GOVERNMENT GAMBLES £34 BILLION OF TAXPAYERS MONEY

GOVERNMENT GAMBLES £34 BILLION OF TAXPAYERS MONEY

30TH November 2010 – Joe Rukin, Campaign Director of STOPHS2, gave oral evidence as a witness at the Transport Select Committee on HS2.  Other witnesses included Alison Munro, CEO of HS2 Ltd.

Stop HS2 had previously presented written evidence and used this opportunity to put the case that HS2 will not address the North South divide as promised, as the case for ‘transformational benefits’ is unsound. The Net Benefit Ratio (Ratio) relies on dubious passenger forecasts and forecasting over extended periods never used before. Alison Munro confirmed that a 20% actual drop in passengers would reduce the 2.5% NBR to 1.5R%; a figure deemed unacceptable when assessing such projects. Munro also confirmed that no risk analysis has been undertaken into the HS2 project and when asked whether transport money should be spent on other projects, she admitted that she could not compare the merits of High Speed rail to other alternatives.

Members of the Transport Select Committee asked Stop HS2 a series of questions on the business case for HS2, and alternatives for meeting capacity issues. Rukin answered that the case for HS2 is “exceptionally sensitive” on passenger demand figures. HS2 state passenger numbers will grow by 267%, but over a similar timescale the DfT predict a 73% increase and the Independent Transport Commission state 35%. Rukin also pointed out that the 2006 Eddington report predicted that high speed rail would not be properly assessed against other schemes and said that “upgrading the current infrastructure is not such a gamble” compared to HS2.

He further stated that HS2 Ltd were currently “rewriting the business case, which shows the one that has got us to this stage is not sound and wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny” and that it was “a weakness to be presenting a business case that hasn’t been properly tested”. Despite the fact there has been almost ten years of planning to get HS2 to this stage, the business plan is still not complete, just two months before the start of the public consultation.

When asked what the main objection to HS2 was, and whether it was that it “is it destroying nice countryside or is it that it’s a waste of money?” Rukin confirmed that the core message of Stop HS2 is that there “is no business case, no environmental case and no money to pay for it.” He was questioned on which area will benefits when a weaker economy is joined to a stronger economy, and confirmed that academic studies showed that the stronger economy i.e. London will be the one which benefits most.

Questioned on the alternative way of dealing with capacity issues, Rukin said;

“Will people need to travel as much in the future? That is a serious question which seems to have been completely ignored at this stage… The business travellers of the future are going to be the people who are the teenagers of today, the younger generation today, and for them high speed is instantaneous and the fact of the matter is, as communications progress is there going to be such a demand for travel as there is now?  Is it going to continue to grow?  And these are questions which are quite frankly unanswered at this stage.”

Other witnesses also said that there should be a greater emphasis on videoconferencing and similar technologies.

Witnesses tended to agree that individual transport projects could not be looked at in isolation and there were concerns about the London transport network dealing with the number of HS2 passengers arriving in London onto an already congested transport network.

Penny Gaines commented on the demand case for HS2.

“Even the people who are pushing HS2 say that the case for the proposed railway is exceedingly sensitive to relatively small variations in the passenger demand forecasts.  However, HS2’s demand forecasts are extremely optimistic when compared to other reputable forecasts – they are nearly double the Department for Transport’s recent estimates.  If the actual demand growth is the same as the Department for Transport predicts, the case for the new railway collapses completely.”

Lizzy Williams, Chair of Stop HS2 said;

“We are now told that capacity is the issue, but it is possible to look at existing high speed infrastructure in this country and improve capacity. Longer trains and platforms, improved signalling, removing restrictive practices which artificially drive down capacity and programmes such as Rail Package 2.”

“Two warning signs of gambling addiction are “Preoccupation” and “Escalation”. HS2 Ltd is certainly preoccupied with delivering HS2, a runaway train with no brakes. David Cameron endorsing the scheme prior to public consultation was clear evidence of irrational and immoral behaviour. After Stop HS2’s evidence, the committee were definitely thinking hard about the odds and probability of signing up to one of the biggest gambles in transport history in the UK. It is fair to say all bets on HS2 are off.”


Notes to Editors:


  1. STOP HS2 is the national group campaigning on behalf of anti-HS2 action groups up and down the proposed route. See http://www.stophs2.org.
  2. HS2 Ltd is owned by Phillip Hammond, Secretary of State for Transport. It is a private, limited company formed by the Government to deliver the HS2 proposal.
  3. Written evidence submitted to the Select Committee by Stop HS2 can be found at http://www.stophs2.org/press-releases/222-stop-hs2-evidence-to-the-transport-select-committee.
  4. Relevant sections of the Eddington Transport Study can be found at  http://collections.europarchive.org/tna/20100408160254/http://www.dft.gov.uk/adobepdf/187604/206711/executivesummary.pdf from 1.138 at the bottom of page 49 to page 51 and http://collections.europarchive.org/tna/20100408160254/http://www.dft.gov.uk/adobepdf/187604/206711/volume3.pdf from 4.168 on page 90 to page 96.
  5. Previous press releases from Stop HS2 can be found at http://www.stophs2.org/press-releases.
  6. For more details from Stop HS2 contact Joe Rukin on 07811 371880, Lizzy Williams on 07842 164880 or Penny Gaines on 01296 655613.
  7. People can sign the Stop HS2 petition at via the Stop HS2 website or directly at http://www.gopetition.co.uk/petitions/stop-hs2/sign.html.
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