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Topic Title: E&T magazine - Debate - HS2, the need for speed
Topic Summary: HS2, the need for speed
Created On: 17 April 2013 10:54 AM
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 12 May 2013 08:09 PM
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jencam

Posts: 608
Joined: 06 May 2007

HS2 is a white elephant that will end up being called Concorde on rails. Concorde was commercially unsuccessful because most air passengers wanted cheaper tickets rather than faster aircraft. Questions that need to be asked surrounding HS2 include:

1. Exactly what sort of people are expected to use it? Is it businessmen where time is more important than money? Is it the lower middle class average Joe? Is it regular commuters into London who live in Birmingham because they are priced out of the London property market?

2. What will the cost of a ticket be? Will it be similar in price to existing services? Will it be too expensive for the average Joe leaving HS2 primarily for wealthy businessmen and bankers who can afford it?

3. Is the high speed rail comparison with other countries a red herring considering the high proportion of the economy that is crammed into London and the south east corner? Birmingham has its middle class and posh suburbs, but overall, it is a declining city with a population that is increasingly represented by the poor and ethnic minorities who are unlikely to have any need to travel to London at such high speeds. The existing rail infrastructure plus the M40 is perfectly adequate for their requirements. Over the past 10 years Birmingham has experienced a huge exodus of white middle class British people who are potential material to use HS2, and conversely, Birmingham isn't a city that many white middle class British people from elsewhere really want to move to.

4. Is the real demand for high speed rail between London and the southern cities of Brighton, Portsmouth, Southampton, Reading, and Oxford?
 16 May 2013 02:01 AM
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jarathoon

Posts: 1041
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National Audit Office Report of

"High Speed 2: A review of early programme preparation"

"The strategic case for HS2, in terms of increasing rail capacity and generating regional growth, has still to be demonstrated clearly."

http://www.nao.org.uk/report/h...rogramme-preparation/

Press report in the independent

http://www.independent.co.uk/n...ain-link-8617909.html

" NAO head Amyas Morse said: "It's too early in the HS2 programme to conclude on the likelihood of its achieving value for money.

"Our concern at this point is the lack of clarity around the department's (DfT) objectives."


But the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said he rejected the NAO's conclusion.

"It depends too much on out of date analysis and does not give due weight to the good progress that has been made since last year," he said. "

Thje NAO can only ever work with 'old' data.

Perhaps we should ask all publicly funded bodies to put all their data and documentation on the internet in real-time so the we can all judge for ourselves. We can then see for ourselves exactly what project teams like HS2 do in response to critiques made by the NAO or parliamentary select committees.

A sort of Little Brother watches Big Brother; where the citizens continuously watch government, instead of just government watching its citizens.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 14 June 2013 08:17 PM
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rickrackrocket

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As a long standing member of British Rail who served for 37 years, I have not yet see one sensible point put forward for the HS2 project.
I spent all of my time in the Telecommunications department and never did we FULLY explore the philosophy of digital comms. to its full extent. I was involved with the installation of the figure of 8 fibre optic cable link for Mercury using the Railway routes and never once did our lords and masters really consider the implementation of a Railway or British National scheme going along with the Mercury Network.
The Communications in this country are somewhat backward and limited, why can we not have a system sponsored by the government which could be provided, at a fraction of the cost, of the HS2 links, which could cover the NATION and then get all business concerned to link-up digitally. Conference networks, personal digital HIGHSPEED networks could be established and ALL the country could have access. The limited facilities that HS2 provides, at a tremendous disruption and inconvenience are just not compatible with the requirements required today and just because France and Japan have these type of fast links which are now out of date we cannot afford to "throw away" so much of OUR money, on a scheme which will cost twice as much as this first estimate.
DO NOT WASTE MY MONEY

RtR
 14 June 2013 09:25 PM
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petersheppard

