Apr 13 2012 By James Cracknell
CAMPAIGNERS against HS2 have been shouting 'I told you so' after the economic case for the high-speed line was weakened further this week.
Ruislip Against HS2 chairman Lottie Jones said the government's whole rationale had now "fallen flat" but ministers were too embarassed to admit it.
In a document discreetly published by HS2 Ltd the Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) of the whole scheme from London to Manchester and Leeds, the so-called Y-Network, is reduced from 1.7 to 1.4.
The BCR is one of the key economic arguments upon which major infrastructure projects are based.
For the only part of the route so far published, from London to Birmingham via Hillingdon, the BCR is cut from 1.4 to 1.2. For every one pound invested in HS2 it represents a 1.20 return.
Mrs Jones told the Gazette: "We have been saying it all along, they have overestimated the benefits.
"The BCR has been gradually tweaked and it is totally typical of this government that they are duping the public.
"They over-forecast everything and afterwards they just say 'oh well, nevermind'."
The latest revision to the BCR has been made after forecasters changed the way the scheme's benefits are calculated, in what appears to be an admission that the previous sums were flawed.
However, it is only the latest in a series of changes to the BCR, which Stop HS2 claim has now been reduced on four separate occasions, from a starting point of 2.4 in March 2010 for the Y-Network.
There was also a reduction made in January this year, when a Department for Transport (DfT) report supporting the secretary of state's approval of HS2 admitted: "Lower GDP growth has reduced the benefits of the scheme."
And while rail demand continues to rise, HS2 is now predicting a lower 'modal shift' to rail from other forms of transport.
The DfT report also stated: "Faster services to Milton Keynes, and the increased capacity between London and the north-west now planned without HS2, all act as a downward pressure on benefits."
And it added: "If demand stopped growing earlier, the business case would be weaker. If we capped demand in 2026, the BCR would fall to 0.8."
Campaigners argue it is only a matter of time before HS2 becomes a loss-making project, realising their fears it would become a 'white elephant'.
Mrs Jones added: "The whole business case is flawed. They have made a calculation of how much money can be saved from reducing journey times.
"But it doesn't make sense. How can you put a monetary value on time?"
A DfT spokesman responded: "We have always been clear that the BCR can only form one part of the decision-making process for a project of this scale, as its benefits reach well beyond narrow transport economics."