Railfuture holds high speed rail conference

Railfuture, the organisation campaigning for better rail services, recently held a high speed rail conference at Bletchley Park.

The conference was held on 9 July 2011, chaired by Christian Wolmar with speakers from all sides of the argument.

The event found that ‘everyone’ agreed high speed rail can’t be ‘considered on its own’ and that ‘public transport generally needs to be improved first’.

A presentation was given by Railfuture on the changes it would like to see to HS2 to deliver ‘greater benefits for less cost’.

Professor Andrew McNaughton of HS2 Ltd said:

“I think this has been a fascinating Railfuture conference. I enjoyed being on the panel sitting with people with different views.

“Actually what it boiled down to was a couple of things. Firstly there is no such thing as black and white. There are a range of views that people have. But actually we have more in common than we have separating us. One of the problems in the past has been the polarisation of views which reduces things to being too simplistic.

“I am completely convinced that the government’s plans are the best plans and I only became involved in high-speed rail because I said ‘we’re only going to do it once if we do it at all. So if we do it once we need to do it as best as we can both for the people who use it and for the people it will pass by.’ I am absolutely determined that we will achieve this.”

Stephen Joseph, campaign for Better Transport said:

“I think it’s clear that a lot of the people involved have more common ground than has sometimes been presented. But I think it is also clear that everybody is agreeing that high-speed rail needs to be part of a much broader package involving the rest of rail and transport and also with land-use planning and economic development we’ve got to have that kind of broad strategy otherwise high-speed rail will just be a rich man’s railway.”

Lizzy Williams, founding member of StopHS2, the national organisation against HS2

“I am categorically opposed to HS2 on environmental grounds, economic grounds and priority grounds actually.

“I come from a construction background and in the proposal, which I looked at last year when it first came out, I found the paperwork extremely lacking, based on flawed data. It is not environmentally sound whatsoever.

“It is carbon neutral at best. I have come along today to talk to the Railfuture delegates at the conference in Bletchley Park about my concerns about HS2 and to try to encourage them to examine the detail and ensure that this level of investment in our country is spent prudently.”

Graham Nalty presented Railfuture’s suggested changes to the government’s HS2 proposal:

“I think high-speed rail is necessary for the country. We do need a lot more capacity but we do need better connectivity and we need to look at ways of achieving that.

“I do use rail for business and I find high-speed rail much better than travelling by air, so that I have some time to do work without the interruptions you get in the office. My vote goes definitely for high-speed rail but with good connectivity and good interchanges.”


  1. Graham Nalty says he finds it useful to be able to work on trains. So why have HS2 not taken into account in their figures that people work on trains? They’ve based their business case calculations on an assumption that time spent on trains is unproductive. And if people use time productively on a train why do trains need to travel as fast as 250mph? If the mandatory 250mph speed hadn’t been dictated, the line would not need to be so straight and could in particular avoid the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and other sensitive sites. It would also be more energy efficient.

    • “If the mandatory 250mph speed hadn’t been dictated, the line would not
      need to be so straight and could in particular avoid the Chilterns Area
      of Outstanding Natural Beauty and other sensitive sites”

      @GordonF – you forgot to add on the most important bit at the end “and rather conveniently it means the new line won’t go anywhere near my back yard!”

      • Not at all, padav, as that’s not a valid argument against HS2. I wouldn’t want 250mph trains going through ANYONE’S back yard or indeed ANY National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Presumably you’re happy with that idea as long as it’s not in your back yard? 
        Very revealing, though, that you haven’t answered my serious points.
        1. Why has the business case for HS2 been based on the belief that time spent on trains is unproductive?
        2. Since 350km/h trains use 90% more fuel than 250km/h trains (DofT Delivering a Sustainable Railway July 2007) why is the line being designed for 400km/h trains?

        • Firstly @GordonF, there won’t be any 400km/h (250mph) trains running through anyone’s back yard anyway because although the line is engineered to permit such speeds current technolgy means the trains will probably run in a range between 320 – 350km/h (200 – 225mph)

          Secondly, I don’t need to answer your allegedly serious points – the business case may be based to some degree on an arbitrary value set against unproductive time but such models are flawed – HS2’s major benefit is in providing capacity when it will be needed, in about ten years time when the current line has reached a potential tipping point at peak times.

          Only as technology improves will faster trains be brought on stream – new trainsets are now much more energy efficient than their 1980s predecessors and no doubt in 20-30 years time similar advances will be made, permitting the 400km/h upper threshold – what technology cannot do is buck the laws of physics, hence the requirement for a line that cannot follow an existing major transport artery, which is what you are alluding to in your remarks.

