Tuesday, September 17, 2013

HS2 - Huge Subsidy Too

The recent report from KPMG that suggested that by 2037 the HS2 rail scheme could be benefiting the economy by £15bn a year was pretty much wishful thinking paid for by the quango behind the scheme. The made up numbers were meant to impress, but they've been treated sceptically by pretty much everyone who's commented, aside from the government of course. Interestingly the made up numbers are not based on decreased travel times but by an increase in the number of journeys and an increase in economic activities that this is supposed to magically lead to.

If, for a moment, we ignore the nonsense numbers and accept that more journeys will mean more economic activity, then we have to ask are there cheaper alternatives to HS2? The answer surely has to be yes. How about more road building? How about improving the existing motorway infrastructure? And, given the long time scales involved, we might even try and take a futuristic stance. For example, Google and others are making real strides in the development of autonomous vehicles. If this continues then perhaps we can think about providing special lanes or even separate roads for these vehicles - which will be able to travel more closely together in loosely associated convoys with the ability of individual vehicles to come on/off as required. With continued improvements in control systems, enhancements to engine design for fuel efficiency and other technological advances, we can get the increased journeys, possibly improved journey times and the economic benefits that ensue without the need to pump the billions into HS2.

Better yet, if we make the new roads (or new lanes on existing roads), toll roads, then the users of these vehicles will pay for the privilege of travelling on them.

Ultimately, the problem with long-term substantial infrastructure projects like HS2 is not just the huge cost over-runs and massive tax-payer subsidies, it's that they're always out of date by the time they come on line...

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