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Thu May 28 2020

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Berkeley publishes his dissenting report on HS2 failings

6 Jan Lord Berkeley, former deputy chair of the Oakervee Review into HS2, has published a dissenting report of his own on the project, as he does not support the conclusions of the official review.

Lord Berkeley
Lord Berkeley

Lord Berkeley says that the Oakervee Review suffered from “a bias towards accepting HS2’s evidence in preference to those of others”.

His dissenting report says that the £107bn total cost can be cut by £50bn by improving so-called northern power house (NPH) and midlands connect (MC) rail links instread.

“If ministers are minded to help improve the rail network and services in the Midlands and North, this can be achieved by integrated the HS2 Phase 2B lines within the NPH area into the existing network, and improving the Network Rail (NR) lines in the NPH and MC areas by track quadrupling to what it was before the Beeching era cuts.  The aim must be to give these areas the same standard of commuting services as there is in the southeast whilst, at the same time, improving the existing lines from London northwards.  This option would save around £50bn compared to the cost of HS2.”

He also advocates scrapping the Euston terminus in London, terminating instead at Old Oak Common, saving £8bn.

Perhaps his most telling criticism is that the whole project has been over-specified: “HS2 has been planned around a specification which is unnecessarily high and expensive for the services needed and for a country much smaller geographically than France, Germany or Italy.   HS2 Ltd has designed the scheme for 360/400kph, higher than any other high-speed line in Europe or Japan, and for 18 trains an hour in each direction, when the company itself admits that no other such high-speed line is able to run more than 12 to 14.”

Once this is recognised, the whole economic case collapses, he argues.

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“HS2 Ltd then appears to base its forecast revenue and other benefits on this excessive specification to achieve benefits more than twice costs, according to the 2017 Economic Case, suggesting that the scheme provides value for money. However, even before taking into account the much higher scheme costs, the ratio of benefits to costs in the 2017 case is totally false, based as it is on more trains than any other high speed line can operate, on higher speeds, and on trains running full all day with high fare paying passengers than any other high speed line can operate. Thus, my best estimate is that the HS2 project has a BCR of less than 1, possibly as low 0.6 and therefore ranks as poor value for money when using the Treasury Green Book.”

Tony Berkeley is a Labour peer and a chartered civil engineer. As Tony Gueterbock, he was public affairs manager of Eurotunnel from 1981 until the end of construction of the Channel Tunnel in 1994 and has subsequently been a director of the European Rail Freight Association.

He was appointed deputy chair of the committee, chaired by Douglas Oakervee, commissioned by transport secretary Grant Shapps to produce a report on how and whether to proceed with the HS2 project.  The committee was disbanded on 31st October before drafting was complete, Lord Berkeley reveals. Panel members were shown the final draft but not permitted to make or suggest any changes.

Although Oakervee's official report has not (yet) been published, leaks have revealed that it recommends continuing with HS2 as planned, despite the publicly-declared projected costs having doubled from £55bn in 2015 to more than £100m currently.

Tony Berkeley’s full 71-page dissenting report is currently available online here [link opens in new tab].

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