Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Infrastructure

To those who think that infrastructure spending will solve our problems, today's FT suggests, to me at least, how hard the politics around this are. Here's then minister Peter Mandelson,

"In 2010, when the then Labour government decided to back HS2...We were focusing on the coming electoral battle, not on the detailed facts and figures"

Even then the facts and figures are pretty hard to sort out:

" The cost-benefit analysis for the rail scheme assumes that faster trains will produce £21bn of economic benefits simply because passengers will spend less unproductive time.
 Hilary Wharf, director of the HS2 Action Alliance, said £21bn of the £48bn of forecast economic benefits from HS2 depended on the assumption that people did not work on trains.
Philip Rutnam, permanent secretary at the Department for Transport, admitted that the modelling was based on a survey that was now “a decade old” – before the era of handheld devices.
A report for the DfT in 2009 found train journeys had become much more productive. “The obvious causes of this trend are in the general availability and use of mobile phones and laptop computers,” it said.  Yet the HS2 analysis has not taken this change into account. “We are seeking to revise that,” Mr Rutnam told the public accounts committee of MPs, revealing that an altered business case would be published in the autumn.

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