HS2’s enemies take heart from rail franchise fiasco

The abandoned west coast main line rail franchise could be followed by the scrapping of the Department for Transport's controversial planned high speed rail network linking London with Birmingham, its opponents are hoping.

Campaigners opposing High Speed 2 (HS2), which will cost over £30 billion and take 20 years to build, believe the same mistakes which fundamentally undermined the franchise competition have been made for HS2.

"The Department for Transport have been shown to be completely incompetent in their forecasting and their appraisal of risk. We've been saying this right from the start," Stop HS2's campaign coordinator Joe Rukin told politics.co.uk at the Labour party conference in Manchester.

"It's the same people using the same methodology that have messed up the west coast mainline that have producing the figures for HS2.

"This has just proved that what we've always known the case to support HS2 has been completely fabricated, just to try to push it through. It is a disaster waiting to happen."

A judicial review set to take place later this year will challenge the consultation process used by DfT. Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle has already predicted to politics.co.uk that the government's case will be thrown out by judges, presenting a major setback to what would be one of Britain's biggest transport infrastructure projects in decades.

Former Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan, a vocal critic of HS2, was quick to move against the government she served as recently as last month after details of the franchise competition's cancellation emerged on Tuesday morning.

"This will undoubtedly have had an effect on the HS2 project business case which is based on similar passenger numbers and assumptions," she said.

"The department has also, to date, failed to take on board the complete lack of confidence people now have in the process being used for progressing HS2.

"Many of its experts in my constituency and beyond have been pointing to significant technical flaws in passenger number assumptions, engineering calculations, environmental approaches, as well as the mistakes that have been made even in the simple collection and analysis of responses to consultations."

Stop HS2 said FirstGroup, which was on course to take over the west coast franchise until this week's developments, had used figures on its bid which correlated with HS2's passenger projections.

"The government have now been forced to admit that these projections are completely flawed in relation to the west coast main line, so it is only a matter of time before they will be forced to admit they are flawed in relation to HS2," chair Penny Gaines said.

"We have known the figures for HS2 haven't stacked up from the start and now it is time for the government to admit it too before more taxpayers' money is squandered."

The HS2 judicial review will take place on December 3rd.