HS2 - Cost Comparison - High Speed v Conventional Rail Followup to FOI15-1257

J Marriott made this Freedom of Information request to High Speed Two (HS2) Limited

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear High Speed Two (HS2) Limited,

I refer to my FOI/EIR request FOI15-1257 originally made on the 6th February 2015 which you partially responded to on 5th June 2015. I then received two further responses: one dated 16th September 2015 and another dated 11th November 2015, which still leave many questions unanswered. What seems to be apparent from your responses so far is that the information to support many of the statements made in numerous HS2 documents does not exist or fails to support the statement. Your responses raise more questions than they answer so this response is rather long.

I note your comments on response times and on the internal review that I requested. They clearly demonstrate the complete failing of your organisation to deal with such requests in a satisfactory manner and in accordance with the legal requirements.

In your November response you have used headings e.g. Part xx, to amalgamate replies to some of my previous questions. My comments and questions on your responses follow your nomenclature.

Part 6

I fully appreciate that some sections of the HS2 route have not been designed for 400kph running but where sections of the HS2 route have been designed for 400kph you should have established what the additional cost and other implications would be compared to lower speed options for those sections. I note that in “Review of HS2 London to West Midlands Route Selection and Speed: Report to Government by HS2 Ltd, January 2012 Section 4.2” it states .
”Given the distance taken to accelerate a train, speeds in excess of 250mph would only be possible for relatively short amounts of time, and the potential for further journey time reduction would be small. Accelerating to and running at these speeds would require more energy consumption, meaning higher carbon emissions and operating costs for low commercial benefit. Our view is that 250mph represents a reasonable maximum design speed, given likely technology development over the coming decades.”

The “Selection and Speed” report is also quoted in the November 2013 Environmental Statement Vol 5 Technical Appendices - Alternatives Report, (5.1.7) where it notes that
“As a desk exercise, HS2 Ltd explored the options of a higher design speed (above 400kph) and reviewed the 2011 noise assessment. It concluded that a higher speed would save little time because of the distance taken to accelerate between stations and the effect of features that permanently restrict speed such as tunnels and junctions.”

What time saving would be achieved by introducing trains capable of running at speeds up to 400kph between London and Birmingham, rather than at speeds up to 360kph as proposed?

Did the desk exercise demonstrate that the journey time reduction that could be saved by accelerating to 400kph where possible showed sufficient commercial benefit to justify the additional energy consumption, carbon emissions and operating and maintenance costs?
Please supply sufficient information to support the conclusion that 400kph was a reasonable maximum speed.

Could you please explain how you justify the statement that there are no cost implications of passive provision for 400kph?
(For clarification, I consider that anything that is provided as part of the initial scheme for 360kph, but is only required to enable 400kph running, is “passive provision”.)
If this is not your view then please explain what you mean by passive provision.

Would the introduction of a 400kph capable fleet require the withdrawal of all of the trains currently proposed?
If so, what is the estimated cost of a 400kph fleet?
Has the procurement cost of new trains at some future date been factored into the justification for 400kph operation?

Part 9

In my request dated 13th June I asked you to provide figures for the horizontal radius at 200kph (classic speed), 250kph (high speed for new lines), 300kph, 350ph and 400kph.
I note that the horizontal radius required for 400kph is almost double that required for 300kph.
Please can you provide the radii for 200 and 250kph as you omitted to include them in your reply?

You state that gradient is not speed dependent but this flies in the face of the laws of physics and common sense. The maximum speed on an up gradient is related to the power available, which is limited by the train’s traction system or the power that can be drawn from the OHLE. For a given power, an increase in gradient will reduce the balancing speed; the maximum speed that can be maintained on an up gradient..

It appears from the Alstom AGV tractive effort / speed graph that the “HS2 reference train” will not be able to maintain its maximum speed of 360kph on a 1% up gradient. The graph shows its balancing speed on a 1% gradient would be around 310kph, falling to 260kpkh on a 2% gradient.
Has any estimate been made of the total power requirement for a 200m train to maintain 360kph or 400kph up a 1% gradient?
Please provide the basic parameters used to derive the proposed OHLE and feeder system?
Will the currently proposed OHLE and power supply system need upgrading to permit the operation of 400kph trains running the proposed service frequencies?

