The government’s latest revised case for HS2

 

          In its latest version of Why HS2? the government bases its financial case largely 0n time savings, not on capacity improvements.     The government published the Strategic Case for HS2 yesterday. It said that time savings accounted for £45.7bn of the estimated benefits, with solving 0vercrowding offering just £7.5bn of benefits. Total benefits came out at  £71.2bn over 60 years.

         I was surprised to see this major reliance on the time savings, in view of the words about capacity mattering much more than time. The time savings have been newly valued. The estimators have lowered the value of business people’s time spent on the railway, but increased the value of commuter time and leisure traveller time. They have then added in £13.3bn of wider economic benefits, to get to a more favourable cost/benefit ratio for the total project.

           There has been plenty of media comment that an alternative smaller investment in the existing railway would mean many week-ends of disruption to train services given the working on the line. Yet the  Report in its conclusion on p 135 says ” Some of the upgrade schemes (on the existing railway) are likely to be taken forward as part of Network Rail’s normal forward planning process to modernise the network”. In other words there will be some disruption to existing train services at week-ends even with HS2.

        One of the strongest things to emerge from the Report is the huge scale of the railway investment proposed, relative to other transport investment and to the size of the economy.  Over the period 2015 to 2021 the current plans assume an HS2 spend of £16.5 billion, with another £22.5bn spend on other railway investment. This compares with just £15.1bn on national road improvements, despite roads taking more than ten times as much of the traffic as railways.

       The Report also reveals a reduction in the forecast revenue from HS2 services. The estimate is cut by £1.8bn, presumably reflecting evidence that there will be fewer passengers than originally planned. The new forecast is £31bn over 60 years. There is also the question of whether fare levels  can be sustained as forecast when so much extra capacity comes on stream.

           I could not find figures in the Report about current use of seats out of London in the morning and back into London in the evening. The Report seems to concentrate on journeys into  London at the morning peak and out of London in the late afternoon peak.  The table showing where there will be shortage and stress in the system illustrates that the main capacity problems lie in commuter journeys at peak into London from Watford and Milton Keynes,  into Manchester from Stockport and into St Pancras from St Albans.

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117 Comments

  1. Alte Fritz
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Getting to the pro HS2 case seems to be akin to weighing frogs. Civic leaders across the north seem to be in love with a project no one understands. They are like children looking forward to Christmas.

    For the Midlands and North, journey times are not a problem. For Scotland they are, but HS 2 will not go there. Has any serious thought been put into improving existing underused lines, for example the former Great Western route between Birmingham and London? Can axed lines be brought back to life, for example, the old Great Central between Marylebone and Sheffield? Can we look at how over engineered new rail projects seem to be?

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      Alte–Especially as the old Great Central route is already to Continental Loading gauge standards. Passes my understanding that the Government’s Report (I forget–how many have there been?) does not include even a passing reference to the Great Central possibility. It is as if they want to shoot themselves in the foot and blow as much money as possible. Come the next revolutionary improvement in teleworking and the whole shebang will be unnecessary in any event.

      • Chris
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        Fritz, various studies have been done since HS2 was first proposed looking at alternatives, including upgrades to existing lines such as the Chiltern Mainline.

        Reopening the Great Central has also been discounted, as it didn’t go anywhere near Birmingham, isn’t competitive with the WCML to Manchester, and has been completely lost to development in Leicester and Nottingham. It’s route into London was also shared with today’s busy Chiltern and Metropolitan lines, and there are no mainline termini with sufficient spare capacity. It wouldn’t save much over building an entirely new route, but wouldn’t relieve the WCML or ECML and would deliver a fraction of the benefits. It’s not even remotely viable.

        As for the idea that it was built to accommodate European sized trains, this is an urban myth – there was no standard back then and you can see in surviving structures that they simply aren’t big enough. If nothing else they wouldn’t have fitted past any of the platforms!

      • Andy
        Posted October 31, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

        I don’t really understand why they haven’t looked at reopening most of the old Great Central Line. It would add capacity to Birmingham and beyond. There is probably a reason why, but I’m not sure I can see it.

    • Chris Mly
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      ‘Alte Fritz’, you don’t know much about old railway lines. The alignment of the Great Central was utterly obliterated through Leicester and Nottingham, and at the South end it ran into Marylebone via Rickmansworth. Both Marylebone station and the tracks South of Amersham are already close to capacity. The old Great Central is no use whatsoever in the 21st century, and by the way with a bridge height of less than 14ft and standard UK side clearances it couldn’t possibly fit modern European trains. The only sane and realistic way to run double deck stock in the UK is to build new railway lines – like HS2.

      The GWR direct route between Northolt and Anyho junctions is actually part of the very busy and thriving ‘Chiltern’ mainline – there is scope to add more seats on this line with longer trains but it is only a tiny percentage of what HS2 will provide. Plus it is useless to relieve any destination other than Birmingham.

      • stred
        Posted November 2, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

        Perhaps the GCL could be brought back as a freight line, with a new bypass around cities where obliterated. The terminal could be sited near the M25 and with freight links to Birmingham and the northern motorways. This would free up rail capacity and relive lorry blocking on roads. The cost of raising bridges and widening obstructions would be low compared to Hs2.

  2. lifelogic
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    As you say:

    “One of the strongest things to emerge from the Report is the huge scale of the railway investment proposed, relative to other transport investment and to the size of the economy. Over the period 2015 to 2021 the current plans assume an HS2 spend of £16.5 billion, with another £22.5bn spend on other railway investment. This compares with just £15.1bn on national road improvements, despite roads taking more than ten times as much of the traffic as railways.”

    Why is there this anti car bias? Cars are usually more efficient, far more flexible, more convenient and pleasant, cheaper, quicker door to door, can carry more luggage, call off on route, go door to door, change plans as needed, put things in the boot and are usually more energy efficient too. With trains you have to consider at the energy used by the indirect door to door journey, track build, stations and staff when you do so they are not usually as efficient as cars and certainly not full cars.

    The preference for cars by the public is very clear despite the huge tax and subsidy bias 10 to 1. Car fuel is taxed at 150%, road taxes that exceed costs and the motorist mugging systems on bus lanes, fuel, box junction camera and parking. Meanwhile rail is subsidised and rail fuel largely not taxed.

    “It said that time savings accounted for £45.7bn of the estimated benefits” as one can work on the train this is clearly almost pure nonsense in the main. On that basis the absurd over complex and thus slow rail ticketing over the whole of rail must be costing the country circa £500Bn and you cannot work while trying to work out the best ticket tariff or keying in your car details.

