die belebende Bedenkung

Misinformation feeds HS2 misunderstanding, part four

with one comment

In a February 2011 blogpost, Greengauge 21 (Jim Steer) claimed that stage one of the proposed HS2 railway delivered economic benefits 2.4 times as high as its costs.

Greengauge 21, comparison of Atkins RP2 and HS2 stage one, Feb 2011

But at the time of writing (December 2013), the official HS2 stage one benefit cost ratio (BCR) is 1.7 with ‘wider impacts’ (which should not be included for comparison purposes), and 1.4 without. In October 2013, to stave off a collapse in the BCR, HS2 Ltd adjusted upwards the number of business travellers expected to use the line.

Upgrade based alternatives to HS2 can achieve far better benefit-cost ratios, and leave funds available for other transport schemes, as the 51m scheme demonstrated.

HS2 Ltd, Jan 2012 VfM statement comparing HS2 and an upgrade alternative known as 51m

Without sub-optimal items such as its proposed partial four-tracking of the Birmingham — Coventry railway, the 51m BCR would be even higher.

It is also possible to devise upgrade-based packages with greater overall benefit, and greater targeted benefits (such as a large uplift in freight capacity). In the HS2 scheme, the potential for railfreight uplift appears to be minimal.


Optimised alternatives to HS2 are

  1. superior in cost-benefit,
  2. less risky,
  3. less disruptive,
  4. scalable,
  5. much less environmentally damaging,
  6. deliverable in a much shorter timeframe, and
  7. much less expensive.

Written by beleben

December 2, 2013 at 11:45 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with ,

One Response

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  1. In any case the analysis is a fraud upon the nation.

    The theory, compares the cost to the Government with the social benefits. However, that reduces to the absurd when it is realised that, using the same principles, a project wholly in the private sector, costing the Government nothing, would have and infinite rate of return.

    The absurd also pops out in that the cost to the Government can be changed at the stoke of a pen. Alter the taxes on petrol and the net cost changes, assume Government runs an airline which loses revenue to rail or assume the rest of the railway is fully privatised. In all those cases the cost to the Government and hence the BCR would change – an absurdity bringing the theory to its knees.

    The truth is that his this so called “Willingness to pay theory”, cooked up by Professor Sugden of the University of East Anglia, is indeed an absurdity, but without it no railway project would ever pass the cost benefit test.

    Rather than that chicanery, the obvious principle should be “If a project with fare paying customers (mostly the better off) makes a massive loss, let alone a loss in the tens of billions, DO NOT BUILD IT”.


    December 2, 2013 at 10:30 pm

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