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The problem is that people are very myopic with their views on HS2. There is a very good case for having a dedicated high speeed line, why, in part to get to Birmingham faster (but who wants to go to Birmingham anyway :-) but also it frees up capacity on the conventional WCML. To the person who worked for 37 years in BR, perhaps if you'd worked in operations, not telecoms you may understand the issues better. At the moment the WCML is at capacity. We have a selection of speeds of train, mostly Pendolino (which are very fast) some loco-hauled (reasonably fast) and commuter traffic (slow). How do you path these trains? Do you send a flight of 3 or 4 high speed trains off in the space of 15 minutes, then commuter trains? The gap between them will get bigger by the minute (and this space can't be used). Do you have a "clock face" service and send fast trains out every 15 minutes, but then they will catch up the commuter services and they will have to be moved out of the way - even the commuter services can be described as "fast, semi-fast and stoppers".
So by creating HS2 we move the very fast trains out of the way and by bringing the speed differentials down, we bring the capacity up - the same way as has been achieved on the "managed motorways" on the M42 (another good way to avoid Birmingham!)

So, I am all in favour of the HS2 as it will dramatically improve the capacity of the conventonal WCML (where there is no space to improve it further).

Cheers

Peter

-------------------------
Peter Sheppard
Chair IET Transport Sector
Member Transport Policy Panel
 15 June 2013 06:23 PM
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jarathoon

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Peter,

Could you discuss the HS2 project in terms of opportunity costs and return on investment?

Opportunity costs
with £30+ billion what else could you do with the rail network that would make life better for more people, more of the time (i.e. reducing the need to stand on commuter journey's taking over 10 minutes).

Return-On-Investment
I keep on hearing people (including engineers) say return on investment doesn't matter. I think it matters. How else do we decide between all the various ways of spending our collective resources?

You might say HS2 Ltd and other potential infrastructure development firms can massage the figures in any which way they please so Opportunity costs and Return-On-Investment figures are meaningless. You might also add that we cannot predict the future with any degree of accuracy so that makes things even worse.

Now I see trains all over the south-east ram crammed full at certain times of the day. I see no movement to redesign the railways to be compatible with driverless trains and double deck trains to make life easier for commuters and tax payers that subsidise many commuter services.

We need to do this to start reducing costs during commuter rush hours and start making enough money from an array of well judged new investments that they actually start helping with re-investment in other parts of the railway network.

You might say; the sociological barriers to change in the direction of driverless trains are too great. So what - find ways to break the barriers.

I say it is often necessary for an engineer (with the help of entrepreneurs) to stand their ground and argue for what is best and most cost effective given the available engineering and economic evidence concerning our future options for investment. The public, after all, want cheaper, safer, more comfortable and more reliable trains.

Find ways of investing our collective resources (order is important) that do not waste RtR's and everyone else's tax payers money. The message is clear.

James Arathoon


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James Arathoon
 17 June 2013 05:02 PM
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petersheppard

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Just to pick a couple of items:

1. How will driverless help? The issue is one of capacity not of driving trains! Although I do accept that a train with ATO will drive better than a manually driven train and you may squeeze an extra train in, but the rewards are small compared to the outlay.

2. Double decker trains. This old chestnut! We use the UK1 loading gauge. Double deck trains do not fit and the cost of making them fit is not worth it. Also, double deck trains carry more people, but generally only have two exits (one at each end of the carriage). This makes station stops longer as it takes a significant period of time to get people in and out of the train (why do you think that most trains have three if not four sets of doors). So what you gain on the capacity you lose on the station dwell. This has been debated for years (and I think it was even tried once on southern region). The fact we don't have it now is testament to its failure.

3. HS2 will add to the capacity of the WCML to allow more "commuter" trains and thus there will be less standing passengers.

4. HS2 is the starting point for a much larger North/South high speed network that will ultimately reduce the number of internal air flights and improve the environment.

