High Speed 2

Plenary on 2014-06-18
Session date: 
June 18, 2014
Question By: 
Caroline Pidgeon
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
Sir Howard Davies, Former Chair of the Airports Commission


How is the proposed High Speed 2 railway line informing and shaping the work of the Airports Commission?


Answer for High Speed 2

Answer for High Speed 2

Answered By: 
Sir Howard Davies, Former Chair of the Airports Commission

Sir Howard Davies (Chair - Airports Commission):  We have considered the effects of High Speed 2 (HS2) in our analysis.  There are two dimensions to this.  One is what impact HS2, both phases one and two, has on demand for aviation.  Secondly, there is the question of how you link airports, wherever they are, with HS2 in order to make the best use of them from the point of view of getting to airports.


On the first point, there is in our model a reduction in domestic travel as a result of HS2, in other words some modal shift from aviation to fast rail.  Our estimate in our model is that the reduction in domestic passenger numbers due to HS2 would be about 440,000 or 1% of total domestic passenger numbers a year between 2026 and 2032 when you have phase one and that rises to 2.3 million when you have the second phase from 2033 to 2050.  Clearly, the initial impact is relatively small because you cannot fly from Birmingham to Heathrow anyway, so there is not much modal shift there.  There would be a more significant modal shift, though, to some extent, that is offset by the fact that you speed up people’s trips to airports and therefore you do have some offsetting increase in international traffic.  That is the way our model works.  Therefore, the impact of HS2 on assumptions about aviation demand is very small in the years up to 2032 and modest thereafter, not insignificant but modest and not sufficient to offset the other pressures for increased demand.


As for the linkages, we are looking at that again because the Higgins Report [HS2 Plus], which recommends not linking HS2 and High Speed 1 (HS1), has some implications for transport across the capital.  Gatwick is not affected terribly much by this, but Heathrow’s proposition is that a direct link to HS2 is not necessary to support the case for a third runway.  We are looking at the evidence they have presented on that and we are looking at the various options.  There are spur options out from the existing route or a big interchange at Old Oak Common and we are looking at the way in which those could support an increase in the percentage of people taking public transport to get to Heathrow. We will be coming out with more about that when we produce our appraisal of the schemes in the autumn.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  One of the other links to high speed rail is that actually Birmingham Airport would only be about 38 minutes away from London via HS2.  I think Birmingham estimates that the 45 million passengers who currently use London airports will be able to access Birmingham in under an hour.  Therefore, Birmingham could be seen as an area if you do think there is a need to increase capacity.  It might be of benefit to increase there, rather than looking at places such as Heathrow where there is such opposition; cross-party and from local residents.


Is that something you will reconsider as part of your work?  It is quite clear that there are areas where there might be capacity which Londoners would be able to get to far quicker than traipsing out to Heathrow.


Sir Howard Davies (Chair - Airports Commission):  There is significant capacity at Birmingham and there is a lengthening of the runway underway, which will increase the capacity further.  Birmingham, from memory, has about 8 or 9 million passengers.  In future it will have one long runway, so it would look a bit like Gatwick.  Gatwick has 36 million, so Birmingham could increase by about four times without any additional runway capacity.  We see that in the period between now and when any new London capacity comes on stream, it will be very important that the regional airports take the strain or indeed Stansted, where there is also a lot of additional capacity.  We certainly think Birmingham has a role to play.


When we modelled the impact of trying to use Birmingham - I suggested that if they called it ‘London Birmingham’ that might help, but they are not wildly keen on that - it was not a good outcome.  You ended up pulling a lot of people quite a long distance.  It is fine to say, of course, that Euston to Birmingham Airport would be quite quick, but of course a lot of London passengers do not have very rapid access to Euston.  What it appeared to produce was a much less efficient set of flights and connections.  You had a lot of smaller planes going less full to lots of destinations.  From an environmental point of view, it was a very poor outcome indeed.


We do not think that trying to turn Birmingham into a much, much bigger airport is a feasible option to deal with the London and the southeast capacity problems in the long term.  Therefore, we are not going to reopen it to look at whether another runway at Birmingham would be the right answer between now and 2030.  We just do not think it would be and we believe that our interim report demonstrates that pretty clearly.


If our view is, however, that you need one runway by 2030 and another one by 2050, and if Birmingham were to show signs that it was growing rapidly, it could come back on to the agenda for the next new runway between 2030 and 2050, as indeed could Stansted.  So, to that extent, Birmingham could still be an important part of the mix.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  The point you made about short-haul flights was interesting.  I was surprised you were saying that for only about 1% you think there will be modal shift.  I presume you will be putting all your data out in public so that people can analyse it themselves, the raw data that you are using.  Is that correct?


Sir Howard Davies (Chair - Airports Commission):  Yes, indeed, but the 1% is on phase one and it is not perhaps too surprising.  When you get to phase two with the Manchester and Leeds link, then you get to the point where that distance and speed advantage does start to mean that flights between Leeds Bradford, Manchester and London start to look much less attractive in relation to HS2.  As you can see, from just the Birmingham part, it does not have a huge impact.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  In terms of capacity, you have acknowledged Birmingham does have capacity.  Have you been looking in greater detail at the stuff the London Assembly sent to you in terms of the existing capacity?  At Stansted, 47% of runway slots are available, I think you mentioned that, 51% are available at Luton and 12% at Gatwick.  There is capacity at existing airports if they could be used in a smarter way.  Then perhaps that would address some of the capacity issues that you suggest.


Sir Howard Davies (Chair - Airports Commission):  These will be crucial in the period over the next 15 years because, whatever happens, we are unlikely to get new runway capacity within the next 15 years.  However, with the exception perhaps of Gatwick, where the capacity is not that great - Gatwick does have 12% but it is full at times of peak demand, so it has troughs which could be filled in, but not at the time when most people want to fly - the strategies of the other airports which have additional capacity are very much focused on low-cost provision and short-haul provision.  None of those airports are likely at this point to deliver the additional long-haul connectivity to new destinations which are significant from a business point of view and which could be delivered by an additional runway at Heathrow or an estuary airport, or by a significant expansion of Gatwick which would allow it to have hub-like characteristics.


So, yes, in the short and medium term, but as for whether they are a substitute for additional capacity, we think not.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Thank you.