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Volterra infirma

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Bridget Rosewell waffling

Bridget Rosewell, chairman and and founding director of Volterra Partners, appears in a video posted today on David Begg’s Campaign for High Speed Rail Youtube channel. In the video, Ms Rosewell explains that Volterra was commissioned by the Core Cities Group (“the eight large cities outside London”) to look at “the transport infrastructure needs for those cities”.

The Youtube page doesn’t link to a written description of Ms Rosewell’s ‘findings’, but in the video, she wastes no time in saying what the infrastructure priority ‘should be’:

The current proposals for high speed rail between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, that is our best option at the moment, to create the kind of jobs we need

As HS2 is a prospective future project, it doesn’t create any jobs “at the moment” (except for high speed rail lobbyists). And what the “kind of jobs we need” means, Ms Rosewell doesn’t explain. Is Thameslink train-building within Great Britain “the kind of jobs we need”, for example? She doesn’t proffer an opinion, and there’s no clue as to linkage between saving a few minutes on some trips to London, and national economic competitiveness. And why high speed intercity rail transport should take priority over other investment (for example, intracity public transport in the big conurbations), isn’t explained either.

Here’s some more from the video:

I think what I’d like you to understand is when we talk about transport investment, we shouldn’t be talking about how much time does it save off a trip to Birmingham… this is about working out what kind of new opportunities, what kind of new businesses, what kind of new jobs, you can create using different kinds of transport investment.

Cities outside London have the potential to create an extra million jobs over the next 20 years or so if they have the right conditions. What do I mean by that… extra investment, the ability to get to new markets. To get that access, we particularly need better rail services. More capacity, more speed, better access to all the cities outside London.

Our place in the global economy resents on our ability to trade, it rests on our ability to export. But lots of people live outside London, and have opportunities that they could exploit. Our place in the global economy resents on our ability to trade, it rests on our ability to export. But lots of people live outside London, and have opportunities that they could also exploit if they had the opportunity.

One of the most important conclusions is that transport infrastructure is a necessary condition for economic growth.

I suppose that the statement, “transport infrastructure is a necessary condition for economic growth”, means “good transport infrastructure is a necessary condition for economic growth”. But in international terms, internal transport links in Great Britain are well developed, as is accepted in the Eddington report. So, on the insightfulness scale, Ms Rosewell’s thoughts seem to be on about the same level as George Bush’s “Russia’s big, and so’s China“. Talking of China, its internal transport system is not particularly good, but its economic growth has outpaced Western countries (such as Great Britain) that have much more developed internal transport systems. This doesn’t really fit with Ms Rosewell’s ‘findings’ on good transport infrastructure being necessary for growth.

What is ‘good’ transport infrastructure, anyway? Ms Rosewell seems to equate it with high speed rail, but there’s no evidence that this is the case. What infrastructure projects are pursued, is as important as the level of infrastructure spending. In the 1950s, huge amounts of capital were wasted in a badly thought through Modernisation Programme for Britain’s railways, overseen by the Conservative government of the day.

Back to Ms Rosewell’s riddles. She says “we shouldn’t be talking about how much time does it save off a trip to Birmingham”, then moments later, that we need “more speed”. Speed is pivotal to HS2. That’s what it’s called ‘High Speed Two’, and that’s why it wouldn’t stop anywhere between a few big cities (or at least, a few parkways ‘serving’ big cities). So, no stop in Coventry, no stop in Sheffield, no stop in Stoke-on-Trent, no stop in Milton Keynes. But when HS1 was being planned, Ms Rosewell was arguing for a station to be built in Ebbsfleet (which is tiny, compared to cities like Stoke on Trent, or Milton Keynes).

Bridget Rosewell 'instrumental' in establishing Ebbsfleet HS1 station

There’s no consistency or rationality in what Ms Rosewell has to say about high speed rail. Public authorities and David Begg’s Campaign seem to be hiring her to give “economist” authority to their lobbying. But on inspection, what’s she saying on transport investment is gibberish.

Written by beleben

July 27, 2011 at 9:38 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Have you been to Ebbsfleet? Acres of empty car parking, and echoing empty halls of the massive station – hardly seems busy with returning commuters between 17.00 and 18.00. Observed a substantially higher use of cycles to reach nearby towns between Northfleet and Gravesend where there may be some time savings for a limited number of workers. Most however (as Canterbury study indicated) still use trains to London Bridge, as a city worker gets in 10 minutes quicker (or better given the reputation of the Northern Line connection) using the old service from Gravesend – which is cheaper and has less ‘low value’ time content in the overall journey door to desk.

    Beleben rightly highlights the fact that allowing for such low value time to use the transfer ‘people mover’ at BHI or drive via horrendously congested road intersections (M6/M42/A45), and park and then hike in to the station (with a suitable allowance for really low value thumb twiddling whilst you wait for the train) a journey from Coventry to London will be faster using the existing services, and of course the predication that access to HS2 will be by car excludes a key workforce which is crying out for engagement with employment. The Eddington Report showed that ultra high speed rail links were not appropriate to the distribution of population and economic activity in the UK, the Booz Hamilton report showed that it was a failure in delivering a low carbon transport regime.

    A far better return would be delivered by enhancing the GC/GW direct route (112 miles PAD-BMO) to Evergreen 3 ‘plus’ with improved signalling and track, and a 4-track route through restoring previously lifted sections and using land already in the wayleave that the original promotors allowed for 4 tracking as far as Ashenden Junction where there is provision retained for a high speed flying junction, and a route remains in basic formation for a substantial part of the way to Rugby, where it can connect to the Trent Valley and Birmingham routes, and be close to delivering a connection to the former GC or Midland Main Line to head North (the MML has substantial sections of 4-track formation reduced to 2-track, which can be replaced and GC route North of Leicester has substantial sections still in use for rail services. A choice of 2 ‘main line’ routes can be restored to reach Manchester, and a main line route from Leeds to Carlisle is currently operating at well below its potential (with a reconnection to the East Coast route in prospect). The Rugby-Ashenden connection delivers a pair of 4-track routes which connect at Willesden/Old Oak Common to be operable from Paddington or Euston as principle termini and Marylebone/Waterloo International (and even St Pancras via West Hampstead or another connection point) as secondary options. The Varsity Link fits in here as an intermediate switch-over point and means to divert past any problems as regularly arise on WCML.


    July 28, 2011 at 12:29 am

  2. […] a web banner stating “CREATE 1 MILLION JOBS, SUPPORT high speed rail”, with ‘Volterra‘ written on it as […]

  3. […] started, dated February 2010, was written by David Ross, Roderick Smith, Catherine Griffiths and Bridget Rosewell. Here’s some extracts: We propose that a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) should be established […]

    High Speed Light « beleben

    September 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm

  4. […] a criticism of the Department of Transport than it is of the high speed rail link itself, wrote Volterra co-founder Paul Ormerod (City AM, May 22, […]

  5. […] its random observations about FTSE companies are something which would one might have expected Volterra to have come up […]

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