Cheers

Peter

-------------------------
Peter Sheppard
Chair IET Transport Sector
Member Transport Policy Panel
 18 June 2013 01:20 PM
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jarathoon

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Peter,

if you don't think any of my suggestions for saving money past muster then perhaps you could suggest one or two of your own. It is very easy for us all to suggest new ways to max out on our collective credit card, which will eventually lead to defaults and cuts in public services or extra taxation.

It is much harder to suggest ways of investing that are cost effective, and income generating, that allow investment to be sustained into the future.

1. How will driverless help?

The are a multitude of ways in which this will help reduce costs: capital, operational, and maintenance. Work it out for yourself, it not hard.

2. Double decker trains.

This would have be for long point to point journeys at peak times for new lines that allowed it. Given that Cross Rail does allow the option for Double decker trains to pass through makes it much harder to bring in for HS2.

All I am saying is that we have a recent history of rail and tram infrastructure spend (and then considerable overspend), because the professionals involved have not been forced into engaging their brains to the real problems we face in a properly integrated way first.

Not engaging the brain, not listening to the public, and not bringing an innovative approach to solving the problems at hand still seems to be a de rigueur in many areas of civil and transport engineering at the moment.

We have a very uncompetitive concrete industry in this country still and there may be other civil engineering and construction cartels hanging over from the 80's and 90's as well for all we know. At the very least the current economic structures for undertaking and delivering large infrastructure projects look extremely inefficient, even if they are not anti-competitive and corrupt.

In my mind the current designs for HS2 are in a hopeless mess from economic, engineering and political points of view. Costs will continue to escalate and there are no guarantees that the project will not suck investment cash out from the rest of the rail network while it proceeds.

James Arathoon





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James Arathoon
 18 June 2013 01:33 PM
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jarathoon

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The above should read,

Given that Cross Rail does NOT allow the option for Double decker trains to pass through makes it much harder to bring in for HS2.

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James Arathoon
 20 June 2013 08:33 AM
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jencam

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Originally posted by: rickrackrocket
The Communications in this country are somewhat backward and limited, why can we not have a system sponsored by the government which could be provided, at a fraction of the cost, of the HS2 links, which could cover the NATION and then get all business concerned to link-up digitally. Conference networks, personal digital HIGHSPEED networks could be established and ALL the country could have access. The limited facilities that HS2 provides, at a tremendous disruption and inconvenience are just not compatible with the requirements required today and just because France and Japan have these type of fast links which are now out of date we cannot afford to "throw away" so much of OUR money, on a scheme which will cost twice as much as this first estimate.


As an economist I'm fully aware that geography and natural resources determined the locations where heavy industry was established in the 18th and 19th centuries. Shipbuilding required deep water ports and factories powered by steam engines required an abundant supply of coal. In 1900 there was only one large city in Britain that was not built near a coal field and that was London.

Fast forwards to the 21st century and most of the British economy is no longer dependent upon geography or natural resources, so can be established anywhere, but a high proportion of it is crammed into London and the south east. In theory it could be equally spread over the country. HS2 will do nothing to equalise the spread of the economy - if anything it will further concentrate it into London. Better broadband would be more beneficial at helping businesses move out into the provinces but the government doesn't seem to realise this. There are more broadband backwaters in Britain than you probably think there are! The data rate of average commonly available broadband packages in Britain is lower than it is in several European and Asian countries and costs could be lower for business tariffs.
 10 July 2013 02:54 PM
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jarathoon

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"HS2 will not deliver a better rail service. Here is a radical alternative"

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comm...lternative-paddington

"The alternative, which I firmly believe destroys the rationale for HS2, is to make Paddington the new London terminus for fast services to the West Midlands - making use of the terminal's extra capacity, which will be freed up by the opening of Crossrail in 2018, and upgrading the route from Old Oak Common (just west of Paddington) to Birmingham via Banbury and Leamington Spa. One section of this route - from Old Oak Common to its junction, with the line from Marylebone at West Ruislip - currently has a service of just one train a day: no capacity issues there."


