As was widely trailed across the media, the HS2 project was today approved by Transport Secretary Justine Greening. No significant concession was made on the route of the new line, although some extra tunnelling was also approved. Almost immediately the spin started from those opposed to the scheme, with factual analysis an early casualty of this particular war.
The £32 billion cost of both phases of HS2 – that’s the London to Birmingham part, and the completion of the “Y” network on to Manchester and Leeds – was one such casualty as the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer Henry Cole at the Guido Fawkes blog, the Laurel and Hardy of the blogosphere, accused everyone else of spinning, while engaging in, er, spinning.
“There are a lot of number [sic] floating around today regarding HS2” they tell. Including their own: the estimated cost is petulantly dismissed as “woefully underestimated”, and a figure of £60 billion is then claimed. Staines and Cole have, between them, zero expertise in managing large and complex civil engineering projects. So that’s worth reading just for the howler and the laughs, then.
But over at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), where the dubiously talented group of non-job holders has recorded another magnificent failure, Matthew Sinclair was in full mardy strop mode, dispensing misleading information as he went. So the cost of London to Birmingham was asserted to be £32 billion (wrong – actually £17 billion) as Sinclair laid down a carpet of dishonesty.
The cost of HS2 Phase 1, it was suggested, could be as high as £45 billion, but this is based on a series of assumptions made in their earlier propaganda. The TPA claim that they have the public on their side, but quote only a poll they themselves commissioned. Their desperation meant that Nigel Lawson was put forward as a “business leader”. And we get the “£1,000 per family” line again.
Other alternatives are said to give better value for money, but Atkins Rail Package 2 (RP2), which the TPA has recommended, has an unworkable timetable, reduces capacity for commuters, especially to Northampton, and does not provide for freight capacity, the latter being vitally important as it not only takes significant numbers of lorry movements off the roads, but makes money for The Railway.
The assertion by Sinclair that HS2 is “taxing the poor to pay for a rich man’s train” is sheer brass neck: the TPA represents the rich. HS2, as with the LGV and AVE programmes in France and Spain, is about capacity: there is a limit to what can be squeezed out of the present network. Moreover, the best value is always with new build, and HS1 was completed within time and budget.
It is time for Sinclair and his fellow flat earthers to get a life, and get over themselves.