HS2s Hard Evidence?

by Jeremy on 14-Sep-2013

For some days now the Secretary for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, has been pushing a newly published report by KPMG, commissioned by HS2, as providing the “hard evidence” needed to convince sceptics of the value of the scheme,

An article a few days ago in the Daily Mail, though, points up the bald fact that KPMG is using, “an alternative approach to conventional transport appraisal, and the estimated net benefits should not be considered as comparable or additional to those estimated by  conventional appraisal techniques”. In other words the government, having lost all its battles so far to justify HS2, has had to resort to arguing its case based on an “alternative approach” which includes “complex mathematical formulae” effectively designed to give the government an answer it wants.

According to the Daily Mail, the HS2 even prepared briefing notes ahead of the report’s launch which instructed the authors how best to respond to awkward questions including: ‘Have you fiddled the figures?’.

Read the full article in the Daily Mail site at: Daily Mail News – KPMG report

Further insight into the content of the KPMG report can be gained by reading a BBC News article of a few days ago by no less than the BBC News business editor, Robert Peston. He points out that the KPMG report also contains a jaw dropping qualification of its published figures. In his article the report is quoted as saying that, “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”.

So KPMG say up front that in producing their figures no research or account has been undertaken on any other factors which could constrain growth. They even name two rather important examples which have been excluded, these being, as Robert Peston points out, “one of the 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”.

As Robert Peston puts it, “KPMG’s calculations of the economic benefits of HS2 will be seen by many as spuriously precise, because they rest on the idea that the overwhelmingly most important impediment to narrowing the economic divide between north and south is poor transport”.

Read the full article by Robert Peston on the BBC News site at: BBC News Robert Peston – KPMG report

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