Government’s defence of HS2 is in tatters, says HS2 Action Alliance

Their response to the select committee fails to give credible answers

9 September 2011– Analysis by HS2AA of the written responses by the Department for Transport’s (DfT) and High Speed Two Ltd (HS2) to questions from the Transport Select Committee shows how in 40 pages they fail to patch the holes in their case.

Bruce Weston, reviewing these submissions said “It’s clear that the Government has no real answers to the many questions that the Select Committee has raised on the heart of their case. Rather than continuing to offer misrepresentations and invalid justifications, it is time for the Government to reconsider their commitment to HS2”.

Speed

Government claims about the benefits of going faster remain hollow. DfT have been unable to repair their case that there are massive benefits from journey time savings. With 40% of HS2’s £44bn benefits undermined by technical developments that have gone unnoticed by the DfT, they have no proper basis to justify their £30bn project.

18 trains an hour

The Government still fails to demonstrate how 18 trains per hour is possible, leaving its whole Y strategy undeliverable. HS2 Ltd were previously on record as accepting 15 trains as the practical maximum – their latest response is inadequate at showing how they run more.

Demand forecasts

On the 35 year demand forecasts (to 2043) HS2 Ltd trip themselves up by repeating their own assessment (of 2009) that they don’t believe it’s a credible position to rely on demand that may happen after 2033. But if you stop at 2033 then, as they say in their own 2011 case, the subsidy exceeds the benefits. This kills HS2 stone dead, or, as Philip Hammond would say as “dead. Dead as a Norwegian parrot”.

Alternatives

They are still trying to pretend that the alternatives which increase capacity on the existing railway can’t accommodate the doubling in demand they forecast. This is despite their own published figures that show that they can – as we have consistently pointed out to them. Perhaps it’s because longer trains and fewer first class coaches lack the glamour of a shiny – if incredibly expensive – new railway?

North South divide

On the North South divide, they suggest that the benefits will accrue where the trips originate, so the North and Midlands will gain as most trips start there. But with 70% of journeys being for leisure (as Government often remind us) it’s the destination that matters. Money will move south – being spent in the shops, attractions, hotels and restaurants visited. For the 30% of business travellers, faster travel reduces a barrier to competition, so London with the more dominant and more efficient economy is the potential winner.

Growth

On growth, they are so bereft of evidence that they lay claim to the 1 million new jobs predicted in a recent study for the Core Cities, conveniently ignoring that these jobs are for 2020 – 6 years before HS2’s first train.

Notes to Editors

The DfT and HS2 Ltd will appear in front of the Select Committee next week (13 Sept.)

HS2 Action Alliance is a not for profit organisation working with over 70 local groups, which is challenging the case for HS2 and working to get Government to take the right decisions.