HS2 Questions

Examining the issues around the proposed High Speed 2 route

Posts Tagged ‘DfT

Budget debate: the pursuit of icons

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Budget debate: Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham, Conservative)

“I notice that HS2 is again included in the infrastructure pipeline. In the words of Sir Rod Eddington in his 2006 transport study:

‘The risk is that transport policy can become the pursuit of icons. Almost invariably such projects—‘grands projects’—develop real momentum, driven by strong lobbying. The momentum can make such projects difficult—and unpopular—to stop, even when the benefit:cost equation does not stack up…The resources absorbed by such projects could often be much better used elsewhere.’

Public sector overspend is certainly the trend. Two recent projects—HS1 and the channel tunnel—went 36% and 99% over budget respectively, and the average overspend on 11 recent major public sector building projects has been 158%. If HS2 continues, that trend will cost around £72 billion, and the Institute of Economic Affairs has estimated that it could go up to £80 billion.

We do not even know what the HS2 compensation packages will add up to. There are nearly 500,000 properties within 1 km of the proposed line, but the Government have not yet been able to give us details of the compensation package. I hope that when the Financial Secretary to the Treasury responds to the debate, he will be able to provide a light at the end of that particular tunnel, although I hope that it will not be in the form of a train coming towards me. Those people need to know what the compensation package will be, and when it will become available. Constituents of mine are losing their houses and their livelihoods. They are being evicted from their properties without proper compensation, and they need to know that the Government are listening and paying attention to this matter.

This project has to be queried at every step along the way. We are still paying down a large debt, and to pay down the money that will be spent on HS2 will involve us in untold interest and expenditure. Even business and industry do not want HS2. The Institute of Directors recently surveyed more than 1,300 directors to gather their views. The results revealed that the IOD’s members
would rather see £50 billion spent on bringing Britain’s existing transport infrastructure into the 21st century. Over the past two years, the importance of high-speed rail to IOD members’ businesses has fallen significantly. HS2 is not the infrastructure project that Britain needs; nor is it the one that British business wants. Not enough businesses stand to benefit from it. It will benefit the
few businesses, rather than the many.”


Written by hs2questions

March 20, 2014 at 8:50 pm

How does the WCML franchise debacle impact on HS2?

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The West Coast Mainline (WCML) franchise debacle has a significant impact on HS2.


The problem as DfT have admitted it is:
“The flaws stem from the way the level of risk in the bids was evaluated. Mistakes were made in the way in which inflation and passenger numbers were taken into account, and how much money bidders were then asked to guarantee as a result”.


So essentially its about risk and how to cope with it.  It’s a bigger problem now in the new franchise structure, introduced by the Coalition, because franchises are longer, typically 15 years. DfT can’t just re-feed the four different WCML bids into their model, as its their model that is bust.


The link between the WCML franchise and HS2 is around capacity. The claims about capacity are inconsistent.


First Group project a doubling in demand by 2026.  They say they can accommodate this without any more capacity on the southern part of WCML ie just the already extended 11 car Pendolinos.  They say the franchise has unused capacity and they start with just 35% seat occupancy.


But this leaves the opportunity in 2026 to increase capacity by extending all of the fleet to 11 car and then to 12 car (excluding Liverpool) and to rebalance first and standard class accommodation, as its standard class that suffers overcrowding, i.e. the 51m alternative.


In effect, the DfT are accepting that there is no need for HS2 on capacity grounds.


The Government has now admitted that there are fundamental problems with the way DfT evaluates projects and makes decisions. The parallels with HS2 are very relevant:


  • On the consultation process, by their own admission with lost responses
  • On the business case on numerous matters, such as not applying the latest forecast model, not incorporating pricing, not applying their own research into value of time, not adequately assessing rail and non rail alternatives; undervaluing landscape losses
  • On the environmental case, which led to take legal action as they have not followed the correct process.
It was only the legal action that Virgin took that led to the errors and incompetence of DfT to be exposed. Expect similar revelations as a result of our HS2 legal challenges on 3 December.


A further twist was revealed in an interesting article by Sue Cameron in the Telegraph today:


“Yet by yesterday afternoon rumours were starting to circulate in Whitehall that ministers may have been better informed about some of the details of assessing franchise bids than it first appeared. The DfT says mistakes were made in the way projections for inflation and passenger numbers were calculated. Unconfirmed reports suggest that ministers were told months ago that the method being used to forecast inflation in the West Coast bids was the same as that being used for HS2, the London-to-Birmingham high-speed rail project. There are also claims, again unconfirmed it must be stressed, that ministers were warned that if the method for calculating inflation was changed for both projects then HS2 would no longer be viable”.


