HS2 Action Alliance names HS2 as the ‘Great White Elephant’

August 2010 – ‘HS2 represents potentially the biggest single commitment of public funds within a generation for transport and has the potential to be a great white elephant’ said Kathryn Gurney of HS2AA this morning and yet ‘the Government has not demonstrated it represents value for money, is green, or has the much vaunted wider economic benefits’.

Today was the day the Exceptional Hardship Compensation scheme (EHS) opened for those on Route 3 who suffer exceptional hardship and are unable to sell their homes due to the proposals to build a high speed rail link.

HilaryWharfand Kathryn Gurney spoke today on BBC Breakfast Show (6.40 am), Radio 2 (6.00), Five Live (7.17am) and Today (7.50 am), and Hilary was part of the BBC news Interview with Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Transport.

Whilst compensation is the matter of the discussion today, there has yet to be a national debate on whether or not the proposals for a brand new rail link – at a cost of up to £100bn, are in the national interest.

HilaryWharfspeaking to Charlie Stayt on BBC Breakfast News outlined the principle objections to the proposals:

  1. HS2 is not ‘green’, it does not contribute to a low carbon economy
  2. The wider economic benefits are a myth. The redistributive effects from the growth mean that 3 times as many people will have London as their destination, so wealth goes to London not the regions
  3. The business case is flawed: Hilary explained this morning that ‘underpinning the business case were excessive demand forecasts – a 267% increase. Even the Government’s own forecasts in 2007 White Paper put growth at only 65%’. It cannot be right to include the social benefits (of time saved) but ignore the social disbenefits – the cost to the environment and true cost of property blight.

Kathryn Gurney, in the studio this morning with Justin Webb at the Today programme explained that ‘people are not just asking why is it happening here’ but ‘why is it happening at all?’ She went on to say that ‘even the Government’s own Command Paper describes the proposals as ‘broadly carbon neutral’ – hardly a ringing endorsement for its green credentials’.

‘The Secretary of State continually says HS2 will contribute to a low carbon economy, but his own department doesn’t agree’, Hilary Wharf also said today.

Mr Hammond was interviewed responding to Hilary’s question on why the alternatives to HS2, that cost a fraction of HS2, are not being pursued?

Philip Hammond said that the extra capacity could not be provided on existing lines without disruption. HS2AA welcomes the fact Mr Hammond agrees it’s a matter of capacity, but Hilary wonders why he ignores the fact that capacity can be increased by 65% with longer trains? Again his own department have developed alternatives as part of the HS2 case, and they deliver better value for money than HS2.


Hilary comments that HS2 is being sold to the public on a series of myths, not reality.

Philip Hammond said today that ‘it’s our job to make sure we fairly compensate those who are disadvantaged’. Graham Long of HS2AA commented that ‘EHS is disappointing and few will qualify, but we are promised a further scheme and HS2AA will be holding Hammond to his promise’. We will continue to press for our alternative scheme based on private sector best practice, and supported by 84% of those responding to the DfT’s consultation on EHS.

‘Only a scheme that fully compensates people for loss in value can put confidence back in a destabilised property market’ commented Hilary ‘and protect people from serious losses’.

Similar interviews up and down the route having been taking place today, with BBC Midland, BBC News Channel, Radio Five Live, Channel 4, ITV Central, CWR radio and Heart fm.

End of release

Notes to editors


1. For press enquiries contact Richard Houghton richardwhoughton@gmail.com

2. HS2 AA is working for fair and just compensation and challenging the case for HS2.

3. Two of the alternatives to HS2 (developed by the DfT as part of the HS2 case) deliver a better net benefit ratio than HS2 (2.7), – Rail Package 2 (RP2 at 3.63) and Road Package 2 (at 3.66). RP2 costs about £2bn instead of £17bn to Birmingham, as well as delivering the benefits incrementally so demand can be tracked as it increases, rather than have to guess what it’s going to be.

4. The demand assumptions for HS2 are based on a background growth of 3.4%/a (equating to 133% increase in demand) and a further 133% attributed to HS2 itself. The 65% capacity that could come from longer trains provides half the capacity its claimed is needed if you do not have HS2 (on HS2 Ltd numbers).

5. HS2 AA conducted a strong national campaign against the EHS arrangements that were the subject of the DfT consultation. Although few changes were made in the Scheme that starts today, the issue of blight was recognised and a further scheme will be announced. HS2AAs Alternative Compensation Solution was developed following evidence that the government’s original proposals did not address property blight and could be the subject of legal challenge. Over 84% of the 4500 responses supported HS2AA’s proposals including 60% of Councils and the Other Interested Bodies.

6. HS2 Action Alliance is a company limited by guarantee. Registered office: The Red House, 10 Market Square, Amersham HP7 0DQ. There are now over 50 affiliated Action Groups covering the different routes. See www.hs2actionalliance.org