NY Times blog Freakonomics argues high-speed rail has negative environmental benefits:
Unfortunately, a study undertaken by the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton for the U.K. Department for Transport raises some troublesome questions about whether these conditions can be met in reality.
Booz Allen considered two potential U.K. HSR lines (London-Manchester and London-Edinburgh/Glasgow). They found that the CO2 emissions required to move HSR passenger seats were about the same as those required to move automobile seats — hardly a slam dunk for rail. In fact, intercity bus came out considerably cleaner than HSR on a per-seat-mile basis.
Of course, this is the same UK Ministry of Transport which for years decades has favored runway and highway expansion over railway investment. So, no surprise they funded a report validating predetermined funding priorities.