          Let’s not prevaricate here – your strategy is abundantly clear – chip away at the relatively high speed element of the line in an attempt to change the design criteria – acheive that goal and then claim that the new line can follow an existing transport corridor, such as the M1 – hey presto! the route is suddenly and conveniently diverted elsewhere and becomes someone else’s problem.

          You’re not particularly bothered that this change in strategy will result in much more disruption and potential property blight, see this article on alternative routes following the M1 corridor – http://yestohs2.blogspot.com/2011/01/hsr-follow-motorways-and-smash-through.html – because your primary goal is blatantly obvious to any reader with a modicum of intelligence – move the line of route away from you – anywhere will do just as long as it’s not near you!

          • And you live on which part of the route exactly padav? Or are you the real Nimby – ie happy to blight someone else’s back yard for your own personal gain as long as it’s not yours?

          • Observations
            to your paragraphs in order, pavdav…

            Para 1. Glad
            you agree the line doesn’t need to be engineered for 250mph trains.

            Para 2:  Not sure why you don’t believe the flawed HS2
            models are serious points considering the whole business case of HS2 is based
            on dubious assumptions in order to try
            to make it look more attractive to spend £33,000,000,000 of public money.
            However I couldn’t agree with you more that capacity is the issue and not speed.

            Your Para 3:
            Now contradicts Para 1  – so there WILL
            be 250mph trains blighting homes after all! Hmm.

            Your Para 4:
            So you agree it’s a “problem”? But what a shame you ended up prevaricating
            after all. I’m sorry if I didn’t make myself clear so I’ll write it all in
            capitals this time I DON’T WANT IT IN ANYONE’S BACK YARD! I have absolutely no
            wish to pass the problem to anyone else otherwise I would be a Nimby (like Philip
            Hammond was when he sold the idea of HS2 to his constituents by saying it would  prevent a 3rd runway at Heathrow near his back yard). Am I right in assuming it’s
            currently not YOUR problem but you’re smugly happy and unsympathetic that it’s a
            problem for others? Let’s stick to 125mph and clear all the current bottlenecks
            on the whole network rather than spend the £33bn all on one new line that will
            benefit a few rich businessmen and MPs. The WCML capacity issues can be solved
            without the need for a new line (including reviewing the pricing structure) and we do not need the planned speed.

            Your Para 5:
            I certainly don’t want to blight others’ lives (see above) . However it seems the Pro HS2 lobby are happy to with this
            white elephant purely to satisfy their own personal agendas.

          • @GordonF – sorry that you’ve misundersood my remarks. What I meant was that when HS2 opens the trainsets (some of which for example, Eurostar currently has on order with Siemens) will run at 320km/h, not 400km/h – hence my comments further on regarding the incremental increase in average running speeds

            The UK is obssessed with providing some kind of tangible, measureable (in orthodox financial terms) benefit – in short any infrastructure project is slave to a pervasive bean counter mentality. This means that the DfT must find some mechanism to reinforce the business case.

            HS2 boasts the potential to drive a profound transformation in the UK’s geo-political structure. For example, much of the narrative surrounding the HS2 debate talks about the UK as a distinct entity wholly divorced from its near European neighbours. Perciving the European/Global geo-political framework in this compartmentalised manner is simply untenable in the 21st century.

            I want my Region (NW.England) to join the High Speed Rail revolution unfolding across Europe. For me, the very last place I’ll be travelling to on any high speed service originating in NW.England is London! HS2 is about beginning the long overdue process of connecting the peripheral, and relatively marginalised Regions of the UK to the rest of Europe in order that we can inexorably diminish reliance on our more affluent London/SE England based counterparts.

            @Pete Davies – my post code is SK9 7** – I live within close proximity of the existing WCML’s southern approaches to Manchester. It is likely that phase 2 of HS2 will come quite close to my residential location, although the line at that point will almost certainly be in deep cutting/tunnel.

            I have no vested interest (financial or otherwise) in HS2 per se, other than as a potential user of the new line. I hate flying and would always choose rail over short-haul intra-European airborne transport. The advent of HS2 will link my Region into the burgeoning pan-European HSR network – it’s very probable that phase 2 of HS2 will incoporate a Manchester South hub within the environs of Manchester International Airport, approx 6km from my residential location.

          • So how exactly would you get to Paris on high-speed rail? Travel at 225mph+ to Euston then walk at 3mph along Euston Road from Euston to St Pancras? As a Geordie [sorry to throw your prejudices?] I’m very happy with the current speeds – Newcastle to London in under 3 hours is a time-saving of 2 hours compared to road. It’s energy efficient and I can use the time productively. It’s the fares I’m not happy about and HSR isn’t going to improve that.