At least the precursors to some sort of intelligent debate, over a new and sensible HS2 cost reduction strategy, might now be getting close enough to outer walls of the Ministerial Redoubt, for the people inside to start hearing...




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James Arathoon
 09 September 2013 06:58 PM
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westonpa

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24011403

Whilst there will be some engineering benefits and also an investment into the local and national economy have the government madea good decision with regards to this project?

"Official estimates of the cost were increased by £10bn to £42.6bn earlier this year and there is opposition to HS2 in many communities along the proposed route."

I really question how someone can get away with an initial estimate which is wildly incorrect and think if they were in a private business they would be lucky to keep their job. That aside, if the project runs as many 'state' projects do then the costs could go even higher, albeit I accept it could also be they will eventually be lower. However, in favour of the governments position I think it is difficult to provide accurate figures on future benefits because the future has not happened, of course, and so sometimes a business has to go on 'loose' projections and 'gut' feeling. Also in favour of the government position, and providing contracts are not awarded to foreign companies, the money spent will generate local and national jobs and go into our economy.

"The Treasury's top civil servant, Sir Nicholas Macpherson, has said there is "no blank cheque" for HS2 and the National Audit Office has warned the economic benefits of the project are unclear."

This is particularly worrying because this guy is supposed to be a 'Sir' and a 'top' civil servant and he says there is no 'blank check' and without smiling. Does he seriously think they would build half a railway and then the government would stop funding it because it got to the budget limit! As with most of these large state projects the government of the day just offers excuses and then says well it was the 'last lot's fault' and finds the money. The companies doing the work generally know this, and also know that no real penalties can be imposed because they would cripple the said companies, and so their costs are increased accordingly. I know the government says 'the Olympics' came in on budget but actually that is misleading because the first estimate given by the now 'Dame' Jowell was around £1.5 billion as I recall. And we can note that with regards to the cost aspect her failure was rewarded.

I think there are benefits to having this type of project but my concern is that those running the show are sometimes not the best people for the job and so we can end up with something well overpriced or else with many corners cut to meet the budget and which then reduce the benefits which were initially invisaged.

I would like to see a proper evaluation by a good engineer and who is not a Lord, Sir, Minister, MP, etc.

Regards.
 09 September 2013 08:22 PM
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jarathoon

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What was originally asked for was a new fast, efficient and cost effective overground service between London and the North.

What is now on offer can almost be described as an inefficient and expensive extension to the London Underground.

I expect the final cost will be well in excess of £40 billion given the amount of tunneling they have to do along the route.

All this extensive use of tunneling was supposed to be a bribe to save the seats of all the Tory MP's along the route; this doesn't look like such an effective strategy now (for the Tories that is) or indeed a very good use of public money.

Therefore should the government

a) carry on incompetently despite the unpopularity and despite having chosen the wrong route (betting that the Labour Party can later get rid of most of the expensive tunnels without much electoral pain)?
b) write off several hundred million pounds of effort and start again with a cheaper route (slightly slower average speed, utilising as much as possible of the existing Chiltern line route as possible) with multiple minister and senior civil servant resignations as a result?
c) just scrap the whole thing and spend the money on something else, with senior civil servant resignations as a result?

If you were a senior civil servant who wanted to keep hold of your well paid job which option would you advise the minister to take.

Oh I see the answer here

"Transport Secretary defends need for HS2"

http://eandt.theiet.org/news/2...ep/hs2-pac-report.cfm


James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 11 September 2013 12:32 PM
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acsinuk

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Hi James
Yes, I am in total agreement with you on this. Scrap HS2 and upgrade the Chiltern line through to Birmingham and bypass any small stations on the way through.
CliveS
 11 September 2013 05:30 PM
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jarathoon

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Originally posted by: acsinuk

Hi James

Yes, I am in total agreement with you on this. Scrap HS2 and upgrade the Chiltern line through to Birmingham and bypass any small stations on the way through.

