See, see, I told you so!

Almost all of it is money deemed to have been saved by reducing travel times. Business customers, it says, will save £17.6bn by getting there faster; leisure customers £11.1bn. Nowhere in the documents are these figures explained or justified. I spent the whole of Monday pressing the Department for Transport, asking for an explanation of how it converted time into money. The department spent eight hours of frantic searching to discover, just before 5pm, that it did indeed have a model, which it described as \”frightfully complicated\”.

Peoples\’ time does have a value and it\’s a value which should be included in estimations of the costs and benefits of a scheme.

If this is applied to high speed trains then it should also be applied to the time people have to spend sorting domestic waste…..

7 thoughts on “See, see, I told you so!”

  1. But… it’s not a bad piece by Monbiot. At least he’s not just “we should have trains because they’re better”. He’s looked at HST vs car, taken into account the CO2 of building it. Maybe moving in the right direction?

  2. If they are worried about time, they should

    a) Scrap Stamp Duty
    b) Get the State out of education, so it can rapidly become like most services, with surplus capacity and good providers within reach.

    This will enable many people to move nearer their work and avoid all the wasted hours commuting.

  3. “frightfully complicated”?

    Average wage = 23,000 pa

    Average working year 1880 hours

    Average hourly cost 12.23.

    Okay reality might be a little more complex than that, but I suspect “frightfully complicated” is Civil Service for “we pulled the number out of our bums but we can’t say that so we’ll make ups some rubbish about it being too complex for simple folk like you”

  4. If they know how much time is worth, they can work out how much more to charge for train tickets. If the extra revenue can pay for the upgrade, do it. If not, don’t.

  5. Tim,

    You are right to say that people’s time is valuable. That is an economic reality.
    For the Department of Transport it seems to be a fluid concept. Eighteen months ago travel time was not taken into account in the calculations for getting people in Manchester to switch to public transport by means of the carrot of more public transport and the stick of the conjestion charge. In other words, most people would pay quite a high conjestion charge to gain more leisure time.
    As rail is already more expensive than cars, any high speed rail link would have to be paid for by quite steep road tolls, along with a taxes on coach travel and short haul air travel.

    http://manicbeancounter.wordpress.com/2008/12/13/manchester-rejects-conjestion-charge/

  6. @TRM, the model will be far more complex than that because of whatever assumptions it makes about people’s time on leisure journeys (you can’t base that on the median wage, you need to base it on observed decisionmaking behaviour); because of the differences between marginal and average wages; because of treatment of non-earners; because business journeys on HSR will likely be concentrated among people whose hourly rate is far higher than the median wage; and so on.

    “Frightfully complicated” here can be read in the sense of “it’s 5pm on a Friday, the analyst who compiled the assumptions isn’t around and nor’s the senior statistician who signed them off, nobody else is willing to try and explain them in case they get something slightly wrong and cause a political storm – particularly when they’re talking to a journalist who isn’t famed for his grasp of data at the best of times, and who we know is opposed to the project”.

    @MBC, curiously, that’s the opposite of what happened in London, where the CC fell short of revenue targets because of its higher-than-expected impact on road traffic growth.

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