31 December, 2016
For HS2 2017 will see the time when shovels finally go into action. It marks the end of the beginning for the project. For many communities, the reality will be arriving shortly at the high-speed platform.
Since its approval in January, 2012 HS2 has been a constant factor in our lives. But as far as the mega-scheme is concerned, constancy is not always a good thing
In the five years since the go ahead was given, the business case has remained as dubious as ever. The underwhelming benefit-cost ratio has relied on significant elements of the costs consigned to an unfunded HS2 netherworld.
£56bn is an enormous sum. Much has been written with respect to more productive ways to spend taxpayers’ money for the good of the nation. More than this, there are equally strong arguments focused specifically on rail infrastructure investment. There are far more cost-effective ways to improve capacity.
In 2011 51m made the case that if the West Coast Mainline (WCML) was, indeed, ten years away from being ‘full’, there were much quicker and far cheaper alternatives to address the issue. To give just one example, replacing the ageing Pendalinos with 10-car Hitachi IEP trains would increase capacity on the WCML by 14.6%.
As the costliest of white elephants comes galumping down the track, another ever present factor is the woeful standard of community engagement. HS2 Ltd’s efforts to help those whose lives and businesses will be devastated, is best characterised as arrogant, secretive and blunder-prone. Sadly, it is the case that the benefits of experience have done little to improve the organisation’s performance in such a vital area of activity.
Happy New Year!