Paving Bill shows HS2 project is off track

Despite the spin, the Paving Bill introduced in the Queen’s Speech is not part of the HS2 approval process set out by Government in January 2012. It is needed because the troubled project is over budget and urgently requires additional funds. It also recognises that the original plan to have the Hybrid Bill (also announced in the Queen’s Speech) approved by Parliament before the next general election in 2015 will not now happen.

Two realities underpin the announcement:

The HS2 project is over budget
HS2 is significantly over budget already, before a single mile of track has been constructed. The costs of construction have increased, on official figures, from £33 billion in 2012, to £34.5 billion in 2013. The project has already overspent its 2012/13 budget and the Paving Bill enables HS2 Ltd to spend more. It is a clear case of throwing good money after bad.
HS2 is behind schedule
Original plans were for the Hybrid Bill process (needed for planning permission for Phase 1 of HS2) to begin in October 2013 and be complete by May 2015, before the election. Due to the level of opposition to the project, this timetable is no longer achievable. The new Paving Bill diverts attention from this delay.

The Paving Bill will not enable a single mile of track to be constructed or a new train to be ordered – just provide even more money to be spent on consultants.

The Paving Bill should be an opportunity for Parliament to scrutinise some of the most troubling questions surrounding the project. These include;

How will HS2 be funded? The DfT’s capital budget is already shrinking by 11% over this Parliament. With the Chancellor due to announce further cuts in next month’s public spending round, HS2 could hoover up all available funding for transport, or will the North and councils on the route have to stump up a levy?
What is the real cost of HS2? Oddly the Government say there are no charges for the capital required to build HS2. Clearly the real costs will be much higher than Government admit. Is this the right time to devote tens of billions of pounds of Government subsidy on a white elephant?
HS2 and jobs. HS2 is actually killing jobs right now. There are over 20,000 ‘shovel-ready’ jobs either being scrapped or put at risk due to land being earmarked for HS2 construction.
Evidence for the claims about growth and regenerating the North. Heralded as the solution to regeneration of the North, claims that HS2 will create jobs don’t stand up to scrutiny. Leading transport economists and transport planners have gone on record to confirm this.

Commenting on the announcement of the Paving Bill, Hilary Wharf, director HS2 Action Alliance said;
“At a time when all other government departments are being told to scrutinise their spending and make cuts, the DfT will be given more money for a massively wasteful project. It flies in the face of common sense to keep throwing money at a project with a flawed business case, which is environmentally destructive and won’t be built for decades – if ever.

At what point will MPs wake up to what they could do for the country, including the North, with a £34bn plus pot of gold?”

ends

Notes to editors:

1. HS2AA is a national organisation making the powerful case against HS2. It is a not for profit organisation working with over 90 local groups and national environmental bodies who all believe HS2 does not represent an effective answer to the UK’s transport, economic or environmental needs.

2. An open letter from 34 planners and economists in Jan 2013 to the Secretary of State for Transport said that the link between improved transport infrastructure projects to economic growth and more jobs can no longer be relied upon for the UK, which, as Eddington had pointed out in 2006, is already well connected. 3. The 20,000 jobs on HS2 land (7,000, at Washwood Heath, 1,400 at Park Royal, two thirds of the 12,000 at the Curzon Park development, and 6,000 for the Freight exchange by East Midlands Airport) are in A Gilligan’s article at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/10037716/HS2-will-destroy-more-jobs-than-it-creates.html)

4. It’s not just HS2AA which is sceptical about the jobs case for HS2. Leading academics told the House of Commons Transport Select Committee their concerns;
– Professor Mackie (University of Leeds) says “For various reasons HS2 is rather unlikely to make much difference to the north south divide. A spatial analysis would probably show London to be the main benefiting region”.
– Professor Tomaney (University of Newcastle) “The impacts of high speed rail investment on local and regional developments are ambiguous at best and negative at worst’…’ In countries with dominant capital cities net benefits tend to accrue to these”. Professor Tomaney’s comments followed a detailed review of HSR projects throughout Europe and their impacts on regeneration.
– Professor Overman (LSE) “Claims about the transformational nature of transport investments for particular areas should be generally discounted in assessing these benefits because they have no convincing evidence base to support them”.
– Professor Vickermann (University of Kent) “I think most of them are unsubstantiated claims. Obviously, if you feel something is going to do good for you, you big it up. We saw that with HS1 in Kent as well, as to all the effects it was going to have. I have to say, they are not visible to the naked eye”

For more information please contact:
Richard Houghton
Tel: 07803 178 037
Email:  richardwhoughton@gmail.com