HS2 – The smoking gun

From Transport Watch:

Percentage on business: The evidence suggests government “cooked the books” to justify HS2

The evidence suggests the government has “cooked the books” in order to exaggerate the economic benefits of High Speed 2.

The Economic Affairs Committee of the House of Lords found that that the government dramatically ramped up the percentage of business travel in its latest modelling. The new values are far in excess of those available from the National Rail Passenger Survey.

Weekday proportion on business

HS2 “Model”
Actual values

Sources: House of Lords, Prout letter, National Rail Passenger Survey

Transport Watch finds that the government now assumes roughly 40% of HS2 trips over a 7-day week will be on business compared to an actual figure of under 30%.

Because business time is valued five times as highly as other time this provides a massive boost to the economic case for HS2, conveniently compensating for the Government’s admission that business users can actually work on trains.

Without that boost (and other significant sleight of hand) the economic case for HS2 would have collapsed – the benefit to cost ratios would have fallen to just 1.0 for Phase 1 and to 1.3 for the full network – extremely poor value compared with alternative transport projects.
When the wider costs of the tax funding for HS2 are factored in, this suggests there is a high risk that the costs of the scheme will outweigh the benefits – benefits which are, in any case, highly contentious.
Paul Withrington of Transport-Watch comments:

“The apparent manipulation of the travel forecasts is a smoking gun for HS2”.
“The government has dramatically increased the proportion of business trips compared with the real-world data, massively inflating the business case”
“A realistic assessment would show that the all important benefit to cost ratios for HS2 are likely to be far below those which would justify the project”.
“This should be the final nail in the coffin for this ill-conceived scheme”
“Nobody contests the fact that this vastly expensive scheme will make a financial loss in the tens of billions of pounds”.

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