Public Accounts Committee raise similar concerns to us

There are some simple inconvenient truths about HS2 mainly:

  • the costs have been downplayed
  • the demand has been overestimated
  • this will leave the tax-payer out of pocket whilst vested interests line their pockets

We have been saying this for some time, to anyone who would listen, including the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last year.

They have now released a report criticising the approach the DfT has taken to developing high speed rail, in the past and currently with HS2. Words the Chair Margaret Hodge has used about their approach in the committee meetings include bonkers, biased, potty – a great video sums it up by clicking on the YouTube linkYou can read the report here PAC Review of HS1

Hillingdon Against HS2 is always ahead of the game on these issues:

  • we have previously spotted ££billions missing in the official HS2 economic spreadsheets, which HS2 accepted and then amended without a word of reply to us
  • we raised this with local MPs, PAC and the Office of Budget Responsibility last year, we hope we have made some impact on their view of HS2 and highlighted that the way the DfT and HS2 Ltd. work is flawed
  • we have requested and complained about the burial of a DfT report that destroyed the business case since last year
  • we have lobbied our local MPs to press for the release of the report by the Major Projects Authority that rated HS2 as an Amber/Red alert, only known about thanks to Margaret Hodge’s insistent questioning at the PAC

Our campaign continues – there are many more fatal flaws yet to be recognised by politicians and we will be glad to keep uncovering and highlighting them until HS2 is stopped.

Here is what the PAC press release said:

The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said;
“Whilst HS1 provides an efficient service, contributing in an important way to British transport infrastructure, there were costly mistakes in the history of the project. These must not be repeated with HS2. HS1 was supposed to pay for itself but instead the taxpayer has had to pay out £4.8 billion so far to cover the debt on the project.

“The root of the problem is the inaccurate and wildly optimistic forecasts for passenger numbers both when the line was being planned and when the Department restructured its deal with the contractor, London & Continental Railways Limited. International passenger numbers have only been a third of LCR’s original forecast and two thirds of the Department’s forecast. The Department failed to take into account the growth of low cost airlines or the competitive response of the ferry companies.”

“This isn’t the first time that over-optimistic planning and insufficiently robust testing of planning assumptions has got the Department into trouble. My Committee’s report on the East Coast Mainline raised similar concerns. HS1 will continue to cost the taxpayer money–£10.2 billion over the next 60 years, so before going ahead with HS2 we need a robust cost benefit analysis.”

“Some of the Department’s assumptions about the benefits of faster travel are simply untenable. For example, the time business travellers save by using high speed rail is valued at £54 per hour yet the time commuters save getting to and from work is only valued at £7 per hour. It is difficult to see how this can be justified. The Department also assumes that all time spent on a train is unproductive. And unrealistic assumptions about ticket prices act to exaggerate passenger demand forecasts. The Department also told us that it had not considered the benefits and costs of alternatives to HS2 such as investment in broadband videoconferencing or investment in alternative, more local train routes.”
“It is nonsense that the Department does not have a full understanding of the wider economic impact and regeneration benefits of transport infrastructure, including HS1, to inform future investment decisions. All these things are crucial for proving the case for investment in long distance travel and demonstrating value for money. The Department must revisit its assumptions on HS2 and develop a full understanding of the benefits and costs of high speed travel compared to the alternatives.”

Read Stop HS2’s reaction to the report here

 

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