CliveS


I suppose my plan is to split the existing Chiltern lines into two: A fast service line and a slow service line.

Engineering Needed from Birmingham Down to London Paddington

1. From Birmingham Moor Street: Create Four Track line down to the three way junction nr Hatton. Slow Trains go on existing Chiltern Line via Leamington Spa/Warrick to Banbury. Fast Trains go on a approx 25 mile new 2 track section following the M40 to just south of Banbury.

2. Between Banbury and Bicester track bed widened from 2 tracks to four tracks (roughly 15 miles) for both fast and slow trains

3. At Bicester all slow trains head off on an upgraded 2 track line section to Aylesbury to eventually make their way to London on the Aylesbury line.
The fast trains go on an upgraded 2 track section of the chiltern line through to High Wycombe. A couple of small station stops are lost as I described above.

4. The question then arises what do we do at High Wycombe? Existing commuter services must run to High Wycombe. So there must be a fast slow interconnect for some trains at High Wycombe, plus 4 lines somehow from then on, into London. This will be the most expensive section of the new line which ever way you do it.

Some of the options are:

(a) build extra two tracks for the fast trains along side slow tracks
(b) build an extension to the London Underground to High Wycombe (going above ground where possible) leaving the existing Chiltern line tracks for the fast trains.
(c) build a new automated light railway above the existing tracks where necessary to High Wycombe

I prefer option (b)

The project outlined above increases the capacity for fast trains between London and Birmingham, and allows them to continue on into Birmingham Snow Hill and up to Wolverhampton. (Remember Wolverhampton and surrounding areas is one of the most populous areas of the country.)

Forget about new lines north of Birmingham as the added capacity is not needed.

The fastest Trains will go directly from London to Birmingham without stopping.
Slightly slower trains can stop at High Wycombe and Bicester, and then either route on to the slow line via Banbury and Leamington Spa, or carry on direct to Birmingham.
The slowest trains would go by Alyesbury, Banbury and Leamington Spa.

Which trains terminate at the new Cross Rail station at Old Oak Common and which terminate at Paddington needs to be thought about in detail.

The capacity of the Network can be increased much faster and for less money this way.

However I see no evidence that ministers and senior civil servants want to change their mind. They see public money as an end less river of cash that they can waste in which ever way they please!

James Arathoon


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James Arathoon
 11 September 2013 08:53 PM
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westonpa

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24047047

"KPMG is ignoring one of the fundamental causes of lacklustre growth in many parts of the UK, which is a shortage of skilled labour and of easily and readily developable land."

Of course if the project turns out not to deliver the suggested benefits KPMG will not likely be held to account, after all a guess is a guess.

Regards.
 11 September 2013 11:38 PM
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jarathoon

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Originally posted by: westonpa

Of course if the project turns out not to deliver the suggested benefits KPMG will not likely be held to account, after all a guess is a guess.



Some guesses cost more than others. Lets face it this really isn't a guess. The report has been commissioned by government for propaganda purposes.


Robert Peston said

"KPMG makes the following qualification, which made my jaw fall to the floor."

"It says: "The methodology employed makes the implicit assumption that transport connectivity is the only supply-side constraint to business location. In practice, there could be other constraints that could inhibit the potential location effects, such as the availability of skilled labour and land in a given location"."

Translated into English this means,

if we looked in to this in any more detail we might have had to give the government conclusions that they did not pay for and this in turn would increase the chance we lost future public sector contracts

So the best thing we can do is qualify the report in a way that makes it completely meaningless, whilst at the same time seeming to support the government position whole heartedly.

Pure Sir Humphrey (Yes 'Rail' Minsiter)

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James Arathoon
 26 September 2013 03:14 PM
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westonpa

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Still going up:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24278772

"£42.6bn - plus £7.5bn for rolling stock"

"But he also hinted that he was willing to pay high salaries - to "the right people" at "the going rate" - to recruit the best staff for the project."

