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Tuesday 11 February 2020

HS2 - A Right-Wing Nation Mourns

Almost two weeks after it was due has come the Government’s announcement that the HS2 project is to go ahead. This was not a difficult decision to take, because it was already going ahead. What it does do is to pass the very last point of no return, marking the end of opportunities for those out there on the right to have the project cancelled.
And although some who welcomed the news might have been best advised to apply the usual filter to anything emanating from alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, with Philip Haigh enthusing “High Speed North - an integrated masterplan for HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and other improvements - revealed by prime minister to House of Commons” (don’t hold your breath), there was much to welcome.
Not least the litany of Astroturf Lobby Groups out there on the right whose hopes and dreams were dashed on the cold, hard rocks of reality. Some were too bereft to say anything, and this was probably the wisest course of action. So a common sense award goes to Policy Exchange, the Adam Smith Institute and Centre for Policy Studies.
Perhaps they saw the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog trying to prise victory from the jaws of defeat and getting their fingers bitten off in the process. Bozo “Reveals Reforms To Avoid Further Costs” claimed The Great Guido, somehow unaware that it ain’t going to get built unless there are some further costs.
But for the lobbyists who invested the most in defeating HS2, there had to be one last tilt at this immovable windmill, and going first was the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, claiming “This announcement is a massive blow to the taxpayers of today and tomorrow who will be left paying for the #HS2 white elephant with no light at the end of the tunnel [no citation]”.
There was more. “The business case for HS2 was flawed from the start, offering little benefit to anyone outside the big cities, and nobody can comfortably say what the final bill will be [no citation] … Going forward the government needs to stop HS2 Ltd calling the shots and work out how to keep costs down on a project which is already coming off the rails [no citation]”. They haven’t got a clue. And they never did.
Also clueless was the IEA, where alleged “Rail Expert” Richard Wellings (no, don’t laugh) blusteredHS2 was a flawed project from the start. The economic case for it never made much sense, which explains why the rationale for the rail project keeps changing”. Except it doesn’t. But do go on. “We should welcome the Government’s plan to examine the costs and benefits of this pricey project”. Same old pejorative language. No-one is listening.
So let me remind readers of what the TPA and IEA said previously. They both tried loading the costs of Crossrail 2 onto HS2 to make the benefit/cost ratio look worse, but as they did not transfer over the benefits of Crossrail 2, they ended up demonstrating economic illiteracy. Wellings showed his rail-hating credentials by claiming that new freight capacity could be provided by raising the lorry weight limit and dumping it all on the existing motorway network. He really did. On top of that, he claimed railways could be converted into roadways in order to improve capacity. Which would not happen.

But now the wreckers are defeated, and HS2 proceeds. Just rejoice at that news.
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Andrew Barker said...

The thing that led me to cautiously welcome HS2 is that it should reduce passenger numbers on old lines enabling more freight to be carried on them. Whilst environmental damage will occur from HS2, the resulting transfer from road to rail should, hopefully, mitigate the environmental cost.

Anonymous said...

Rail modernisation is long overdue after decades of profits gouging by spivs. But I wouldn't over-rate the gains for communities outside the M25, except to emphasise it's a good idea to accelerate the rate at which the rest of the country can accelerate away from that corrupt shit hole of a capital.

But the IEA isn't "economically illiterate". It knows full well what it's doing - which is lie and propagandise for the far right tories. That's its only purpose, as it is with Policy Exchange and all other bullshit organisations.

Anonymous said...

It was fun listening to Tinsel Tits digging at Bill Cash on Radio 4 tonight. Most Tories seem to be of the mindset of "but it does nothing for my constituency!"