The Transport Select Committee Report on HS2…. naïve, ill-informed and plain wrong

The House of Commons Transport Select Committee Report published today is, as was widely expected, a whitewash of heroic proportions.

Cost

It recommends that “HS2 should emphasise that the estimated cost (of the line) is £28 billion, not £50 billion”.  Back in the land of reality, leaked Treasury estimates show the cost as over £73 billion.  In addition, the next leader-in-waiting of the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson – in a moment of rare political candour – has admitted that HS2 will cost “way north of £70 billion”.  Sadly for the nation, the Transport Select Committee has got its sums badly wrong.

Growth

The Report also says that “in our view, HS2 can help promote economic growth in the UK’s major city regions and contribute to a rebalancing of the economy”.  This statement relies on the recent Government funded KPMG report. The omissions in the report’s methodology were described by Robert Peston of the BBC as ‘jaw dropping’ and was dismissed by Henry Overman, a professor of economic geography at LSE, who commented They applied this procedure which is essentially made up”.

North South Divide

Where is the evidence to justify the Committee’s naïve assertion that “bringing high speed rail to the Northern cities has the potential to transform the nation’s economic geography?”  This has not happened in France where the TGV high-speed train has done nothing to transform France away from being a highly centralised country with Paris – like London – as its undisputed economic powerhouse.

Service Cuts

The Report goes on to say “we would not accept a situation in which other vital transport projects were delayed because of HS2′s funding requirements”.  But it says nothing about whether it is willing to accept the £8.3 billion of cuts to current services that HS2’s business case demands.

Capacity

In a final piece of wholesale fiction and self-delusion, the Committee concludes:  “Without HS2, the West Coast Main Line will become increasingly overloaded.  Commuters will suffer from overcrowding and there will be fewer passenger services on the line than the market could sustain”.  The facts completely contradict this conclusion.

The WCML into London is running at 60 percent capacity at peak times while trains into Paddington are at 99 percent and Waterloo 91 percent, today. HS2 is a pure intercity train and the growth in train journeys is on suburban commuter lines which it will do nothing to help. To compound the situation intercity passenger growth was zero according to latest Government figures.

Another case of the Committee not letting facts get in the way of pre-ordained and politically-convenient conclusions.

Public versus politicians

The British people are consistently saying in opinion polls that they do not want HS2, in direct opposition to our politicians.  In a December ICM poll only 12% of adults believed that HS2 would be the best way of spending the £50b budget on linking the North and South.

This really is a case of ‘the people’ versus the politicians.  When will the politicians have the guts to say they got it (HS2) badly wrong, rather than producing a whitewashed report like this which is an affront to democracy.

 

Notes to Editors

HS2 Action Alliance is a national group opposed to HS2, with over 90 affiliated local groups from across the country. More information on our activities can be found at www.hs2aa.org

For more information please contact:

Richard Houghton

T: 07803 178 037

Email: richardwhoughton@gmail.com