          • when you are more productive, there will be more industry, more jobs, more exports, and salaries will be higher, so you will afford railfares. Stop your gripng and get on a do something!

          • The UK will be more productive if it sorts out its railway and other transport infrastructure as a whole rather than putting billions into one line that will benefit a few mainly rich people in 4 cities. There are far better ways we could spend £32bn across the country  -from Newcastle you can’t even drive to Scotland on a dual carriageway, let alone a motorway for example. HS2 may benefit the immediate cities it serves, but that will be to the detriment of those it doesn’t – hence Leicester’s opposition to HS2. 

          • @GordonF – I can tell you’re really clued up on HS2, so much so that you don’t even know that there will be through running trains to the near mainland continent from provincial UK cities, starting on day one of HS2’s operation!

            In fact, for me, they could build the line down to Old Oak Common, the tunnelled link between HS2 and HS1, in part using the NLL, and forget about Euston completely – I’ll never travel into Euston on a HSR service from my Region!

            The principal benefits of HS2 flow from a mixture of additional capacity (to accommodate seemingly relentless growth in demand [currently approx 6% per annum, year on year]) on the WCML and speed, in order that the advent of HS2 drives modal shift from short-haul intra-European air to rail.

            Presumably you’ve heard of companies like RyanAir, EasyJet, FlyBe and Jet2.Com, whose entire business models are predicated on robust demand for short-haul air links, filling tens of thousands of seats everyday on aircraft flying from a diverse range of provincial UK cities; Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, East Midlands, Robin Hood (Doncaster), Leeds/Bradford, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow? A significant percentage of this pasenger traffic demand could easily transfer to High Speed Rail over the next three decades but the routes have to be in-situ first, to foster the emergence of these new alternative, and more sustainable travel modes!

          • Alderley Edge residents happy to have this coming through their huge gardens – LOL! Well done though for being happy to live with the nuisance if they can’t afford a tunnel/deep cutting by the time it reaches Cheshire.

          • @GordonF – it might help if you addressed the substantive points I’ve put forward rather than make some lame attempt at humour. Can I suggest you do some research first before posting again on this contentious issue – it’s quite clear why you are motivated against the HS2 proposal – you wouldn’t care to reveal your residential location – not anywhere close to the preferred line of route by any chance?

          • I live over 250 miles from the route in Northumberland but I used to live in West London and often visited the Chilterns to escape to the countryside at weekends.It’s an oasis away from overcrowd London. I won’t be directly affected (apart from subsidising you lot down there by £1000). What DfT are proposing is a THIRD line from London to Birmingham when we can’t even drive from Newcastle to Edinburgh on a dual carriageway let alone a motorway. And what will this do for us in the true north where distances to London are arguably more suited to high-speed rail? Well HS2 say the journey time from London to Newcastle will reduce to 2hrs37 min from 2hrs 52 min. So that’s 15 mins time saving! Except that the new Flying Scotsman service will take passengers from London to Newcastle in 2 hrs 37 mins – exactly the same time that HS2 promises.

          • And your point is @GordonF? HS2 forms just the first part in a much wider transport jigsaw capable of transforming the way people travel and profoundly changing the UK’s geo-political balance.

            The campaign against HS2 is misleading and disingenuous, orchestrated by a tiny group of well connected and well heeled activists with a narrow self-interested agenda – the new line goes through their back-yard and they’d rather dump the problem on someone else. The campaign claims some kind of environmental armageddon but the reality is very different. The land take for HS2 is maybe one quarter of that associated with the M40 – a motorway that thundered / ploughed / slashed [pick whatever emotive term springs to mind?] its way across the very same area of outstanding natural beauty a couple of decades back. Don’t hear many complaints about the M40 now, do we? 

            Everyone agrees that the UK is facing a fundemantal shortfall in capacity. Some in those opposed to HS2 are driven by political dogma, such as the IEA and TPA – they’d gladly oversee a massive roadbuilding programme to fill this universally acknowledged gap – others in the anti-HS2 brigade insist that RP2 will do the trick. So it’s either a new eight lane private toll motorway or a strategy to expand rail capacity that has been utterly demolished when subjected to the merest statistical scrutiny?

            What’s your credible solution for the capacity gap? Mine’s called HS2!!!

  2. It seems the outlook for Railfuture is not good on this one as an internal row has split the organisation right down the middle.   Resignations, suspensions and all sorts of dire things happening! 


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