HS2AA responds to Government’s Decision to Proceed with HS2

Government’s Decision on HS2 (10th January 2012 )and HS2AA’s response

On 10th January 2012, Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Transport announced her decision to proceed with HS2.

HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) immediately issued the following statement in response to the decision by the government to approve the HS2, the world’s most expensive railway connecting London with Birmingham.

Bruce Weston, a Director of HS2AA said;

“Justine Greening has just committed each and every household in the UK to pay £1,700 for a railway that is not needed and not wanted. If she had based her decision on cold, hard facts she would have realised that there are far better, far cheaper and far more environmentally friendly ways of investing in our transport infrastructure. It should not have been difficult for her, as she admits that

  • Uprating the existing railway (‘the 51m alternative’) is three times better value for money than HS2
  • The crucial assumption about the value of time savings (which now accounts for about half the benefits) is wrong, but DfT still use it. Hardly a robust basis for spending £33bn!
  • The business case for HS2 is even worse than for last year’s consultation
  • Under 1,000 people a day would use the service to go to Heathrow, but they still go ahead with the Heathrow spur
  • Just 3% of HS2 passengers would be won from air (previously 6%) but 24% of HS2 passengers would be entirely new journeys – hardly a green endorsement”

“It is extremely embarrassing for the government, which has failed to win public approval in the consultation process and failed to win support from the Transport Select Committee. By pushing ahead now, it is exposing the truth that HS2 is nothing more than a grotesque vanity project for an administration desperate to secure a legacy.”

“At HS2AA, we believe in high speed rail but only if it can be proven to deliver countrywide benefits without saddling the country with debt that it cannot afford. HS2, by trimming a mere thirty minutes off the journey time between London and Birmingham, cannot be a priority when there are other routes that are more heavily overcrowded and more in need of investment, and the business case for HS2 is so bad.”

“Nor is HS2 a satisfactory economic stimulus for the UK economy. It will destroy four jobs for every one that it creates as other rail projects and vital public services are cut and it will do nothing to drive growth in the vast majority of the country”.

The principal reasons why HS2AA opposes HS2 are:

  1. Waste of money and wrong priority – a £33 billion vanity project that costs every family over £1,700 is the wrong priority for us and at a time of austerity. It’s a railway for the rich paid for by everyone. Two thirds of the British population think it is the wrong spending priority.
  2. The business case is flawed – the benefits are exaggerated (relying on time savings that assume people don’t work on trains) and demand is over-optimistic. A realistic payback is more like 50p for every £1 spent.
  3. HS2 can’t cure the north south divide – the evidence from experts and DfT/HS2 Ltd actually points to London and the south benefiting most in terms of jobs and growth.
  4. Better alternatives to improving our railways – cheaper, more cost effective and greener ways to meet our capacity needs can be rolled out as required – benefiting more people, more quickly.
  5. The environmental case has collapsed – ultra high speed is not ‘green’, passengers say faster speeds are not a priority and CO2 emissions will not be reduced as freed-up domestic landing slots will be replaced by long haul flights. Irreplaceable landscapes will be lost.
  6. The call for extra capacity is unfounded – Research carried out by HS2 Action Alliance and verified by independent research firm CRT Viewpoint, has discovered that long distance trains leaving Euston during the week day evening peak period (16.30 to 18.59) on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) had an average occupancy rate or load factor of just 56 percent. This directly contradicts claims by the DfT and HS2 Ltd that the lack of capacity on the WCML is the central reason why the £33 billion HS2 rail line needs to be built.


During HS2AA’s initial review of the DfT documents the following key points were noted:

BUSINESS CASE 1. The 51m alternative has a three times better business case (NBR) than HS2 ie 6.06 , compared to 1.7 for phase 1 and 1.8/2.5 for the Y.

NBR The Y Phase 1 the 51m alternative RP2

with WEI 1.8 to 2.5 1.7 6.06 4.66

Without WEI 1.6 to 1.9 1.4 5.17 4.01

2. The NBR for 51m incorrectly assumes the rolling stock is leased (not capital, to put it on the same basis as HS2). This would further improve the NBR.

3. DfT rely on the Network Rail report to say the 51m alternative doesn’t provide sufficient surburban capacity! ie they seem to have forgotten that HS2 was about long distance travel – which was the focus of the 51m solution. Had Network Rail talked with 51m they would have realised that there was no attempt to maximise commuting capacity in their proposal.

4. The business case for HS2 has got worse yet again, (now all NBR’s below 2 except one figure), while for the alternatives it has got better!. By the time of the Hybrid bill HS2 will hardly be 1!

5. DfT continue to admit that the value of time assumption (that all time is wasted) is wrong, but say they can’t come up with a proper one, so use it anyway. It is of major concern to HS2AA that an admittedly wrong assumption is used to justify a 33bn investment.

6. DfT continue to use the discredited demand forcasting factors – and still project demand until it doubles (now 2037, by changing the base).

COMPENSATION FOR BLIGHT 1. DfT reject the property bond on grounds of cost and risk and note only 4,400 supported it in the consultation ( but as they say virtually all the people who commented on the options).
2. They propose a Hardship scheme despite the financial institutions (Council of Mortgage Lenders) saying ‘ a hardship scheme would not give lenders the assurance they require’. CML promoted the Property Bond.
3. It is impossible to see how any hardship scheme (improved or otherwise) could meet the DfT’s criteria for a blight scheme eg that it should enable the normal functioning of the property market; Hammonds promise in House of Commons on 20 Dec 2010 that ‘where a project which is in the national interest imposes significant financial loss on individuals, I believe its right and proper that they should be compensated fairly for that loss’.

4. DfT propose a scheme for those being tunnelled under (as HS2AA pressed for and like thay have in Ireland).