HS2 Questions

Examining the issues around the proposed High Speed 2 route

Is Lord Adonis telling the truth?

with 2 comments

Lord Adonis is on a mission to persuade the business community that HS2 is a worthwhile investment. In the process, he repeatedly claims that uprating the existing rail infrastructure provides insufficient capacity for forecast demand and is more
expensive than HS2.

However, the work presented in his own White Paper, and done in preparation for it by Atkins, demonstrates his claims are false. Rail Package 2 meets all the demand forecast at a fraction of the cost of HS2 and gives better value for money. It does not need as much capacity as HS2 as it does not result in HS2’s high (and undesirable) level of induced demand. Rail Package 2 even has less crowding than HS2. Rail Package 2 is far from the best way to uprate the existing infrastructure – but it is still better than HS2.

It is immaterial that HS2 provides more capacity. Rail Package 2 provides more capacity than is needed for the forecast demand. Creating surplus capacity is a misallocation of resources.

On connectivity, it is clear that HS2 improves connectivity in the form of reducing journey times to some places served by HS2 trains. But the business case for HS2 assumes a £5.4bn reduction in the costs of running classic services – hardly indicating an improvement for other places. Furthermore, outside London, the new parkway and city stations do not integrate with existing local transport, with consequential connectivity penalties.

Contrary to Lord Adonis’ assertions, the fundamental case for HS2 is not about capacity, there are far cheaper means of providing this – it is about speed. But the benefits of speed have been grossly exaggerated by ignoring that time on board trains is now productive. The result is that the business case for HS2 simply doesn’t work. This is the reason that Lord Adonis persists in transparently false claims about the lack of alternative means of providing the capacity that will be needed.

If we upgrade the existing infrastructure it will not cost more than HS2. It is dishonest to say it would.

The reality is that the business case for HS2 is dire. The principle benefit – journey time saving – is grossly exaggerated. The demand continues to over-estimated, with the persistent mis-use of an out of date forecasting model. The comparator is a
consciously unrealistic ‘no improvements for 30 years’. Against realistic a comparator HS2 has little or no benefits. Lord Adonis has no sustainable answer to this. HS2 is simply a waste of money.


Written by hs2questions

May 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm

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2 Responses

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  1. RP2 only delivers minimal extra capacity when it is most needed (in peak hours) and relies upon running an intensive peak-hour service level right through the day, i.e. delivering capacity when it is least needed, off-peak. The journey times RP2 achieves rely upon omitting station stops on the London – Birmingham route, denying Milton Keynes of direct fast services to the West Midlands. Network Rail doesn’t believe the proposition is credible, and neither do the train operators. RP2 was an exercise in value for money comparison with HS2, and not a credible operational proposition. Continually pushing RP2 as a “credible” alternative to HS2 only serves to expose the lack of understanding of rail operations within the Anti HS2 camp. Perhaps you should consult some genuinely independent railway operations experts for a second opinion (although I cannot guarantee you would like the answer).


    May 30, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    • Agreed that RP2 is far from perfect. Which is why we are working on an optimised alternative: 12 car sets (except Liverpool), swap one first for standard, and do Ledburn.
      This creates 138% extra standard class PEAK hours capacity and doubles fast commuter traffic to MK. I have the paths. This can be done within 5 years.
      Can turn to the other 6 RP2 pinch points in say the 2040s. If they are needed.

      Jerry Marshall

      June 9, 2011 at 8:19 pm

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