    In a small country like the UK what is needed is better and more roads for trucks, coaches and cars. We we this clearly from the fact that most of the public choose this method of transport. Provide what there is demand for roads and runways.

    Clearly far more time would be saved by more road and reduced road congestion. Much of this is due to deliberate government policy of anti car lights, bus/bike lanes, islands, environmental areas ……

    Also look at what could be done with these Billions far more usefully almost anything vaguely sensible would be better than HS2. Building HS2 with cause huge delays and inconvenient during the build too and the compensation will clearly leave people short changed.

    Like nearly everything Cameron it is bonkers.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      ““It said that time savings accounted for £45.7bn of the estimated benefits” as one can work on the train this is clearly almost pure nonsense in the main.”

      Yes, and that is not true for somebody using the roads unless somebody else is driving or you’re completely stuck in a traffic jam with no immediate prospect of moving even an inch forward, so whatever time is lost through inadequate roads is much more completely lost than time lost through slow rail journeys.

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        Indeed reducing road congestion is far preferable as 10 times more users anyway and the time saved is saved rather more than rail time (as it is easier to work effectively on a train). Though one can phone, listen to educational tapes and think while in a car.

        • Bazman
          Posted October 31, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

          Indeeeedy! Where is your answer to the basic problem of commuting long distances in cars or coaches? Travel often on coaches do we? Obviously not and as for trucks how many would be put on the roads to carry all the extra freight as if there is not enough already. How much coal for coal fired power stations could a 42 tonne lorry carry. Bigger lorries and more of them being the answer? Travel much do we? Apart from pleasure drives to France and shopping trips? How absurd.

          • Edward2
            Posted November 1, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

            Not absurd at all Baz.
            HS2 will carry no freight.
            Most coal fired power stations have rail links already.
            Over 80% of all freight travels by road and it is increasing.
            Coaches and cars can travel long distances easily and do so every day all over Europe.
            Calais to Cannes in a day and get out feeing fine.
            London to Edinburgh in a day easily.
            Have you seen the price of train tickets for these journeys?
            Compare it to the costs of 4 people in a car doing 45mpg.
            Its you that is out of touch.

          • lifelogic
            Posted November 2, 2013 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

            Or seven people in a car doing 45 MPG.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 3, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

            Lifedogic why are you not answering my question of how commuters can travel long distances? That driving for more than an hour each way often on twisty winding A and B roads? Should we have seven seater cars provided every day five or six days a week for large numbers of people? Is this real as even coach travel is bad and not practical Or is it like your ;absurd; employment laws. just a feeling without factual evidence when confronted by anything ‘sensible’? Harrumph that one…

          • Edward2
            Posted November 3, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

            It has been answered Baz on here above.
            It is also being demonstrated as to be successfully happening every day all over Europe.
            Roads are the preferred choice of the people.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 4, 2013 at 6:20 am | Permalink

            Why is rail travel increasing every year and why would more travel on rail if it where cheaper? Do tell.

    • Hope
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      This is not about usuage or cost, it is about EU infrastructure and having man rail links across the EUSSR.

      Carswell claims he has to vote for HS2 because it was in the Tory manifesto, most will see this as utter nonsense when MPs cherry pick when they should or should not use the manifesto. Gay marriage was no where other than an EU dictat, no manifesto, Queens Speech etc. religiously brought in for the European masters.

      Once more, economic madness when it is claimed austerity is the order of the day for everyone and everything else. No cogent logic to what the Tory led coalition do. Ministers meeting in secret for the final state regulated press we hear today. The ministry of truth is on its way and the government can tell us what it likes and the biggest means of holding them to account is being is being taken away by the government.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Road building won’t solve congestion problems because you cannot widen roads in towns and cities due to all the buildings in the way (bypasses also aren’t much use as many people have to travel into these towns and cities because they live or work there).

      The roads in London simply wouldn’t be able to cope if everyone who travels in by train had to drive in. There also wouldn’t be enough space for everyone to park.

      • oldtimer
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

        It seems you have never heard of park and ride. And who is suggesting that commuter trains into London should be abolished?

        • Bazman
          Posted November 3, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

          Has that solved the traffic problems in Cambridge? They have a very a good park and ride scheme. The main reason I do not go to Cambridge is because of the traffic which bad 7 days a week. Obviously tolls will be the answer so that will be another reason not to go or maybe as I only will go for pleasure once in a blue moon should be made very expensive and as Cambridge is a very wealthy City made doubly expensive allowing those who can afford it maximum convenience. This with the abolition of all absurd and pointless helicopter noise and safety laws will solve the transport problem of London and Cambridge. Simple!
          Ram it.

      • Edward2
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

        But you can widen roads outside cities and towns quite easily but very little is being done Uni.
        Also some simple modifications to bottlenecks and ending deliberate anti car parking restrictions or even allowing newvparking spaces to be created would bring great improvements.

        • uanime5
          Posted October 31, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

          My point was that cities and towns will always have bottlenecks because you can’t expand their roads without knocking down several buildings. It’s also difficult to add more parking spaces because there may not be anywhere suitable to build a car park.

          • Edward2
            Posted November 1, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

            Presumably no buildings need to be knocked down to build HS2 Uni?
            Or this suddenly all OK for you if its for a train line and not for a road.

          • lifelogic
            Posted November 2, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

            You go up or you go – down plenty of space really – multiple level car parks, flyovers and roads may me needed in cities.

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        Well you can have double/tripple decker roads, tunnels and flyovers, above all you can stop blocking the roads with bus lanes, bike lanes and pointless red anti-car traffic lights.

        Why does anyone think trains are so efficient and good anyway? They are just several buses or coaches linked in convoy, but with the huge disadvantage they are stuck to a certain track/route and so are very inflexible.

        True a couple of drivers can have 12 coaches behind them but this is more than offset by all the other staff needed, the ticketing systems, stations and the special track maintenance, safety fencing and security needed. Also the fact that they cannot ever go door to door or even by the most direct route so need taxis at each end anyway.

        In engineering terms, other than for a few special situations they are bonkers.

        • Bazman
          Posted October 31, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

          A three deck motorway around London one presumes. Filled with coaches that you would not use or have to use? Why not nuclear powered 100 tonne lorries too? Not real.

        • uanime5
          Posted October 31, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

          Train have the advantage of being able to avoid road congestions, along with not increasing road congestion; something that buses and coaches can’t do. Your hatred or trains and love of cars will not change this.

