The long-awaited Transport Select Committee report on HS2 raised a number of worryingly unanswered questions about the plans for the proposed high speed rail network, asking if it is affordable, stating the robustness of the economic case assessment is ‘disappointing’. The report also raises significant questions about the claimed ability to provide 18 trains per hour, concluded that claims of substantial carbon-reduction benefits do not stand up to scrutiny, and called for clarity on the policy context, the assessment of alternatives, the financial and economic case, the environmental impacts, connections to Heathrow and the justification for the particular route being proposed before reaching a decision on HS2.
Stop HS2 Campaign Co-ordinator Joe Rukin said;
“This report is absolutely scathing in its list of work that still needs doing in terms of planning and appraising HS2 before deciding to proceed, and shows there are many unanswered questions. They have asked for ministers to publish the evidence which shows how they can afford to build HS2 whilst being able to continue investing in the rest of the network with projected capital and revenue expenditure profiles. The entire business case for HS2 is propped up by the voodoo economics principle of actually working out a cash value for ‘time is money’, something which the committee state is ‘disappointing’.
“They have spotted that HS2 is not part of an integrated solution, that it does not form part of any wider strategy, and that if HS2 is to work in terms of providing any wider economic benefits there has to be massive additional investment to make that happen, but there is no plan of how all of that would happen as well.”
“We are glad they have also noticed that the carbon-reduction argument is completely specious and that the plan to run 18 trains per hour is fictitious with existing technology, so somewhere currently being promised HS2 services has to lose out, something I’m sure the chair of the committee, Liverpool MP Louise Elman, had spotted. The committee also said it was disappointing that a full assessment of the case for building north to south has not been undertaken. It is clear that MPs from the North are worried that they are being conned into being cheerleaders for a railway which will only ever get as far as Birmingham.”
“The plan for building HS2 has already been pushed back two years to 2017 because Crossrail is already due to come in too late and the country can’t afford to pay for both at the same time. That means there is another two years to play with to do this properly and that is what both the Select Committee, and last week the Labour Party have been saying, it is telling the Government to go back and do it again properly, because this has been a rush job. There are seven things which the committee say there should be more clarification on before deciding to go ahead, but we know Philip Hammond was due to have announced he was going ahead before going to the pro-lobbyists victory party on the 14th of December. Justine Greening has to realise there is another two years, maybe more to play with and look at what is best for Britain, there must be a delay in the decision while these concerns are addressed. We believe the only proper way available to proceed with a project of this scale and complexity would be via a public inquiry.”
Stop HS2 Chair Penny Gaines said;
“The Transport Select Committee lists a number of major areas where the Government’s case for high speed rail as currently proposed falls down. These are not minor niggles, but cover huge policy areas. They say that there is no national transport strategy which includes a case for high speed rail. They say that at the regional level, the economic benefits are not easily predicted, and at the local level, the necessary strategies for high speed rail are not in place, and they say that the Government will need to help fund whatever local schemes are made necessary by HS2.”
“On the environmental case, the Transport Select Committee report points out that the scale of the environmental damage, and the effectiveness of any mitigation is unclear. Without the preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessment, how can the Government take a rational look at the disbenefits of a scheme like HS2?”
“Further, the Transport Select Committee is unhappy with the lack of information provided by HS2 about the Y route. There is no information available to the public on the Y route – not even the station locations.”
Notes to Editors:
1. For more information contact Joe Rukin on 07811 371880, Penny Gaines on 07765 780553 or Jerry Marshall on 07941 017236.
2. People can sign the petition against HS2 via the Stop HS2 website; https://stophs2.org/news/378-petition-government-stop-hs2/ or directly at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/353
3. This Press Release is embargoed until publication of the Transport select committee report at 00.01 Tuesday 8th November 2011.