The proposed £50.1bn development of HS2 is being promoted on strategic, economic and environmental grounds. The myths and facts behind these arguments tell a different story…
Fact: Government’s case for HS2 is flawed
Myth 1: HS2 is green
- HS2 will increase carbon emissions, but the Government say the project is carbon neutral. We are committed to 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.
- 400kph trains use 3 times the power that 200kph trains do.
- Even HS2 Ltd don’t know how much landtake will be needed for HS2
- The 72 metres ‘vegetation management’ width is wider than Wembley (69 metres).
- HS2 will encourage extra journeys. It assumes that 22% of the projected passengers, almost 40,000 people per day, will only travel because HS2 is built.
- HS2′s case ignores the environmental costs.
Myth 2: HS2 will deliver regional benefits
- The benefits will mainly go to London. Three times as many passenger journeys will be towards London, not away from it, so redistribution will end up there.
- The limited regional benefits will be sucked to the few stations.
Myth 3: HS2 is a sound investment returning over £2 for every £1 spent
- It overestimates the value of time savings.
- It originally assumed 133% background growth in demand. This is a huge increase in demand, and is double that of other reputable forecasts. When the new economic case was produced, HS2 Ltd simply extended the forecasting period.
- It also assumed an additional 133% increase in demand due to HS2 itself. This is much more than the West Coast Main Line upgrade, which delivered a bigger service improvement.
- It ignores competition from conventional rail. Failure to realistically assess the competition was a mistake made by HS1 and the Channel Tunnel.
- It ignores the impact of new technologies, which are reducing demand for travel.
Myth 4: Only HS2 can solve our capacity issues
- The DfT’s own alternative, Rail Package 2, delivers all the capacity requirements.
- Rail Package 2 is designed to meet demand incrementally, has a superior rate of return, and costs just £2bn. Clearly better value for us all.
Myth 5: HS2 will greatly reduce domestic air travel
- HS2 argues for a modal shift, based on unrealistic demand for domestic air travel. It assumes an increase of 178% by 2033, whilst today the domestic air travel market is in decline.
Myth 6: The UK lacks fast connectivity between our cities
- Journey times between our major cities are faster than our European competitors. We already have an extensive fast rail network.
“Fact” 1: HS1 is a national success story – Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond
- Of £7.1bn invested, over £4bn has been written off, as well as Govt grants of £1.3bn. Passenger numbers are a third of the forecast, and train sizes and services have been cut. Is this the sort of ‘success’ we want to repeat?
“Fact” 2: We will establish a high speed rail network as part of our programme to fulfil our joint ambitions for creating a low carbon economy – Coalition Agreement
- HS2 will pollute more than car travel and use vast amounts of electricity. Alternatively a 65% WCML capacity increase would come with longer trains.
“Fact” 3: Investments of high economic value are protected across all types of transport. - Spending Review Document
- The DfT say expenditure on HS2 will amount to £750m by 2015, but a freedom of information request shows the real budget is £1.15bn. The Hybrid Bill is timetabled for approval in 2015. The total capital budget for transport is due for real cuts of 11%. In 2014-15 this will be £7.5bn, and from then a projected £2.5bn per year will be needed for HS2, taking money from more worthy projects. In 2015, our debt interest will still be £45bn p.a.
“Fact” 4: We have one of the most expensive railways in the world. More expensive to build, more expensive to operate and more expensive to ride on than any comparable system. That is not acceptable. – Philip Hammond
- At £160m/mile, HS2 will be the most expensive railway in the world.
“Fact” 5: The Government is prioritising economic infrastructure that supports growth. - Spending Review Document
- The Government’s own approach says that the growth benefits are just £3.6bn of the total benefits from HS2, and this is overestimated.
“Fact” 6: All the evidence of other major transport projects is these can bring huge economic benefits to the regions of Britain. – David Cameron
- Prof. Overman of LSE in evidence to the Transport Select Committee, said that “claims about the transformational nature of transport investments for particular areas, should be greatly discounted… because they have no convincing evidence base to support them.”
“Fact” 7: The business case … is very strong. It has been properly modelled – Philip Hammond
- The business case has not been made against the cheaper and better value for money alternatives. If properly modelled, the business case disappears.
- It has been assumed that all time on trains is wasted, and opportunities to reduce travel are ignored.
Don’t be rail-roaded into it!
- The strategic economic benefits are unproven.
- It is not a low carbon solution.
- It has a business case based on false assumptions.
- It will benefit very few, at a time when a great many are expected to suffer.
- It will cause huge environmental damage.
- It will commit future generations to huge subsidies, increasing the national debt.
- It will not move much travel from planes or cars, and assumes many more journeys
- It will make our country more dependent on the London economy.
- It will increase energy consumption.
- It has alternatives that deliver greater benefits at less cost and less damage.
- It does not learn from the financial failure of HS1, the only comparable project.
- It will crowd out crucial investment in transport, which is needed and beneficial.
- It ignores the Internet, which is changing the way we communicate, and how mobile technologies enable people to work when travelling.
Do your own research…