Friday, September 27, 2013

A Farage of lies

Recently, we've seen UKIP cross-dressing as Liberal Democrats - if only in their enthusiasm for populist policies. One of their big campaigns is against HS2. As Nigel Farage put it in a tweet during Question Time last night - supporting a lacklustre performance by Patrick O'Flynn:

Seems clear enough. But then we look back at prehistory. Or the 2010 General Election manifesto, to be precise. In that, they promised to
Invest in three new 200mph plus high-speed rail lines including a new line between London and Newcastle with a spur to Manchester, a London-Bristol-Exeter line and a linking route via Birmingham
Their supporting documents went further.  (emphasis added)
11.2. UKIP enthusiastically supports the high speed rail concept, with trains travelling up to 220 mph, such as the new Beijing-Shanghai service which will cut journey times from 12 hours to 5 hours 27 and successful London-Paris/Brussels Eurostar trains that have cut journey times to under 2 hours, making rail highly competitive with short haul air travel. By 2003 Eurostar had already secured 65% of the London-Paris market and 55% of the London-Brussels market, whilst the French TGV system is impressive. The high-speed line between Madrid and Barcelona took 46% of the market the year after opening, and China is now investing in 8,000 miles of high speed rail lines. 
11.3 As the boss of Arup, Mark Bostock argues, “upgrading the existing track, eliminating bottlenecks and improving reliability is not a better option. Consider the west coast mainline upgrade. Its eventual cost of almost £9bn dwarfs its benefits.” The Department for Transport agrees, stating in a 2007 report: “The disadvantages of undertaking major new construction work alongside a working railway outweigh the advantages.” This argument was central to Arup's successful lobbying of government in the early 1990s, resulting in the selection of our route for the Channel tunnel rail link. Building a new railway is actually cheaper and less disruptive than fiddling with the existing network – though it requires an un-British, strategic view of national spatial and economic planning. France exemplifies the potential success. Despite labour market inflexibility, hourly productivity in France stands at $54, compared to $45 in the UK, which is recognised as largely due to its excellent infrastructure… The British Chambers of Commerce and CBI unanimously back the idea of a national high-speed network". 
11.4 UKIP will support 3 new 200 mph plus high-speed rail lines
Now, while you may argue that this is not specific support for the current HS2 route, the fact is that they rule out construction alongside an existing line, so a new corridor is going to be required. The principles of high speed rail demand a route that is as flat and as straight as possible to achieve and maintain the top speeds, so the final route is unlikely to be tremendously different from what is currently proposed. In any case, the UKIP policy would shift the argument to different constituencies. I'm sure the Thames Valley would welcome a high-speed line slicing through the landscape as warmly as it has been welcomed in leafy Buckinghamshire. 

And if you fancy another laugh, have a look at their cycling policy. While they enthusiastically deregulate on cars, including upping speed limits, the chief focus on bikes is to impose a "CycleDisc" and minimum third party insurance for cyclists. I kid you not. 

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