Carte blanche to misinform
In HS2 Ltd’s annual report and accounts 2014/2015, chairman David Higgins said, “We have to be open and transparent in communicating the benefits of HS2 as we see them“. According to senior officers of the company, one of the benefits of high speed rail is its ‘higher capacity compared to a conventional line’. At a meeting of the House of Commons Transport Committee on 17 November 2014, David Higgins said “a railway line where trains travel at 220 miles an hour as opposed to 120 miles an hour clearly has nearly twice the capacity because you can have twice as many trains on it. Once we started talking about capacity, then people started to get it“.
In an interview for The Rail Engineer article ‘Taking HS2 to completion’ (29 April 2016), the chief executive of HS2 Ltd, Simon Kirby, made a similar claim. He was quoted as saying that a conventional two track railway would have less capacity than a high speed one:
[Extract from Taking HS2 to completion]
[Rail Engineer:] Some people have questioned whether a high-speed railway is strictly necessary. If a conventional railway, with a speed of, say, 140mph, were to be built instead. Wouldn’t that do just as well?
[Simon Kirby:] “Most of the characteristics are the same for any type of new railway, the aesthetics of bridges and the substructure are the same,” Simon replied. “One of the challenges we all have as an industry is taking people into the world of three or four per cent passenger growth and imagining what the industry looks like in 10 or 20 years’ time. Half of the trains out of Euston by the end of this decade will be full, and that’s with standing provisions as well. So we’d need a four track railway from Euston to Birmingham, not a two track one, because the speeds are slower and the capacity is less.”
In freedom of information requests, HS2 Ltd were asked to provide any evidence held which supported the speed – capacity relationship described by Mr Higgins.
They have been unable to produce any.
So far as can be established, HS2 Ltd’s speed / capacity assertions do not have a factual basis.
One might have expected that the company’s “integrity” policy would lead to a public retraction of the claim. So far, nothing has been forthcoming.
HS2 Ltd seems to be taking the view that they have carte blanche to disseminate any misinformation they choose.