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Many facts are mything

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There is a huge amount of false and misleading information about HS2 on social media, and the number one misinformation super-spreader must surely be HS2 Ltd itself.

For evidence to support this view, one need look no further than various tweets about “myths” posted by the company’s twitter on 31 July 2020.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'There is a huge amount of false and misleading information about #HS2 on social media. Below is a myth buster thread which corrects some of the most repeated misconceptions about the project'

In these tweets, HS2 Ltd offered up five statements as ‘myths’, but did not attribute them to any particular person, or organisation.

HS2 Ltd’s Myth 1

The statement offered by HS2 Ltd as their ‘Myth 1’ concerned journey time, specifically the journey time between London and Birmingham.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'Myth 1: ‘HS2 only saves 20 minutes to #Birmingham’. FACT: #HS2 services will call at 25 stations in England and Scotland connecting 30 million people. It also frees up space on the existing network for more frequent stopping local services benefiting those who may never use HS2.'

However, their response did not attempt to prove whether the statement ‘HS2 only saves 20 minutes to Birmingham’ was true or not. Instead, HS2 Ltd stated

‘HS2 will call at 25 stations in England and Scotland connecting 30 million people. It also frees up space on the existing network for more frequent stopping local services benefiting those who may never use HS2’.

Claims like ‘HS2 will call at 25 stations in England and Scotland connecting 30 million people’, are themselves curious, because those ’30 million people’ are already ‘connected’ to each other by the existing railway network. The vast majority of the “25 stations” mentioned by HS2 Ltd are places on the existing railway network (Euston, Manchester Piccadilly, York, Newcastle, Leeds, etc).

HS2 Ltd’s Myth 2

For their ‘Myth 2’, HS2 Ltd offered the statement, ‘HS2 will destroy 700 local wildlife sites’.

Although HS2 did not attribute this claim to any particular organisation or person, it appears to refer to Jane Durney’s ‘What’s The Damage’ report (exact date unknown) compiled for The Wildlife Trusts. This stated that “…693 Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) covering 9,696 hectares are at risk of being significantly affected or destroyed under current plans for HS2”.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'Myth 2: ‘HS2 will destroy 700 local wildlife sites’. FACT: The whole #HS2 route partially impacts 204 such sites. Our Green Corridor will leave behind 33 square km of new woodland and wildlife habitats. [...]'

According to the Patrick Barkham article ‘HS2 will destroy or damage hundreds of UK wildlife sites, says report’ (The Guardian, 15 Jan 2020),

[Patrick Barkham, The Guardian]

HS2 will destroy or irreparably damage five internationally protected wildlife sites, 693 local wildlife sites, 108 ancient woodlands and 33 legally protected sites of special scientific interest, according to the most comprehensive survey of its impact on wildlife.
[…]
An HS2 spokesman disputed the figures in the report, saying the data was not new and that it included all sites within 500 metres of the line regardless of how they were affected.

But is the statement

693 Local Wildlife Sites are at risk of being significantly affected or destroyed under current plans for HS2‘,

the same thing as saying

HS2 will destroy 700 local wildlife sites‘?

HS2 Ltd’s Myth 3

For their ‘Myth 3’, HS2 Ltd offered the statement, ‘HS2 helps airport expansion’.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'Myth 3: ‘HS2 helps airport expansion’. FACT: High speed rail helps reduce domestic flights. In 2030 #HS2 is forecast to be 17 times less carbon intensive than air travel & will help deliver end to end low carbon journeys. Look what HSR has done to domestic air travel in Europe.'

However, the ‘FACT’ offered in response to this ‘myth’ did not address the question of whether HS2 aided airport expansion, or not. Instead, HS2 Ltd claimed

  • high speed rail (in general) ‘helps reduce domestic flights’,
  • while HS2 in particular was forecast [by whom?] to be 17 times less carbon intensive in 2030 than air transport.

Whether high speed rail has made much difference to air travel in Europe, is of course, open to question.

European Commission, 25 years of EU aviation, extract

HS2 Ltd’s Myth 4

For their ‘Myth 4’, HS2 Ltd offered the statement, ‘HS2 is old technology’.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'Myth 4: ‘HS2 is old technology’. FACT: High speed rail is one of the most carbon efficient mass transport systems available. Long after COVID we'll still need infrastructure to connect the country, provide opportunities for regeneration, jobs and growth in the midlands and north.'

But instead of trying to demonstrate whether ‘HS2 is old technology’ or not, HS2 Ltd’s ‘rebuttal’ focused on carbon emissions (which is always going to be weak ground for the company).

Assessing the veracity of the claim that high speed rail (in general, not HS2 in particular) is ‘one of the most carbon efficient mass transport systems available’, would seem to present some significant problems.

Who has reliable estimates for the embedded carbon of building Spain’s high speed rail network, for example?

HS2 Ltd’s Myth 5

For their ‘Myth 5’, HS2 offered the statement ‘We can just upgrade the existing railways’.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'Myth 5: ‘We can just upgrade the existing railways’. FACT: Network Rail have rejected alternatives. Their upgrade scenario would only deliver 66% of #HS2's capacity and the East Coast Main Line would be closed every weekend for nearly 30 years.'

Of course, upgrading the existing infrastructure has been the standard approach to increase capacity on Britain’s railways for decades.

Because upgrading existing infrastructure would be more cost-effective, less risky, and less disruptive than building HS2, it was important for special interests and HS2 supporters inside government to ensure that ‘smart upgrades’ were kept out of sight, and out of any comparison. The ‘lobotomy’ P1, YA and YB Atkins / Network Rail schemes were devised for that purpose, i.e. as straw man ‘alternatives’, serving as political cover for the HS2 scheme itself.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'It’s estimated that upgrading existing lines instead of building #HS2 Phase 1 would result in 2,700 weekend closures over 15 years. Independent rail planning consultant @WilliamBarter1 spoke from #MiltonKeynes earlier this year and explained why alternatives to HS2 don’t add up.'

Written by beleben

August 3, 2020 at 5:03 pm

Posted in HS2

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