What were the objectives of HS1?
In 2012 the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee criticised the Department for Transport’s failure to evaluate the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (High Speed 1). Last week, the ‘First interim evaluation’ of the railway was finally published on the Department’s website (Atkins main report | Atkins appendices | Oxera peer review).
[Atkins HS1 First interim evaluation (extract), published on 15 October 2015]
[…] HS1 is a large and complex investment in transport infrastructure so careful specification of what was being evaluated and the counterfactual with which it should be compared was an essential first step in this evaluation. […]
The HS1 Scheme was defined to include:
* A new 109km high speed line connecting St Pancras International in London to the Channel Tunnel at Ashford in Kent (Section 1 opened September 2003; Section 2 opened November 2007);
* New / improved high quality station environments at St Pancras, Stratford, Ebbsfleet, and Ashford, with additional parking and retail provision;
* Re-routing of Eurostar services to the Continent via the new high speed line, instead of utilising existing routes from Waterloo to the Channel Tunnel. This includes an additional stop at Ebbsfleet; and relocation of the international London Eurostar terminus from Waterloo to St Pancras;
* Domestic high speed trains (Class 395) and high speed services to North and East Kent, with associated premium fares;
* A major revision of the Southeastern timetable (December 2009) relating to the classic network (Mainline and Metro Services), and increased fares across the Southeastern network; and
* New high speed rail freight capacity between London and North and South Kent.
As the main aim of this evaluation was to measure the value for money of the investment in HS1 the counterfactual was defined as a hypothetical scenario where no alternative investment to HS1 was made to deliver the objectives for the scheme. This counterfactual was developed for the purposes of this evaluation, and does not necessarily correspond to the counterfactual as understood when the decision to invest in High Speed 1 was made. It has been applied consistently to the assessment of Transport User Benefits, Wider Economic Impacts and Regeneration Benefits. This could be considered an unrealistic assumption; however it was adopted to ensure that the evaluation included the full costs and benefits of HS1. If the assumption had been made that some “do minimum” type investment would have been made in rail capacity along the corridor served by HS1 then the costs taken into account would have been reduced by the cost of this alternative investment, and the benefits taken into account would have been reduced by the benefit of this hypothetical alternative to HS1.
But what exactly were “the objectives for the scheme”? The report doesn’t appear to say. The objectives, such as they were, seem to have been formed after the decision to build had been taken.
What the report does say, is that the HS1 project has a computed ‘central case’ net present value of minus £5.9 billion, with ‘wider impacts’ excluded. Including WEI, the computed NPV is -£4.57 billion.