Last month, in what seemed like a bizarre level of honesty, when Jim Pickard at the Financial Times asked the HS2 Ltd press office how much more expensive HS2 is than international comparators, they told him.
The background was that since 2016, Lord Berkeley had been asking for a report which had been written by PwC and Sir John “£43bn” Armitt looking at international comparisons to the cost of HS2. According to HS2 Ltd, HS2 apparently comes in just 25% more expensive on average mile for mile than other high speed rail projects around the world, which although disappointing isn’t actually that bad. The problem with that, is it seemed massively optimistic compared to what we already knew about HS2 costs and international comparisons.
When the report was eventually released last week, amid the week of the largest number of Brexit headlines ever seen since the referendum result in 2016, only The Times got the point that this meant HS2 Ltd were being told to try and make a cut of £7bn. The bulk of the coverage was from a compliant trade press regurgitated the headline they were meant to take away, that HS2 ‘could be’ 30% (27% actually) cheaper, in the same way that Chris Grayling ‘could be’ the next messiah.
But whilst happily reporting what HS2 ‘could be’, everyone managed not to spot what the report shows HS2 ‘is’.
The report, which lets’ remember was another one produced by supporters of HS2, states that the cost of Phase 2 of HS2 is £81m/km, against an international average of £32m/km. In fact the £81m/km was higher than any of the 32 high speed rail projects it was compared to.
So, how much more expensive is that in terms of a percentage? Well far from 25%, £81m is 253% of £32m. So far from being a quarter more expensive than international high speed rail projects, HS2 is two and a half times more expensive. What happened? Did HS2 Ltd put the decimal point in the wrong place? Do they not know how to do percentages?
Or did they just lie, and then hope that no-one would have the time to properly look into the figures when the released the report on a good day to bury bad news?
Of course HS2 isn’t 253% of the average price of the high speed rail projects around the world, because the report only concerned Phase 2, and Phase 2 of HS2 is cheaper per mile than Phase 1…
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