          • Edward2
            Posted November 1, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

            You obviously don’t travel often on trains where I do Uni, because I suffer delays caused by network congestion or breakdowns to trains causing blockages, or people throwing them selves in front of trains, or strikes, or bad weather, or signalling problems, or regular thefts of cabling, or staff shortages, all causing congestion and delays to my recent journeys.
            On several occasions I have been left stranded at stations or even worse stuck for hours in the middle of nowhere on a stranded train.
            Im a the point of giving up with unreliable trains and going back to my cheaper more reliable car.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 2, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

            Trains in the UK are a joke, but go to Germany they are cheap reliable and on time at least most of the time. As you point out why go to London on a train when you can get five in a car for the fraction of the cost? However thsi idea of getting rid of trains by making them to expensive in terms of subsidy and fares and going everywhere by Taxi is not the answer. The same applies to the NHS. Service for the those who can pay and the rest can walk. In other words no infrastructure or infrastructure on the cheap which is expensive dogma.

          • lifelogic
            Posted November 3, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

            A new road is similar to a new rail track, it also avoid congestion and has the advantage that its users can go on to use all the other roads to complete their journey door to door. New rail tracks are just inferior and far more limited and less used new roads.

      • libertarian
        Posted November 1, 2013 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        Er Uanime5 How do you propose people get to a railway station? Walk?

        • lifelogic
          Posted November 2, 2013 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

          They take a taxi of course – often a two direction there and back car journey and often in the wrong direction for the actual journey.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 3, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

            Or they drive into London and then take the tube. Why do they do this as cars are much more convenient? Is it just because of all the absurd parking laws?
            Walking to the station across town? I have never heard anything so foolish in my life. The next thing you will be telling us is they could ride a bike there and chain it to the railings or the station that would be green lefty mung bean eating communist idea. Not to mention dangerous and bad for the environment. Plus you might get wet or blown by the wind or mugged and the other commuter might laugh and think you are poor.

  3. alan jutson
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Me thinks someone is trying to make the figures fit the project.
    Never a good idea.

    So if the excuse for modification to the existing Railway is disruption at weekends.

    So what !.

    The whole system is not going to be modified all at once is it, surely it would be done in stages and in regions at a time, thus disruption is only reasonably local, and with advance notification, other arrangements can be made by those who wish to travel at weekends.

    Reading Station is undergoing a massive rebuild at the moment, now nearing its conclusion, but services my Daughter tells me (who uses it to get to work each day) has not been affected too badly during the last 2 years.
    Yes platform changes have been the norm, but the trains still ran.

    As posted on Monday, the more one hears of this project, the worse it seems to become.

    Who really cares if you save 10 mins on a journey to or from Birmingham – London when it does not even go into London.

    Old Oak Common, Its termination point I believe, is hardly the centre of London is it ! Given its a shorter journey than going into London, Not a surprise it saves 10 mins on those trains that do !!!!!!!

    You mention you cannot find figures from London to Birmingham, is that because they have not completed them, or did and did not like the results.
    Afraid I see more people going to London and being sucked out of Birmingham than major traffic the other way.

    Looks like another financial disaster in the making.

    • alan jutson
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      John

      Just out of interest, are any other MP’s completing any sort of sensible questioning on this, or are you the only one who actually reads these reports and makes comment ?.

      Do the rest just close eyes, ears, and plod through the lobbies, muttering “well its only money and it will create jobs”

      Reply Mrs Gillan is cross examining the project in some detail I believe.

      • Hope
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:14 am | Permalink

        Well said Alan. The figures are being manipulated and all negatives are being lost or taken away from the report. This in itself shows the shame cannot stand up to proper scrutiny. A bit like the failed EU project. Only good news reported, move along for anything else.

      • alan jutson
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

        reply – reply

        Well pleased someone is, and it does run through her constituancy I believe, but does she have a tough commercial background, or is it in some sort of PR.

        Is there not a group of Mp’s who are acting together on this, after all we have 650 of them, and this is costing upwards of £50 billion, surley more than just a handfull of Mp’s must be interested if this is value for money.

        • Hope
          Posted October 30, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

          If the climate Change Act is anything to go by you are being a little naive, and I would not think that of you.

          Cameron seems to be on his back foot over energy, I wonder if that is anything to do with his failed negotiating skills with the Lib Dems and letting them have a free rein. There is nothing he can do but take it from Miliband even though Miliband created it, Cameron went along with and now the LibDems have gold plated the mess the energy policy is in. Does not bode well for his claims on negotiating for Europe does it.

        • alan jutson
          Posted October 30, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

          Am I correct in understanding that Mrs Gillan MP is also some sort of Minister for the EU.

          Perhaps we could call HS2 the Bisto Line, because it will be a gravy train for some.

          Reply No, Mrs Gillan is now a backbencher

          • Alan Wheatley
            Posted November 2, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

            Mrs Gillan was the lead speaker making the case for scrapping HS2 at a public debate organised by the Spectator – see their web site for 1st November, where you can also also hear the audio recording.

        • APL
          Posted November 1, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

          Alan Jutson: “Do the rest just close eyes, ears, and plod through the lobbies, muttering “well its only money and it will create jobs”.

          They are all, without exception creatures of the Party. If the party tells them to jump, the only question an MP has is .. “How high?”

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

        “Do the rest just close eyes, ears, and plod through the lobbies, muttering “well its only money and it will create jobs”.

        Yes I suspect you are right, just as they nearly all voted for the absurd climate change act. It is not their money and they simply do not care.

        Spending £50Bn will create jobs but raising the £50Bn from taxes will destroy jobs as will the years of construction/disruption and delays it will cause. Net it will be perhaps a loss of 4 jobs for every one created. As with so call green jobs. It is clearly a net destroyer of jobs.

      • Timaction
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        Mr Redwood the comment trying to make the figures fit the project seem appropriate. Is this another unpopular EU directive our leaders are trying to hide from us?

      • Winston Smith
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        She previously was behind HS2. Even this year, the then Transport Minister Justine Greening reportedly said of Cheryl Gillian MP: “The secretary of state did her job both as a Welsh Secretary and as a constituency MP in talking to me about the benefits of the project, and I thoroughly agree with her we have ended up with the right line, with the right mitigation.” She’s another selfish MP, only concerned with manipulating her constituents into believing she represents their interests, when all that matters is her own.

        Reply She has represented her constituents views and is now more active in public against the project.

        • Winston Smith
          Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

          The truth is different, I am afraid. When the route was originally proposed, it was set to run through Old Amersham, where she owned a Grade 2 listed house. She promptly sold it and was rumoured not to stand in 2015. Since, the proposed tunnel under Amersham, she has had a change of heart.

          • stred
            Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

            Is this the definition of a Cameroon?

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        WHY didn’t David Cameron make our host a Minister? Why?

