HS2 may increase carbon emissions, engineers say

29 July 2011
By Rachael Fergusson
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Proposed high-speed rail link tunnel

"Green tunnel" proposed for use as part of the high-speed rail link

Flawed analysis of the HS2 proposal may result in the project producing more carbon dioxide rather than less, engineers say.

In February, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond launched a consultation on the government’s high-speed rail strategy and the recommend route for an initial high-speed line from London to the West Midlands.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) warning comes as the Government’s consultation ends today on HS2.  The institution said questions concerning the high speed and therefore higher energy consumption of the trains, the number of tunnels and assumptions on the number of people switching from air travel could mean that carbon emissions per journey would increase in comparison to current levels.

Paul Davies, Head of Policy at the IET, said: “We believe we have uncovered a number of flaws in the proposals, some of which question the claim that HS2, as proposed, will reduce carbon emissions.

“The case for HS2 relies on a number of assumptions made within the proposal.  Some of these are flawed, for example not considering the effects of aerodynamic drag from environmental mitigation measures such as tunnels, which could lead to an increase in carbon emissions.”

The IET said greater clarity was urgently needed to properly evaluate the costs and benefits of the proposals. As the proposal stands, it leaves serious questions unanswered, it said.

The IET also said that no service levels for the West Coast Main Line after the completion of Phase 1 had been provided, the comparators used in the economic analysis were inconsistent and did not represent the best realistic alternatives against which HS2 should have been judged, and no economic analysis has been provided for the link to High Speed 1.

The £32 billion HS2 scheme involves a high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham, which is set to be completed in 2026. There are also plans for a Y-shaped extension of the line to Manchester and Leeds and possibly further north which would be finished around 2032/33.

The Government has said a national high-speed rail network would bring cities closer together, slash journey times, and deliver a “huge increase” in rail capacity. Opponents of the scheme have said it offers poor value for money and ignores the environmental costs.

The Transport Secretary is expected to announce the Government’s decision on the line between London and the West Midlands by the end of the year.

Further reading:

Read the IET's full submission on the Government's high-speed rail plans.

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