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Friday 4 February 2011

TPA – High Speed Slip Up (1)

First there was the so-called HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA), and now there is the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA): the caucus of lobby groups opposed to the expansion of high speed rail links in the UK continues to churn out propaganda.

Today’s TPA product, “High Speed Rail[.pdf] carries the imprimatur of former BR man Chris Stokes. So does that give it a definitive authority? No, it merely means that one former railwayman does not agree the premise for HS2. I’ll look at Stokes’ analysis over two posts: first the obvious shortcomings and exaggerations, then later the perpetual problem of network capacity and competition.

Stokes starts by attacking the business case for HS2 [p5], and homes in on the Benefit/Cost Ratio (BCR) of 2.4, which he suggests is not high enough. However, his support for a series of upgrades to the existing network called Rail Package 2 enjoys a lower BCR – just 2.19. Moreover, Rail Package 2 would push all but Inter-City passenger traffic onto the slow lines out of London Euston.

Stokes also focuses on the energy consumption [p14] of high speed rail – this was also a part of the HS2AA report – yet neither cite any figures to show what a typical journey from London to Birmingham would consume relative to existing rail services or other transport modes.

And he selectively exaggerates the effect of HS2 on local public transport [p7], asserting that “Euston is the most dramatic case: the Victoria Line is already full”. Not only is capacity on the Victoria Line being increased with introduction of a new Automatic Train Operation (ATO) system in the near future, Euston can be accessed by both branches of the Northern Line, and the Sub-Surface Line (SSL) station at Euston Square is slated to have more convenient access to the main line station too. Also, passengers can access Euston by other transport modes.

Then there is the occasional questionable accuracy of the TPA report: the graph showing “Long distance rail trips by income” [p15] is based on data from 2002-5, the numbers do not appear to have been scaled up accurately (source report HERE), and the inference that middle income earners average no more than two rail journeys of more than 50 miles per year masks the fact that there are dozens of conurbations around London which are over 50 miles from the capital, and have sizeable commuter flows, meaning ten such trips per week.

And some of the quotations are plain silly: Stokes [p7] quotes Henry Overman of the LSE: “... claims about the transformational nature of transport investments for particular areas should be greatly discounted ... because they have no convincing evidence to support them”.

Better go back and dismantle all those motorways, then. More soon.

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