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MPs conduct inquiry into strategic case for High Speed Rail

18 March 2011

The Transport Committee has decided to undertake an inquiry into the strategic case for High Speed Rail (the HSR programme). The Committee focuses on the principal arguments for and against High Speed Rail.

The Committee is not intending to examine the precise specification of the HS2 route nor how the route would affect individual landowners, businesses and residents in the vicinity of the route. These issues would be dealt with in due course by a hybrid bill committee.

The issues which the Committee will examine, along with an indication of the questions it will pursue, are set out below:

1. What are the main arguments either for or against HSR

2. How does HSR fit with the Government's transport policy objectives

  1. HSR is designed to improve inter-urban connectivity. How does that objective compare in importance to other transport policy objectives and spending programmes, including those for the strategic road network?
  2. Focusing on rail, what would be the implications of expenditure on HSR on funding for the 'classic' network, for example in relation to investment to increase track and rolling stock capacity in and around major cities?
  3. What are the implications for domestic aviation?

3. Business case

  1. How robust are the assumptions and methodology – for example, on passenger forecasts, modal shifts, fare levels, scheme costs, economic assumptions (eg about the value of time) and the impact of lost revenue on the 'classic' network?
  2. What would be the pros and cons of resolving capacity issues in other ways, for example by upgrading the West Coast Main Line or building a new conventional line? 
  3. What would be the pros and cons of alternative means of managing demand for rail travel, for example by price?
  4. What lessons should the Government learn from other major transport projects to ensure that any new high speed lines are built on time and to budget?

4. The strategic route

  1. The proposed route to the West Midlands has stations at Euston, Old Oak Common, Birmingham International and Birmingham Curzon Street. Are these the best possible locations? What criteria should be used to assess the case for more (or fewer) intermediate stations?
  2. Which cities should be served by an eventual high speed network? Is the proposed Y configuration the right choice?
  3. Is the Government correct to build the network in stages, moving from London northwards?
  4. The Government proposes a link to HS1 as part of Phase 1 but a direct link to Heathrow only as part of Phase 2. Are those the right decisions?

5. Economic rebalancing and equity

  1. What evidence is there that HSR will promote economic regeneration and help bridge the north-south economic divide?
  2. To what extent should the shape of the network be influenced by the desirability of supporting local and regional regeneration?
  3. Which locations and socio-economic groups will benefit from HSR?
  4. How should the Government ensure that all major beneficiaries of HSR (including local authorities and business interests) make an appropriate financial contribution and bear risks appropriately? Should the Government seek support from the EU's TEN-T programme?

6. Impact

  1. What will be the overall impact of HSR on UK carbon emissions? How much modal shift from aviation and roads would be needed for HSR to reduce carbon?
  2. Are environmental costs and benefits (including in relation to noise) correctly accounted for in the business case?
  3. What would be the impact on freight services on the 'classic' network?
  4. How much disruption will be there to services on the 'classic' network during construction, particularly during the rebuilding of Euston?

Written evidence would be welcome on some or all of these issues and we would be grateful to receive written submissions by Monday 16 May 2011.

Notes on the submission of written evidence
It assists the Committee if those submitting written evidence adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. Written submissions should be as short as is consistent with conveying the relevant information. As a rough guide, it is helpful if they can be confined to six pages or less. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference. A single-page summary of the main points is also helpful. The submission should be in a form suitable for monochrome photocopying.
  2. Evidence should be submitted in Word or Rich Text format, by e-mail to The body of the e-mail should include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. It should be absolutely clear who the submission is from, particularly whether it is on behalf of an organisation or in the name of an individual.
  3. Once accepted by the Committee, written evidence becomes the Committee's property and it may decide to publish it or make other public use of it. If the Committee decides to accept your contribution as evidence we will email you formally accepting it as such. An acknowledgement of formal acceptance will be sent once all formalities have been completed. You may publicise or publish your submission yourself, once you receive the formal acceptance of your evidence to the Committee. When doing so, please indicate that it has been submitted to the Committee.
  4. Though the Committee is happy to receive copies of published material, formal submissions of evidence should be original work and not published elsewhere.
  5. Committee staff are happy to give more detailed guidance on giving evidence to a select committee, or further advice on any aspect of the Committee's work, by phone or e-mail.