die belebende Bedenkung

HS2 and GB productivity

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Martin Weale speech, chart 5

According to HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins, the company’s proposed high speed rail line is needed to fix Britain’s productivity gap.

[Higgins: Why HS2 is the right option for Britain, New Civil Engineer, 1 June, 2015 (paywall)]

The rationale behind Britain’s biggest infrastructure project – High Speed 2 – has been frequently challenged by NCE’s readers. Here HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins puts his case for the mega-project.

The Prime Minister has said it. The chancellor has said it. The Governor of the Bank of England has said it. This country not only has a productivity problem but a productivity problem that is at least partly due to the unbalanced nature of our economy which has led to real pressure on housing, commercial property and transport in London, side by side with under-development further North.

That paradox is the result of our collective failure to think strategically about our infrastructure needs as a country, and then implement the plans we need to address those needs. Time and again, whether it has been Crossrail or Thameslink, we have known what needs to be done – and then dithered. The result has been not just an infrastructure which has failed to keep up with the country’s fundamental needs, but also has added real cost as a direct result of our indecision. Our collective failure to follow through on what we know needs to be done has cost this country dear in all senses. Talk has been anything but cheap.

As can be seen from the diagram above, Britain has been underperforming in terms of productivity for decades (well before any European country had high speed rail). If David Higgins thinks spending £50+ billion on HS2 would transform GB productiveness, perhaps he should produce some evidence-based quantification.

He has also not produced any evidence to support his claim that upgrading existing railways would “provide poor value for money” and “cause consistent and significant disruption lasting for many years”. All the available evidence suggests that upgrades would be less disruptive and provide vastly better value for money (for example, the 51m scheme had a benefit/cost in excess of 5).


Written by beleben

June 1, 2015 at 11:11 am

Posted in HS2

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2 Responses

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  1. Meanwhile HIggins and cronies consistently ignore the years of disruption to the road network that will be caused by HS2 – that doesn’t appear to have been costed in, presumably road users are less important than rail users. As HS2 own data shows there will be hardly any long term benefit to the road network/road users from HS2.


    June 2, 2015 at 9:10 am

  2. Why has Sir David Higgins and the HS2 committee not responded to letters written with regards to the costings of HS2.
    If there had been a surcharge attached to any costings which were out of line with the normality, would the public have received a better deal for their money.
    Once in power does anything become applicable, I question the methods and techniques of the system in place and wonder whether we should remember the Nolan Principles.
    We must remember to abide by the Justice System, a misinterpretation or wilfull blindness is not an excuse to ignore the figures or the ancient woodlands, the bee population, the wildlife, farming and agriculture and many other areas of outstanding beauty.
    We are only approximately 575 miles long, an upgrade on the system we have seem much more pheasible and more economical.
    I am totally surprised and dismayed a person should not be wanting to examine the costings in more detail, speak to the people of the UK who are affected and come up with a better solution.

    L Irving

    June 2, 2015 at 9:27 pm

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