This is a guest post, reprinted with permission from the HS2 Questions blog.
The Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond has shot himself seriously in the foot. His flagship high speed rail policy (HS2) fails every single one of his own department’s new tests for appraising transport projects.
On Wednesday, the Secretary of State announced reforms to the way decisions are made on which transport projects to prioritise. The Department for Transport (DfT) Business Plan states they will “reform the way transport projects are assessed and funding prioritisation decisions are made.”
In particular it specifies 5 criteria. The HS2 high speed train project appears to fail all of them.
Schemes should be:
- supported by a robust case for change that fits with wider public policy objectives – the ‘strategic case’
– but the DfT destroyed any robust case for change when they agreed time was used productively on trains so the benefits of higher speed are small; and capacity needs are best met using existing track leaving trains less crowded than HS2.
- demonstrate value for money – the ‘economic case’
– but with a total benefit of between 30p and 60p for every pound invested HS2 is poor value for money
- “commercially viable – the ‘commercial case’
– but there has never been a commercial case for HS2
- are financially affordable – the ‘financial case’
– but whether we can afford over £30bn cost is highly debatable; as cuts to public services take hold, where is the value for money in spending over £1000 per household on a train set that will benefit only the affluent?
- are achievable – the ‘management case’
– but HS2 is not even technically achievable because it includes an impossible number of train paths an hour.
Philip Hammond has shot himself seriously in the foot.