Yesterday, there was an adjournment debate on the subject of HS2. Many Tory MPs weighed in, passing adverse comment on the project. The text underpinning much of their analysis, and supporting evidence, is a report by a group called the HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA), a title meant to show that there is something positive going on under their auspices, when there is nothing of the sort.
HS2AA do not indicate any political preference on their website, but one indication of their leanings is that the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) is championing their cause. The TPA’s apparently unequivocal support did not, apparently, involve looking at the figures in the HS2AA report (see it HERE [.pdf]), or, if they did, they failed to notice the blatant misrepresentation.
So let me shine a little light on HS2AA and their analysis, specifically on Page 25, where they set out fastest travel times between London and the five next largest cities in the UK, with comparisons for Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Note that the list of largest UK cities includes Bradford (population under 300k) but excludes Edinburgh (population over 480k).
This blatant fiddling of the figures is achieved by taking the population of the Bradford Metropolitan District, which includes many satellite towns. It also makes the UK top of the class on journey times (Spain would otherwise occupy this place). Moreover, no account is taken of the distances involved: in all of the countries used as comparators, the average distance from the capital to the five next largest cities is further than in the UK.
In any case, two can play at that game: the Netherlands would come top by a long way if included, because it is a physically small country. That doesn’t mean it has a high speed rail network, which is the proposition HS2AA is trying to stand up for the UK. It is not included because HS2AA is cherry picking data to fit its findings.
Moreover, HS2AA takes no account of works in progress: their assertion that the UK is “top of the class”, even on their own highly selective figures, will cease to prove true the week before Christmas, when the Madrid to Valencia high speed line is inaugurated (figures for France and Germany will also change in the near future).
I make no comment on the rest of the HS2AA analysis, save to observe that if it is as shoddy as in Pages 25 and 26 of their report, there will be little problem in shooting a few non-trivially sized holes in it.