HS2 Questions

Examining the issues around the proposed High Speed 2 route

10 good reasons to think again on HS2 – from the TSC report

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The cross-party Transport Select Committee has found a whole host of problems with the Government’s case for HS2. From dubious assumptions underpinning the economic case, through the failure to consider the environmental impact or viable alternatives, to problems with the consultation itself, it’s clear that the Government needs to go back to the drawing board before spending billions more pounds on this controversial project.

1. The economic case is built on inflated claims about time savings. The committee concluded ‘that very high speed (250 m.p.h.) may have been given an undue emphasis’ in the economic case for HS2 (recommendation 9). They say there should be ‘a lower value attached to time savings’ (recommendation 10).

2. Carbon benefits ‘do not stand up to scrutiny’ and the environmental impact should be included in the economic case. The committee concluded that claims of substantial carbon reduction benefits ‘do not stand up to scrutiny’ (para. 77). They said it is ‘of concern that the Government intends to reach a decision on whether to proceed with Phase I before … many of the environmental impacts for both phases are clear’ (recommendation 14). They recommended ‘that the revised business plan for HS2 should take account of … natural capital’ and ‘encourage the Government to place greater emphasis on following existing transport corridors’ (recommendation 13).

3. A new economic case should be drawn up, based on capacity. As well attaching a lower value for time savings and including environmental cost, the committee recommended: ‘When HS2 Ltd provides the updated economic case to the Secretary of State for Transport later this year, it should provide a comparative assessment on the basis of reduced crowding’ (recommendation 10).

4. It may not be possible to run as many trains as the Government plans. The committee noted that ‘operating 18 trains per hour on a high-speed rail line has not been attempted elsewhere’. They called this a ‘risk factor’ and say the Government should publish ‘full details of the technical basis for its assertion that 18 trains per hour, or more, are feasible’ (recommendation 21).

5. Alternative options have not been considered properly, and ought to be. The committee said: ‘If the Government decides to proceed with HS2, it must explain in detail not just why it favours a particular scheme but why that scheme is better than alternative solutions, including those put forward by the Government’s own advisers’. It was very clear that ‘there must be a greater degree of consensus on these issues—many of which are technical—before Parliament is asked to consider a hybrid bill (recommendation 19).

6. It would be wrong to charge ahead with the plans before the full ‘Y’ route has been appraised. The committee found that ‘the case for investing in a high-speed line between London and the West Midlands depends largely on the assumption that the full Y network will be completed’ and said: ‘We believe that there should be an urgent strategic appraisal of phase II before a final decision on phase I is taken’ (recommendation 8).

7. The Government needs to prove that other rail projects won’t suffer. The committee were concerned that HS2 could divert money from more pressing rail improvements. They said that ‘if the Government decides to go ahead with HS2, it shouldpublish a summary of the financial case including the assumptions which persuade Ministers that the scheme will be affordable alongside sustained investment in the classic network’ (recommendation 4).

8. It’s not clear that HS2 will help to reduce the North/South divide. The committee concluded that ‘it is obvious that the economic impacts of high-speed rail can vary and are not easily predicted’; they said the Government should accompany its plans with ‘regional and local strategies for transport, housing, skills and employment’ (recommendation 7). They even urged it to consider building any high-speed line in the North rather than the South East, saying it was ‘disappointing that … a full assessment of the case for building north to south has not been undertaken. This work should be carried out as a priority’ (recommendation 8).

9. The case for connecting to Heathrow needs to be considered. At the moment, HS2 will not be connected to the nation’s main airport. The committee recommended ‘that the Government set out more clearly for comparison the costs and benefits of routing HS2 via Heathrow … so that there can be a better understanding of the pros and cons of different options’ (recommendation 18).

10. The Government hasn’t shown how HS2 fits into an overall transport strategy. The committee strongly recommended ‘that if the Government decides to proceed with HS2 it should … set out in more detail than is available in the DfT’s business plan not only why HS2 is desirable but also how it fits within an overall transport strategy’ (recommendation 2) and ‘make clear how HS2 fits into its wider aviation strategy’ (recommendation 11).

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Written by hs2questions

November 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm

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