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Joining our grim litany of bad decisions by government (on fracking, social housing, destroying Libyan fresh water pipeline, etc) is a 130-page report on the HS2 project, just released by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.
This adds to concerns over HS2’s value for money expressed by the National Audit Office, echoing a similar report published by the Commons Public Accounts Committee in January. None of the media reports seen – as is often the case – provide a link to the report, which we now offer: Report: The Economic Case for HS2 (HTML)
Lord Hollick, chairman of the Lords’ committee, said overcrowding on the West Coast Main Line was largely a problem confined to Friday evenings, weekends on long-distance trains and London-bound commuter trains.
Evidence showed long-distance trains to and from Euston were, on average, only 43% full and even during peak times were only 50-60% full.
He added that the Government has not carried out a proper assessment of whether alternative ways of increasing capacity are more cost-effective than HS2 and concluded that in terms of rebalancing the economy, London is likely to be the main beneficiary from HS2.
The FT noted that although the government claims the biggest beneficiaries will be business travellers, peers said the evidence used to calculate the magnitude of this benefit, an estimated £40.5bn, was “out of date and unconvincing”, with some of it dating from 1994.
On capacity – it continued – the peers criticised the transport department for a lack of transparency and said full information on railway use had not been made publicly available by the government on grounds of commercial sensitivity.
No consideration of the social and environmental costs of the project was included in the report’s list of contents.
Posted in Civil servants, Conflict of interest, Corporate political nexus, Democracy undermined, Economy, Environment, Finance, Government, Lobbying, Lords, Parliamentary failure, Planning, Secret State, Taxpayers' money, Vested interests