at Heathrow and creating high-altitude CO2 emissions. So that’s why 400 km/h was chosen – so that we can eventually wipe out flights between London and Edinburgh/Glasgow.

    There are other reasons as well – the real case is that the combination of benefits is greater than the combination of costs, and individual people will emphasise different parts of the argument at different times. Naturally, that is going to sound a bit like people keep changing the argument – but there is more than one benefit, and each one takes time and needs explaining.

    And sure, if the Tories cut rail subsidy to pay for HS2, then that’s a stupid decision. But it’s not a stupid decision because HS2 is stupid, it’s a stupid decision because the Tories are stupid for cutting things that don’t need cutting.

  • >”Why do you think the conservation/development balance is wrong?”

    Simple in the original report HS2 presented to government on the proposed route, they explicitly stated that it failed to satisfy any of the environmental requirements specified by the government for the project! And very little has happened subsequently to address this fundamental failing in the chosen route.

  • >”At the rail conference last week in Leeds, I got almost UNANIMOUS support from rail bosses for my ideas of connecting HS2 to HS1″

    But it has to be high-speed! Additionally once you connect the two, you no longer need a London terminus, in fact it simply adds unnecessary costs. So we effectively are back to what was originally envisaged for Kings Cross when HS1 was designed a through station…

  • The scheme is an appalling misallocation of resources even within the transport budget; let alone across the whole of Government programmes. Imagine it did not exist: imagine we have £40bn (we don’t) and ask yourself: ‘should we spend it this way?’


  • John Jefkins writes of St Pancras Cross’. Good. I have long thought that HS2 should be more related to HS1 if we are going to have it at all. What will it be like if it terminates a few miles short of Euston, which is the short term outcome? And do we rally want Manchester people to shoot down to Euston and then have to walk to St Pancras to proceed to the continent?

  • @David. and @David Raw. I so agree with you. @ Mick Taylor. Never mind what the Victorians did. They had money to burn much of it derived from global domination We live in an age of austerity we are told. We have to live within our means. Spending £60 billion on this rail project at the moment is myopic.

    We need to invest in mental health services and care homes. For example, reports are already emerging of hospitals being overwhelmed by frail elderly people because care homes are going broke. The UK has worse cancer outcomes than many comparable countries in Europe.

    Please let’s get real here. If our economy was booming maybe then go for a scheme like this, even though there should be improved environmental safeguards. But it’s time to break the mould and build locally sustainable economies

  • HS2 is a massive vanity project for folk who never quite grew out of playing with their train sets. There are more cost effective ways to provide capacity and there are many other routes which are fit to burst.

  • HS2 also has the massive advantage of, for the most part, not being next to the live lines. Which makes it actually a less complex civil engineering project, for the most part.

    WRT the HS1–HS2 link: I agree it should be built, although we could probably make some speed sacrifices through London.

  • What Alistair said: 11th Nov ’15 – 11:11pm
    “HS2 is a massive vanity project for folk who never quite grew out of playing with their train sets. “

  • Reading all the arguments rather reminds me of the arguments that were put forward for the m25 , it would improve journeys for people wanting to move around London we were all told, instead it has simply encouraged people to say oh look we can travel 20/30/40/50 miles to work, and I remember indeed that was true, until of course everyone wanted to do that, so it’s original purpose goes from being a through rote to just a slower and more environmentally damaging way of doing things. If you provide the ability to get into London in under three hours it will simply distort the already grossly distorted south east pull. Look at the figures of how journey times have increased over the last ten years.

    I find it totally ironic that at the very point that the Internet is providing the sort of super highway that is really needed, together with a real debate about how that we could scope that to everyone’s advantage we seem to think the answer is to build more highways of any sort to rush more people around further distances. Time for a rethink.

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Dec '19 - 2:28pm

    John Whitehouse | Mon 9th November 2015
    Roman roads were jagged, one straight section after another, built for Roman soldiers to march on with sufficient visibility to foresee potential ambushes.
    HS2 needs to compete with air travel within the UK. It has been divided by the Pennines, so northwards extensions from Leeds and Manchester will need to be considered sometime, towards Edinburgh and Glasgow, but maybe stopping at the Scottish border. Further extension to Aberdeen would be expensive, but North Sea oil policies may have changed before HS2 reaches Leeds.
    The M25 was built in stages without announcing a completion plan by the Cons under Mrs Thatcher. The “bypasses” merited consultation with the various county councils.
    A rail route from Heathrow to Gatwick would be a good idea (a helicopter link was abandoned as too noisy). These two airports are in separate ownership because of Tory ideology.

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Dec '19 - 2:42pm

    As a Christmas present I bought my father a partridge and a pear tree.
    He said “Those who plant pears plant for their heirs.” The pear-tree was grafted onto a famous rootstock. He planted it at 45 degrees to the vertical, in Wiltshire.
    Data from the Forestry Commission shows that trees that take 100 years to mature in the north of Scotland will make equivalent size in 30 years in Wales and less on Exmoor in Devon. This difference also affects the price of land.
    We already had a house nearer work, with a large mortgage.

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