Lord Adonis-Time to Come Clean on HS2

Lord Adonis’ presentation of the business case on previous occasions has been misleading, particularly on alternatives.
Lord Adonis repeatedly and falsely claims that uprating the existing infrastructure to provide sufficient capacity for forecast demand is more expensive than HS2. The work presented in his own White Paper, and done in preparation for it by Atkins, demonstrates his claims are false. Rail Package 2 meets all the demand forecast at a fraction of the cost of HS2 and gives better value for money. It does not need as much capacity as HS2 as it does not result in HS2’s high (and undesirable) level of induced demand. Rail Package 2 even has less crowding than HS2. Rail Package 2 is far from the best way to uprate the existing infrastructure – but it is still better than HS2. This has been pointed out to Lord Adonis, but he fails to adjust his claims appropriately. It is immaterial that HS2 provides more capacity. Rail Package 2 provides more capacity than is needed for the forecast demand. Creating surplus capacity is a misallocation of resources.
On connectivity, it is clear that HS2 improves connectivity in the form of reducing journey times to some places served by HS2 trains. But the business case for HS2 assumes a £5.4bn reduction in the costs of running classic services – hardly indicating an improvement for other places. Furthermore, outside London, the new parkway and city stations do not integrate with existing local transport, with consequential connectivity penalties.
Contrary to Lord Adonis’ assertions, the fundamental case for HS2 is not about capacity – there are far cheaper means of providing this – it is about speed. But the benefits of speed have been grossly exaggerated by ignoring that time on board trains is now productive. The result is that the business case for HS2 simply doesn’t work. This is the reason that Lord Adonis persists in transparently false claims about the lack of alternative means of providing the capacity that will be needed.
The ‘once in a generation opportunity’ argument is typical of dishonest high-pressure sales techniques. On the 2011 business case demand to 2043 can be comfortably met by uprating the exiting infrastructure.
If we upgrade the existing infrastructure it will not cost more than HS2. It is dishonest to say it would.

The reality is that the business case for HS2 is dire. The principle benefit – journey time saving – is grossly exaggerated. The demand continues to over-estimated, with the persistent mis-use of an out of date forecasting model. The comparator is a consciously unrealistic ‘no improvements for 30 years’. Against realistic a comparator HS2 has little or no benefits. Lord Adonis has no sustainable answer to this. HS2 is simply a waste of money.

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