Does HS2 fail the new DfT criteria?

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.”[1]

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.

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24 comments to “Does HS2 fail the new DfT criteria?”
    • Yes Dan…..and so can everyone else in the country. I ve used it a lot when I ve driven down south to Hampshire. .

  1. it seems to me that those on stop hs2 have already made their minds up anyway as might be noted from the name of the website !!! it then seems that critics are then trying to alter the facts to fit their bias.

    so we get all these statements about huge swathes of countryside being destroyed forever, 75 metre wide non vegetation strips, armageddon, concrete bombs and other such statements.

    critics still keep saying that the journey savings are ten minutes when they are 30 minutes and that only a few rich fat cats will use the line and that the birmingham leg will cost £33 billion when it is £17 billion. or complain about the cost of hs2 when it could be much cheaper without all the tunnel and mitigation measures !

    it does the anti hs2 lobby no service whatsoever to repeat incorrect statements it just makes it more obvoius that the main reason you are against it is because you dont want your situation disrupted or changed. I can understand that as is is a very difficult thing to have to deal with. But what is the point of repeating things over and over that can so easily be disproven ?

    • Yes, the Stop HS2 website was set up to put forward the arguments against HS2.

      And yes, the critics of Stop HS2 are trying to alter the facts to suit their bias.

      The 75m no vegetation strip comes directly from the Technical Appendix published by HS2 Ltd: p12 says

      “The project shall assume an allowance of 25m of no vegetation on each side of the route, resulting in a total footprint for a two-track line of route of 75m width and 110m width for a four track railway. ”

      Philip Hammond said in a letter to MPs that the project would cost £33 billion.

      If you don’t like those statements, don’t argue with us for quoting them, argue with the people who said them.

      • Which doesnt mean 75m/110m of concrete/ballast……….

        Network Rail are currently re assessing land adjoining the network…..a couple of incidents have occured recently where trees have fallen onto the track and led to minor accidents.

      • I believe HS2 did originally plan a 75 metre width, which is what was in their Technical Appendix published in March 2010 from which you have quoted. Since that date they appear to have modified their position – which is as shown in the factsheets released for public consultation. The relevant one is here:

        Declaration: Railway industry employee living in the West Midlands.

  2. Gary,
    from the Brochure: “Economic Case for HS2” page 35:

    Table 6 – Monetised benefits of HS2 (London – West Midlands) using Department for
    Transport transport appraisal and Wider Economic Impacts Guidance (2009 PV/prices)
    Benefit £ millions
    A) Conventional Appraisal
    Time Savings (including crowding)
    Business user savings 11,100
    Commuting & Leisure user savings 6,400
    Other Benefits
    Other User Impacts (highway accidents, air quality and HS1 link) 400

    Imperfect competition 1,000
    Total Additional benefits 4,000
    C) Total (excluding financing, social & environmental costs & benefits) 21,900

    On the cost side (table 7, p.37) similarly no sign of social & environmental costs (table too long to post here).

    It is strange that HS2 is able to calculate ‘felt’ intangible benefits such as ‘Time Savings’ but is not willing to calculate the environmental and social costs for the communities along the track which is by far more tangible.

    P.S. Link to brochure, but guess you also have read it in as much detail as I have.

    • It is strange that HS2 is able to calculate ‘felt’ intangible benefits such as ‘Time Savings’ but is not willing to calculate the environmental and social costs for the communities along the track which is by far more tangible.

      Maybe you can calculate those social costs Toni………and then balance them against the range of compensation which is on offer…….

      • Hi Gary,
        when you are talking about compensation you are probably referring to blight. That is not looking at the total picture though. House price decline is only an indicator for the true economic and social impact HS2 will have. It is not taking into account the impact on parks, woodlands, schools, businesses moving, shops closing etc…

        Calculating the true impact would be quite an interesting feat which I think might be beyond me. It was quite clearly beyond HS2 Ltd’s capabilities as they did not include it in their feasibility study. Maybe calculating the intangible benefit of ‘Time savings’ is easier (or just more convenient?)

        • It is not taking into account the impact on parks, woodlands, schools, businesses moving, shops closing etc…

          So what impact did the building of the M40 have on parks, woodlands, schools, businesses moving, shops closing etc?

          • This protest is not against the M40 or M60 though, is it? I understand your frustration about the traction this protest is getting but times have changed and people are looking more closely on what 17bn are spend on and whether it really offers value for money.

            • Why would I be frustrated?

              It was a simple enough question … I ll just ask again…..what impact did the building of the M40 have on parks, woodlands, schools , businesses moving, shops closing etc…

              The similarities are striking…..a great big long stretch of concrete cutting right through the chilterns – though the M40 is wider than HS2.

  3. I don’t see how the new criteria can be described as leaving the Transport Secretary in a position where he has shot himself in the foot. All of those criteria are easily met – you just happen to find fault with every single aspect associated with HS2.

    Your unremitting focus on finding fault with absolutely everything about the Transport Secretary, HS2, the DfT, HS2 supporters, Greengauge 21, the government, most business and the vast bulk of MPs just undermines your own credibility. Are you seriously trying to say that the entire proposal has absolutely nothing positive in it?

    • Ian, by trying to squash arguments by saying that StopHS2 cannot see absolutely anything positive in HS2 you misunderstand the whole campaign.

      Though I cannot speak for everyone but most of us do see benefits from HS2. I personally dislike the way HS2 is given to us as the only option when there are viable cheaper and greener alternatives. Noy many here think that no improvements to our rail network are necessary. This is what the campaign is about – it is a positive not a negative led campaign that is trying to fight the bias of information provided to us by the Government and its Quangos.

      • A positive campaign? Are you serious? This is a campaign primarily aimed at stopping construction taking place near Chiltern residents (and others along the route).

        Where were these campaigners when the M40 was built, the M3 through Twyford Down (an AONB)? Nowhere, because they weren’t close enough to worry about.

          • Gary & Ian,
            I would like to answer both of your posts at the same time. It is a campaign trying to stop the construction of HS2 – correct. Some protesters will certainly be driven by local issues – wouldn’t you?. The problem with HS2 is deeper than NIMBYism as some politicians try to tell us. It is about the investment of £17bn tax money (most probably though £17bn of borrowed money) for a project that does not deliver benefits balancing the amounts spent.

            To Gary’s question, HS2 does deliver on increased capacity, it does deliver on shortening journey times, it does most probably benefit some communities in London and Birmingham. My point is though that all these benefits are nicely used in the Consultation paper’s feasibility study but other true socio-economic and environmental costs are ignored. So are other viable alternatives to HS2.

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