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The dirty face of HS2

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On the basis of cost-benefit analysis, HS2 doesn’t wash its face, as the cost is too high and the benefits, in many cases, are spurious (wrote Larry Elliott, The Guardian’s economics editor). It is a gravy train for the construction sector, lawyers, transport consultants, bureaucrats and the rich people who will be able to afford it; and the misery line for just about everybody else.

[‘HS2 will be more London gravy train than locomotive of regional growth’, The Guardian, 24 Nov 2013]

[…] Supporters of HS2 say that cost-benefit analysis is too narrow a way of looking at the project because it does not capture the need to build more capacity on the rail network.

HS2 will help cope with the threat of overcrowding. But so too would alternative solutions, including upgrading existing lines. Economists use a concept called “opportunity cost” in these circumstances. This takes into account alternative uses of the £40bn-plus cost of HS2 to see whether it could be better spent.

Mr Elliott’s use of the term “misery line” is apposite. Spending £50 billion on a passenger-only rail line between London and three provincial cities is bound to mean more crowding on Britain’s most-used commuter railways (in south and east London). And the capacity released from HS2 on existing lines for cargo is pitiful. So there are big carbon opportunity costs from sacrificing higher capacity railfreight options for HS2, such as the ‘Eastern Freight Corridor’ concept (using the GN/GE Joint Line), and dual-purpose Great Central reactivation from Ashendon to Leicester.

Many intermodal freight trains are routed over the West Coast Main Line

Because of limitations in the rail system, many intermodal freight trains are routed over busy passenger routes such as the North London and West Coast Main Lines, thereby reducing capacity

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Written by beleben

November 24, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

One Response

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  1. The cost of loading gauge enhancement seems to be low with an order of magnitude of 1mn/mile (see Felixstowe – Nuneaton and Southampton – Nuneaton).

    A scheme to increase loading gauges on the lines “alongside” the current UK High Speed lines (WCML & ECML) such as the GN/GE joint, would cost a small fraction of £50bn.

    Richie S

    November 25, 2013 at 12:55 pm


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