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Sunday 10 June 2012

HS2 – Gilligan Is Still A Disgrace

[Update at end of post]

Not content with peddling invented scare stories about high speeds causing trains to be derailed by mysterious waveforms, and the one about Coventry and Wolverhampton being fourteen miles further apart than they actually are, the Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan has today reinforced his reputation for being at the acme of dodgy journalism in another attack on the HS2 project.

What some hacks don't want you to see

Benefits of HS2 were exaggerated, secret report reveals” is the title, and it will be no surprise to seasoned Gilligan watchers to know that the report concerned is not a secret, and it makes no comment whatsoever about the benefits of HS2. You can read the report, “Productive use of travel time and the valuation of travel time savings for business travellersHERE [.pdf].

The report is indeed critical of disregarding the use of rail travel for productive purposes, but what it then does is make this suggestion: “we would recommend that the current approach be replaced with a process based on estimated actual productivity gains for Employers (which are now much less than 100%) and actual welfare benefits to travelling Employees”.

So what is being recommended is further research to refine the models used to produce Benefit/Cost Analyses (BCRs) for future rail projects. No reference is made to any one project. This, though, does not deter Gilligan, who likes to call “liar” at his opponents at every opportunity, but finds no problem in telling the odd whopper himself, such as his latest on the HS2 business case.

The BCR for the initial London to West Midlands phase of the project, he asserts, has previously been claimed to be 2.9, but in 2011 this figure was just 2.0. The previous highest BCR was always for the Y network, and the average for this in 2011 was 2.6. The recently revised figures show the Y network – and that’s what the Government has approved – averaging a BCR of 2.15.

Moreover, the conservative nature of the methodology used can be seen when looking at the last major rail project to be completed, the Jubilee Line extension. This had a projected BCR of 0.95, meaning it was not worth proceeding. After completion, an “outturn BCR” was calculated, and despite significant cost overruns, came out at 1.75. The benefit of the project had been massively underestimated.

And the BCR for HS2 does not include all those lorry movements taken off the road network by increased freight capacity on existing routes. So there may be other benefits from the scheme. Plus the report that Gilligan references has been in the public domain for two months and is not new news. His allegations of a DfT “cover-up” come with no supporting evidence.

Andrew Gilligan is still an absolute disgrace to his profession. No change there, then.

[UPDATE 11 June 1030 hours: just to highlight the cumulative effect of misinformation, Tim Montgomerie has put on his prediction hat over at ConHome and declared that HS2 "will never happen". This is his "firm prediction". Sadly, two of his reasons are in the significantly shaky category.

He tells that "costs of these projects nearly always run out of control", which they do not. The earlier HS1 project, formerly the more prosaically named Channel Tunnel Rail Link, was delivered on time and under budget. New build - rail or road - gives far more certainty over cost control. Where the difficulties come is with upgrades of existing rail lines or roads.

Then he homes in on the Gilligan article yesterday, where he cites "a Department of Transport analysis into HS2's benefits", which was "suppressed". The report which Gilligan cites was not an analysis into HS2's benefits. It was not an analysis of any project. It did not mention HS2 once. It was taking survey results and concluding that the model used to perform BCRs should be refined further to take on board the survey findings.

Monty is widely quoted well beyond ConHome, but on this occasion he has not even bothered to read what Andrew Gilligan actually wrote, slanted as it was in any case. This is not an isolated incident among the punditerati, and it will not do]


Mike e said...

Not sure how you think that HS1 came in under budget When in fact it came in Way over budget
See. http://www.omegacentre.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/studies/cases/pdf/UK_CTRL_2P_080911.pdf

Anonymous said...

With respect, your article seems just as biased FOR with regard to HS2 as you assert Gilligan's was AGAINST.

Separate out the Gilligan vitriol which is not interesting. If the Dft report casts doubt on the cost-benefit claimed in the proposal why can't it be recalculated on a more reasonable basis and then we can all know what the fairest figure for the return is.

And then we can cancel HS2 :-))

Tim Fenton said...

The previous comment is from someone not giving their name, but wanting to cancel HS2 and talking about "fairness".

The report which Gilligan cites does not cast doubt on the BCR for HS2, or for any other project. I would hope that the commenter would have at least skimmed through it and found that out.

Then perhaps an explanation can be found for the "more reasonable basis". But I don't see this happening. Nor do I expect this commenter to tell where all that extra capacity will come from if HS2 is cancelled.

Ben E Brewer said...

Huh, the UK government in all their sublime logic are going to spend £33BILLION! on 186 miles of high speed railway which will take THIRTEEN YEARS to build!

Now we all know that 13 years mean 20 years, £33billion means £50billion and all this to link only five cities with one line. Now compare this to the recently opened High Speed Railway in CHINA....

1486 miles/£94billion/FOUR years and the worst thing - their trains look awesome... ours will simply look shit, conforming to the millions of sheets of red tape to complete the overpriced project... let's have a look at that again...

1486miles/£94billion/FOUR years/Awesome bullet trains
186miles/£33billion/THIRTEEN years/Bollocks clunky trains -

- Roaring through the once peaceful English countryside and there's not even a consideration to link London with Edinburgh or Glasgow (no wonder the Scots want rid of us!)

Now I can't be bothered to work out how much more value the Chinese are building their systems for but it's a helluva lot fucking better that what David Cameron has 'promised'!

So why don't they hire the Chinese, build the tracks underground, get rid of the fucking useless red tape that means the country is losing £33billion and then spend it on the airports or give us all a nice little bonus in our pay packets...

£33billion divided by 65million people in the UK that's... £507 each!!!!!!!!!!!

I know I'd rather prefer £507 in my pocket rather than it being spent on a railway I'll probably never use only to save 50 minutes off a journey time!

They built railways quicker in the wild wild west!

So, Cameron - fuck off with all this 'saving the economy' bollocks, stop helping your rich friends get richer by promising them business and spread the wealth to us little people so that we don't slip back into the dark ages!