Outdated and unconvincing
Following premature publication of details by Railnews on 24 March, the full House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report on HS2 was officially published just after midnight on the 25th. It suggested that
- HS2’s huge public subsidy conflicted with the declared objective of making rail less dependent on government, and noted that its cost-benefit analysis relied on out-of-date evidence
- applying a BIS Tender Price adjustment to the cost of HS2 would give a Q1 2014 equivalent figure of .
[Comments from press release by Lord Hollick, chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee]
“At £50 bn HS2 will be one of the most expensive infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK but the Government have not yet made a convincing case for why it is necessary.
“The Committee are supportive of investment in rail infrastructure, but are not convinced that HS2 as currently proposed is the best way to deliver that investment. The Government are basing the justification for HS2 on two factors – increased rail capacity and rebalancing the UK economy; we have not seen the evidence that it is the best way to deliver either.
“Overcrowding on the West Coast Main Line is largely a problem on commuter trains and on long-distance trains immediately after peak time on Friday evenings and at some weekends. The Government have not carried out a proper assessment of whether alternative ways of increasing capacity are more cost effective than HS2.
“Full information on railway usage has not been made publicly available by the Government on grounds of commercial sensitivity. The plausibility of the Government’s claim that there are current long distance capacity constraints and also its forecast of future passenger demand are difficult to assess without full access to current railway usage. The investment of £50 bn investment of public money demands nothing less than full transparency.
“In terms of rebalancing, London is likely to be the main beneficiary from HS2. Investment in improving rail links in the North of England might deliver much greater economic benefit at a fraction of the cost of HS2.
“We have set out a number of important questions on HS2 that the Government must now provide detailed answers to. Parliament should not approve the enabling legislation that will allow HS2 work to begin until we have satisfactory answers to these key questions.”
One might also recall that in January 2015, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said they were “sceptical” as to whether HS2 could deliver value for money. But judging by soundbites from the CBI and the Labour party, everything about HS2 is hunky dory.
[HS2: Government has no ‘convincing case’ for £50bn rail line,
Chris Johnston, BBC, 25 Mar 2015]
[…] Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said that Labour supported HS2. […] We have said there will be no blank cheque for the project under Labour.”
[Ben Ruse, HS2 Ltd Rhian Kelly, CBI director for business environment]
“HS2 will better connect eight of our 10 biggest cities, boosting local economies along and beyond the route together with complementary road and rail investment. It’s vital we avoid any further delays to the project.”
Of course, many of the shortcomings of HS2 have been explored in depth, by the Beleben blog.