Letter to The Times: HS2 review must look at fundamental questions

It is excellent news that the HS2 scheme is finally being subjected to a thorough analysis, including an examination of alternatives. However, the review must consider the scheme in the widest possible context rather than just rehearsing narrow arguments about cost.

In particular, the only environmental appraisal, setting out the effect of HS2  on greenhouse gas emissions, was produced nearly  a decade ago and was inconclusive. Surely, given the ‘climate emergency’, a scheme that does not result in large scale reductions of emissions does not tally with the government’s aim of zero emissions by the middle of the century?

Then, if that test is passed, the reviewers should set a fundamental test for the scheme. If the Department for Transport was given £100bn to spend – the best guess of HS2’s ultimate cost  – would it go on HS2?

Moreover, the reviewers need to consider the scheme in the light of a far wider analysis than the business case methodology, known as WebTAG, currently used by the Department. This relies on assessing benefits mostly in terms of time saved by users and non-users (such as motorists enjoying reduced congestion) which is a crude and widely discredited methodology. Instead, this megaproject should be looked at holistically, with a thorough analysis of every aspect of its impact.

These are the sort of issues which should have been examined when the scheme was first given the green light a decade ago but it is not too late to consider them now before Britain’s biggest ever transport project is  given the go ahead.

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