Friday, 23 August 2013

Murder on the HS2 Express

HS2 has yet again been in the news this week, and it's not very good for our good old friend Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary. Essentially it has been discovered HS2 is one of the most expensive things that the tax payer is going to have to bear this decade and this is all for an infrastructure project with no business case. What a waste.

  Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, used to be a miner at a time where nationalised industries were the biggest white Elephants.

It all started just before the summer recess when the Government announced they were increasing the budget of HS2 from the £32 billion. This figure they said was definitely going to be the maximum cost of the project despite having gone up from £17 billion. However the Government have now said HS2 will cost £42.6 billion with an added contingency budget. It seems the Government realised it needed to put out more realistic figures because he Treasury, the Transport Select Committee and lots of other independent organisations saying that HS2 will cost massively over the proposed budget. 

But is HS2 going to cost just shy of £50 billion? Erm ... no. This week the Institute of Economic Affairs joined in on the scene and said that HS2 is now going to cost £80 billion, more than double the original costings. To back this figure even more it was reported in the FT that the Treasury actually believes High Speed Rail will cost £72 billion.

 Even Alistair Darling can't believe his eyebrows when he sees the full cost of HS2.

I believe it is bordering on madness to stick with an infrastructure project that would be so costly to the public purse. To put the figures of the project into perspective, our national deficit in 2010 was £167 billion. This means if we did not build HS2 we would cut our deficit nearly in half. No wonder even Labour figures are turning against High Speed Rail. These are the people who supported the project in government because they are prepared to use Keynesian infrastructure spending to provide unsustainable jobs which give the false pretence of an economic recovery. Alistair Darling, who was Transport Secretary at the time of HS1, has said HS2 "could easily run out of control" with highly contentious economic benefits and plenty of Labour and Conservative MPs are backing his words on this.

The Government's reasoning behind HS2 is that it will see a growth in trade using the railways and save time for businesses in the North. There is a debate using evidence from French and Japanese versions of HS2 as to whether quicker railways actually centralises growth in capital cities. There may be no growth in the North at all. What is for certain is that some growth will occur but is it really worth £42.6 billion let alone £80 billion?

The Government's plans have so many flaws that similes of HS2 have gone past the sieve stage and have now entered the more realistic metaphor of a hoop. For example the Transport Department accounts the time travelling on the train as lost business hours. Yet it is true from anybodies experience that people work on trains. This was much pointed out by the Public Accounts Committee but the Government have yet to listen. Back in the time when HS2 was supposed to cost £17 billion, the Tax Payers Alliance worked out that each of the 40,000 jobs the government said would be created by the scheme would cost £400,000 each. Yet if we took the national average of the amount of money it cost to create a job HS2 should be producing 170,000 jobs, the same as the working population of Coventry. 

This whole High Speed Rail nonsense should be stopped now. It is probably, considering the magnitude of its spending, the worst decision made by the Government. It is a clear murder of the representative of the value for money and common business sense. We're all victims and the government should be called to account so it doesn't get away with such criminal waste. 

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