High speed rail

Would car drivers use it?

5 August 2011

AA/Populus poll shows cost more important than speed.

Speed is not an important factor for 97% of motorists in considering whether they would use High Speed Rail, according to an AA/Populus poll of 16,850 AA members.

Generally drivers are divided on whether they would use High Speed Rail if available for a journey they usually make by car – a third say they would (33%), a third wouldn't (34%) and a third don't know (33%).

Perhaps the most pertinent message in the research is that when asked which is the most important factor that might make them choose between car and High Speed Rail only 3% mentioned Speed whilst almost two thirds would be concerned about the cost of tickets.

Question 1 - important factors

If you were to choose between making a journey by car or by High Speed Rail, which of the following factors would be most important to you in making your decision?

  • Cost – 62%
  • Proximity of station to work/home – 18%
  • Reliability – 8%
  • Comfort – 5%
  • Parking at station – 4%
  • Speed – 3%

Cost of tickets is a major concern for three quarters of 18-24 year olds (74%) but becomes less of a concern for those living further away such as Scotland (57%) or South west (67%)

Question 2 - would you use it?

If High Speed Rail was available for a journey normally made by car, would you use it instead of driving?

  • Those on lower incomes – 44% said no
  • East Midlands – 37% said no
  • West Midlands – 36% said no
  • East Anglia – 36% said no
  • Tyne Tees – 35% said no
  • South – 35% said no
  • London – 35% said no
  • Yorks & Humberside – 34% said no
  • West Country – 33% said no
  • Wales – 32% said no
  • Northern Ireland – 29% said no
  • Scotland – 28% said no

Interestingly, those most likely to get the most immediate benefit from HS2 are least likely to use it with just 30% in London and 31% in Birmingham saying that they would be likely to use it. Those living further away from London are more likely to use High Speed Rail if it went there with 35% in Wales and 42% in Scotland saying they would use it.

Those on lower incomes (C2s) are less likely to use High Speed Rail (26% would) than those on higher incomes (37% of ABs would use it).


This comprehensive survey of more than 16,000 drivers shows that there are clear divisions between those that would use high speed rail, those that definitely wouldn't and those that just don't know. It is clear that cost of ticket, proximity to station and reliability are much more important than speed.

Commenting, Edmund King, AA President, said: "It appears that perhaps the main raison d'être of High Speed Rail - speed - seems pretty irrelevant to most drivers.

"Two thirds are concerned about the costs of using high speed rail and therefore we believe that rail enhancements that are cheaper, based more on reliability and increased capacity, rather than speed, would be much more effective in convincing some drivers to let the train take the strain."

If speed is not the over-riding factor then it seems that the Government is backing the wrong horse with HS2. This scheme will not provide best value for money. Spending the £34bn cost on conventional rail upgrades, removing road bottlenecks, building bypasses and improving road maintenance would provide much better value for money.

The AA has fed in these results into the Department for Transport consultation on HS2.