Doesn’t surprise in the slightest

Boris Johnson’s decision to axe a large section of the High Speed Two rail network (HS2) was taken without a formal assessment of whether the benefits of the remaining line would still outweigh the costs, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.

None of the project, at any point, has passed a rational cost benefit analysis. Why change habits now?

19 thoughts on “Doesn’t surprise in the slightest”

  1. If I’d been spending the money, I’d have spent it on nukes. But then I’m a paranoid Islamophobic xenophobe.

  2. Bogan, Nuclear power or Trident? Or both?

    And “None of the project, at any point, has passed a rational cost benefit analysis” is just as relevant to the covid fiasco.
    Sir Desmond Swayne MP, yesterday “I’ve decided I’m exempt from wearing a mask due to my genetic predisposition to liberty”. The more people resist this the sooner it will be over.

  3. Nuclear power Addolff. As a white haired old bastard, I still remember the oil crisis. Naturally I don’t trust those fiendish Mahometans an inch.

  4. @Addolff

    It passed an irrational cost benefit analysis though: imagined benefits and artificial costs – sorry “externalities” applied to any possible alterative not being applied to the white elephant is question.

    Using such irrational cost benefit analyses, anything can be justified. See windmills, solar panels, milk floats, heat pumps………..

  5. “whether the benefits.. outweigh the costs”

    Well no such consideration was given to lockdowns or to ‘going green’ so why bother with something as trivial in comparison as a train line?

  6. Given the original process was a complete nonsense I don’t see why binning it cannot take the same route

    Seems to me the local population will get better transport links much quicker and more cheaply although the serried ranks of leaches, middlemen, lobbyists, corporate cronies and sundry consultants won’t

    Two cheers?

  7. The benefits to a few well-connected opportunists, the costs to a lot of people who may never see the damn thing much less ride on it.

    Pile o’ money theory in practical application. Plus the suspicion that some projects exist ONLY to enable a pile of money to be exploited. It doesn’t even matter if a train turns a wheel at the end of it.

  8. In this country we mix express, commuter and freight rail on the same lines. This is inefficient. It is hard to maximise the use of the track. Creating dedicated express track would improve the efficiency of the network. HS2 creates dedicated express track. So far, so good.

    However, the next idea of HS2 was that we only needed a single track connecting the big urban areas. London – Birmingham – Manchester, plus a small bit to connect Leeds. For this to work the track would need to be able to run very fast trains. The reason for this was so that even if you had to take a slow train from Newcastle to Leeds, the Leeds to London trip would be so fast that it would make up for the slow part of the trip. The track has been specified to 400 KMph. That makes it very expensive. It also means that the track needs to be as straight as possible and hence the track must use certain routes.

    If we accepted that we needed more dedicated express track, we could have opted for express trains travelling at slower speeds. This was the idea behind HSUK, which was an alternative to HS2.

  9. It never added up. Most rail travel (and especially the expensive stuff) is commuting and not many people commute from Leeds to Manchester. There’s plenty of cheap places to live around Manchester, same with Leeds.

    Business travel? Why would you bother? Manchester isn’t the road mayhem that London is. Meet a client at 10am and you have mostly empty roads. Parking in the centre isn’t difficult.

    It’s very simple to do a recalculation. Take the original report and half the expected income (which is conservative by current rail usage). “It doesn’t add up. We’ll revisit it if the commuters return”. I mean, even the most hopeful estimates are that 20% of rail is permanently gone, which buys us years before we need this.

    Sadly, Leeds is going to get a fucking tram. Something that does what a bus does, but with less flexibility and at a higher cost. Which is why our grandparents ditched the fucking things.

  10. @Bloke on M4

    The only issue I have with your analysis is how long it takes to get anything built. If you are going to build a new train lines or road, then you will always have the possibility of a pandemic situation temporarily reducing demand for a few years. So if you cancel and then find that three or four years later demand has returned, you are back in a position of needing a new train line or road. You have to start a new project, work out the financing, go through the planning permission process, etc.

