Dear Mr. Millington,
The national media seem to be promoting High Speed Train links, but such enthusiasm has no basis in fact. This countries politicians merely have a new “bandwagon” on which to jump, and presumably think it is a good idea with which to “re-polish” their tarnish images. This is a very, very dangerous belief, in a country which is apparently at its’ lowest financial ebb for decades. This project is a National financial disaster waiting to happen, and could potentially cost more than the recent banking fiasco.
HS2 is suppose to link Central London with Central Birmingham, it doesn’t. It will cut London to Birmingham journey times by 40 minutes (BBC quote). HS2 quote a journey time 49-50 minutes; Virgin Trains ran a 60 minute service on existing track in the 1990s. The service now to be provided starts on the outskirts of the city of Birmingham, and runs to Old Oak Common in West London, and will require passengers to detrain and take a further 25-30 minute local journey to attain Central London. (What businessmen or travellers will want this option).
The original business case for the line was thought to be overstated and dubious by the DFT and Railtrack (who surely have a vested interest in seeing it proceed), while independent examiners were somewhat more brutal. Since that time, and having now reached October with no formal announcements as to its final form, cost cuttings have shorn HS2 of:- a central London station, a route for a direct link to that termini and a link to Heathrow Airport (but will have preparations made for the link). The governments own advisors have stated that the line is now devoid of any hope of being commercially viable due to the cost cutting.
The considerable “benefits” regarding economy, environmental issues, passenger numbers, potential growth and traffic relief have been shown to be overstated, inaccurate or false. HS2Ltd bases its financial case on estimates that are at best badly inaccurate, and some should begin “Once upon a time”.
In 2007 the government published a transport white paper which was solidly against high speed lines, stating that the concept was too expensive and too inflexible given the long build time before benefits might accrue. What has changed? The line will require annual cash injections of billions of pounds from taxpayers, just to meet losses, until all work is complete (estimates vary, but it could be 20-25 years), while if HS2Ltds’ figures are not correct or inflated (which most experts believe they are), we will be in possession of the most expensive and useless “white elephant” in British history, while projects which will make a difference to our economy will be robbed of funds.
To demonstrate the point; HS1 (Paris/South Coast UK/St. Pancras) had a reasonable financial basis, but was thought to be a little optimistic in its’ projections. It is potentially the most viable High Speed route in the UK, but HS1 has proved what happens when figures are made artificially high to prove a business case. Its trains presently carry only 50% of the projected passenger numbers and services are to be cut or trains shortened to save costs. Worse still, it is now up for sale for £1.5 billion, while it cost £6 billion to construct. The business case for HS1 was far more realistic than that for HS2!
The most expensive constructions in the project now being removed (see above) from the budget expenditure, it is not unreasonable to believe that the cost of the initial line should be greatly reduced, but advised costs are as follows:-
March 2010 (The initial budget):-
£13 billion for a High Speed link between central London and central Birmingham.
£75 billion for the rest of the UK network.
After removing the most potentially expensive items from the budget.
Estimates of cost Oct. 2010
£34billion Old Oak Common to Outer Birmingham. (Quote from MP)
Therefore by extrapolation-
£200billion (approx) for the UK Network. (This figure does not include any continuing operational losses)
We only gave the bankers £150billion and look at the mess!
If anyone believes that “It is not near me, so it won’t affect me”, and thinks their fireproof…… Think again!
Michael P Turner