HS2 Questions

Examining the issues around the proposed High Speed 2 route

Does HS2 fail the DfT criteria announced today?

with 4 comments

Does HS2 fail the new DfT criteria?

The Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond has shot himself seriously in the foot. His flagship high speed rail policy (HS2) fails every single one of his own department’s new tests for appraising transport projects.

The Secretary of State announced today reforms to the way decisions are made on which transport projects to prioritise. The Department for Transport (DfT) Business Plan states they will “reform the way transport projects are assessed and funding prioritisation decisions are made.”[1]

In particular it specifies 5 criteria. The HS2 high speed train project appears to fail all of them.

Schemes should be:

  • supported by a robust case for change that fits with wider public policy objectives – the ‘strategic case’

– but the DfT destroyed any robust case for change when they agreed time was used productively on trains so the benefits of higher speed are small; and capacity needs are best met using existing track leaving trains less crowded than HS2.

  • demonstrate value for money – the ‘economic case’

– but with a total benefit of between 30p and 60p for every pound invested HS2 is poor value for money

  • commercially viable – the ‘commercial case’

– but there has never been a commercial case for HS2

  • are financially affordable – the ‘financial case’

– but whether we can afford over £30bn cost is highly debatable; as cuts to public services take hold, where is the value for money in spending over £1000 per household on a train set that will benefit only the affluent?

  • are achievable – the ‘management case’

– but HS2 is not even technically achievable because it includes an impossible number of train paths an hour.

 Philip Hammond has shot himself seriously in the foot.


Written by hs2questions

April 27, 2011 at 2:38 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Well, that’s one view I suppose.
    Another view is that HS2 manifestly passes all those criteria, as demonstrated by their published documentation.
    The point about useful time on trains is an interesting one. In their modelling HS2 have taken the stance that time on trains is not useful. I disagree with HS2 on this. I often do useful work on the train. However I can only work on the train if it is not overcrowded. So if HS2 reduces overcrowding then increased useful time on trains is an additional benefit that they haven’t claimed. Either way I guess it probably evens itself out.


    April 27, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    • Re the value of time on trains, this is not balanced out by crowding as RP2 leaves trains less crowded than with HS2 – a load factor of 51% instead of 58%.


      May 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm

      • RP2 delivers most capacity at the time it is least needed, and does insufficient to relieve the peak periods. It relies upon running a standard pattern intensive timetable all day long, which no experienced rail operator believes is achievable. So RP2 capacity figures measured over 16-hour average day are at best misleading.


        May 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm

  2. Peak periods are actually the first offpeak priced train after the rush hour. As Mr Hammond has said, this is best managed through pricing and avoiding the ‘fares cliff’.
    RP2 and better alternatives provide capacity in the same was essentially as HS2 – longer trains + extra track. Though the 4 tracking isn’t needed for a few decades.
    But HS2 cannot provide the promised capacity – can’t do 18 trains an hour say the UIC. Whoops! So the economic case doesn’t stack up. The environmental case doesn’t stack up. And now the technical case doesn’t stack up!


    May 30, 2011 at 6:42 pm

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