    Ultimately you have to bite the bullet and build something.

  11. @salamander

    True but in that case you need to build something that can react with flexibility to surges and falls in required capacity

    Trains are not it

    Neither are trams

    Express coaches and/or buses are

  12. @Starfish

    This does not work for coaches and buses. What made cars, coaches and buses useful were good quality roads. These vehicles are useless unless you have roads where the surface is smooth enough to allow for efficient travel.

    Such roads are expensive and take time to build. So if you do not have enough capacity on the trains, then you force people onto the roads. This increases the traffic on the roads requiring you to build more roads. These take time and money to build, just like trains and track.

    It does not matter with mode of transport you are talking about, it always costs money and time to increase capacity. So if you want to a more efficient transportation system but you do not want to increase capacity – no HS2, Leeds tram, etc, then you pretty much of to prevent people from travel, regardless which mode they use.

    The best way to do that is to tax all transportation. Cars, trains, trams, buses, coaches, airplanes, all of it. Control demand through taxation. That way you only have to maintain what you have and you can ensure that it operates efficiently.

    Of course what the public will think of being taxed into staying home all the time is another matter.

  13. “In this country we mix express, commuter and freight rail on the same lines. … Creating dedicated express track would improve the efficiency of the network.”

    We used to have this. Most main lines were four or more tracks, allowing segregation of services. Most of them were ripped up just leaving a single pair of tracks, forcing all services to share the same lines. In many places the trackbed still exists, you can put that extra pair of tracks back in.

  14. Oh god , he’s saving the money for another olympic or commonwealth games or festival of the North or something.

  15. People should jet-ski to work on the canals. Or, in harsh winters, skate. (We can expect more harsh winters because of Global Warming.)

  16. @salamander

    I take your point but rail and tramways are only useful for one mode of transport

    roads can be used by a lot of different users flexibly and increasing capacity can be achieved through those improvements

    So build/maintain/improve the road network

  17. Let’s assume, arguendo, that the rail network (WCML and ECML) needs more capacity, as Salamander insists. Very well, let’s build a new main line from London to the north, but what we don’t need is very high speed track, which vastly increases the cost, noise, power consumption and general inconvenience and means the trains can’t service any intermediate points (Milton Keynes, Coventry, …) – this isn’t a problem for HS lines in France or Spain, where there are only scattered villages between population hubs separated by a couple of hundred miles.

    In fact, we could just reinstate the Great Central main line – there’s a fully costed project to do this for a tiny fraction of what HS2 will cost. It would only run at 145 mph, rather than 225 mph, but the only thing that extra speed gains us is willy-waving against our continental neighbours.

  18. salamander,

    “The only issue I have with your analysis is how long it takes to get anything built. If you are going to build a new train lines or road, then you will always have the possibility of a pandemic situation temporarily reducing demand for a few years. So if you cancel and then find that three or four years later demand has returned, you are back in a position of needing a new train line or road. You have to start a new project, work out the financing, go through the planning permission process, etc.”

    Even if this is purely temporary, and only about Covid, the data for season ticket kms travelled (which is a reasonable proxy for how many people are travelling at peak hours) was falling even before Covid. They peaked in 2015/16.

    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/761668/rai0103.ods

    The HS2 projections were based on a high rate of growth, something like the mid-90s to 2010 if I recall. But peak rail growth from 2008 to 2018 was was 5% for the whole period, or less than 0.5% per year. Which both undermines the financial case for it, and any idea that we have to rush it in to supply the necessary capacity. And the explanation for this was people working from home, whether part-time or full-time. This was growing even before Covid, and Covid has just forced everyone to try it, and most of them are carrying on.

  19. as an aside and incidentally… When it comes to brits dumping expensive projects..

    I believe the RN is trying their hand at F35’s nowadays.. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *