Thursday, 1 November 2018

Guns for hire ?

Highways England should reply to my latest FOI by Bonfire Night, but I'm not holding my breath. Maria Caulfield, MP for Lewes, has said that there's now a good business case for an new dual carriageway between Lewes and Polegate - but, so far, neither she or Highways UK are prepared to share it with mere voters.

Here's the last publicly-shared Benefit-Cost Ratio analysis, from consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff, issued in February 2015. It simply didn't produced the multiples, at less than 2, that would 'demonstrate' value for money. 

The Trasnport Planning Society says, in evidence to the Department for Transport last month, that "the issue of uncertainty, both in forecasting and the calculation of the costs and benefits,
is not adequately reflected in current methods. To be fair this is an issue the DfT recognises,
particularly in a changing context driven by mobile internet access." Other elements adding uncertainty - electric cars, which might well produce higher numbers of shorter journeys.

The Society is particularly scathing about how BCRs (Benefit-Cost Ratios) are calculated when making the case for a new road. "In terms of the Business Case, the real world production of BCRs is itself seriously flawed. At the September Appraisal Conference practitioners made wry comments about how they had to work very hard to achieve their client’s target BCR. Every practitioner knows that this is the norm and has rightly led to accusations that transport planners are “guns for hire” (or a less polite version!). The practise of competitive bidding and adversarial culture has led to a lack of
transparency and public confidence. "

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