High Speed Rail: Deconstructing the right wing dogma

Professor David Begg, director of the Campaign for High Speed Rail, rebuts the latest right-wing small state madness from the Institute for Economic Affairs.

Professor David Begg is the Director of the Campaign for High Speed Rail

This morning the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) released their assessment of the proposed high-speed rail project, co-authored by Dr Richard Wellings and Kyn Aizlewood. The IEA’s report (pdf) reflects an old-fashioned, free-market-obsessed ideology that wants to spend Britain’s transport infrastructure investment predominantly on roads in the South East.

These sorts of ideologues have no appreciation of the important external benefits that a modern high-speed national rail network would bring for jobs and regeneration.

It is not surprising that the IEA has come out against HS2, when you read about some of the authors’ other thoughts and background. From their past work, the authors are clearly obsessed by roads – particularly in the South East – and would happily privatise the railways on which Britain’s families and local business people depend.

The co-author, Kyn Aizlewood, does not disclose that his views are clearly effected by the close proximity of his house to the proposed rail route and that he is a member of an anti-HS2 action group.

In January 2009, Wellings wrote:

“High-speed rail also offers poor value compared with roads. £30 billion would perhaps buy 1,000 miles of motorway, which, if sensibly located, could be expected to carry more passengers and freight than the entire rail network. And the funding could be entirely private, paid for by tolls, particularly if competing routes were also priced.”

In May 2011, Wellings wrote:

“As long as Network Rail and other individual railway firms remain in receipt of taxpayer-funded subsidies, there will be little incentive to drive down costs and to provide a more efficient service.

“It is right that passengers should pay a greater proportion of the cost of the services they use; but it is also right that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for services that are grossly inefficient and are used by only a small proportion of the population. Allowing rail operators to own the infrastructure could transform Britain’s rail network.

“The government must stop tweaking with a fundamentally flawed model and instead unshackle the railways, and the railway operators, from the dead hand of state control.”

We also note with interest that Wellings’ co-author, Kyn Aizlewood, also appears to live on the proposed route.

In a number of comment threads and letters on the subject of high-speed rail, Aizlewood reveals that he is a resident of Kenilworth. In fact, Aizlewood appears to not only live along the route, but is also the organiser of one of the local Stop HS2 opposition groups.

In an interview with the Coventry Telegraph, he reveals his position as the official organiser of the ‘Keep Burton Green’ action group, as he promotes the wine-tasting evening the group hosted to raise funds to oppose the high-speed rail project.

The Coventry Telegraph reports:

Organiser Kyn Aizlewood said: “Our wine group has helped to bring the community together, meeting regularly to improve our appreciation of wine. The high speed rail line will cut our village in two, literally destroying the heart of the village and we will need funds over the coming years to fight this project. This will be an entertaining evening and we welcome your support.”

The IEA have completely failed to grasp the wider benefits of the high-speed rail project, which will create jobs, boost investment and spread the economic wealth of this country to places outside of the TPA heartlands of London and the South East.

I would expect better from an otherwise reputable think-tank than to parrot misinformation and repackage the discredited views of opponents to the project who are clearly motivated by a mixture of small-state ideology and ‘not-in-my-back-yard’ attitudes.

They should be ashamed of themselves for abusing their research credentials to produce such a thinly veiled propaganda piece.

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