HS2 is madness but is it news?

Tuesday, February 18 2014

As an MEP on the EU Transport Committee I still wonder why the EU motivation for HS2 via the EU TENT-T project is never mentioned!!

The HS2 budget is as remarkable for what has been left out of the list of costs, as for what has been included. The 50bn cost has more or less now been admitted by Sir David Higgins, but his suggestion is, that if we build it more quickly, it will cost less. The fact is that the 50bn is at 2011 prices, thus whenever it is built it will cost more than 50bn because of inflation alone. He is, we are reminded, the man that brought the Olympics in 'under budget' - but only after the 'budget' was revised upwards by a factor of 4 or 5 times. Are we about to see a repeat performance with HS2?

We have to add in major costs that have been 'forgotten'. The list is not exclusive:

  1. HS2 Ltd have admitted in a FOI (Freedom of Information) request, that they have no Research and Development or design budget (usually 10%+ of project cost, say 5bn -10bn?)
  2. Flood risk assessment to the line and associated accommodation work has not been costed or carried out.
  3. Around half a million houses are within 1km of the line, most suffering uncompensated blight to some extent. And every 2000 of blight on each house is equal to a 1bn HS2 'stealth tax' levied upon the millions of occupiers thus affected. If average blight is say 50k, another 25bn would have to be added to add to the cost of HS2. There are many reports of properties that are unsalable at any price. The human cost of worry and stress related health problems is incalculable.
  4. Tens of thousands of businesses and business properties are similarly blighted. How many more billions to add to HS2?
  5. Add in the construction blight that will be visited on towns and villages along the route. CPRE have produced maps to show the extent of this. More billions wiped off homes and businesses. What is the 'off balance sheet' cost of HS2?
  6. And HS2 will require electricity to power it, (alot more than a conventional railway line), and generating capacity is something we are getting very short of in the UK. A new power station, or stations, will cost 1bn per 100MW ( and some experts believe a new power station the size of Hinckley Point will be required so 1600MW = 16bn.
  7. The interest on the loan to build HS2 will be at least 2bn a year. If this is capitalised over the life of the line (as accounting practices say it should), the cost of HS2 more than doubles
  8. HS2 would necessitate building Crossrail 2 - another 12bn -14bn?
  9. Then there are myriad minor construction and ongoing maintenance costs not included, even as PC (prime cost ) items, such as security (100,000 per km every year), maintenance (the same again!) and mitigating landscaping, tree planting and conservation. Just millions, or tens, or even hundreds of millions, but it all adds up

There are the inevitable cost overruns, that always accompany projects of this nature. Recent research shows that 11 of the very biggest infrastructure projects in the UK in the past 15 years, have - on average - gone 158% over the original budget. There is no reason to believe HS2 would be any different....if anything HS2 has more 'unknown unknown' unquantifiable costs than most that have gone before. In short, the taxpayer would be on the hook for decades, without limit as to cost. But it looks like we are looking at 200bn for starters but let us say 100bn to make it sound plausible!!!!

This project is madness but is it news?