Today we had another sign of how desperate the campaign for the new high speed rail line, HS2 have become. While the Government are sticking to their guns and backing the scheme for now, the public are clearly opposed to this white elephant. A YouGov/TPA poll found that 48% would support cancelling funding for it against 34% who would oppose doing so.
Instead of trying to build a more credible case for the new line, or set out more realistic and affordable plans, proponents of HS2 are just upping the ante with ever more ludicrous claims about its potential effects. We will be keeping up the pressure and you can help by replying to the Government's consultation on the scheme this week, it closes at the end of Friday.
Arup/Volterra have written a report that is available on the Campaign for HSR website and being parroted by a number of politicians today. It is utter nonsense. There is a lot in there, so here are just three examples:
- On the basis of a few weak, largely unquantified and unsystematic examples they have cherry picked, they claim that high speed rail typically exceeds demand forecasts. If you instead look at proper systematic research by Danish academics they found that passenger forecasts are overestimated in 9 out of 10 rail projects, with an average overestimation of 106 per cent. High speed rail is no great exception to that pattern. The Spanish had to close a service at the end of last month, the Dutch high speed network has recently been facing bankruptcy.
- Their analysis on jobs seems to consist of an estimate of how many jobs the "Core Cities" connected by the line are likely to generate, and then just arguing that creating those jobs will be harder if they don't have enough rail capacity. HS2 isn't creating those jobs, the cities are! Given that Chris Stokes has set out a far more affordable plan that could deliver the rail capacity needed this is simply nonsense.
- They uncritically repeat the Greengauge 21 claim that all sorts of services not on the route will benefit from the capacity released by HS2. But the Government's current plan includes billions of pounds of cuts in existing services, not expensive new subsidies to expand them.
The Government's consultation will be finishing at the end of this week. The questions are ridiculously misleading and clearly designed to get the 'right' answer so a proper, independent inquiry would be a lot more valuable. That's why we focused on our response to the Transport Select Committee who we hope will show the independence to call out the weaknesses in these proposals.
But as we've always said we can't ignore the opportunities politicians do give us to have our say. It is important that we show we are willing to engage. You can submit to the consultation here, and you don't need to provide a substantive answer to all the questions. The critical question is number two, about whether or not HS2 is the right project. Please submit to the consultation and let the Government know they should cancel HS2.