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29/10/2013
Government resorts to voodoo economics and fantasising in desperate bid to win public support for HS2


Government resorts to voodoo economics and fantasising in desperate bid to win public support for HS2

 

29th October 2013 –Government today released their latest 156 page document in a last desperate bid to defend its case for HS2.  It follows on from increasingly unbelievable claims about HS2 that experts have found exaggerated, technically wrong and to be misrepresentations – for example the extraordinary and discredited claims that HS2 would deliver growth worth 15bn a year. The latest "Strategic Case” fares no better.

 

HS2AA, the national campaign challenging the case for HS2 has studied its claims and tested them against the plain facts:

 

·        ‘Base’ BCR is hidden and still exaggerated: The Government still clings onto benefits that don’t exist and only states the more flattering Benefit to Cost ratio (BCR) that includes wider economic benefits.  While they claim a BCR of over 2 for the full Y (2.3), the Hybrid Bill is just for Phase 1 – which has a ‘base’ BCR of just 1.4 – and both figures still rely on unsubstantiated assumptions that grossly overstate the benefits. HS2AA estimate the real figure at under 0.5 ie less than 50p back for every £1 of subsidy spent.

·        Value of journey time savings overstated: Acknowledging the absurdity of their assumption that business people don’t work on trains, the BBC this morning report that DfT now assume 2 mins more productive time for every 3 minutes of journey time saving.  However DfT’s own already outdated research put the answer at 50% (ie 1.5 minutes) and by 2026 when HS2 starts running this benefit will have shrunk to nothing.  Trains are already mobile offices for business people.

·        More services across the country: claims that cities across the nation will benefit with more services ignore two simple points. 

o  The railways run on subsidies.  New services only happen if someone other than farepayers put money in.  These new subsidies are no-where to be found in the business case.

o  No-one should believe Government promises about new subsidised services starting 10 and 20 years hence, when those making the promises will long be out of office.

·        Double counting: Government trumpet the length of journey time savings that HS2 would bring to cities (like Newcastle, Sheffield, Edinburgh) against their current journey times, instead of the shorter ones already planned to occur eg what the new IEP trains deliver on the ECML and Midland Mainline electrification.

·        Capacity: It is simply nonsense to argue that HS2 is needed to cope with rail demand over future decades.  Not only do the latest statistics show long distance rail growth now tailing off, and business travel is falling, but the intercity route that HS2 serves is the least crowded.  It’s commuter trains that are overcrowded, not half empty intercity trains.  No one in their right mind builds a new North-South high speed railway just to increase commuter capacity.

·        Alternatives to HS2: The idea that without HS2 rail travellers face years of fixing our current lines is a complete fabrication. Quite simply the main alternative to HS2 involves lengthening West Coast mainline (WCML) trains, reducing first class carriages from 4 to 3, and removing 3 pinch-points on the WCML – and this accommodates even DfT’s forecast demand growth, and all for under £3bn. Even Network Rail did not dispute this.

 

Commenting on the new report, Hilary Wharf, director, HS2AA, said:

 

"It is disgraceful that Government resort to voodoo economics and fantasising about a world where high speed rail brings countless benefits in a last ditch attempt to make their case for HS2.  It plays more to an MP audience who make over 40% of their travel by train, rather than the taxpaying public who only use rail for 6% of their travel – and under 2% of rail journeys nationally are made on the WCML. 

 

Their rabbit out of a hat approach, with a stream of questionable claims (from KPMG, Network Rail/Atkins, and now today’s Strategic Case) are a cynical attempt to manipulate public opinion, and when subjected to scrutiny never stack up.

 

While Government are happy playing political pong pong with HS2 they should remember that they are playing with real people’s lives. There are over half a million households who are directly adversely affected by HS2, besides countless more who lose out because £50bn is wasted on this vanity project”

 

 

 

Ends

Notes to editors:

HS2AA is a national not for profit organisation working with over 100 local groups who all believe HS2 does not represent an effective answer to the UK’s transport, economic or environmental needs. HS2AA have focused on an evidenced-based approach to challenging the business case, the environmental case and compensation arrangements.

 


 For more information please contact:

Richard Houghton Tel: 07803 178 037
Email: 
richardwhoughton@gmail.com

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