        “It said that time savings accounted for £45.7bn of the estimated benefits, with solving 0vercrowding offering just £7.5bn of benefits. Total benefits came out at £71.2bn over 60 years.”
        When I was a schoolteacher in the 1970s, the bureaucracy was coming into being. Whenever I quoted figures myself, I was always careful to use prime numbers with lots of 9s and 7s. Whenever possible, I also did a percentage with decimal point too. I NEVER included my working out or actual figures either.

        • alan jutson
          Posted October 30, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

          Mike

          “Why……..Minister”

          Afraid our host has rather more Commercial, Financial, Political and Business experience than Mr Cameron.

          Thus need I say more !

          • APL
            Posted November 3, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

            alan Jutson: “Thus need I say more !”

            It probably wouldn’t do to have an eurosceptic minister in this Eurosceptic administration either.

            Ken Clarke might get upset and who knows might break the Tory party when he throws his toys out of the pram.

      • Sean O'Hare
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

        Douglas Carswell seems to be having nightmares over HS2. It was in the Tory manifesto therefore he must vote for it, although he doesn’t want to.

        • Hope
          Posted October 31, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

          I think history shows he says one thing and votes another. He so called struggled over a recent previous decision after being critical about it.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Alan–Not having previously been able to take this nonsense seriously, I had not absorbed that the London end stopped at Old Oak Common (wherever that is) but that combined with the Birmingham end being at some glorified Parkway well outside Birmingham is just one more piece of baloney.

      • alan jutson
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

        Leslie

        Old Oak Common is a good train ride away from central London.

        Just north of Park Royal, not far from Willesden Junction if my memory serves me right, so not really even in London proper, although they do have a London post code I believe.

        • zorro
          Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

          It is effectively North Acton…. This cost/benefit analysis is a bit of a joke. To rely on the time savings for the majoroty of your business benefit on a 20+ year project is rather bizarre. Particularly bearing in mind that they are hardly time savings now, when you can work on trains anyway and the destinations do not go into the city centres. It also discounts the inevitable progress which will occur in telecommunications and the ability to work from home, video conferencing etc etc….Look at the progress in the last 20 years. It is madness to commit to this type of project now when we can use the (QE) money for smaller more relevant projects or other uses to stimulate economic activity within the UK……As for Carswell’s argument on it being in the manifesto……surely the facts available now would allow him to honourably question why he should feel obliged to support this project now.

          zorro

          • stred
            Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

            Perfect sense.

    • Chris
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Oh Alan…

      Following the example of the recent WCML upgrade there would be closures most weekends and holidays, but on ALL THREE north-south mainlines. The more you try and stagger these, the longer all three would take and the longer the misery would go on. How much freight and passenger traffic would be lost during this time?

      Reading station is one project, on a line that isn’t as busy as the WCML, at a site with enough room for the work to be phased. There have still been a multitude of closures and periods of reduced traffic, which scaled up to dozens of major stations on the the MML, WCML and ECML would inflict major disruption.

      As for saving 10 minutes on a journey to Birmingham, it makes a change from the equally inaccurate 20mins often quoted but it’s still nonsense – 25mins quicker than the ‘headline’ journey time, more like half an hour for most people, and then there’s the 50min+ saving to Manchester and Leeds, nearly halving the trip.

      Oh, and HS2 terminates at EUSTON.

      • alan jutson
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

        Chris

        Still do not understand why you cannot stagger the work, why disrupt all three lines at the same time, are they completely linked and not independent from each other at all, can you not bypass the one which is being worked on ?

        Surely you could modify these lines in a time scale that is only a fraction of the time to construct HS2.

      • stred
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

        It has to eventually go to St Pancras in order to have trough trains from EU. There is a plan for this.

      • behindthefrogs
        Posted October 31, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        Reading station is the busiest station outside London. The traffic into the station from the east is much heavier than the WCML. Due to the fact that the line divides at Reading the changes are much more complex than at any point on the WCML. Not only that the project is ahead of time and below budget.

      • alan jutson
        Posted October 31, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

        Chris

        Oops now see it goes underground at Old Oak Common, and resurfaces at Euston.
        Must get some new glasses !

  4. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Time saving would not alter production. The assumed causal link between time off a journey and increased production generally, is false and a flaw in logical thinking.

    Capacity improvements based on demographic need would improve passengers quality time.

    The Borrowing is a facet of an unhealthy positive feedback cycle where past bad habits cannot be broken.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      I think the more fundamental flaw in logical thinking is that an activity cannot be recognised as productive unless money changes hands so that it gets into the GDP statistic. So for example all of the unpaid childcare by parents and others is not deemed to be economically productive, while the moment childcare is paid for it contributes to GDP. Hence if a parent wastes an hour a day through unnecessary delays travelling to and from work that is an hour not available for looking after the children and helping them to grow up to become good and useful citizens, but the loss of that hour has no impact on the current GDP statistic. It may well have a negative impact on GDP in the future, when they have grown up to be less good and useful citizens because the parent often wasn’t there with them because of slow journey times, but not on the current GDP statistic which in my view is no longer really fit for purpose.

  5. Robert K
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your forensic analysis of this subject. I listened to the Transport Secretary on the news last night and his comments in support of HS2 came across as pure bluster. As you are proving on a daily basis there is no rational basis for HS2.

  6. oldtimer
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    This does not sound any more convincing than earlier attempts to justify HS2. What is also extraordinary is your description of how unbalanced public investment in the national transportation system really is.

    Others have commented that rail is an old technology that is vulnerable to technological developments elsewhere, notably the huge research effort into the driverless car. Perhaps rail operators should pay attention to what is going on in the automotive sector in this respect and how it might be adapted for use on the existing rail network to increase its capacity and usage. Cars are already being sold with adaptive cruise control (to prevent collision on the motorway) and with lane control (to prevent drift outside the lines on the road). Trains don`t have to worry about the last of these. HS2 runs the risk of being obsolete before construction even begins if driverless cars prove to be the disruptive technology that some believe it can be.

    • Chris
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      Rail IS an old technology, yet one being used by more passengers than since WWI and on a far smaller network, and which has seen passenger journeys increase by a QUARTER in the last 5 years… during a recession. The telegraph, telephone and even the internet hasn’t blunted the need for people to travel in an efficient manner and even car use has plateaued. With a rising population, no extra urban road capacity, and more and more technology becoming mobile the attraction of rail is only going to become greater.

      Steel wheel on steel rail is a technology over a century and a half old, while ‘high speed’ lines have been around for half a century and are being built across the world – obsolete technology? I think not.

