Against waste, inefficiency and vanity projects?

In a speech at the start of the LibDem local election campaign, Nick Clegg criticised local politicians who

“…even when millions of families are feeling the pinch, they’ll both squander taxpayers’ money on waste, inefficiency and their own vanity projects.”

The thing is Clegg is Deputy Prime Minister in a government squandering taxpayer’s money on it’s own vanity project – HS2.

As we said on Monday, the HS2 Ltd’s board minutes show that in September they were sufficiently worried about their own cost inefficiencies to set up a “challenge group” to look into it. (The membership of HS2 Challenge panels has previously been criticised by the Transport Select Committee, who pointed out that only one of their earlier Challenge panels had anyone who was critical of high speed rail.)

It’s also clear that HS2 Ltd are running overbudget. As well as the board minutes, the Department for Transport are also thinking about including a “paving bill” in the Queen’s speech in May. (Have you signed our petition against it?) Paving bills allow government departments to spend money that would go against Treasury guidelines.

HS2 was announced a few weeks before the last general election, by the unelected Labour peer, Lord Adonis. It was Adonis’ vanity project. Since the Coalition came to power, the Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, has continued to back HS2, meaning it is his vanity project too. And Nick Clegg is MP for Sheffield Hallam, close to an HS2 station, but without any of the disbenefits of the HS2 route in his own constituency.

7 comments to “Against waste, inefficiency and vanity projects?”
  1. Gloria
    I do not think you will receive useful feedback from HS2. After all, knowledge is power and you will only ask more questions. You are right to point out how insignificant is the number using HS in 2055. What is more, Dft admits that 75-80% of current main line users at key stations will switch to HS so most would have used an alternative rail service anyway. In other words, many other services will become underused and eventually unviable. Freight will not pile in to the unused space but lines will be left to rust away.
    As for HS2’s method, my own back of an envelope calculation is:
    18 tph in each direction on Birm-Euston stretch – of course peak hours only at this rate, but never mind. Many more trains will be running at some peak times stretching out to N West and Scotland and N East but Birm-Euston sets the limits.
    Each HS2 set has 550 seats and some trains will have 2 sets. But let’s say the average is 550 passengers per train throughout the day, ie 100% take-up on most but 50% on a few (assuming we do not operate the Japanese ‘fork ‘em in’ sardine system).
    Main running times 06 00 – 20 00hr, though who will need to set off at 06 00 when they will then be able to set off at 08 00 and still be in London at 09 00?
    Calculation:
    18 x 2 x 550 x 14 = 277,200 ppd
    Not all passengers will wish to travel the Birm-London section, so perhaps there could be an equal number on other passenger journeys such as Birm – Manchester / Newcastle, or Preston – Glasgow etc, though, in the latter case, it may be on an HS2 classic compatible but it will also be at the classic speed on classic lines, so does it count?
    Anyway, New Total: 277,200 x 2 = 554,400 ppd.
    Add on HS1 and I can confirm that HS2 are spot on in their estimate of HS users in 2055.
    So, with 365 day running (by 2055, you can forget ‘Le Weekend’), and these busy 554,400 ppd paying just £1 per journey premium, the paltry £33bn investment would be paid off in a mere 160 years.
    Interest / running costs? I could extrapolate but have run out of envelope – and interest – and it’s so much easier just to write it off, as any Chancellor will tell you.

  2. Pro hs2 posters
    Please explain how building hs2 will make the wcml any less liable to signal failures,rail track problems,train reliability problems,power outages,etc
    Thanks and if nothing posted I assume it won’t.

  3. vtiman, “vanity project” can be defined using a dictionary, but what does “sufficient capacity in the future” actually mean?

    • sufficient capacity to ensure that the annual growth in passenger numbers can be catered for otherwise those people will fly od drive instead.

      • As our population continues to increase, most people will continue to fly, drive and take the slow train, based on competitive cost and the convenience of their travel options, whether HS2 is there or not.

  4. hs2 is needed to provide sufficient capacity in the future it is not a “vanity project” whatever that overused statement means. And of course the majority of the funds that will be spent in the future on hs2 are NOT being taken out of the current budget for welfare nor out of the monies that are being spent and will be spent on the existing network. And as far as network rail spin is concerned, just read the latest figures on how many more people are using the railway now. HS2 willbe needed sooner then anticipated.

  5. Into the category of unjustified public spending there are those that would put the recently announced bonuses for 4 Network Rail bosses. These total £ 600 k despite criticism of Network Rail from the regulator.

    Network Rail is a much more commercial animal than it used to be , so all of its pronouncements including its liking for HS2 have to be taken with a pinch of salt.

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