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Wednesday 30 March 2011

TPA And HS2 – Throwing Out The Rattle (1)

The Government has not been thus far deflected from its decision to go ahead with a high speed rail link from London to the West Midlands, the North West, and the North East, now known as HS2, despite the barrage of propaganda from the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA). So today, the TPA has issued yet another so-called “Research Note” attacking the scheme.

This is a misnomer: little, if any, new research features, most of the content having already been used in previous TPA propaganda. Moreover, the section purporting to show towns and cities that would supposedly lose out if HS2 goes ahead contains unproven and uncosted assumptions, and even contradicts itself.

Seats Per Hour

Chris Stokes, the TPA’s “rail expert”, relies heavily on train seating capacity figures for his comparison of HS2 and alternative services. But he fails to compare like with like: on the one hand, he uses the actual capacity of trains in service on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) and specified for the East Coast Main Line (ECML), then compares with a nominal figure for HS2.

As Stokes admits, the train service assumptions shown in the HS2 documentation he is attacking are purely illustrative. It does not seem to occur to him that the seating capacity of those trains is also purely illustrative, but by happy coincidence, it suits his argument and fits his conclusion to achieve a leap of logic from the illustrative to actual reality.


London’s Euston station was rebuilt in the early 1960s, and has since managed to cope well with passenger numbers – an excellent achievement over a 45 year period. But, whether HS2 goes ahead or not, another rebuild will be required. Stokes’ pinning of disruption due to rebuilding solely onto HS2 is disingenuous: the Atkins Rail Package 2 (RP2) which he and the TPA have advocated will also involve significant disruption.

Northampton and Milton Keynes

Stokes asserts that commuter capacity to these locations would be doubled under proposals that he and the TPA have backed. But, as I’ve already shown, this is also disingenuous: RP2 does not allow for any extra peak time services. Moreover, the train type RP2 specifies would (assuming it is similar to the existing Pendolino fleet) offer significantly less capacity than what is on offer right now.

I’ll assess the TPA assertions on “service loss” later.

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