      • oldtimer
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        Rail works as a high density commuter line into cities. It works as a high capacity freight system both for moving (and, in the USA, storing) bulk freight. HS2 is neither of these and, it seems, its promoters have great difficulty deciding just what purpose it is supposed to fulfill or what its business case really is.

  7. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    It is clear that your collegues in government are determined to push this vanity project through whatever the arguments against. Unfortunately too many in your party are like Douglas Carswell who told us in yesterday’s Telegraph blogs: “My every instinct makes me want to vote against HS2; the cost, the corporate vested interests lined up behind it, the Whitehall group-think.
    But I cannot. Why?
    On page 23 of the Conservative manifesto, on which I stood for election in 2010, is a straight forward promise to support the ruddy thing.”
    Party before country rules again.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Well, his argument is that he’d had a personal election address delivered to all the voters at public expense so they’d know where he stood, and he didn’t say that he might disagree with that part of the national manifesto.

      I suppose that in this day and age he could get some feel for whether many of his constituents would be angry if he departed from his election address on this issue by asking them just that question over the internet, although he would still have to use his local papers to let most of them know that he wanted their views unless he was prepared to have leaflets delivered around the constituency, and would that be an allowable expense as part of his duties as an MP?

      Reply Local papers would probably run the request free as a news story.Any party political leaflets etc cannot be claimed on expenses.

    • matthu
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
      – John Maynard Keynes.

      Not if I stood as a CP member, apparently.
      Change the figures, change the rationale, change almost anything – but never be swayed by the facts or by public opinion.

      Perhaps time for a change of allegiance?

  8. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Watching this on the news last night my son actually swore, said it was a total waste of money, and listed a string of road improvements he would prefer to see.

    And I think he has a point, because if for a rough and ready calculation to put this into some kind of perspective you simply assume that for each passenger using this railway line on a working day there would be a thousand people using the roads who could also benefit significantly from them being improved, and if you assume that on average the road improvements could save each road user a similar amount of time each day as the new railway line would save each of its users, then the total value of their time saved in travel on the roads would be a thousand times greater.

    So instead of the estimated £46 billion for the value of the time saved by this railway, over 60 years as I understand, it would £46,000 billion over the same period.

    Now that is a truly huge sum, roughly equivalent to 30 years of the present total UK GDP; which can only lead to the conclusion that either the projected value of the time savings for this railway line are being wildly over-estimated or we are losing a substantial chunk of our potential GDP through the inadequacy of our roads.

    I would be the first to admit that my numbers are just plucked out of the air, and maybe the potential economic value of road improvements would not be as much as a thousand times greater than that of this new railway line, but only a hundred times greater; and maybe the government has done a careful cost benefit analysis for a range of possible road improvements and concluded that it would be far better to concentrate available resources on this railway, but until that was confirmed I would have to say that this railway project seems ill-conceived and should be abandoned.

    And if this railway element of the EU’s Trans-European Network is ill-conceived, as seems to be the case, that must raise questions about other railway elements of the propose network, and therefore about how much of our taxpayers’ money has been directly or indirectly used to help build some of those other railway elements.

    • alan jutson
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Dennis

      “figures plucked out of mid air”……

      I think I heard somewhere that Mr Mandelson has already suggested that the original figures were worked out and scribbled on the back of an envelope.

      Not much difference !

  9. Bert Young
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    “Grasping at straws” seems to be the latest approach to the HS2 proposition . Digging into the abyss of what is unknown and trying to drag out something that may seem plausible , is unlikely to persuade the electorate that this investment has some positive benefit ; persuading politicians in a pre-election mode is another thing . God help us !

  10. stred
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    This is all about building a continental rail track for continental trains to run directly from the northern cities and Scotland as set out on EU dierectives. The £46 billion is only for the first short stretch and everyone knows that publicly funded projects will double in cost. Then there will be the cost of the branches to the North, which will be at least 3x this estimate.

    The French built TGVs for a fraction of the cost. We spend as much on public projects just arguing about them. And in the case of nuclear power stations we end up paying the French to build one at twice the cost of the one they have just finished in France, itself at 3x the cost of their older ones.

    • Chris
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      Pardon? The £42bn includes both branches to Manchester and Leeds. As for the EU conspiracy argument, it’s so laughable…

      • stred
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

        Sorry. Thought the route of the branches was not even completely planned yet. Only the first bit has been designed in detail. So what is incuded in the ‘estimate’? And what proportion is for the London- Brum part? And is the rolling stock incuded? I will be dead but need to advise my son whether to pay taxes elsewhere.

  11. BobE
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    We need to provide for cars and lorries. Solve the enviromental problems with them and put in parking. Everything you buy or use is carried on the roads. Freight goes across Europe on roads. Its not going to change is it.
    (Cameron and co only have 17 months left anyway)

  12. backofanenvelope
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    If we insist on building an 18th century train set in the 21st century, how about applying some common sense? If the top speed of Mr Cameron’s train set was restricted to about 125 mph, what would that do to the price? Surely the track/signalling set up would cost much less and the rolling stock likewise?

    • Chris
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      You realise the 18th century is the 1700’s right? As for a lower top speed, it makes very little difference to the cost – cheaper trains, narrower bore tunnels etc. The difference in benefits far outweighs the difference in cost, while the greater journey times would prevent it relieving all three north-south mainlines .

      • stred
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

        What about energy input and the ground sound barrier?

  13. Bryan
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    As I posted earlier in the week, the huge over valuation of the economic worth of time saved has been a feature of expensive projects since computers took their place in the commercial world.

    It was ever so in order to prove the case for and the recommendation to proceed.

    When will the Public Sector ever learn?

  14. Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    I can’t see how “time savings” can be calculated as such a large sum. How can you count people’s extra leisure time as a saving for the country? The only time savings that could be quantified are surely those of people who would otherwise be gainfully employed. My erstwhile employer wasn’t the slightest concerned about how long it took me to get to work or a business meeting as long as I got there on time, he wasn’t paying me! How can you possibly count the savings in a businessman’s time of saving maybe fifteen minutes or so off, say, a day visit to Birmingham when all it means in practice that he can lie in bed a little longer.
    If the government wants to count wasted time, perhaps it should start valuing that of commuters arriving late for work because of train delays, motorway hold-ups and the like. I’m sure that sorting out some of these would produce far more “time savings” than HS2 at far lower cost.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      They could also think about the loads of time people have to spend filling out their unnecessarily complicated forms.

    • Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      A further thought. A company considering a project like this wouldn’t count its customers’ time saving as part of their balance sheet; they wouldn’t get any money from such savings to pay off their borrowings.

