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The ‘transformational’ effect of HS2

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There are two motorways from London to the West Midlands, and three main-line railways to the north of England. Given the existing well-developed north-south connectivity, how could building HS2 “transform” the West Midlands, and the North?

Department for Transport, Robert Goodwill's letter to James Croll, 16 June 2015 (extract)

According to the Department for Transport, the effect of HS2 would be induce an additional 8 to 9 million journeys between Birmingham / Coventry and London by the year 2036-2037. Between Greater Manchester and London, about 5 million annual journeys would be induced (‘Figure 55’ below).

Department for Transport, West Coast Main Line demand and capacity pressures, Nov 2015, Figure 55

But those figures are for single journeys, and count trips to London and to the provincial cities. If half of the 2.5 million generated round-trips between Manchester and London had Manchester as their destination, that would mean that HS2 increased the number of annual visits to the city by about 1.25 million. That is not ‘transformative’; it is a minuscule payback for an expenditure running into tens of billions of pounds.

Of course, the same argument would also apply for travel to London. Building HS2 to ‘boost the London economy’ is nonsense; it is a very expensive way of increasing the number of visits to London, by not-very-much.

Written by beleben

May 26, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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