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Sunday 6 January 2013

HS2 – Telegraph Facing Both Ways

The Telegraph has given a platform to Tory MP Cheryl Gillan, who represents Chesham and Amersham, to rant freely about the HS2 project, which she calls a “Labour initiated folly” to “take a few minutes off the time of a journey to Birmingham”, although “a fewin this case means 35. The rest of her scattergun analysis is similarly shaky.

May feature trains like this one. Perhaps

She asserts that the cost is “rising steeply”, although construction work has not yet started, and that the cost/benefit ratio of the project “should shame the Treasury into calling an immediate halt”, although this is estimated to be around 2.15 for the “Y network”, or an outlay of £30 billion bringing benefits of £64.5 billion, putting the return in the “high” category.

Moreover, her assertion that HS2 will not connect to HS1 is wrong, and the obsession with serving “our main hub airport” is bizarre (there’s no high speed line connecting to the main airports of Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Milan, Berlin, Munich, or Brussels, for instance). And her recommendation of “classless travel” would trash the economics of Inter-City rail travel in the UK at a stroke.

But the Tel also knows that the project has been green lighted, and so also carries a piece informing readers where HS2 north of Birmingham is going to go. Here, it is told that Sheffield will “lose out”, although a station will be located at Meadowhall, which is, er, in Sheffield, with good local rail connections to Doncaster, Hull, Barnsley and of course Sheffield city centre.

The problem faced in Sheffield is that it would entail a serious amount of demolition to get right into the centre (rail buffs interested in similar projects in the past might like to consider the number of buildings that had to go when the Great Central Railway drove its new route through the city of Nottingham at the end of the 1800s, and made room for what became known as Victoria Station. Over 1,300 of them).

Elsewhere, the Tel is a little shaky on the route of HS2 to Manchester, asserting that it will go via Crewe, although my information is that it will pass to the north east of the town, with a parkway station close to the M6 for Stoke and the Potteries, and a spur to the Kidsgrove to Crewe line to allow HS2 services to serve Chester and Liverpool. And I’m not sure about that “Manchester Airport station” idea.

What David Millward’s article misses completely, to no surprise, is that HS2 will free up capacity on the existing network for regional passenger services, and most importantly, freight trains, these each taking dozens of lorry movements off the road network. Moreover, freight traffic is a profitable business for the railway, which should find favour with politicians unhappy about rail subsidies.

Including Tories like Cheryl Gillan, one might have thought.


Anonymous said...

The DfT's estimates of capital and operating costs for the Y network rose by nearly £8bn between Feb 2011 and Jan 2012. That seems an extraordinary amount for a project of this scale and at this stage of its development. This might be why the PAC think HS2 numbers are unreliable.
See Table 1 P10 of the DfT's summary. http://assets.dft.gov.uk/publications/hs2-economic-case-appraisal-update/hs2-economic-case-appraisal-update.pdf

Tim Fenton said...

Ah, the old canard of lumping capital and operating costs together. And from an anonymous poster too.

Anonymous said...

If the costs estimates are this far out of whack before a spade has hit the ground, you'd have to be really naive to imagine the margin of error will stay the same, let alone narrow.

The important thing is to read the DfT document and make up your own mind about whether you think the cost/benefit analysis holds water.

Who knows, perhaps the Major Projects Authority may one day publish its assessment, now more than year overdue, which must be giving DfT real nightmares if their own numbers are decaying like this.

Tim Fenton said...

Yet another anonymous commenter, and the point I made not answered.

And the abuse is starting, too.