Part 11

You have not provided any indication of the typical values that you used other than for the track spacing and the tunnel diameter. Please provide the actual values that I requested.

Part 12

In your response dated 6th June you stated that the conventional speed alternative referred to in 2011 Economic Case (p45-46) was based on work carried out in 2009-2010 by the HS2’s Chief Engineer’s Organisation. In 6.1.3 of the Economic Case it is claimed that a conventional speed line would save 9% of the construction cost of a high speed line.
I note that p21 of The Cost and Risk (C&R) Model document produced in 2009 contains a “Classic line comparison” which shows (6.2.1) the same percentage cost reductions, (typically 80 or 90% for the classic alternative), as those quoted on page 191 of the March 2010 Appraisal report which you mentioned in your reply. Pages 191-192 of that document contain many unsubstantiated claims so it is not at all helpful.

Can you confirm whether the work that underpins the 2009 C&R model is also is the basis for the comparison in the March 2010 Appraisal Report?
How were the assumed percentage cost reductions of 80 and 90% for some elements of the classic line alternative derived?
Is the 9% saving quoted in the 2011 Economic Case another way of presenting the 91% figure in Para 6.2.2 of the 2009 C&R Model?
Can you confirm who did the work for the C&R model?

Your response says “In our high-level appraisal of a classic line we applied generalised cost assumptions to our preferred route.” It seems therefore that the overall costs coming out of this high-level appraisal must have assumed some values for the quantity and cost of each item.
If this is the level of detail that was used for the cost appraisal then please provide the information that shows what quantities and generalised costs were used to derive the cost estimates.

Part 13

You say that “Since the Government’s decision there has been no requirement to conduct a further review of the cost comparison of a conventional line compared to a high speed line.” The HM Treasury document “Managing Public Money” 3.3.3 states that Accounting Officers have a responsibility for
“ensuring that the organisation’s procurement, projects and processes are systematically evaluated to provide confidence about suitability, effectiveness, prudence, quality, good value. judged for the Exchequer as a whole, not just for the accounting officer’s organisation.”

The June 2013 remit issued by Patrick McLoughlin to Douglas Oakervee asked him to continue to advise my Department on costs, benefits and commercial issues… so that he can have assurance that costs are well controlled.

Having regard to the ongoing changes to the scheme, pressure to keep costs down, changes in the way the value of time savings are estimated and the need to reduce carbon emissions, can you confirm whether the Accounting Officer has taken any steps to systematically review all aspects of the scheme, including the optimum speed?

Part 14

How can you claim that maintenance and operating costs will be similar if you do not have any information to support this view? Common sense suggests that a railway designed to cater for 400kph trains will cost far more to maintain and operate than one operating at lower speeds.

In 7.5 of the 2013 C&R report it suggests that the maintenance cost of a single track kilometre of HS1 is £94,730. HS1 is designed for a maximum speed of 300kph but HS2 will need to be maintained for higher speeds. It will also have a much more intensive service than HS1 and a reduced window for maintenance work.
Has any further work been done to confirm whether the HS1 figure is valid for HS2?

7.7 of the 2013 C&R refers to Network Rail charges.
Are the variable track access charge and the electrification asset user charge.independent of speed?

Part 15

Your response regarding power costs referred to the 2011 Economic Case. I note that these were not updated for the 2013 Economic Case. I also note that the energy cost per km for a 200m classic compatible set running on HS2 (28 KWh/km) is double that of a Pendolino running on classic track (14 KWh/km).

Your response did not say that updated energy costs are included in the October 2013 Cost & Risk status report (7.3). That states that the energy consumption of the reference train on HS2 track would be 24.97 KWh/km while a classic compatible train running on the classic network would consume only 15.27 KWh/km. This is still a substantial difference.
Can you confirm what assumptions were made about speed when determining the energy consumption of these trains?

