Hardly had I posted on the latest attempt by the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) to hijack a report on the HS2 high speed rail project for their own advantage than David Begg, who knows a few things about transport, weighted in to the debate and caused significant distress to the TPA’s head non-job holder Matthew Sinclair.
Begg was replying to Sinclair’s repeated rubbishing of HS2 in the Spectator, and his piece touched a nerve with the clearly thin skinned Sinclair, who has replied in turn on the TPA site with a torrent of pejorative language, as well as misrepresenting the Oxera report (see it HERE [.pdf]). The use of casual smears such as “retreats into fantasy land”, “series of fictions”, as well as suggesting that Begg has not “actually bothered” to consider the evidence typifies the hectoring and disrespectful tone.
And Sinclair has himself not considered the evidence – or has chosen to disregard it. His quoting of the Oxera report on “agglomeration benefits” suggests that the report rebuts the HS2 economic case. It does not. It confirms that the figures are “consistent with agglomeration benefits ... being derived primarily from additional commuter capacity rather than inter-city time savings” [Page 12].
That would be the additional commuter capacity that Atkins Rail Package 2 (RP2), which the TPA have backed, does not provide: as I’ve already pointed out, this would provide no additional capacity in the peaks, and would remove several hundred seats from the rush hour provision for Northampton commuters. And it would mean a new fleet of almost a hundred trains, involving billions of pounds of extra spending.
But Sinclair is undaunted, bringing in consultant Chris Stokes to reinforce the rubbishing of Begg. Stokes makes yet more assumptions – his full analysis would be interesting, should he get round to finishing it – and talks of “unfettered competition”. Except that there won’t be any such competition: the Department for Transport does not favour this approach for passenger rail traffic.
There is, though, yet another source that Sinclair can draw upon: Bruce Weston of the so-called HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA), so named as there is no alliance and its aim is that there should be no action. Weston notes Begg’s observation that he “cannot recognise the world lived in by Matthew Sinclair and the campaign against HS2”, and sniffily observes that “His misfortune is that it is the real world”.That would be the “real world” of HS2AA, where Bradford is bigger than Edinburgh. I’m well up to speed on just how “real world” HS2AA is. Sinclair and his cheerleaders need to sniff less and engage more if they are to have any effect on the future of the UK’s rail system.