Entering the debate on High Speed Rail has come the Adam Smith Institute (ASI), a museum of outdated economic thought which has fraudulently appropriated the name of the founder of economics.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.