In the centre of the town I grew up in there was an ugly concrete fountain which was widely disliked except by the towns student fraternity who’d regularly fill it full of detergent. The suds & froth this generated would billow around the fountain until caught by the wind, when they would take off & be carried around the main street.
I’m reminded of this by the past few days media froth over Network Rails financial problems and Hs2, where some journalists have thrown fact & common sense to the wind in order to try & cobble together stories – and I do mean stories. The lazy journalists cliché lexicon has been dusted off and no description of the MPA analysis can be published without the word report being prefaced by ‘damning’..
Take this one for example, from the pen of Daniel Boffey, the Grauniad’s Policy Editor;
“New fears arise that UK rail financial crisis will hit HS2”
Really? These fears are based on what exactly? Nothing, other than the fact the DfT has spent money on financial revenue modelling & demand modelling. Boffey simply spins this as a bad thing!
Boffey then drags in the fact Network Rail has paused the MML & trans-pennine electrification as further “Concerns over the economic viability of HS2”. How so? Network Rails decisions had nothing to do with long term economic viability & everything to do with with controlling project costs. They’re also nothing to do with Hs2 which isn’t funded by Network Rail. It’s comparing chalk with cheese. Plus, as I’ve described in this blog, there’s a world of difference between rebuilding Victorian infrastructure and building a new railway (just look at Crossrail)
To add to scaremongering, Boffey throws in the MPA reports. The problem is, he doesn’t appear to have read them & is simply rehashing stuff mentioned by the Graun’s Transport Correspondent, Gwyn Topham.
There’s another rather large problem. The reason the MPA haven’t changed Hs2s rating from Amber/Red to amber has nothing to do with economic viability or costs. What the report says is:
“Delivery Confidence Assessment (DCA)
The delivery confidence of the programme/project at this point is:
For a project of this complexity and magnitude, at this stage of development, the assignment of a meaningful DCA is difficult. The assigned DCA reflects the challenges of the ambitious target to achieve Royal Assent, but also the significant risks that are outwith the direct control of the Project Team. The review team believe that if the external risks that cannot be fully mitigated by the project team were
excluded, the underlying DCA would be Amber”.
So, the report blows out of the water Boffeys scaremongering on DfT spend on Hs2 financial revenue modelling & demand modelling as it makes it clear this is prudence called for by the MPA!
The report also makes it clear that the MPAs concerns about Hs2 have nothing to do with the projects finances & everything to do with the Parliamentary timetable & external factors.
If anything, reading through the MPA report gives more, not less confidence in Hs2 delivering the project. It also exposes some of the ridiculous lies the anti hs2 mob have tried to get away with, remember their claim that it was ‘rumoured’ (ie, they made it up) the report said Hs2 would cost £150bn?
Sadly, rather than doing any decent analysis. Boffey has cobbled together & rehashed a few stories & unconnected events (NR’s problems & Hs2) to produce this load of tosh, aided & abetted by a well known Transport Journalist who should know better but who’s pursuing his own agenda (step forward London mayoral candidate Christian Wolmar).
So much for the days of investigative journalism. Now it seems Fleet St’s finest spend more time rehashing each others copy & quoting one another.
Lets be clear. The problems Network Rail have are nothing to do with Hs2, which is unaffected – and no amount of scaremongering & spin from Fleet St trying to tar Hs2 with the Network Rail brush can change that.