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Bombast in the house

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On 11 November, Andrew Adonis, Network Rail and Chris Nash gave evidence at the Lords Economic Affairs Committee fifth oral session on high speed rail.

[HoL, Tuesday 11 November 2014 ]
Committee Room 1

Economic Case for HS2
Witnesses
i. Paul Plummer, Rail Delivery Group and Network Rail; Rupert Walker, Network Rail; and Professor Chris Nash, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds
ii. Lord Adonis

Paul Plummer, Network Rail

Paul Plummer, Network Rail

In his opening statement, Paul Plummer mentioned Network Rail’s misleadingly-titled “New Lines Study” (for which Professor Nash was an advisor). But neither he nor the prof offered any explanation why the Study’s focus was solely on the London — Manchester — Glasgow axis. The New Lines Study did not investigate the need for new lines on the most capacity-restricted part of the network (i.e., commuter lines around London, especially east and south of the capital). Why it was deemed that the West Coast corridor merited a new line, but other corridors did not, remains as unclear as ever.

Completion of HS2 would result in trains being able to run at “more consistent speeds” on the mixed-use West Coast line, Mr Plummer claimed. However, HS2 Ltd’s October 2013 Strategic Case suggested that freight, outer suburban and long distance passenger trains would continue to share the same West Coast tracks after the high speed line opened. Mr Plummer’s view was that very large pricing changes would be needed to change passenger demand distribution on the southern WCML, but what that meant in quantitative terms, was not revealed.

Mr Walker and Mr Plummer appeared to be in denial about the massive disruption to the transport network which would arise from building HS2 (David Higgins’ proposals would inflict Euston-style open heart surgery on Crewe, and possibly Leeds). Mr Walker brought up Network Rail’s statement that upgrading the existing railway would mean years of weekend closures, but of course no details to support those claims have ever been produced.

The most curious contributions came from Professor Nash. He tried to argue that although the HS2 benefit cost ratio was lower than upgrading existing lines, its value for money was better.

Andrew Adonis

Andrew Adonis

Andrew Adonis told the Committee that the “West Coast rail upgrade” had cost nine billion pounds, with about half a billion of that having been paid to compensate WCML train operators for disruption. But Richard Branson and the Department for Transport have stated that there was no “nine billion pound upgrade”; most of the expenditure was on unavoidable deferred renewals, not enhancements. And it is unclear why train operators were ever given a contractual entitlement to disruption “compensation” during West Coast modernisation. Only ‘up to 15%’ of the compensation was passed on to passengers, and most seems to have been taken as windfall profits.

[The Guardian, 8 April 2009]

Network Rail said the compensation payments [to West Coast train operators], which are underwritten by the taxpayer, could have been avoided with a £100m investment in extra lines that could have bypassed work around vital junctions such as Rugby.

The Guardian newspaper stated that 'up to 15%' of disruption compensation received by Virgin Trains was passed on to passengers

The Guardian newspaper stated that ‘up to 15%’ of disruption compensation received by Virgin Trains was passed on to passengers

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Written by beleben

November 13, 2014 at 3:07 pm

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