  15. cosmic
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Instead of there being clear reasons for HS2 and from them a determination to do it, there’s a blind determination to go for it, and we’re seeing post facto justification being cobbled together. The rationale certainly seems to be shifting sands rather than rock.

    I really can’t see why the government is so attached to this idea. It looks like a serious vote loser in Tory heartlands affected and it’s hardly likely to do anything for their prospects in the north. Most Conservatives are naturally opposed to huge public expenditure for no obvious advantage.

    Added to which Labour is playing cat and mouse with cancelling it and will no doubt do so when they think it’s of maximum advantage.

  16. Winston Smith
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Let’s make things very clear. LibLabCon are all in favour of HS2. The route has been decided and no matter how they lie and prevaricate, if you continue to vote for the 3 main parties, HS2 WILL happen.

  17. Mike Wilson
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I just don’t get it. Why are they determined to do this? Most people don’t want it. Heaven knows there are plenty of other things to spend money on. It’s all very strange.

    • stred
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

      You don’t get a tax-free EU job unless you obey orders.

  18. David Hope
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Why is it not possible to just add more tracks alongside existing ones in order to boost capacity. Surely this wouldn’t be too hard for large sections of the routes. Certainly a lot cheaper than an entirely new route you’d think.

    Given what has been found about journey times – i.e. savings are minimal with the new trains coming in soon on existing lines, surely we should just concentrate on capacity where constrained.

  19. Fairweather
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Has anyone considered that in 20 or so years time cars will drive themselves?
    We will simply programme in our destination and the car will take us there. Work /reading etc. can be done en route and trains will become less and less used as the technology progresses
    These cars are already being tried out in America
    You only have to see how technology and our lives have changed in the last 20 years. E.g. Hardly anyone had a mobile phone then let alone sat Nav

    Reply Indeed – a technology I have written about before and welcome.A trial is soon to be underway in Milton Keynes.

    • Credible
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      Cars that drive themselves – how boring will that be!?

      But if we don’t have to drive they could then be fitted out with a nice sofa, telly, computer, games console and mini bar. We could program in a mystery tour for an hour or so to chill out or do some work in peace. No need for garden sheds anymore.

      Although, weren’t we supposed to have flying cars by now?

      I quite like trains. Fast ones are better than slow ones, but not if they don’t go to where I live.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      The problem with cars that drive themselves is that they still require parking spaces at their destination, unlike people who travel by train (unless you want to double your fuel bill by having you car drive home, then back again). So without automated car parks that can hold more cars than regular car parks trains will continue to be used.

      • Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        What about Park & Ride? I use it when I go to Oxford and its very convenient. A steady drive along the M40/A40, and park just outside of the ring road before the congestion starts.

      • Edward2
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        You’ve suggested the cure to your own negative post Uni
        Just build some more car parks
        Plenty of demand so profits to be made.

        • uanime5
          Posted October 31, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

          The problem is that in town and cities there isn’t enough room to build more car parks or to enlarge existing car parks. So unless they get the automated car park technology to work driverless cars won’t be able to replace cars.

          • Edward2
            Posted November 1, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

            Absolute twaddle Uni
            There is plenty of room in towns and cities for siting multi story or underground car parks if we actually wanted to.

      • Stephen O
        Posted October 31, 2013 at 3:13 am | Permalink

        Just what I was wondering. Such cars are being tested on the (German?) roads now. They will allow safe travel at far higher speeds than is the case today. In due course a qualified driver will not be needed.

        The fuel efficency of cars is rapidly improving so the environmental issue is being addressed. Not that I ever understood why having cars stuck in traffic jams was good for the environment.

        They will also address the social challenge of our aging population, restoring mobility to the old, reducing the isolation and loneliness that comes with age.

        It would make more sense to upgrade the road network. JR, a chance for you to be more ‘caring’ than those to the left of you!

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted November 1, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      Don’t count on the driverless car. It is not a technology issue but one of liability. Who is to blame when one driverless car made by one manufacturer is in collision with a driverless car made by a different manufacturer?

      • Edward2
        Posted November 1, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        The word driverless is a misnomer.
        They will be autonomous vehicles, in that the vehicle can steer, accelerate and brake and avoid collisions with other vehicles, but there will still be a legal requirement for a legally qualified sober driver to be in the drivers seat keeping a close watch on the journey and able to take control if the need should arise.
        Similar to planes and ships which travel mostly on auto pilot.

        • Alan Wheatley
          Posted November 2, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

          Your concept fills me with horror.

          For instance, how much time will the driver be allowed (in the context of legal liability) “to take control if the need should arise”?

          Further, the concentration required to be continuously “keeping a close watch” is such that the driver might just as well be doing the driving.

          Your analogy with an auto-pilot is alarming! Pilots are known to have fallen asleep while the plane is flying on auto-pilot.

  20. Atlas
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    “No and thrice No!” is still my opinion about HS2 – an utter waste of money.

  21. Terry
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    And how is this project to be funded? At present we have to borrow to give money to the Overseas Aid programme so will HS2 just add to the National debt pile? And those conjured up benefit figures are laughable. How on earth can the quantify a journey time? How can anyone say how much revenue will be lost because the CEO is on the train for 30 minutes longer than he could be? It is ludicrous and reeks of the “clutching at straws” method of persuasion. And what about the ROI? £45B invested to make a highly dubious gain of £71B over 60 Years? A 63% return over 60 years without factoring inflation? That figure on its own should be enough to dump this project now. Why can’t they pump this money into tax cuts for the less well off and reduce the burden on British industries instead of chasing their wild pipe dreams? They should be concentrating all on the next 5-10 years and getting this country back into shape for the next generation.

  22. They Work For Us
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    The best thing to do with 50Bn not to take it from the taxpayer in the first place. The taxpayer is not interested in a politician setting up a grandiose project as their legacy.

    I was astonished to hear on the Today programme someone saying “We mustn’t make energy too cheap because people won’t want to take measures to save it or to fund (uneconomic) green power.

    This is sheer arrogance. Politicians have no mandate to do this and if they really believe in these ideas then let us have a referendum on it to give them the mandate..

    Green subsidies and social subsidies (if agreed to by the population) should come out of general taxation. It is ludicrous that the poor widow pays extra for her energy to subsidise herself and another poor widow. Message to MPs (JR excepted) is please “Work for Us” and do as the public direct you. You know what they want on many issues and it is sheer arrogance to deny it to them.

  23. uanime5
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    How exactly are they calculating the economic benefit of reducing the journey times by 10 minutes? Surely if an employees gets to work 10 minutes earlier they’ll leave 10 minutes earlier, rather than work an extra 20 minutes (10 minute saving either way leaves 20 extra minutes).

