So much for the latest analysis on HS2 from the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA): what of the rest of those assertions made in their latest “Briefing Note”? At the outset, the tone is confused: author Chris Stokes tells of of a “cost to taxpayers” of just over £17 billion, yet the TPA line has consistently been that HS2 would cost “£1,000 per household”, as its cost was around £30 billion.
And, as I’ve previously shown, the £28.4 billion of supposed additional costs is mere invention. But there are other items to address in the TPA’s latest effort, the first being the business case for HS2, which the TPA have quoted verbatim and so are presumably agreeing. This shows a Benefit/Cost Ratio (BCR) of 2.6 (the range is 2.0 to 3.4) meaning an outlay of £30 billion will generate £78 billion in benefits.
Even so, there follows the tired canard of comparing the HS2 business case with that for Eurostar, which is a non sequitur: this is rather like saying that every rail project must be judged not on its own merits, but against some other criteria which will vary at the whim of those wanting to make adverse judgment.
But it is in the comparison with high speed rail across mainland Europe that the TPA becomes seriously misleading. We are told that the Netherlands’ high speed line is in economic trouble, but it is not: one service operating along it is not garnering the revenue expected, due to late delivery of new trainsets. The other – the Thalys running between Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris – is doing fine. So is the line itself.
Then, the TPA recycles a piece of Telegraph knocking copy on the AVE in Spain. The suggestion is that a whole infrastructure project has been abandoned, but it has not: when the high speed line from Madrid to Valencia was opened last December, one through service a day was added from Toledo to Albacete and Cuenca. Loadings were poor, and the one service a day was discontinued.
But to read the Telegraph article as quoted by the TPA, one would gain the impression that the abandonment was much more significant. One might also come away thinking that the HS1 services into Kent were under-performing, but operator SouthEastern has been happy with ridership growth thus far.
So what one has to conclude is that Chris Stokes is clutching at straws and bringing us a thinner and thinner brew over time. None of this “research note” will detain anyone that matters: as one Tweet in reply to my first analysis of the TPA’s latest work put it, “Chris Stokes is an intelligent man, seeing him drop to this level is sad”.
My conclusion from earlier today therefore stands: one for the bin.