Written by hs2questions

October 4, 2012 at 11:07 am

When will Norman Baker get up to speed on High Speed 2?

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Norman Baker says HS2 is good for the environment and needed for capacity reasons.

It seems he is exceptionally poorly briefed on HS2 for a senior minister. His view that HS2 will benefit the environment is two years out of date – even the Green Party are against it. And the idea that we are running out of capacity is over a year out of date. The 51m alternative meets DfT demand forecasts. Furthermore, First Group say they will start their franchise with only a 35% loading and will easily cope with a doubling of demand to 2026.

As someone who championed the growth of telecommuting, it seems strange that he is supporting such an old fashioned and inefficient transport project, especially as the benefits, calculated using DfT guidelines, are only 40p for every £1 of subsidy. The alternatives cost 1/10th as much and produce over £5 of benefit for each £1 cost. HS2 is unnecessary and bonkers.

Written by hs2questions

September 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Official figures show HS2 is a dead duck

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David Cameron said he leads a government that doesn’t keep ploughing into a brick wall, it has the common sense to change its mind.

HS2 has reached a brick wall. Three killer facts have emerged from the government itself. No government with common sense could possibly continue. It’s only a matter of time, though every week of delay means more good money thrown after bad and less time to implement the better and more affordable alternatives.


Official killer fact #1: the business case has collapsed


The official business case has fallen apart. The benefit cost ratio (BCR) for phase 1 has fallen from 2.4 in March 2010 to just 1.2 today and 1.4 for the whole Y. A fifth downgrade is expected to be released in the summer incorporating the new, lower GDP figures.


Even the official BCR of 1.2 (and falling) massively overstates that case. Using the latest Passenger Demand Forecast Handbook (v5.0) cuts the BCR by 0.4. Using the correct figure for business passengers’ earnings cuts it by a further 0.3. And assuming time is not wasted on trains cuts the figure further still. The true figure is likely to be under 0.3, i.e. 30p of benefit for every £1 invested.


Even 1.2 is well below acceptable limits for government funding and well below the alternative proposed by 51m, which has a BCR of over 5.



Official killer fact #2: “successful delivery in doubt”


The BCR above relies on successful delivery of the project. However, the Major Projects Authority has given the HS2 project an Amber / Red rating, meaning: “the successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas.”



Official killer fact #3: the capacity crunch is a myth


The July 2011 Rail Utilisation Strategy shows that long distance services in to Euston are at just 60% of capacity for the three hours of peak morning demand, and just 64% in the busiest hour. This makes Euston the least busy long distance service; Paddington and Waterloo are both over 100% in the peak hour. Furthermore, Euston utilisation will fall as new carriages are added this year. And as the 51m alternative delivers more capacity than the DfT forecast, there is no capacity crunch on the West Coast Mainline for many decades, if at all.



So HS2 is not needed and makes no economic sense. The Government should abandon the project now before more money is wasted. Instead, David Cameron should have the common sense to take a fresh look at the more affordable alternatives, which will increase capacity and cut journey times for more people, and more quickly, than HS2, as well as creating the jobs and growth we urgently need.

Written by hs2questions

June 3, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Open letter to Justine Greening

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12 January 2012


Rt Hon Justine Greening MP

House of Commons




Dear Secretary of State

You said you would look at HS2 rationally. And yet you ignore your own department’s evidence that our alternative generates over £6 return for every £1 invested compared with under £2 return on HS2. Furthermore, half the stated benefits from HS2 are from the erroneous assumption that time is unproductive on trains, which your predecessor recognised was not the case.

Network rail also agree that our alternative meets HS2 Ltd demand forecasts and had to produce a new forecast to make the case.

Not so long ago you said with reference to Heathrow Runway 3:

We have had a consultation, to which residents have responded overwhelmingly by saying that they do not want the plan to go ahead. Despite all those points, Ministers still seek to override people’s will. That is deeply worrying.”

Yet now as a minister you have completely ignored and buried the consultation response on HS2, which was massively against HS2 on every question.