    In other news the DWP has lost its Supreme Court case regarding workfare. It seems that because they didn’t provide the unemployed with all the information they required to make an informed choice the sanctions for non-compliance were illegal. Though Ian Duncan Smith is still trying to retroactively change the law so that the DWP can refuse to compensate people who were illegally sanctioned. Expect another court case against the DWP soon.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/10414350/Governments-bid-to-overturn-Poundland-work-scheme-ruling-rejected.html

  24. peter davies
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Sorry but if its speed you want you can fly pretty cheaply most of the time – simple as.

    A 20 minute difference Euston – Birmingham is neither here nor there, an hour or so less to Manchester – the same. The differentials in the times they are talknig about for the costs and upheaval just don’t stack up in my opinion.

    I travel up and down the country regularly – an hour knocked off may be useful but if time was really an issue I would choose to fly – a journey taking 4 hours instead on 5 isn’t going to make enough of a difference to change my plans – anything over 3 hours takes half the working day so I can’t see where any change in business or leisure behavour would come from .

    If they are serious about producing a proper business case they need to do better than this I’m afraid – HS2 makes as much sense as relying on wind power for our energy supply – another barmy New Labour/EU group think idea.

  25. forthurst
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    “The estimators have lowered the value of business people’s time spent on the railway, but increased the value of commuter time and leisure traveller time.”

    According to the Register, by 2017, even bumpkins will have superfast broadband. By 2014 at least one company promises 98% coverage by 4G telephony. Thus, business people will have more incentives to utilise better, faster more ubiquitous video-conferencing facilities and enjoy better on train access; rail commuters will be able to use travelling time for either work or watching teevee also; leasure travellers, likewise. Wasted time?

    One of the worst aspects of driving on motorways is the ubiquitous lorry, moving goods big and small over distances big and small. This is not a topic of concern for HS2; most goods will still go by road and be subject to delays which, unlike those of commuters or leisure travellers, are subject to real, rather spurious financial evaluation and therefore road improvement justifications. Of course, when leisure travellers (or tourists as they are sometimes known) move around the UK, they frequently do in company, and with serious luggage which is why, generally, they use cars or coaches for both the sake of convenience and cost-saving when visiting our islands for a little bumpkin spotting.

    In order to improve the rail system, serious consideration should be given to autonomous trains; these would remove the driver’s thinking time as signalling and the response would be conducted by computers thus reducing the distance between trains for safety reasons. In fact unless this is taken in hand, we could be moving to a situation where road vehicles, and that of course, most importantly includes those for freight, achieve autonomy whilst the politicians’ favourite 19th century technology falls even further behind, more reliant than ever on infusions of our tax money and nonsensical financial and planet-saving justifications for its very existence.

  26. Nash Point
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    I suppose it’s been mentioned before, but there seem to be large similarities between the HS2 project and the new nuclear reactor at Hinkley. Both involve spending massive amounts of our money on largely redundant, or soon to be redundant technologies. Like an army fighting the previous war, government just doesn’t seem to have any vision as to how the future will develop. Clearly, HS2 is a complete waste of money. Do you expect me to believe that the return per pound spent will be £2-30 and not £2-50? Where did these figures come from? A pen pusher’s imagination, that’s where.
    I despair of this country. It’s lost its sovereignty, has insurmountable debt and the only way is down. I don’t believe the solution can be achieved through democratic means unfortunately.

  27. formula57
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    We should rejoice that the revised purpose of HS2 is to save journey times for them the case is made clearly and forcefully – rebuid Birmingham 20 minutes journey time closer to London (as others have said elsewhere). Such an opportunity and think of the Keynsian stimulus!

  28. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Ross Clark in The Spectator: “French railways spent £22 million per mile on the high speed line from Paris to Strasbourg, which opened in 2007. The Frankfurt to Cologne line cost £60 million per mile and HS1 £80 million per mile. Yet at the latest costings of £42 billion, HS2 will work out at £121 million per mile.”
    When is somebody going to stop the taxpayers of this country being swindled?

  29. Vanessa
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    I think the ticket price will be so expensive that most people will not use this white elephant. It will be a train line for politicians and the odd people who are still allowed to be rich in 2028.

    The ordinary masses will avoid it; it does not even go into the centre of the towns it does stop at (Oak Common is still about 40 minutes away from Kings Cross) and the government seems to be adding more and more stations so it will hardly be High Speed. It takes so long to reach 225 mph and so long to stop it will hardly have time – in this small island of ours – to go at the top speed that we are told is so economically beneficial.

  30. Rhys
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Here’s another ‘The Emperor has no Clothes’ question which I hope you will lob at the PM / the relevant Minister asap: # If increased seating capacity is the real justification for HS2 then how much would it cost to make the East and West Coast mainlines double-decker usable? and what additional seating capacity would double decker trains provide? #

  31. Neil Craig
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    That we are spending £16bn on roads and £39bn on rail puts the lie to the entire story that HS2 is anything to do with cost benefit analysis.

  32. M. Wahlberg
    Posted October 31, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Bringing together several of the recent postings, I wish you would initiate an independent review of HS2 in the context of the European Commission’s decisions on their TEN-T transport policy 2 weeks ago. Very few MPs seem even to have heard about TEN-T and certainly none seem to have taken on board what the recent decisions could mean for HS2.
    You will want to do your own research but here is a link to start and see the map. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-13-948_en.htm?locale=en

    HS2 is on the line of Core Corridor 8 (Cork to Marseilles). You may care to note en passant that the east Y of HS2 is not on the EU maps. Now either that was a horrible mistake OR the Government have colluded in downgrading the line Birmingham to Leeds from ‘Core’ (highest priority) to ‘Comprehensive’ status. You will understand the impact of this for the Government claim to be focusing on rejuvenating the north.

    Among other key points is that it is the intention that the Core Corridors will be taken under the wing of the EC and “lead” by an EC appointed Co-ordinator – with a governance Forum (‘Platform’) on which the UK government will be a ‘stakeholder’ along with many others. Now it is clearly contradictory that the Government is seeking to repatriate powers from the EU, but also supporting spending £50 billion on a route that will be governed out of the EC.

    Yes there has been collaboration across Europe for many years on rail interoperability – but what was decided 10 days ago is a new ball game and I think that MPs need to understand what is going on before they carry on supporting HS2.

    Reply HS2 remains a UK initiated and financed project which the UK can cancel.

