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Thursday 21 April 2011

HS2 – The Equation Changes

Yesterday, there was little to cheer about for the so-called HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA), which got its name from a desire that there be no action on HS2. Their spokesman Bruce Weston, in an unusually terse statement, said “It looks like a pretty crude rubbishing of what is regarded as the frontrunner alternative”. He is right to keep it short, as the figures are changing.

Weston and his pals, egged on by the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), an Astroturf lobby group dedicated to demonising Government – any Government – along with public service and public works, have constantly put forward a series of upgrades to the West Coast Main Line (WCML) as an alternative to the proposed high speed rail link known as HS2.

However, the upgrades proposed by HS2AA and the TPA, known as Rail Package 2, previously costed at £5.37 billion, have been re-evaluated and re-costed, with the total now £8.9 billion. HS2 opponents are already bringing their own particular spin to bear against the news, with one telling that “Rail Package 2 delivers benefits across the country and not just this extremely narrow corridor that HS2 does”.

Except that the scheme delivering benefits across the country is HS2: Rail Package 2 delivers nothing outside the WCML corridor, it produces most of its claimed extra capacity at off-peak times (when it’s less needed), there is no provision for growth of freight traffic, the timetable is unworkable, and an unnecessary extra fleet of 97 new trains would be needed to satisfy its objectives. I’ve previously discussed this HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

Now that the figure for Rail Package 2 has been revised, opponents of HS2 have two very clear options: they can continue the debate but accept the new figures, or can produce their own analysis to counter the revision, and so prove that their choice can be brought in at the lower cost. However, given the reluctance of the TPA to bother themselves beyond parroting soundbites and issuing FoI requests, the latter course is unlikely to be pursued.

And, right now (1045 hours April 21) neither HS2AA nor TPA are commenting. I’m sure that is merely to ensure the thoroughness of their analysis and the insights arising.

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