HS2 Things to Read on Tuesday

The opposition to HS2 is spreading.

An article on Conservative Home says that the future is in alternative technologies, ranging from the Internet to self-drive cars, and that if built “HS2 will look dated the day it opens; the Luddite Express, a vast vanity project, the Millennium Dome of the 2010’s”.

Also this morning, the Institute of Economic Affairs have released a document looking in depth at HS2. They say that policymakers in favour of HS2 are making their case on the basis of bogus assumptions.  Some of the points they raise include:

  • Huge government subsidies on the existing rail network mean that prices and demand levels are severely distorted.
  • Estimates made by the government of demand growth are very optimistic. The long timescale involved also adds to the uncertainty.
  • The effect of competition from other rail lines has been ignored when projecting future HS2 ticket prices and passenger numbers. Lower prices would make the project even less viable.
  • The project has been ‘gold-plated’, leading to grossly wasteful allocation of resources. The first five miles of the route, from Euston to Old Oak Common, for example, will add almost 25% (c. £4 billion) to the cost of the first phase but deliver negligible time savings.
  • Significant environmental and social costs are not included in the assessment of the economic case, with several areas likely to be affected by ‘planning blight’.

You can download the report from their website.

Both of these are worth a read, as they both have lots of new ideas to consider.

105 comments to “HS2 Things to Read on Tuesday”
  1. @Ian: Unfortunately that’s not accurate. The Chinese accident is the first to occur on a dedicated high speed line where passengers have died since Shinkansen operations began in 1964, a pretty enviable safety record it must be said.

    The line speed was 250 km/h, so at the modest end of global high speed operations where 300 km/h is the norm for core routes. It is understandable that this incident will attract considerable attention, and it is clear that we must wait for some kind of formal investigation to conclude before jumping to allocate causality (not that the government will be quick to release any such detail).

    That said, I expect some China-specific aspect to be relevant in this incident. Clearly there are enough stories emerging about the Chinese high speed mega-programme to suggest they have perhaps ‘run before they can walk’, and because of this the comparison with HS2 remains pretty specious; British Rail breached the 200 km/h barrier in 1976 but the UK did not reach 300 km/h until 2003; no domestic services exceed 200 km/h in regular service still (not even HS1 domestic trains).

    In addition, I hardly need to list the accidents that have occurred in the past 20 years in the UK, the most serious of which (eg. Southall, Hatfield, Grayrigg) have all involved trains running at or near 200 km/h (125 mile/h) on conventional (ie. Victorian) tracks. It seems illogical at best that the much-vaunted alternatives to HS2 involve piling still more trains onto the West and East Coast main lines. Not unsafe necessarily, just a recipe for continuing unreliability.

    • I guess I was feeling a little riled by the clear attempt to say HS2 was dangerous because of what happened in China.

      But you’re correct…all the alternatives to HS2 of cramming more onto the existing railway can only increase the unreliability and possibly, but not certainly, safety issues.

  2. Morris says:
    July 24, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    So why is it that 99.9% of your supports come from back thinking people that live on the route.

    Where do you get that figure from?

      • I wont be responding to you anymore Morris as you seem to want to turn everything into a slanging match

        • No john, I have just pointing out for each one of your points to stop HS2 there about five in favour. People on stophs2 started the name calling

          • Hey, can y’all break off from the personal conflicts to address the train crash in china scenario and the fact that HS2 plans to send an unprecedented frequency of trains down one line.? would you feel safe riding on this 250mph train that might not be able to stop in time if the train in front suffered a power outage? lets have a hands up survey!

            • Before you get too excited Lou and start using this as an example of why HS2 will kill all life within a 200 mile radius, you should be aware that the train crash involved two ‘D’ trains which have an average speed of around 100mph. They are not high speed in the sense of HS2. A quote from the BBC website:

              ‘”D” trains are the first generation of bullet trains in China, with an average speed of just short of 100mph (160km/h).’

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