    • M. Wahlberg
      Posted November 4, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      Mr Redwood,
      Thank you for your one phrase reply, but I don’t think it at all responds to my serious appeal to get a decent and informed debate amongst Conservative MPs about the decisions on the EC TEN-T policy, as decided 2+ weeks back. It just again suggests to me that you too do not know what is going on regarding TEN-T policy at the moment, and what the Government has signed up to.

      The reply that you gave is the formulaic one that has been given by every Conservative MP over the last 3 years. And here is my response to that – ‘yes, HS2 was initiated by the UK Government; and yes, the UK Government could cancel HS2. But what they could NOT now cancel is the designation of priority Core Corridor 8. (see the map link in the previous posting). Nor can they cancel the recent decision that an EC Co-ordinator will be taking the “lead” in the development and running of each of the Core Corridors. Nor can they now cancel the policy that CC8 (as well as the other CCs) will be run on the basis of “best value for Europe” i.e based on trans-European priorities for the route Cork to Marseilles and NOT Member State priorities. The Government has signed up to this policy including that they will become a stakeholder (amongst many) on the EC Forum that will be responsible for CC8, including the stretch that is now covered by the HS2 proposal.
      So the Government has committed to developing CC8 as best they can in line with EC agreed proposals, regulations etc. But this does not mean that they have to do this with a hyper-speed rail line. That is the bit that can be changed. The Government has committed to something happening along this Corridor but it doesn’t have to be the HS2 proposal.
      It seems to me that given the Conservative preference to repatriate powers from Brussels, that it is quite important to hear how that can be squared with the Government signing up to TEN-T policy for CC8, which will be “lead” by an EC Co-ordinator. It also seems important to hear from Conservatives what they think about the ‘East Y’ of HS2, the stretch from Birmingham to Leeds, no longer being on the map of CC8. Who is downgrading it? Is Yorkshire happy about this?

      Reply I do not want the EU running our railway policy any more than the many other things they now control in whole or part. That’s why I want a referendum on In/Out.

  33. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    In the early 2000s, Railtrack planned a major upgrade of the West Coast Main Line to deliver speeds similar to those planned for HS2, by using tilting trains. Indeed, this went to public inquiry. A number of factors, not least the impracticality of ‘moving block’ signalling on a line of this nature, meant that the estimated cost escalated rapidly. When it got to £13 billion, Network Rail pulled the plug and went for a cheaper and less ambitious upgrade. This was completed in late 2008, delivering the speeds achieved now. The out-turn cost approached £10 million, or approximately £11.5 billion in today’s prices. Comparing the projected HS2 cost of £50 billion with these numbers, you can see just how ambitious and costly HS2 is.

    There are quite a few problems with the latest figures.
    (1) If home owners on the route are paid full compensation, the cost may escalate further.
    (2) Putting a value on reducing overcrowding is problematical. You need a controlled experiment comparing fares achievable on a crowded train with those on one guaranteed not to be crowded.
    (3) ‘Wider economic benefits’ are usually pure guesswork.
    (4) 60 years is a very long period over which to evaluate infrastructure. There is a lot of track maintenance during that period and rolling stock must be replaced at least once.
    (5) The last time I checked, the discount rate (public sector interest rate in effect) was 3.5% for rail projects and 6% for roads. Furthermore, DoT told road engineering consultants to multiply their cost estimates by 1.54 to correct for an ‘optimism bias’. This wasn’t done with rail projects.
    (6) The forecast passenger load for HS2 indicates a 3 fold increase during the scheme life; this is difficult to believe and the revenue forecast depends on it.

  34. Chris
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I understand that you did not vote against HS2 in the debate. Can you confirm this?

    Reply: I abstained as this paving bill is about paying people compensation for the blight the current scheme is causing. I will vote against the measure itself if, the plans to build a railway and the money for it, and when it comes before the Commons. In the meantime all the time Labour want this scheme as well as Coalition Ministers, the planning blight continues so they have to compensate people.

    • Chris
      Posted November 1, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      I understood that the debate was about much more than simply compensation for lost land – it was about funding for the preparation of constructing HS2 including buying the land for the track. Approving this part indicates support for the project and was perceived by the PM to be such, and promoted as such.
      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/conservatives-back-hs2-rail-link-plans-as-rebellion-fades-8916492.html
      “Eighteen Conservatives voted against approving funding for the Government to prepare the HS2 route and to buy property and land that would vanish under the planned track…”

      Critically, the vote was perceived by Ministers to be an indication of support for the project as a whole:
      “..Ministers used the vote to urge Labour to express its unambiguous support for the £50bn scheme…”

      This huge support amongst MPs of all hues for HS2, as demonstrated by the vote, is all far removed from the views outside Westminster. worth reading the report on the Spectator debate last night, by Fraser Nelson:
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/10417836/HS2-George-Osborne-should-halt-the-train-journey-no-one-wants-to-take.html
      “…The real discussion about this mammoth project has had to be conducted outside Parliament. We at The Spectator sought to do our bit last night, with a debate on the subject in London. It almost had to be cancelled, as we struggled to find any politician or transport expert willing to defend the idea. MPs will march through the “aye” lobbies when asked, or say – if questioned on television – that of course they support the Chancellor’s plans. But strikingly few will volunteer to defend what most see as a doomed project. When you hear someone describing HS2 as “absolutely vital” to modern Britain, the odds are it’s either the Prime Minister or his Chancellor. Even many inside the Treasury regard this as an expensive lunacy, and quite a few ministers agree. But no party wants to be the first to admit it. …”

      Reply I have made quite clear my opposition to the project and will vote against the legislation needed prior to starting work. What was surprising yesterday was a majority of the whole Commons did vote for this project. As I have pointed out endlessly, all the time Labour supports this project it will go through.

  35. Chris
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    John, could you ensure that two people cannot post comments with the same name? I have been posting as Chris for some years on this site, and today I see that “Chris” has posted quite a few comments above, which I have certainly not written. I do not wish to be attributed with comments I did not make, and presumably the other person who has posted as “Chris” does not want to be attributed with my comments. I had thought your system was secure and not open to abuse, but obviously not so. Please could you rectify the situation urgently? Thank you.

  36. Vanessa
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Just a late postscript ! I have heard that the Great Central Railway CLOSED BY DR BEECHING would do the job nicely and would only cost about £6 billion. There is also another line CLOSED BY DR BEECHING which was reduced to 2 lines but has the capacity for another two increasing the number of trains.

    These lines are virtually ready to be resurrected as the cutting is still there and the bridges etc. They were never destroyed or built on – presumably because they believed they would, one day, come back into service. This would so much simpler than destroying people’s houses, farms, businesses and neighbourhoods but I suspect the EU has its tentacles in HS2.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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