Please could you provide the report that led to the statement in your response that “more detailed consideration has shown peak [power] loading is more likely to be governed by acceleration of successive trains from perturbation rather than maximum speed.”.
Could you also explain what you mean regarding your statement that some possible infrastructure savings would be offset by the additional capital costs of extra trains and provide the supporting information.

At this point you have included an unnumbered response to my questions concerning issues raised by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee on speed and cost.

The first two paragraphs of your answer refer to documents and work carried out several years ago but you have not provided any adequate information to support the conclusions reached.
Please provide this information.

In the third paragraph you say there is no business case requirement to conduct a review of the cost comparison of a conventional line compared to a high speed line. I have already explained in my response to Part 13 why I believe there is an ongoing requirement to systematically review the scheme to provide confidence about suitability, best value etc.

My question referred specifically to any work carried out in relation to the statements made by David Higgins in early 2015 when he was being questioned by the HoL Economic Affairs Committee when he said “we are looking at everything”. You have confirmed that he was referring to the difference in cost of designing the infrastructure for 400kph rather than 360kph. You seem to be suggesting that advances in train technology will permit 400kph running along some sections of the route (excluding all tunnels) with no greater impact than current 360kph trains. In my response to Part 6 I have asked you to explain how you have evaluated the benefits and costs of 400kph running. I would expect this to include the cost of new trains and the full range of impacts including noise and CO2.

Part 20 and 21

I am aware that HS2 is designed to be compliant with the relevant TSIs. My reading of David Rowland’s letter to Andrew Adonis was that his absolute minimum requirements were suggestions; including ones for general standards and loading gauge. The text suggests that a larger loading gauge would cater for double deck trains and a have a marginal incremental construction cost. It refers to a report that I have been unable to find so I do not know what it meant by a marginal cost or how it was derived. Are you able to provide a link to that report?

In the December 2009 report to Government “High Speed Rail - London to the West Midlands and Beyond” it notes that:-
2.3.7 … If an HS1 to HS2 link was constructed it would allow trains from other countries to run through the Channel Tunnel and onto our network and vice versa
and :-

2.3.8 Following consultation with industry, the DfT has adopted an approach of progressively upgrading the classic network over time and building new lines (of which HS2 is one) in accordance with the TSIs. Full adoption is subject to the cost not being disproportionate to the benefit achieved; the TSIs allow for use of certain parameters, known as “British Specific Cases”, where full application of the European norms cannot be achieved without incurring costs disproportionate to the benefits realised.Such parameters include platform height, platform length, stabling track length, structure gauge and the distance between track centres. These are all particularly relevant to the migration of the existing classic rail network. In developing the new HS2 options we have not found that adopting the TSIs fully would introduce costs disproportionate to the benefits achievable by this project.
The last sentence suggests that HS2 Ltd must have evaluated both the costs and benefits of full TSI compliance prior to March 2010.
Please supply the information of that assessment.

The link to HS1 has now been dropped and the prospect of running direct trains from the continent to the few UK high speed stations has gone for good for a variety of other reasons, some of which I put in my previous responses. It is now increasingly obvious that that a very significant proportion of the cost of HS2 is related to the the proposal to buy and run 400m long GC gauge trains and build new stations to accommodate them. Surely some consideration has also been given to the risk of some sort of problem to any part of the high speed line, and the inability of captive trains to use any other route, disrupting the entire HS2 operation.

Even without any analysis it is clear that the cost of full TSI compliance is hugely disproportionate to any possible benefits so there is a prima facie case to look at this in more detail to see what savings could be achieved.
Please confirm whether any discussions have taken place between HS2, DfT or the Secretary of State regarding the case for seeking derogations from any of the TSIs?
If no discussions have taken place has the Accounting Officer been made aware of this?

You state that “the design of HS2 has been optimised to the future demand and that demonstrates the need for the capacity for which the combination of train size and service frequency have provided.” Optimisation implies that a range of solutions were explored in sufficient detail to make a fair and reasonable comparison and having regard to various risks. All the published documentation that I have seen lacks the considerable detail which would be required to support any figures quoted or the conclusions made, I also believe that such documentation shows a tendency to choose and appraise options in a way that appears to be biased towards favouring a particular outcome.

