It’s some time since the dubiously talented convocation of small state propagandists otherwise known as the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance have passed before my inspection, and from their latest feeble assault on the HS2 project, the standard of their product has not improved markedly in the interim. So what’s new this time round?
The answer is, not very much: the lack of honesty, prioritising of soundbites over reasoned argument, invention of Big Scary Numbers, all is as before. But let’s give the TPA the benefit of analysis, something they have consistently denied to anyone of differing view. Their latest post, authored by Tom Banks, is imaginatively titled “Scrap HS2: Peer’s ‘fatal motion’ offers last chance to save the nation £90 billion”.
And where, pray, does the £90 billion come from? Not even the economically inept and dishonest report by the IEA and its comedy transport guru Richard Wellings got more than £80 billion, and he had to tell a whole host of whoppers to get that. All is explained later on - so here are some of the TPA’s claims duly scrutinised.
“HS2 comes with an enormous price tag. While the Public Accounts Committee put it at £50 billion, research shows it is likely to hit £90 billion”. What research? There isn’t any. And while you’re at it, show a full benefit/cost analysis (we won’t be seeing that).
“The business case for HS2 doesn't have a leg to stand on”. No citation given, and none will be. But we do get a few statements, probably taken out of context.
High speed rail - but not in the UK
“The project has already been accused of mismanagement and waste. There have been reports of HS2 bosses splashing out on high-tech gadgets”. Someone at HS2 Ltd got an IPad. Send that man to the gallows!
“There are fears that the technology used could be obsolete even before the first train leaves London for Birmingham, as newer technology becomes available”. What newer technology would that be? Oh I remember - driverless cars! The things that are energy inefficient at 70mph and would need all manually driven vehicles to be banned from the roads before they could make optimum use of their technology. Next!
“There are other projects - cheaper and more effective - which would far better cater for our infrastructure needs”. If this is alluding to Atkins RP2, it doesn’t address the looming freight capacity shortfall (see image), the extra capacity is provided where it isn’t needed (like outside the peaks), it would waste resources, and its costs have not yet been sufficiently nailed down.
“Environmental and conservation groups oppose it - The Woodland Trust, for example, has outlined the potential damage it could do to the environment”. Wrong, and by the TPA’s own admission - that’s environmental group singular, which might oppose it.
The looming freight capacity problem ((c) Rail Freight Group)
Also, TPA people, plastering an advert all over a central London building claiming “Over budget” and “Under delivering” when the delivery phase of HS2 is yet to start is not a good way to demonstrate your credibility. Or, on the basis of this tosh, the lack of it.