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The peculiar sources of the benefits, 5th November 2015

 More evidence on how government “cooked the books” to justify HS2

The previous Transport Watch press release showed that the percentage on business, assumed by HS2 in its latest economic analyses, is far above that suggested by survey data.  Without that boost the scheme would fail the cost benefit test, but it gets worse.

The table below sets out the sources of the supposed benefits in £(millions).

Item 
Phase 1
Full Network
(1).Improved Access
1,094
1,115
(2) Reduced crowding
4,068
7,514
(3) Quicker interchange
810
4,146
(4) Reduced waiting
3,508
8,081
(5) Reduced walking
404
1,330
(6) Reduced train time
11,518
31,007
(7). Improved reliability
2,624
5,496
Totals
24,026
58,689
Benefits to road users
568
1,162
Total excluding Wider Economic benefits
24,594
59,851
Contentious Items total [(1)+(3)+(5)+(7)]
4,932
12,087

Astonishingly only circa 50% of the benefits are due to reduced train time, a factor not hitherto noticed by the Transport Committee of the House of Commons or by the Economic Affairs Committee of the House of Lords. 

Transport watch points out that out that several of the other items are implausible.

  • Why on earth will access, item (1) above, be better.  It may well be worse. Stations may be more remote.  
  • The trains are immensely long, up to 400 metres.  The new platforms will be relatively remote from other services.  Hence, Interchange may be worse, item (3) above, and walking, item (5) may be extended rather than shortened.  Certainly that is the case at Euston.
  • Improved reliability, item (7) above is supposed to generate £5.5 billion for the full network.  For heaven’s sake; surely the trains can be made to run on time without building a vastly expensive, heavily loss making, high-speed rail network?

Striking those contentious items out would remove benefits worth £5bn from Phase 1 and £12bn from the full network. That alone would destroy the economic case for both.

Paul Withrington, director of Transport Watch comments:

“The more one digs into the detail the weaker that case becomes.  It is insupportable that £50 billion should be hazarded on such fragile grounds”.

“The supposed benefits put forward by HS2 Ltd do not stand examination.  At the least a risk factor should be applied in case the forecast passenger do not arise and in recognition of the fragility of the other assumptions.  An overall reduction of as little as 20% would destroy the case which, even in its present optimistic form, is desperately weak.

For more details, or to arrange an interview, please contact Paul Withrington on 01604 847438 or pwith@transport-watch.co.uk



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