The comments below refer to the responses included in your 16 September 2015 letter. These may duplicate some points above.

7. You did not respond to my question asking whether trains will be able to travel at more than 360 kph through any tunnels on HS2. I believe your November response confirms that are no proposals for tunnels on HS2 which will allow trains to travel at speeds greater than 360 kph.

In your response you refer to Volume 5 of the 2013 Environmental Statement, Section 5 Options for higher or lower design speed. This states that an assessment carried out in 2009 showed that there would be a net cost saving of £1billion. In the 2011 Economic Case the cost saving was quoted as £1.5 billion in construction costs + £75 million per year in operating costs. In Chapter 4 (p191) of the 2009 Report to Government, West Midlands & Beyond, the cost saving for a classic line is stated to be £3 billion (including trains, but assuming operating and maintenance costs would be “comparable”).

It appears that all the figures above relate to the 2009 work but have wildly different estimates of the saving. In all three cases there is no detail of the assessments that were carried out to justify the conclusions reached regarding cost savings or alleged benefits.
Please can you explain the reason for these differences?

In 5.1.4 of the 2013 Environmental Statement - Alternatives Report it states that revenue would reduce by 24% but patronage would only reduce by 9%.
Please explain the basis for this difference.

The statements in 5.1.5 of the Alternatives Report regarding noise, properties affected and mitigation are presented with no supporting information. The statement in 5.1.6 that the “environmental advantage of a conventional speed line would be relatively marginal” appears to ignore the substantial additional energy required to travel at 360kph or more, the scope for avoiding many sensitive areas and the cost and damage caused by the additional mitigation measures. The references in this paragraph provide no further information as they just point to more statements that are not supported by any facts.

10. What was the role/position of Andy Friend and Mike Welton during the period when they were on the Executive Team?
I note that at least six of the eight members on the Technical Challenge Panel had some rail sector interest which casts some doubt on the ability of the panel to provide a truly independent scrutiny of the many facets of the HS2 scheme.
You did not respond to my question seeking information on the Panel’s brief, the information provided to it, or the conclusions reached. It gives the impression that you do not want to disclose this information.

The following paragraph of your response under 10 appears to relate to TSIs. Could you explain what your statement “we do not hold further information in relation to the second part of this question” actually refers to?

12 to 15 The information you provided in response to these questions (and Question 2) did not answer my questions. I hope you will provide satisfactory answers to Parts 6, 9 and 12 of this response which covers the same or similar points.

19 to 21. You omitted to say that derogations from TSIs can be sought. I have covered TSIs and derogations in my response above under Part 20 and 21.

I look forward to receiving a comprehensive response to these questions which I believe cannot be ducked if you wish to provide confidence to the public that a scheme that will cost well over £70 billion of their money at a time when services are being cut is the best use of scarce resources and good for the environment.

Yours faithfully,

J Marriott

HS2Enquiries, High Speed Two (HS2) Limited

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Marriott,

 

Thank you for your email to HS2 Ltd.  We are considering your request
under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and aim to reply as
quickly as possible and no later than 14 January 2016.

 

Your reference number for the request is FOI15-1461.

 

Kind regards,

Jane Ivey

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jane Ivey | Freedom of Information Manager | HS2 Ltd 

Tel: 020 7944 4908 | [1][email address] | [2]Facebook | [3]Twitter
| [4]LinkedIn

High Speed Two (HS2) Limited, One Canada Square, London E14 5AB  |
[5]www.gov.uk/hs2

 

 

 

show quoted sections

HS2Enquiries, High Speed Two (HS2) Limited

4 Attachments

Dear Mr Marriott,

 

Thank you for your email to HS2 Ltd. We have treated your request under
the Environmental Information Regulations and I attach our response.

 

Kind regards,

Jane Ivey

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jane Ivey | Freedom of Information Manager | HS2 Ltd 

Tel: 020 7944 4908 | [1][email address] | [2]Facebook | [3]Twitter
| [4]LinkedIn

High Speed Two (HS2) Limited, One Canada Square, London E14 5AB  |
[5]www.gov.uk/hs2

 

show quoted sections