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Stuck on repeat

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For more than a year, senior Labour party politicians have been pontificating about the need to “get a grip” on HS2 costs, without ever explaining how they would get a grip themselves. Ed Balls has kept repeating that there should be “no blank cheque” for HS2, without explaining what that means.

Google search result, for get a grip on HS2 costs

Judging by their history with programmes such as Nimrod MRA.4, and NHS informatics, it seems unlikely that Labour would be any more successful at keeping HS2 costs under control.

Daily Telegraph story on the abandonment of a failed NHS computer system, 2011

Written by beleben

April 2, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Posted in HS2

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Labour’s £50 billion HS2 cheque

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Labour seem to be content to 'Chuka lotta munna' at HS2

Labour seem to be content to Chuka lotta money at HS2. The “£50.1 billion” figure is not even at 2013 prices.

The Labour Party cannot – and will not – give the Government a blank cheque for HS2, wrote Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Mary Creagh (LabourList, 27 Oct 2013). But they are apparently, willing to write a £50.1 billion cheque.

David Cameron is apparently confused about what job he’s doing. On Friday he seemed to say it was up to Labour to decide whether the new high speed line, HS2, should go ahead. As the Shadow Transport Secretary I’m obviously flattered that the Tories want to hand over the keys without even waiting for the election. But as a taxpayer, and a rail user, it’s far from reassuring that David Cameron doesn’t seem to think it’s his job to get a grip of a huge project starting on his watch.

Labour has always supported HS2 and the idea of a new North-South rail link because of capacity constraints on the existing rail network. Last year, over 1.5 billion journeys were made on the rail network, with 4,000 more train services a day than in the mid-1990s. The increase in rail usage during our time in Government was a record to be proud of. But too many people each day now endure cramped, miserable journeys into cities like Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and London. Our support for a North-South line rests on tackling that capacity problem and supporting a 21st Century transport network.

But our support for it is not at any cost. The Labour Party cannot – and will not – give the Government a blank cheque. That is what you would expect from any credible official opposition seeing a Government desperately mismanaging a project. And that is what is happening here with the cost having shot up to £50bn. David Cameron and George Osborne are determined to go full steam ahead with this project, whatever the cost. Labour will not take this irresponsible approach. We will go ahead with the project if the costs are brought under control and are outweighed by the benefits of doing so. But if those conditions aren’t met we won’t go ahead regardless because we need to ensure that this is the best way to spend £50 billion for the future of our country.

That’s why if David Cameron really cares about HS2 the best thing he could do is to get control of the spiralling budget. Rather than abdicating responsibility as he seems to be trying to do he should be getting a grip and bringing down its costs.

On Thursday, Labour will vote in favour of the Paving Bill to allow preparatory expenditure on the scheme while maintaining pressure on the Government to get the costs under control. We will lay amendments to ensure that the Government is delivering value for money and to hold it to account. […]

Is Labour’s record of managing large projects better than the coalition’s? The cost overruns and output failures on projects such as the 2012 Olympics, West Coast Modernisation, Nimrod AEW3, and NHS information technology would suggest not. Neither Ms Creagh nor Ed Balls have explained how Labour would get HS2 costs ‘under control’, and their rationale for supporting the project is at odds with the facts.

The idea that HS2 would mean an end to “cramped, miserable journeys into cities like Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and London” has no basis in reality, as would be seen from a moment’s glance of the rail maps for those cities. HS2 offers no capacity enhancement on most routes into Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester, and London. In essence, a pound invested in HS2 is a pound not invested in local transport in the provincial cities.

By far the largest rail passenger flows, and capacity issues, are on the London commuter network, especially the former Southern and Eastern Regions. Arrivals and departures at Euston are little more 5% of London peak traffic and the majority of journeys into and out of that station are shorter than 100 km.

Written by beleben

October 27, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Posted in HS2

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