As we know from the financial crisis, you have to pay high salaries to get the best staff. It's such a shame that all those who caused the financial crisis were on minimum wage.

Regards.
 26 September 2013 05:10 PM
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jarathoon

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Originally posted by: westonpa

Still going up:



and up and up...

"The newly-appointed chairman of the HS2 rail link has said it is essential the £50bn scheme has cross-party support."

Sir David Higgins told the BBC...

"I think the case to make is 'what's the alternative?'

"Because if we don't do this, it's patching up for the next 50 years an ageing Victorian railway system, which is operating at a capacity way over what it was designed for."


There is always an alternative to investigate: that's what economists call the opportunity cost.

However the alternative options that involve a U turn (and admitting that a bunch of group think Elizabethan railway 'experts', together with a 'Victorian' civil service system chose the wrong route, for the wrong reasons, at the wrong price) would involve humility, honesty, transparency and rationality; rare attributes in highly paid government circles. Attributes that are needed in inverse proportion the the rates of pay on offer by government in fact.

Forcing through ridiculously expensive, inappropriate and unpopular projects is only something that can be achieved by self-deceiving people incapable of self-doubt. Tony Blair for example.

Sir David Higgins, is not a Tony Blair figure, so he is either there to make the political compromises and U-turns necessary to get a new line built or he just bunkers down with a failing project, waiting for the pay-off like the last chairman..

James Arathoon


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James Arathoon
 27 September 2013 04:38 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: jarathoon
Sir David Higgins, is not a Tony Blair figure, so he is either there to make the political compromises and U-turns necessary to get a new line built or he just bunkers down with a failing project, waiting for the pay-off like the last chairman.

Oh come on James, the project will not fail because the tax payer will underwrite it. It will be hailed as a success and there after when the stories of mistakes and inappropriate spending etc., come out afterwards those will just be passed off as 'lessons will be learned and this will never happen again'.

Have you noticed how the lower cost/figure is increasingly being dropped. Remember the Olympics, initially going to be about £1.5 billion, that's the figure that now Dame quoted to sell the idea, and which then turned into £9.5 billion....and she got promoted to the house of Lords. There's your so called parliamentary oversight on these things. I have no doubt HS2 will deliver something but at some stage corners will be cut and it will deliver less than what was initially invisaged and by that time those politicians who implemented it will sitting quite cosy in the Lords.

Regards.
 27 September 2013 06:23 PM
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jarathoon

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Yes I agree, there is a sort of inevitability to how things happen in Britain and expectations for anything different have traditionally been low.

However the fact that people can already start writing large parts of the "HS2 Lessons Learnt..." report now has started to become a political factor.

The Olympics were much more popular than HS2, which mean't that the massive overspend didn't have serious political consequences. In fact the opposite happened; the people involved in the Olympic overspend, are now deemed to be exceptional and inspirational guru and sage like figures with ample qualifications and experience to work on and rescue all other costly infrastructure projects.

[The Political Myth making machine: The popularity of the Olympics must have been largely due to the Sages and Gurus that ran the Olympics. Therefore they must be people of exceptional talent that can work the same magic on HS2. HS2 becomes the Olympic dream revisited.

In the myth making politicians forget the considerable overspend and also the fact that the British Army willingly and enthusiastically came to the rescue of the organisers at the last minute.]

The HS2 project is different from the Olympics because it is increasingly unpopular and because a large number of Tory MP's may lose their seats along the route, at the next General Election in 2015, if the government continues to support it in its current form.

How are the ex-Olympic Gurus and Sages going to manage on an unpopular project when they can't icrease the budget anymore and can't bring the army in to run it?

James Arathoon



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James Arathoon
IET » Transport engineering » E&T magazine - Debate - HS2, the need for speed

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