Councils launch HS2 challenge
Members of 51m1, the alliance of local authorities opposed to HS2, have served a formal letter on the Secretary of State for Transport asking her to rescind her decision to proceed with HS2 and giving notice that they may otherwise challenge the decision by way of judicial review.
The Transport Secretary announced her support for the HS2 project on January 10.
Councillor Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, speaking on behalf of 51m said:
"We are taking this stance with regret. We would far rather that the Government had listened to the people of this country who have decisively rejected this massively expensive project and instead opted for the far better, cheaper and more quickly delivered alternative put forward by 51m. Communities in the Midlands and the north of England risk being bypassed and left to decline by HS2. We should be investing in our existing rail and road infrastructure across the entire country to bring jobs and growth now when it is needed.”
Councillor Ray Puddifoot, Vice-Chairman of 51m and Leader of the London Borough of Hillingdon added:
“The consultation process was unfair and inadequate in many respects. Ordinary people whose lives and livelihoods will be severely affected between Birmingham and Manchester and Leeds were not even given an adequate chance to have their say. The whole project represents extremely poor value for money2 for the hard pressed UK taxpayer and it is right that we challenge the Government’s decision to progress with this misguided scheme.”
51m are not against the principle of High Speed Rail in the UK but do not believe that the case put forward by the Department for Transport/HS2 Ltd is justified as it provides very poor value for money.
51m have proposed a much better alternative, the core of which is doubling the capacity of the current West Coast Mainline costing less than 10% of HS2. This would cater for the future demand predicted by Department for Transport, provide the capacity much sooner so that current crowding problems are addressed, and cause significantly less disruption to the existing network than HS2.
1. 51m - The 51m group is an alliance of local authorities which took its name from the £51million that HS2 will costs each parliamentary constituency in the UK. The full membership of 51m comprises Buckinghamshire County Council, Aylesbury Vale District Council, Chiltern District Council, South Bucks District Council, Wycombe District Council, London Borough of Hillingdon, Oxfordshire County Council, Cherwell District Council in Oxfordshire, Lichfield District Council in Staffordshire, South Northants District Council, Warwick District Council, North Warwickshire Borough Council, Warwickshire County Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council in Warwickshire, Leicestershire County Council, Harborough District Council in Leicestershire, Three Rivers District Council in Hertfordshire and Coventry City Council. For more information on 51m visit www.51m.co.uk
2. The business case
The business and value for money case for HS2 is very weak, the so called Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) i.e. the return on every pound invested by the taxpayer, has fallen every time DfT/HS2 have published documents, see below:
Phase 1 London to Birmingham: 2010 forecast = 2.4, 2012 reforecast = 1.4,
Phase 2 Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds (the Y): 2011 forecast = 2.2, 2012 reforecast = 1.6-1.9).
In fact, a detailed review of the documents, published in January 2012, shows that the real business case (using DfT’s own analysis) is considerably worse, less than 1.0 for London to Birmingham and close to 1.0 for Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds. This means that the taxpayer actually loses money for every pound spent on the London to Birmingham HS2 line.
51m also do not believe that HS2 have taken on board the lessons to be learnt from previous major rail and transport projects, in particular in relation to the forecasting of future demand and the assessment of benefits and costs. In comparison, the alternative proposed by 51m, to provide the required capacity on the existing network, has a BCR (calculated by consultants Atkins for the DfT) of over 5.0.
HS2 does not provide best value, particularly in these constrained times.