Opinion Former Article

High Speed rail plans are fundamentally flawed

The analysis behind High Speed 2 (HS2) is fundamentally flawed warns Europe’s biggest engineering body, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has said.

In the IET’s response to the HS2 proposals they identified a number of factual omissions which call into question the economic, business and environmental case for the project.

Jeremy Acklam of the IET said: “I’m very surprised by the government’s announcement, not least because it shows that they have put the cart before the horse. If we just look at the economic case, the comparators used in the analysis are inconsistent and do not represent the best realistic alternatives against which HS2 should have been judged. That alone is cause for concern, but then there are engineering, environmental, and business concerns to also take into account. We had hoped that the Secretary of State’s announcement would have addressed these vital areas of concern, which we flagged up some time ago.”

Peter Sheppard, Chairman of the IET Transport Policy Panel added: “The High Speed Rail proposals are riddled with factual omissions, which leaves us now wondering how and when a whole raft of urgent concerns are going to be addressed. Surely these concerns should have been addressed prior to a final decision being announced.”

The concerns cited by the IET fall into four categories:


Environmental

· HS2 may not reduce carbon emissions, something subsequently recommended by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, which suggested HS2 ‘should not be promoted as a carbon reduction scheme’.

Engineering

· Lack of justification for an infrastructure design speed of 400km/h given the significant cost and energy consumption.

Economic

· There is insubstantial evidence presented to suggest that time spent on trains is wasted or that HS2 will reduce the North-South economic divide. This undermines the economic case considerably.

Business

· Why HS2 was considered in isolation to other factors when the economic impact of a high-speed line has a direct link to the economic viability of other routes. For example, no post-HS2 route plans have been presented for the West Coast Main Line.

· In addition, the uncertainty about passenger forecasts over such a long period should be factored in; this does not appear to have happened with the current HS2 plans.

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