In particular, on compensation, your predecessor promised that householders affected by a national strategic project would be fairly compensated. The consultation offered three options and response was overwhelmingly in favour of the property purchase bond. Yet you have offered the worst possible scheme, an extended hardship scheme that will leave thousands trapped in their homes until 2027.

You and your Government have engaged in the very worst of the “weasel words”, fiddling the figures and reneging on promises that have brought politicians into such contempt. This must be deeply disappointing for those MPs who are men and women of integrity and who seek to make rational decisions for the good of the country.

As country after country in Europe and Asia discover the folly of inappropriate, politically driven High Speed Rail projects, we will continue to work hard to inform the public, the media and your colleagues of this damaging and wasteful decision.

Yours sincerely


Jerry Marshall

Chairman, AGAHST Federation

Written by hs2questions

January 12, 2012 at 1:22 pm

HS2 now a major vote loser – YouGov poll shows 2/3rds against

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Nearly two thirds of population opposed to money being spent on HS2

20th December 2011 – A YouGov public opinion poll has found that nearly two thirds of the public oppose money being spent on the planned £32 billion high speed rail link between London and Birmingham (HS2).

64 per cent of those surveyed in the poll (commissioned by groups opposed to HS2) believe that it is wrong to spend money on the proposed line at this time. In June this year 48 per cent of respondents to a YouGov poll for the Tax Payers’ Alliance were opposed to plans to fund what will be, per mile, the world’s most expensive railway.

Voter opposition

The latest poll found that 66 per cent of Labour’s general election voters are opposed to HS2, which was originally proposed by a Labour Government. 68 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters are against the line along with the majority of Conservative voters, 59 per cent.

North South Divide

While supporters of HS2 believe that it will help close the North-South divide both regions are already united in their opposition to it. 62 per cent of Northern respondents; 64 per cent of those surveyed in London and 66 per cent of respondents in the South think that it is wrong to spend money on it at the current time.

Despite the Scottish Government’s enthusiasm for the line, 70 per cent of Scottish respondents are opposed to HS2, which will cost UK taxpayers £773 million in planning and consultants in the current Parliament alone. Perhaps most interestingly, respondents from the Midlands and Wales, the region that takes in Birmingham where the phase of the line will terminate, came out 64 per cent in favour of shelving spending on the project.


The news does not get any better for proponents of the line when opposition is split by gender, with 71 per cent of women against the environmentally damaging project.

Commenting on the survey results, Jerry Marshall, Chairman, AGAHST, said;

“The tide has turned, and HS2 is now opposed by voters across all party lines. It is clearly the wrong priority in the eyes of the majority of the public, with only a quarter of the population still supporting it. It is time for the Government to think again and tackle our country’s real transport priorities.”

Written by hs2questions

December 20, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Peak time trains from Euston only half full – so why do we need HS2?

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The following findings & conclusions are pasted in from a peak time survey of Intercity trains from Euston to the Midlands and the North. We had tried to obtain official data under FOI but were refused.

  • There were no exceptional events or circumstances that we were aware of and in our opinion results will be accurate to a level of 1 (one) error in 100 (hundred) passengers counted.
  • We were surprised that the average loading across all peak trains (16.30 – 18.59) was only 56%.
  • Even more surprising were the loadings on the peak Manchester and Liverpool services, which were on average less than 45% full.
  • There was a significant difference between trains making an extra stop at Milton Keynes (average loading 107%) and other trains. Milton Keynes trains appear crowded.
  • The first trains after 19.00 (7 trains from 19.00 – 19.30) – when much cheaper off peak tickets are allowed – had higher loadings (average 67%).
  • Comment: If there is crowding in standard class this could potentially be dealt with through reconfiguring the carriage mix. (We also understand that two extra carriages will be added from 2012 which will cut the total load factors even further.)

(Customer Research Technology Ltd, 30 November 2011)

So why are those in favour of HS2 claiming there is a capacity problem we need to deal with? There are more urgent capacity issues: for example, some Reading to Paddington trains are at 200% loading. On the West Coast Mainline, we do need to deal with trains to Milton Keynes and Northants. This cannot wait until 2026 and can be solved at a cost of £243m at Ledburn junction, half the cost of the recently announced 1.5 mile tunnel in the Chilterns. We also need to deal with the ‘fare cliff’ problem of high loading on the first off peak trains after 7pm.

None of this justifies a net cost of £45bn to the taxpayer.

Written by hs2questions

December 5, 2011 at 1:07 pm

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