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Thursday 27 October 2011

ASI On HS2 – Comedy Gold

Entering the debate on High Speed Rail has come the Adam Smith Institute (ASI), a museum of outdated economic thought which has fraudulently appropriated the name of the founder of economics. The ASI, yet another Astroturf lobby group that declines to tell who pays the bills, has produced a “report” (see it HERE [.pdf]) which is so riddled with howlers that it qualifies as comedy gold.

Much of the “report” is predictable: suggestions (unsupported) that more trains could be accommodated on the existing West Coast Main Line (WCML), assertions (also unsupported) that commuting habits will change over time (and therefore by the happiest of coincidence remove those pesky peak periods), and of course no mention at all of freight capacity.

The discussion of benefit/cost ratio (BCR) only considers the first (London to West Midlands) phase of HS2, as the figure, at 2.0 is lower. The higher 2.6 figure for the Y network is omitted. Talk of extensions into Scotland are thrown in, large and scary numbers are pitched, and adverse comment passed upon them, even though they do not form part of the business case.

High speed trains, standard gauge at Madrid Chamartin

But it is in the technical detail that the ASI’s report becomes a side-splitter. Spain is characterised as having “generally flat countryside”, which suggests that I imagined all those tunnels on the AVE between Puertollano and Cordoba, and those viaducts and tunnels between Albacete and Xátiva. And don’t start me off on Cordoba to Málaga, or that huge tunnel north of Madrid.

BR’s Advanced Passenger Train (APT) becomes APR in ASI-speak. France is held to have something called Très Grande Vitesse (TGV stands for Train À Grande Vitesse, and it runs on the LGV, or Ligne À Grande Vitesse). And the trains for HS2 will include “16 high-speed sets that will operate exclusively over the wider-gauge high-speed track”. There won’t be any “wider-gauge” track.

The cost of new trains for HS2 includes “the classic compatible fleet where extensive technical adjustments will be necessary”. Like what? They’ll all run on the same tracks – or is this an assumption from the “wider-gauge” track howler? Track gauge does seem to tax the ASI, with the AVE from Madrid to Barcelona said to have “a 5 foot 6 gauge”. It doesn’t. It’s Standard Gauge (4 foot 8.5 inches).

But this is no surprise when the ASI mangles Alta Velocidad Española into Alte Velocidad Español. It’s another instance of using the example of Spain and getting it wrong – rather like the report cover, which is from the Spanish network, but not the high speed part. And if the ASI can’t be bothered to have its output read for technical accuracy, then why should any of it be taken seriously?

Seriously, this is one more for the bin. Good laugh, mind.


allegoricus said...

Buen trabajo, señor!

Anonymous said...

All this anti HS2 stuff is laughable. Classic tory nimbys. They've had the growth, the jobs and the money. Now time to pull the drawbridge up and sod the next generations.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tim Fenton said...

The last comment was removed as it was so factually inaccurate as to make the ASI "report" look credible.

xianwol said...

Well you should have pointed out errors, rather than removing the comment. That's what I try to do when I have time on my website (which is not at the moment)! But good piece on spotting all the ASI howlers - nothing quite as bad as the 1 million jobs promnised by the Campaign for High Speed Rail

James Avery said...

'Alta velocidad Española into Alte Velocidad Español'

Sounds a bit like the Judean people's front and the people's front of Judea. Except you are being the hair splitter - this is a think tank, not a group of engineers. The government is supposed to have engineers and credible people backing their case, yet it still has numerous howlers in it - the 6m taken from air to rail being one of the worst examples.

Tim Fenton said...

@6, to paraphrase Harry Callahan, if the ASI want to play lumberjack, then they'll have to learn to handle their end of the log.

Being able to figure out the track gauge isn't an engineering speciality. Neither is getting names right.

Neil said...

So, the only defence of this atrocious hack work is "yeah, well, it's crap, but at least they're objecting".

Doubt Is Their Product, indeed.

Richard Gadsden said...

Gauge? Isn't this about loading gauge?

GB+ loading gauge for TGV - 2.9m wide (not the track gauge)

But UK is mostly W6a, and some W9 and so on.

Tim Fenton said...

The two different kinds of HS2 set are indeed about loading, or structure, gauge.

But the ASI report specifically talks about wider gauge tracks.